It is something about opposites attracting, something about the power of the liturgy itself to change hearts. Reading St Bede one has the impression of Augustine arriving at Thanet and making his progress to Canterbury with an icon of Christ on a staff with an orderly band of monks singing the psalms, and in the wake of his road show leaving behind, if not converts, at least those hungry for conversion.
Reflecting on my own failure to convert hordes, I am sure that communities do it better than individuals: Jesus sends his disciple out in pairs. Further and more realistic reflection might suggest that even communities, certainly today, fail. In Augustine's day the Celtic monastic communities of the north, at least according to Bede seem to have run out of steam.
I suppose St Augustine would have brought with him not only choir monks but brothers, and presumably a gaggle of oblati and monastic servants or even slaves, whether these would have had families or not I am not sure.
The monastic model for evangelisation was about demonstrating Christianity.
I have always prayed for an obviously committed Catholic family to move into the parish with a host of children, it hasn't happened, yet. When I meet them in other priest's parishes, I am envious. They evangelise me.
Marina Corradi writes about a Neo-Catechumenate initiative in the East German town of Chemnitz, in which several large Catholic families have settled.
You are silent, because a "normal" Christian, already at wit's end with his few children in his own country, is mute before the faith of these families; witnesses of a God who asks for everything, but gives much more than what he has received. You are silent before the serenity of the four lay sisters who help families in their daily necessities: "I just wanted to be at the service of God," says Silvia, from Rome, with a smile that you rarely find in our cities. Do they see them, these faces, this singular joy, here, where they no longer believe in anything? When the Neocatechumenals explain that they have come from Rome and Barcelona to proclaim that Christ is risen, the people of Chemnitz recoil in distress, as if awakened from a deep sleep. Sometimes they respond, "We would like to believe you, but we can't."One of the things about the "New Movements" right across the spectrum is that they form communities, they live the faith, they have a sense of joy about them, they challenge contemporary values. The Pope sees them as the way forward, crucial to the reconversion of Europe. Our own bishops are perhaps a little more circumspect, they seem to see them as being divisive or they can be flawed, like the Legionaries of Christ, they can be a little mad and challenging. They are certainly risky, perhaps we haven't yet got to a situation of desperation. But it is the New Movements, with families, that really do seem to challenge and offer "new" to contemporary society.
Two generations without God are a lot, to the memory of men. But when, one day, some of Professor Rebeggiani's children began to sing from the balcony of their home – for the pure joy of it – the ancient song "Non nobis Domine sed nomini tuo da gloriam," the neighbors came to the windows to listen. And a widow asked the young people to sing the same song at the cemetery, in memory of her dead husband. They did, and one of those present approached them at the end: "It's been such a long time," he said, "since I heard anything that gave me some hope."