Zumba & The New Evangelization: 3 Lessons I Learned Today

Zumba & The New Evangelization: 3 Lessons I Learned Today June 30, 2014

Today, shortly after the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision was announced, I had a decision to make.

I could stay at home and add my voice to the many other Catholic bloggers who would be weighing in on this major news and its impact upon religious liberty.

Or I could meet my girlfriends to attend my very first Zumba class at the gym as I had scheduled — in bright red so I would skip it — on my calendar.

As you can probably guess, I chose to go to the gym.

This doesn’t signal any major statement on my part about the newsworthiness of Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby. You’ll find amazing posts on the decision here at Patheos from Kathy Schiffer, Rebecca Hamilton, and Frank Weathers.

My decision had more to do with a commitment I’d made to both myself and my friends. Some days, being a Catholic blogger makes you feel like you live in a weird bubble where the only people you encounter have faces trapped in a square box in your comboxes. So when I am not traveling for work, I need to do a better job of organizing my time so that I can actually walk away from my desk, spend time with real people, and — yes as ridiculous as it sounds — try something like Zumba.

The “Great Zumba Plan of Summer 2014” was launched last week at the gym when one of my friends told me on the treadmill that she’d tried a class. I am the person who has looked longingly at all of those awesome dancers through the gym window while she (too slowly) plodded along on her elliptical trainer. “Some day I’ll try it…” I would say to myself, knowing all too well that I’m full of great excuses for not making something like “go to Zumba” ever be on the top of my daily agenda. When my friends offered to go with me today, I booked our date and told myself I was going unless I was hit by a truck in transit to the gym.

Blessedly, there is no video evidence of today’s foray into Latin aerobics. Suffice it to say that it was not a pretty picture. I’m not only overweight and out of shape. I also have absolutely no rhythm and dance like a thundering hippopotamus. Seriously!

I took up my spot safely in the back row (not realizing that when the class did frequent dance turns this would place me in the FRONT ROW) and readied myself for action. Halfway through the first song, I made the mistake of looking in the mirror and had to mentally restrain myself from running out of the room. I looked seriously ridiculous.

But guess what… I survived!

Sixty excruciating minutes later, I poured my sweaty body into my car after having thanked both my friend and the very patient Zumba teacher for their guidance. On the way home, I realized that being in Zumba class is a lot like being a part of the New Evangelization.

So here I am, a few hours later, still dressed in gym clothes and ready to share those parallels between starting a new salsa workout and sharing our love for our Catholic faith with those around us:

  1. It’s not easy, but it’s worth the effort. Not to say that learning fast-paced aerobics moves are anything like sharing the Good News of the gospel, but both can be physically and mentally challenging. And today, I was sorely tempted five minutes into the process to declare myself unfit and give myself permission to quit. Sadly, in standing up for my faith, I can say that sometimes I’ve had the same temptation and given in to it. Most of us are not Zumba professionals and will need a bit of training to be able to withstand the demands of the workout. In the same way, as people called to share the love of Christ with others, we will endure trials and suffering. But what better end result is there in our challenges than the joy of understanding that we helped someone else to better know and love God in their lives?
  2. You might look ridiculous. That’s your motivation to learn the steps. This morning, I realized that watching a five minute youtube video is not enough to have any concept of how on earth you make your body move in those ways. It takes practice and intentional learning to improve at Zumba. The same is absolutely true in the New Evangelization. It’s not enough to show up at Mass on Sunday, to halfheartedly listen to the gospel and then to think that we’re suddenly prepared for the questions of faith that will come our way. To be an effective evangelist takes deep study, preparation, and especially prayer. Unlike Zumba, we can’t fake the New Evangelization. If we’re unsure of something, we must do our homework so that we can follow up on unanswered questions and be better prepared for the future.
  3. You’ll feel great after you’ve done it. By the time I arrived home today, I was already planning for the next time I can try a Zumba class. It’s going to take me a very long time to become even minutely proficient, but I had a great time and can already feel the workout my body underwent today. The same holds true for those special occasions when I have the chance to share my faith and my Church with others. I walk away feeling profoundly blessed by the opportunity to share the thing I hold most dear in my life: my relationship with God.

So there you have it — my thoughts on how Zumba helped me reflect on my role in the New Evangelization. Saint John Paul II wrote in Ecclesia in America:

“To this end, it is more necessary than ever for all the faithful to move from a faith of habit, sustained perhaps by social context alone, to a faith which is conscious and personally lived. The renewal of faith will always be the best way to lead others to the Truth that is Christ”

Is it time for you to move away from your “form of habit” and into a faith which is conscious and personally lived?

Try it — you’ll love it.

"Only good things are to come!! Saying yes is the best. See you around, friend."

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