Evangelization in Our Catholic Church
My dear friends in Christ,
Please join me on this journey of discovery. I’d like to say “brief”, but I don’t yet know myself exactly where this road is going to lead us?
A regular part of my prayer life is to ask the Holy Spirit to lead, direct and command me. So out of the blue so to speak, as soon as I had uttered this prayer today, came this thought. [Today is December 21st., 2012]. “Can WE [like Mary], give birth to Jesus?” …. This passage immediately came to my mind.
”In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him: and without him was made nothing that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. “ As I was puzzling over the meaning for US, in the present time for this particular passage, another insight was given to me.
Matthew 5: 10-10
[which follows directly Christ gift of the Beatitudes]
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you. … “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
Ahh; so the answer then is yes!
We can metaphorically give new “birth to Christ” in the present times. But a question lingers: How are we to accomplish this? While I have formulated over time my own response to this command; I’m aware that each of us is different in the gifts given to us by Christ; and our personal circumstances of Why me? Why now? Why here? So I did a bit of research, on what might be of help, at least in general terms for us, and here’s what I uncovered,
I suspect that there may be as many ways to evangelize as there are people reading this post? Yet, I also expect that there are some common and applicable things we can all learn, adapt and apply in fulfilling our obligations to at least try to give “new birth to Christ.” Towards this goal I submit the following, which is edited for space; and for which I am supplying the site information for those seeking greater details.
“Ten Keys to Effective Evangelization”
1. Personal Relationship with Christ
: This will surprise nobody, but it still needs to be stressed. It is very easy to become what we might call a Catholic by rote, that is, somebody who follows a kind of minimal set of rules, living the Christian life in an essentially prescriptive way. Such a person frequently asks, “What do I need to do to at least make it to purgatory?” Or “What does the Church require of me to be a ‘good Catholic’?”
2. Personal Relationship with the Church
: Any significant theological reflection will reveal that this point is simply another side of the first point. The Church is the Body of Christ, united by Christ’s assimilation of us to Himself in the Eucharist, and inseparably joined to Christ the Head. All that Our Lord offers to draw men and women into union with God is made available through the Church.
3. A Different Way of Living Morally
: This too may go without saying, and yet it is easily overlooked by Catholics who do not lead what we call an “examined” life. Our moral behavior must become the behavior of a [CATHOLIC] Christian, that is, of a saint. How we live in our daily life—in our personal and sexual relations, in our speech, in our social attitudes, in our use of time, in our priorities—must be marked by Christian, that is, saintly values.
4. Disciplines of Renewal
The points above certainly qualify as a tall order. How do we habituate ourselves to these “ways of being”? I am not interested here in what the Church, or the bishop, or the priest “ought to do” to make this happen. Each person’s spiritual perfection will bear fruit in the realm of his own life and responsibilities.
: Put simply, the Christian life cannot be lived without prayer, and plenty of it. I include in this category the all-important regular reception of the Sacraments of the Church, which have a special power to fill us with the life of Christ—but a power than we can effectively utilize only if we have the right dispositions. And the right dispositions grow through prayer. It is through prayer that we learn to know God, to know ourselves, to recognize the difference, to discern God’s will generally and particularly, and to increase in the theological virtues of faith, hope and love. Among other forms of prayer, Eucharistic adoration should play an important role, for obvious reasons. In any case, to put the matter very simply, Christians pray; if they do not, they are not really Christians.
6. Spiritual Reading
: Here we have the most accessible form of spiritual instruction and direction, the practice of slowly reading and meditating on Scripture and the works of the great saints and doctors approved by the Church. For nearly all souls, spiritual reading immensely accelerates spiritual growth. God works in us in many other ways, of course, but for a literate person, it takes an extraordinary action of God, really an extra miracle of grace, to compensate for an unwillingness to take advantage of solid, prayerful spiritual reading. On this see also 2 Tim 3:16.
7. Charitable Works
: Works of charity are at once a spiritual discipline and a fruit of our love of God and neighbor. Here I treat them primarily in the former sense—as a means to the end defined in our first points.
Particular Tools for Evangelization
Perhaps all of the foregoing is too obvious. But perhaps that is part of the point. There is no magic bullet for evangelization, no particular program to guarantee results, no decree to be passed down from on high to generate mass conversions.
8. Knowledge of Scripture
: The two great sources of Revelation are Scripture and Tradition, but while Tradition benefits people spiritually insofar as it is lived and handed on, as it seeps into our bones over time, Scripture has a direct and immediate spiritual power as the Word of God. [We need not memorize the bible; but had better know what’s in it; and what lessons it teaches. PJM]
9. Traditions and Customs
: In our secularized societies, we have lost much of the warp and woof of the Christian life in our daily personal, familial and community habits, customs and celebrations. I am referring here to traditions with a small “t”, both the kinds of little practices and customs which populate the
liturgical year section on CatholicCulture.org and the larger habits of family prayer, meals in common, hospitality, rules of Christian courtship, and all such methods of more easily incorporating a guiding spirituality into work, recreation and life as a whole.
10. The Skill of Detachment
: Let me close with something that might seem a bit unusual. I believe all effective evangelists need to recognize (and live in accordance with) sharp distinctions between, on the one hand, all that is definitely revealed by God as essential to Christ and, on the other hand, all of our favorite opinions on such things as politics, culture, entertainment, private devotions, personal dress, and a hundred other things which prevent our interacting with others as the potential kindred spirits that they really are. The goal in evangelization is for us to speak in a way that enables others to hear, not us, but Christ. For this to happen, detachment from our own prejudices, preferences and opinions is essential.
it would be wrong to conclude that nothing more is necessary. The unique challenge of what the Church is calling the new evangelization is that it must take place in a culture in which Christianity is partially known yet widely rejected as an affront to civilized behavior. Our culture frowns on the introduction of Jesus Christ in any but the most private circumstances. We have been raised in and formed by this highly secular culture, and we have imbibed its prescriptions. Speaking of Christ, of Faith, of Church is really not quite the thing. It simply isn’t done! Not by a gentleman, anyway. Self-evidently, evangelization cannot occur unless we can overcome this inculturated reluctance in ourselves. Only if that is overcome can we explore possible specific paths or tactics of evangelization which might bear fruit. Obviously there is more work to be done regarding practical methods, but only the spiritual growth outlined above can lead us to break the barrier of respectability which our culture has established between man and God.
Second, if evangelization ultimately depends on the kind of growth and commitment outlined above, it would still be wrong to argue that we should not involve ourselves in Christian witness until we are perfect
We will never be perfect; nor does Our Lord require perfection before we dare to preach. For His part, He loved all of us while we were still in our sins, and even with all of our sins, by His sacrifice Our Lord has made us as worthy to speak His name as others are to hear it.
In a previous essay on
the three most important characteristics of an evangelizer, I stressed humility, hospitality, and trust in God. This is the way to begin. Let people criticize our own weaknesses, as long as they criticize them in the light of Christ. Let them shoot the messenger, as long as they get the message.
: Humility is, of course, the very ground of holiness. It is the virtue by which we recognize who God is and who we are, that we are not God, and that in point of fact we depend entirely on God not only for our existence but for every good work. There are two sides to this virtue. The first is a radical reliance upon God, which I will treat as a separate characteristic below. The second is the recognition and acceptance of our own inescapable inadequacy in sharing the Christian life with others, which is what I wish to focus on here.
If we are embarrassed by our inadequacies we will be reluctant to expose them or to admit them when others cheerfully expose them for us. This is the result of pride and self-love. An effective evangelizer will always be frank about his own deficiencies in both virtue and knowledge. Questions will come up to which the evangelizer has no ready answer. Rather than bluster, he should welcome the opportunity to explore the answers together with any sincere non-believer who is genuinely seeking to know more. Similarly, questions will arise which touch on moral struggle. An evangelizer should freely admit that he too participates in this struggle, that the struggle is in no way shameful, and that one of the blessings of the Christian life is to provide mutual assistance toward the goal of greater union with God.
It takes humility to open ourselves to others in these ways, but humility is the mark of personal authenticity. It cannot be faked, and it is always attractive. Far better to be willing to engage another in the Christ life on terms of equal need than either to hide our light or be correctly perceived as a self-righteous know-it-all.
: Another outgrowth of humility, when combined with the charity to which humility opens the way, is a willingness to invite others into our “space”. As we begin to see whatever gifts we possess as gifts for others, our all too human desire to be left alone diminishes. Hospitality in the formal sense of welcoming others into our homes and treating them as family has always been considered a Christian virtue. It is also a vital means of establishing contact with those non-believers whom we are most called to influence: relatives, friends and associates who are open to our invitations despite not sharing our faith.
But the hospitality I am referring to here goes a little deeper than the formal commitments of social gatherings or holiday get-togethers, as valuable as these are. What must lie at the core of our relationships with others is a radical openness to allowing them in. Each person is a brother or sister wholly deserving of our attention—not an interruption or a distraction, and still less a nuisance. Obviously we must make prudent judgments concerning time and energy, especially in light of our primary responsibilities to immediate family and to the work for which we are compensated. But even in terms of evangelization, potential effectiveness will be dramatically increased insofar as others sense that we think them important, that they are more than welcome to share our joy.
This constant projection of authentic personal hospitality, this heartfelt ability to provide a welcome, is another essential component of evangelization.
 Trust in God
: As I suggested under the heading of humility, a Christian would be very foolish to achieve only the worldly half of humility, which is a sense of inadequacy so profound as to send us running for cover, never to attempt any good for the remainder of our worthless lives. To the contrary, the Christian realization of humility is a realization not that we are worthless but that we depend on God because God loves us. Our weakness is the key to our greatness, because God wants us to fulfill the aspirations of our nature through union with Himself.
Since this is the case, we must depend on God in everything, constantly asking him to make up for what we lack, to use us as His instruments for whatever good He wishes to accomplish through us. Prayer, then, will be as constant a part of our program of evangelization as it is of our program of spiritual growth.
Faith remains a gift, and we remain but instruments of that gift. The giver is God alone. In all efforts at evangelization, we must be confident not in ourselves as instruments, but in God as giver. Our job is to trust that He will use us if we allow ourselves to be used. We do not insist on obvious success, for it is not the instrument which appraises success but the One who uses the instrument. And surely we must know that one may sow while another reaps (Jn 4:37)! But there is only one Lord of the harvest (Mt 9:38), and He alone is wholly good (Mk 10:18).
Speaking of ourselves in the wearisome course of human life, hesitation and uncertainty are normal. Indeed, if we did not experience our own inadequacy, we would have no hope at all. But we are right to have confidence in the One who is good, the only One who was ever wholly right to say, “Don’t worry! Be happy!”—the One who could and did say, “Be of good cheer. I have overcome the world” (Jn 16:33).[END Quote]
As I shared earlier; this is the edited version. You may wish to check it out for yourself? The key’s in summary form is to 1. Know and live our faith fully and publicly. 2. Have a strong and disciplined prayer and worship life. 3. Trust in God’s help and call on Him for it whenever your about to share our faith. 4. If you don’t know the correct answer; don’t pretend that you do. Tell them your “not completely sure” and that you’ll get them the information they seek. Then DO IT. 5. Allow God to be in charge and lead you to the opportunities He wants you to have; at least until you are experienced enough to do otherwise.
Here is a second site with information for us.
Evangelization in the Catholic Church
“An evangelized person is someone deeply touched by the “good news” (euangel- in Greek) known in Christ Jesus. The goal of all evangelization is to help those living without the good news know the fullness of life Christ said he came to bring.
The good news is the joy, fulfillment, challenge to grow, the peace beyond understanding, the comfort, the counsel, the call to help needing people and billions of blessings we experience because Christ is the center of our lives.
Catholics have a special commission to evangelize non-practicing Catholics, the baptized but unchurched, and those alienated from the Church for whatever reason
. [This is especially true because there can be and is Only One God; set of Faith beliefs and Church which is both logical and biblical…PJM] …We also, along with our Protestant brethren, reach out to those living without the light of the world, Jesus. The laity are particularly charged with this work because we have so many opportunities in daily life.
Evangelization is simply sharing our story
(witness) within trusting relationships, with those to whom our experiences and stories matter, as theirs matter to us. [SO my friends: always be ready to explain why YOU are a Catholic…PJM] When our lives revolve around our relationship with Christ, that relationship influences everything we do and are. We share our experience of Christ within trusting relationships as naturally as we would talk about any important person in our lives. [Never brag, or argue. Simply state in simple terms the truth which must be singular: Because there is Only One God; there can be only One correct set of Faith beliefs; and because of these two facts and following the Tradition of the OT; just one church…PJM]
1. Evangelization: Individuals formed by an encounter with Christ in the Church develop the desire for a deeper encounter with Christ, often through the invitation of those already formed by mentors. Those outside the Church become curious about Christianity through the witness of the faithful.
2. Establishing: Those drawn to this deeper encounter with Christ are established as committed disciples of Jesus through mentoring formation in prayer, sacraments, scripture-prayer/lectio, and service. [Simple things like inviting one to Mass with you; and then discussing what was felt and experienced…PJM’
3. Equipping: As they are established, disciples come to embrace Jesus’ request that his followers reach out to others with the joy and love they have known in Christ and community. Mature disciples want to be equipped for witness, especially within trusting relationships.
4. Engagement: Established and equipped disciples form and train other potential leaders. They use their gifts and energy to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to the world through their personal and spiritual gifts. [END Quote] So use what ever God has given to you. Be it little or much. TRUST in God’s help and Divine providence. PJM
And here from the
USCCB website: United Sates Conference of Catholic Bishops:
“Go and Make Disciples
– Why We Evangelize” [Also edited for space. PJM]
We must evangelize because the Lord Jesus commanded us to do so. He gave the Church the unending task of evangelizing as a restless power, to stir and to stimulate all its actions until all nations have heard his Good News and until every person has become his disciple.
30. We evangelize because people must be brought to the salvation that Jesus the Lord offers in and through the Church. While we acknowledge that the grace of God is mysteriously present in all lives, people all too often resist this grace. They refuse change and repentance.
32. The Lord gave us a message that is unique. All faiths are not merely different versions of the same thing. Knowing Christ Jesus and belonging to his Church are not the same as believing anything else and belonging to any other community.
Pope John Paul II has pointed out, “While acknowledging that God loves all people and grants them the possibility of being saved (cf. 1 Tm 2:4), the Church believes that God has established Christ as the one mediator and that she herself has been established as the universal sacrament of salvation.” The unique claim of our message does not negate the sincerity and faith of others; likewise, the sincerity and faith of others do not take away from the clarity and truth of our message. As Pope John Paul II reminds us, “It is necessary to keep these two truths together, namely, the real possibility of salvation in Christ for all mankind and the necessity of the Church for salvation. Both these truths help us to understand the one mystery of salvation.”
36. Here, there are two elements at work: witness, which is the simple living of the faith; and sharing, which is spreading the Good News of Jesus in an explicit way.
39. Millions of Catholics no longer practice their faith. Although many of them may say they are Catholic, they no longer worship with the community and thereby deprive themselves of the gifts of word and sacrament. Some were never formed in the faith after their childhood. Some have drifted away because of one or another issue. Some feel alienated from the Church because of the way they perceive the Church or its teaching. Some have left because they were mistreated by church representatives.
41. Our plan also asks Catholics to reach out to those who do not belong to a faith community and to invite them to consider the power of the Gospel of Jesus, which the riches of the Catholic Church can bring into their lives. Perhaps this may seem the most difficult of all the tasks evangelization asks of us. Yet if we have once seen the joy of those received into the Church at Easter, if we have ever experienced the growth of those going through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, if we have ever seen someone thrilled with the Gospel for the first time in his or her life, we know that this is, in truth, one of the sweetest gifts of the Spirit.
44. People of other non-Christian religions also have the right to hear the Gospel, as missionaries have brought it over the centuries. Then there are those who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church but nevertheless seek God with sincere hearts and seek to do God’s will as they know it. [End Quote]
Friends there is a GREAT deal good information more on their web site.
We have not exposed a magic “How to Do It program,” because there is none that has a set of “key’s” that will unlock every door. That said; we Catholics alone Do have ALL of the necessary key’s essential for ones salvation. Sort of the “Mater Key’s” to the single gate that accesses heaven. … Cf. Matthew 16:15-19. We alone have the mandate from Christ to “go and teach the entire world what I [Jesus] have personally taught “you.” ”. Matthew 28:16-20 and we alone have not only the Holy Spirit; but also Jesus Himself in Person as a guide and warranty of ALL of our Teaching Truths on Faith and Moral matters. John 14:16-17; John 17:15-19 and john 20:21-22. We alone have the Fullness of God’s truth Matthew 16:18-19. So we have more God-provided tools than anyone else; we alone have the singular truths of Salvation. We alone are grounded and founded upon ROCK, and not sand or even quicksand. And because of this God can and God will expect more from us; BUT also give us more grace and help than anyone else.
I am the vine: you the branches: he that abides in me, and I in him, [Catholism alone] the [will] same bear much fruit: for without me you can do nothing.” Amen.
Thanks for joining me on this journey. Now let your light shine on others, as God’s grace shines on us.
Rely on God, who too relies on us One can never pray too much. Amen.
In Christ: Love and prayers,