Last month I opened a thorny topic that had been posed to me by a fellow Catholic: How do I evangelize when my local parish is mired in dissent or disorder?
This month, I want to toss out a nuts-n-bolts set of practical answers. Here’s my list of 10 Specific Ways You Can Evangelize, Even When It Seems Like You Can’t:
1. Show up when and where you are wanted.
So you wanted to volunteer your time and talent to the Church, but it seems like the only place you’re welcome is the roadside trash clean-up committee? Well, how about that for clarity in discerning your vocation! Consider that it’s possible, just maybe, that the one soul that could benefit most from your shining faith is the one you’d never have met if you’d stayed in your first-choice ministry.
It’s not serving God, if we’re only happy following our own marching orders. Let Jesus pick out your ministry, however unlikely. He knows how to manage personnel.
2. Support good Catholic media.
I count myself among the thousands of lapsed and liberal Catholics who reverted to the faith thanks to the hard work of good Catholic media. You can keep the flow of good information going, regardless of your budget, by:
- Reading good Catholic blogs and websites. Your presence provides encouragement for amateur enthusiasts, and your clicks-through fund those who have to earn a living by their work. Hit the ‘Like’ button when you read something good.
- Subscribe to orthodox newspapers and magazines. Buy books — from a local Catholic bookstore, if possible. Keep these folks in business, yourself informed, and amass a good supply of literature to share with others when the chance arises.
- If you can, send a donation to underwrite your favorites. Many stores and publishers are actually non-profits — because yes, the margins can be slim-to-negative in specialty publishing.
3. Give the Catholic answer — when asked.
Every single person you know has Big Questions. Doubts, concerns, puzzles, struggles . . . you’d be surprised at all the places someone will throw out a comment or question, and actually want a good answer! Spiritual questions come up at work, while grocery shopping, at the cocktail party . . . and sometimes even at your own parish.
Don’t be a bore, but do learn your faith and practice explaining it, so you can provide helpful answers when those answers are wanted.
4. Don’t cooperate with evil.
Obedience ends where sin begins. Be docile in all that is lawful. But arm yourself with the spiritual steel for the moment when meekness means not ‘going along,’ but rather ‘accepting the consequences of not going along.’
5. Perform the works of mercy.
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. (James 1:27.)
6. Pray with people.
Nothing says I Love Jesus like, “How about we pray about that problem? Right now?” And if your would-be prayer partner doesn’t care for all that religious gobbledygook, go stealth mode and pray silently while they aren’t looking.
7. Ask others about their spiritual life.
You don’t have to pull out obnoxious street-preacher questions. Just put religion back on the table. “Did you have a good Christmas? What are your Christmas traditons?” “Do you have a particular faith that you identify with? What is it that you like about your faith?”
Tread gently, candidly, without any script or plan, other than an honest interest in your fellow man.
8. Steer the seeker towards good Catholic books, institutions, and individuals.
Keep track of which resources are the reliable ones. When someone wants to learn more about some aspect of the Catholic faith, point them to the best fit for their needs. Be sensitive to their personality, spiritual history, and state in life as you take your stab at spiritual match-maker — though sometimes, the exactly right helper is the one who doesn’t give the easy answer.
9. Fund missionaries.
Even if your entire diocese has gone Arian on you (unlikely), somewhere there’s a good Catholic missionary organization or contemplative order you can support with your hard-earned tithe.
10. Be the go-to Catholic.
Unless you’re a hermit, you spend your life circulating among non-Catholics, struggling-Catholics, and fellow-faithful who can use some encouragement from time to time.
How do you get known as That Catholic Person? By living out your faith in all the ordinary, boring, unremarkable, wonderful ways. Will someone catch you praying a rosary, if they interrupt at the just the wrong time? Does your view of the world gradually shift as you read the Bible every day? Can you honestly be caught having to schedule an event for, “after I get home from Eucharistic adoration”?
I adore Catholic kitsch, I load the internet with all my great Catholic ideas, and nothing says “vacation” to me like a good trip to a pro-life rally. But these aren’t what make us That Kind of Catholic — though they may be the unavoidable side-effects of our faith. It’s the interior life that drives evangelization, and that attracts others who are also seeking to know God better.
Are you the kind of person who lives and practices your Catholic faith as best you are able? Then no matter where you find yourself — in ministry, in ordinary workaday life, or mired in some terrible obscure form of suffering — you’ll be on the job, evangelizing. You won’t be able to help it.
Copyright © 2013, Jennifer Fitz