We hand out CDs to fallen away Catholics. We support or take part in street evangelization teams, hanging out in front of shopping malls and discount stores. We support and listen to Catholic radio.
These are good. They are like the tasty, sweet meat on the perfectly roasted turkey leg, or the crunchy sweetness of an apple if you’re a vegetarian. But when we get through the meat, all the way to the bone—or core–we find the very center of evangelization, the solid pillar on which everything else hangs, is how we act. What we do. What we say and how we say it.
We evangelize through our lives.
It is easy to say that Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, but if we don’t have that joyful life, if we don’t respond to the evils we meet with lovingly expressed truth, and if we follow the same path that everyone else does—drinking too much on weekends, using others for sexual gratification, living together outside of marriage, cussing and using the Lord’s Name as if it were just another exclamatory expression—then how can we expect anyone to believe us?
Where We are Falling Short
When the Center for Reason did research in 2006 to determine if Christians had fewer abortions than non-Christians, they discovered that Christian versus non-Christian segments of the population aborted at the same rate. Even more disturbing is that the most highly Catholic segments of the nation showed higher abortion rates. Why would anyone listen to us when we stand on a street corner and preach the value of every life when statistics show that we don’t really think so?
The data at the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate shows that in 2016, only 22% of Catholics attended Sunday Mass on a regular basis. When we say that the Eucharist is the center of the Church, that Jesus is truly present Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, why aren’t Catholics attending Mass in droves? Once again, our actions speak louder than our words.
These are just two examples of how we are not living up to our faith.
One Reason We are Falling Short
When I entered registrations for a parish, many single couples living together outside of marriage would cross off “single” and replace it with “in a relationship”. They believed that if you committed to having sex with one person outside of marriage, that was a legitimate expression of Christian love. They didn’t understand that they were single in the eyes of the Church and that living together and engaging in intercourse was a mockery of the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. And they weren’t embarrassed, because they didn’t know better.
As a catechist for children preparing for First Communion, I’ve noticed that, in group family sessions, it is often the parents who are receiving instruction in their faith. These family sessions are a wonderful opportunity to strengthen the family as a unit, because parents can only form their children in the Catholic faith if they know it themselves.
I’m an example of the woefully lacking catechesis that took place in parishes in the seventies. I am also to blame, because I never bothered to inform myself until I returned to the Church after a 26-year absence. And do you know what I found?
Incredible beauty. Truths that, had I understood them, would have transformed the way I had lived my life and given it meaning. The sacred.
What Can We Do?
Again, I use myself as an example that it is never too late. If you have made bad decisions, if you have sinned, find a priest and confess all to him. I guarantee you won’t shock him, and Jesus forgives everything. Make today a new day. Find a book on the faith by a reputable author. Join a Catholic Bible study, or a prayer group. Read the life of a Saint. Start to pray. Just a quick conversation with God. Try an Our Father if you’re not comfortable speaking to God off the top of your head. Invite Him into your heart, especially those dark places where you are holding onto a memory, a sin, or anger. All He needs is your invitation.
Learn your faith. Build a relationship with God. Live your faith, and then start using words to share the Good News.