I have been silent all my life. I love God with all my heart and love being a Catholic, but have been very quiet about it. No more. I can’t afford to be quiet. I know I must be an evangelist, but I have no idea how. Do I pick a fight with the opposition? Do I check their social media outlets and defend the faith when I can? What do I do to educate those that hate or reject God? —PROCLAIMING FROM THE ROOFTOPS
Your question leads me to suggest that the Holy Spirit is guiding you in the direction of the New Evangelization. Pope Paul VI popularized this expression “as a response to the new challenges that the contemporary world creates for the mission of the Church.” And St. John Paul II stressed that we should not limit evangelization only to individual unbelievers, but also extend it to non-practicing Christians and entire cultures (such as our own).
When you consider that, in the United States alone, there are more than 22 million ex-Catholics and many more millions in Europe and Latin America, you realize the enormous challenge the Church faces.
The content of this evangelization is not new, for it must be based on the person of Jesus Christ and his gospel. That’s why the Church’s teaching constantly emphasizes and exalts Jesus Christ as Lord. He is the center of the universe—and of history. He offers salvation to everyone as a gift and sign of God’s love and mercy.
The newness, however, consists in striving to adapt our efforts to the people of our day. As St. John Paul II wrote: “Evangelization can be new in its ardor, methods, and expressions.”
What does all this mean for you?
According to St. John Paul II: “The New Evangelization is not a matter of merely passing on doctrine, but rather a personal and profound meeting with the Savior.” And as Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI says, your call to be an evangelist “summons you to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the one Savior of the world.”
Undoubtedly you pray daily, but now Christ is calling you to a deeper and more intimate relationship with him. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, [then] I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20).
Since God’s love for us is limitless, we can always penetrate more deeply into the ocean of this merciful and unconditional love. That is the role of prayer. As you become more and more conformed to Christ, your life itself will reveal God’s saving power. Your intimate relationship with Christ will give a spiritual authenticity to all your evangelizing activities.
I’m certain you’re aware of the need to keep up-to-date with the latest methods and vocabulary so your interventions will be meaningful to our contemporaries. Among other things this requires reading religious and spiritual books and reflecting on their teaching. The Catechism of the Catholic Church can prove to be an invaluable asset. Most dioceses and Catholic colleges offer courses that would enable you to be a more effective evangelist. In short, don’t neglect the intellectual aspect of evangelization. Your successes and failures will guide you in your choices and needs.
What might you do?
If you have a gift for writing, you might send letters to the editor or to your congressional representatives. You could also write articles for your diocesan newspaper or some Catholic publication. One woman began a Facebook page titled “Love Being Catholic.” It started slowly, but now has 98,600 fans.
You might want to participate in one of your parish’s programs: RCIA, baptismal or marriage preparation, religious education, a soup kitchen or volunteering with a local Catholic organization. The workplace also offers you opportunities to discreetly proclaim the Good News.
These are merely suggestions. I’m certain the Holy Spirit will surprise you with many more options.
Remember that Jesus was a gentle and loving evangelist. He refused to use force to bring people to God. He sought to persuade them while respecting their freedom and dignity. He invited them to come to the kingdom. It was their choice. He did not succeed with everyone. Neither will we, but the love of God impels us to invite people to share in the joy and love of the Father’s kingdom.