One of the difficulties of New Evangelization is the fact that there are so many different ways to evangelize. The way you talk about Catholicism to your fallen away sibling is probably a lot different than the way you talk to your neighbor or the woman at the grocery store who you noticed has a Rosary hanging from her rearview mirror.
Every person’s situation is different, and that means that we must be open to using different approaches to sharing the faith. I’m not talking about changing the message, because the message of God’s salvation is unchangeable. I’m talking about the delivery method.
Got an email this morning from Mary who wasn’t very happy with The Catholics Next Door radio show:
I find it very difficult to listen to the “chatter” on your show! You go on endlessly about minutia that could be covered in 30 seconds! I seem to catch your show when I drive and I rarely learn anything new — I’d have to listen for hours to learn something new! In contrast, I can listen to EWTN for 5 minutes every hour and learn something I did not know about our Catholic faith!! I pray EWTN will come on my XM radio. Until then I am stuck with The Catholic Channel. For example, a few weeks ago you were talking about Mary going to visit her cousin, Elizabeth . . . Do you REALLY think God would have had her go alone? Think about it!! Mary was surrounded by angels!! Joseph and other men also probably went with her as well to protect her!! You should read The Life of Mary As Seen by the Mystics to get a wonderful insight about Mary’s life apart from what is written in the Gospels! That day you sounded very Protestant. Praise God for EWTN!
I can understand Mary’s dislike for “chatter,” but that doesn’t make it wrong.
As New Evangelizers, we must always keep in mind that there is a need for multiple types of Catholic media, multiple ways of sharing the faith, and multiple ways of providing more information about Catholicism. And we are just one. Just like there are people like Mary, who obviously does not like The Catholic Channel, there are many people who turn on EWTN and may become completely freaked out because it seems so “advanced” and they are just mildly curious about the Catholic faith.
We as Catholics need to work towards not only providing greater catechesis for those who are already committed to the faith (like EWTN does so well), but in reaching those people who are not inclined to Catholicism so that they become more disposed to being open to the deeper messages of our faith, and are more ready for some of the more complex topics EWTN addresses (and we address, as well, just not every second of our show).
Look at it this way – there are people who still need to be fed milk. Our listener Mary is obviously ready for more solid foods, but Scripture tells us that we must keep in mind those who need to be nurtured.
“For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.” – Hebrews 5:12-14
How are we to evangelize and reach new people for the faith if we do not identify where each person is on his or her own spiritual journey first? If we meet someone with no understanding of the faith, but try to get them to eat the “steak” of deeper theology, we’ll choke them!
In contrast, imagine the thousands of people with SiriusXM radios who have complete and total disdain for the Church, but then they tune in and hear a welcoming voice that draws them in and makes them want to hear more. This applies, as well, to the thousands of unbelieving people who visit Catholic blogs or listen to Catholic podcasts. Not everyone is ready for an exegesis on an Aquinas level of the study of angels.
But when we share of ourselves (even if that involves endless chatter), we more fully open ourselves to allowing others to see the light of Christ shining from within us.
The flip side to Mary’s email? Getting emails from people like Vicky who recently wrote:
When I first tuned into The Catholics Next Door, I scoffed and smirked. But my eyes widened as soon as I heard how normal and REAL you both were. I continued to listen that day, had to park the car and just listen. I had NO IDEA what a hardened sinner I was — that’s how thick and hard my walls were. But you didn’t make me feel bad…you provided light.
It was your show that woke me up and the Catholic Church did a ton more work. I needed a shovel to dig myself out of a very deep hole. Greg and Jennifer — you were THE ones who threw me the shovel. I had to do the digging but YOU threw me the shovel. YOUR SHOW was NO SMALL PART to bringing me back….it was THE PART! Am I being clear?
Are you understanding the work of God that you are doing???? Do you see the extent?
I, in turn, have surrendered my life to God and will do works that honor, praise and please Him. Additionally, my 13 year old now has the faith and my beautiful husband is taking RCIA. You should call your self the Catholic Domino Effects Next Door”.
After that day when I first heard you — all these changes occured. I keep praying for God’s help and keep getting it. ALL of Heaven MUST be rejoicing.
Evangelization requires us to be real. We need to start with the basics: We love you. God loves you. And we want to join you on this journey.
That sometimes takes more than 30 seconds. Sometimes it may seem like idle chitchat. But sometimes what may seem like chitchat can end up being the greatest form of evangelization.
I agree with Mary – Praise God for EWTN! But let us all not be so quick to discount others (bloggers, podcasters, website creators, authors, musicians, next door neighbors, or the woman at Church passing out bulletins after Mass) who are working in different fields for the Lord, cultivating different crops, but all working toward the same goal of leading souls to Jesus Christ through the Catholic Church.