Why is it so hard for Catholics to evangelize? We say it is not part of our tradition, yet, Jesus can be heard saying “Come and see.” We say, oh, I don’t want to seem pushy, or faith is too personal. Evangelization is sharing the Good News. Who has ever heard good news and thought, gosh, I’m not going to say anything, she might feel like I’m imposing.
Shortly after I moved to Washington, I was waiting for the train at the Brookland Metro Stop. A young woman approached and asked which train went to Georgetown. I knew enough to say, there is not a direct train, but did not know what more to say and so I said “I’m new to D.C. and not sure.” And she said, “I am new to town as well, have you found a church home?” I was taken aback and looked to see if I had something on that revealed I was Catholic! I said, no, I am looking at a couple of parishes. My evangelizer replied, “I’ve found a church I really like, near Union Station, do you want to come with me?” Hesitantly, I said, ” Well, I’m looking for a Catholic parish, but I am happy you’ve found a church you like.” My evangelizer said, Can I have you phone number, because finding a good church is so important, I want to call you in a few weeks to see if you have found a church home.” Big hesitation on my part! I was hooked and wanted to see where this would go, so I wrote down my phone number and name and we parted.
Sure enough, a few weeks later, my evangelizer called and said “Hi, remember we met at the Brookland Metro and talked about finding a church home, did you find one?” I said “yes, I found a parish I really like.” She said “Praise God, my community is great as well, I’m so happy for both of us. And we said goodbye, promising to pray for one another.
Ten year later, I still pray for her from time to time because she is a model for me of the right way to do evangelization. What was not to like about her enthusiasm, about how important finding a church home was to her settling into a new city, how her keeping her promise to check back. She found something good and wanted to share that. What’s not to like about that?
This Lent, Archbishop Wuerl is asking us to invite a fellow Catholic whose forgotten how important a church home is one’s life, to rediscover the Mass. Archbishop Wuerl is depending on us to share with someone why Mass is so important to us or what difference it makes in our week or whatever it is about our faith that is good news for us. My experience has taught me that even if the person says “no.” They have always appreciated that I thought enough of them to ask.
If you are reading this and you have not been with us at Mass for a little while, or a long time, ask a Catholic friend if you can join them. Trust me, that will be so grateful you did the hard part! If you don’t know a Catholic and would like to visit a Catholic church, please post that in our comment section and we will help you make that connection.
5 Replies to “Catholics-Secret Service Evangelizers”
Thank you for that post. I have been thinking lately about how I could be a better witness of my faith to others. I do feel that I get caught up in the “I don’t want to be pushy” and “it’s too personal,” type of thinking, and sometimes it’s that I feel like I won’t be a good enough representative of the Church.
Do you have any suggestions? I think inviting someone to come to Mass with me is a good one. I find people are more willing to do something like that if they have company.
if we extend no invitations, then we probably will not see many new faces. when i think about the invitations, i call to mind the hymn, “they will know we are christians by our love.” if folk will know us according to the hymn, then the work will be done. it is our time to come out of the closest. i am caught up in the words of the Hebrews, chapter 13 – remember the leaders who taught you the faith – remember how they died and imitate them – jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. if we love as jesus does (he lives and is known in our neighborhood when we carry him out of the sanctuary and into the street), folk will know who we are and whose we are, and want to be with us
Thanks for your response. I think the invitations directed at “family”, i.e. those members who are missing. we hear over and over that no one seemed to know I was missing. I agree that what will attract most is being people of love…more on that to come.
Your post was an utter delight to read and it touches a serious point. Except for marriages and infant baptisms, Catholics do a poor job at bringing others to Christ and to his Church.
A symptom of the problem shows itself in the political sphere when certain Catholic moral positions conflict with secular modernity. Many Catholics will privatize their faith, almost as if they are embarrassed by it. It is argued that we should not “inflict” our morality and/or our faith upon others, dismissing the Church’s truth claims as relativistic and stamping Catholicism as a disease or handicap.
Obviously the 50% to 75% of Catholics who are lapsed will not be good evangelizers; indeed, they need to be converted all over again. Churchgoers, themselves, may be faithful to the rudiments, but lack specificity in their appreciation of Catholic teachings. Reaching out to others makes them uncomfortable because they do not know how to respond to questions which inquirers might ask. The Paulist fathers well understand this problem and lamenting the catechetical shortcomings that touched generations of Catholics in the 1960’s, 70’s and early 80’s, run programs to re-charge faith batteries and educate properly those who want to bring the Good News to their neighbors. Similarly, continuing religious education efforts in parishes are vital; we have doctors, lawyers, scientists, and others with a grammar school education in the faith. Many potential converts may have serious questions to be answered; we need to be able to speak about our faith in a credible way. It is not enough to say, “Talk to the priest.” Protestant critics of Catholicism often engage gullible Catholics in apologetics which they cannot handle; among their swipes is that priests spoon-fed and indoctrinate Catholics who are not encouraged to think for themselves. We have to demonstrate that this is a fallacy.
It may be that most converts and returnees do not come to church for intellectual reasons; if this is the case, other aspects of our house must also be in order. If we invite people to “come and see”, well, we better have something in which they will find meaning (even among the accidentals of faith). Parishes should preach the truth, offer the sacraments with genuine orthodoxy and piety, be aesthetically pleasing, have music which moves us deeper into prayer and worship, and offer a welcoming fellowship. Of course, even if many of these traits should be lacking, we need to encourage a love for the Eucharist which will forestall defection and tardiness.
Thanks for taking the time to read the blog. I really like your challenge to your parishioners to invite “an enemy”! That nicely includes the work of peacemaking as well!
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