The Many Faces of Evangelization
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The Author

I am a 30-something stay-at-home mom to six kiddos, 4/96 through 6/12. We recently decided to homeschool after many years in the public schools. In my "spare time," I serve as the chair for the Pastoral Council at my home parish of St. William in Round Rock and I help with our Adult Faith Formation program, from the planning committee to facilitating and mentoring incoming facilitators. I also enjoy photography as a hobby and once photographed with Ron Parks back in the day. I enjoy talking about all things Catholic and always look to infuse a little bit of humor whenever possible. You can also catch me writing at www.CatholicSistas.com

Whenever I hear the words “New Evangelization,” my ears perk up, like a child who is watching those fabulous toy commercials that make them feel like they HAVE to have, well, everything under the sun.

Except, I am assured that my grabby hands and “want want want” are necessary and needed in today’s society.

So, what exactly is this New Evangelization?

Blessed John Paul II wrote about, lived and emphasized for the rest of the universal Church that we must always be moving towards bringing others to know Christ, by virtue of our baptism.

Sounds very Protestant, huh? Well, over the centuries our non-Catholic Christian brethren have definitely taken this approach and run with it, rendering it an almost “Protestant-only” concept, so much so that some are hesitant to accept this role of evangelizing because “it’s too Protestant, too “touchy feel-y,” too similar to what they are doing, and we are Catholic,” the mindset often goes.

We don’t DO that.

But, the reality is that we are supposed to do THAT. Just because we haven’t historically evangelized the way our Protestant brothers and sisters do, collectively, doesn’t mean it isn’t part and parcel to the Faith. And so…the reality is we need to retrain what we were taught, learn some of the basics in how to evangelize and witness to others, borrow some of the Protestant jargon {I particularly find this fun because people are so often thrown off the path when I use their language that they are shocked to know I am Catholic!}, and then go out and spread the Good News!!

Here are a few tips I’ve found that work for me. I encourage you to test them out, add your own, and revise it to fit what works best with your approach with others.

Know the Faith. You can’t go and proclaim anything to anyone else if you don’t have sure footing of your own faith. Enroll yourself in your local Adult Faith Formation program, fire up your faith and come to know and love Christ the way He wants you to. Without this, the rest of the steps are incredibly difficult as people will start to see your shaky foundation. And Christ wants you to be confident in sharing His Word, no doubt.

Be like St. Francis. One of my all-time favorite “quotes” {we can’t actually prove he said it, but the sentiment is golden, nonetheless!} is St. Francis’ “preach the Gospel always and when necessary, use words.” This means that you EXUDE the Faith where words can’t reach someone’s heart. It comes in many forms…a smile to a stranger, holding the door open, inquiring how their day is going, listening to someone’s sob story without giving them an exegesis on how their life would be INFINITELY better if they just came to know Christ. While there is certainly nothing wrong with giving someone information about Christ, most of evangelization comes in the form of listening to where that person is. They may not be in a place to hear…and if you set the stage by simply being a pair of ears, they will likely remember your kindness and ask for your input another time because of that kindness.

Timing is everything. The previous tip ties into this one. Along with listening, you need to determine what, if anything, needs to be said. Ask the Holy Spirit for guidance because He won’t let you down if you remember to ask. Remember that evangelizing isn’t a “right fight,” where you are trying to beat the other into submission of Christ’s word. Ultimately, the goal is to convert hearts and minds and while you can’t always expect to say the right thing, we can always set goals to do our best and to hope to plant seeds where it seems futile. And there will be times where it seems futile. Those are times when you do need to focus on planting seeds. We likely won’t see the fruits of all the hearts we help turn to Christ…not in this life. And that’s ok.

Be practical if possible. When I approach people and share the Faith, I often give tiny, practical snippets of the Faith that aren’t packaged in uniquely “Catholic wrapping paper.” People don’t often realize that I’ve given them Catholic advice because I have found this to be my particular strength and joy and love. For example, when I speak about God, I tend to speak generically, leaving out references to Humanae Vitae if we’re talking about family size or the evils of contraception because verbiage is everything. I know those things to be true, and most well-formed Catholics know those things to be true, but when you are talking to someone on the street about this, you may as well be speaking a foreign language because they do not have the foundation we do. The best case scenario is to go simple, be kind, be logical…appeal to where they are. Again, this goes back to listening.

Pray. Pray before you evangelize to someone and pray after you’ve met them. Planting seeds is what we all need to do, but ultimately hearts and minds are changed by the power of the Holy Spirit. If we give credit where credit is due, we will not walk away from any conversations with strangers, friends and family feeling defeated if it doesn’t go the way we had planned or hoped, because God’s timing is always best and we are but the instruments to do His Will. I love reminding myself of this because it frees my mind to just go out and do what I love best without worrying if I actually moved a mountain, which is faulty thinking to begin with. I give God the glory and do the fun part and hope to cross as many paths as possible to spread seeds and pray for their conversion of heart to come to know Christ.

 

How have you evangelized lately?

What stories do you have to share?

I’d love to hear them!

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2 Comments
  • http://contrariwise.burned-bridges.net Lindsay

    Call me the devil’s advocate, but whenever I see or hear that (alleged) St. Francis quotation, I always feel compelled to point out that St. Francis was a preacher by vocation. He used words to preach the Gospel all the time. I do believe right along with you that educating yourself and building real relationship are essential to effective evangelization, though.

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