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Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Catholic Evangelization

As Tracy has written, many Catholics feel hesitant to evangelize. Our relationship with the Lord is very personal, as as such, it feels intrusive to discuss that relationship with others.

However, Catholics are very much called to evangelize. Does our evangelization look the same as that of a born again Christian, handing out tracts and reading through a Sinner's Prayer with a total stranger? Possibly, but probably not in most cases.

The Catholic Catechism #905 states: "Lay people also fulfill their prophetic mission by evangelization, "that is, the proclamation of Christ by word and the testimony of life." For lay people, "this evangelization . . . acquires a specific property and peculiar efficacy because it is accomplished in the ordinary circumstances of the world."

As Tracy wrote, as Catholic lay people, our primary evangelization takes place in the ordinary circumstances of the world.

In the Doctrinal Note on some Aspects of Evangelization which I referenced in the previous post, there is an elaboration on this idea.

" . . .evangelization is aimed at all of humanity. In any case, to evangelize does not mean simply to teach a doctrine, but to proclaim Jesus Christ by one’s words and actions, that is, to make oneself an instrument of his presence and action in the world."
We see here that words and actions are again mentioned as an important means of evangelization.

"Today, however, with ever-increasing frequency, questions are being raised about the legitimacy of presenting to others – so that they might in turn accept it – that which is held to be true for oneself. Often this is seen as an infringement of other people’s freedom."
However, we need to be wary of holding back from presenting the Gospel, because we feel it would be intrusive to others. How many times have we, as Catholics, held our tongue when speaking to an aquaintence because it was easier than saying something? We probably reasoned that our good example should be enough, and it isn't necessary to actually say something to them. Think of the many times that abortion or contraception come up in casual conversation. Are there times that we could make a comment that might get people thinking about the truth of these subjects?

Does this mean that we need to bluntly tell people that they are sinning, or act in some other offensive way?

"Evangelization also involves a sincere dialogue that seeks to understand the reasons and feelings of others. Indeed, the heart of another person can only be approached in freedom, in love and in dialogue, in such a manner that the word which is spoken is not simply offered, but also truly witnessed in the hearts of those to whom it is addressed. This requires taking into account the hopes, sufferings and concrete situations of those with whom one is in dialogue. Precisely in this way, people of good will open their hearts more freely and share their spiritual and religious experiences in all sincerity. This experience of sharing, a characteristic of true friendship, is a valuable occasion for witnessing and for Christian proclamation."
No, evangelization is a delicate art. In the same way that we shouldn't be afraid to speak up, so we also should be sensitive. We need to listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit and seek openings that might truly bear fruit. If we offend someone, they might close that door forever, but sometimes a gentle word at the right moment can be a powerful witness.

17 comments:

Tracy said...

Excellent Kelly, very well said!!

Kelly said...

Oops, misspelled your name! I've got it fixed now. :)

KitKat said...

Excellent post, Kelly. I commented on Tracy's post about how I hate (detest, can't stand, etc.) to have someone try to "save" me. (Yep, I feel very strongly about it.) I think that I feel that way because, as you said, Evangelization is a delicate art. Do it wrong and you really could close the door forever. I would hate to have someone walk away from me feeling like I have hit the over the head with a "faith baseball bat" and with the wrong impression of my faith. But you have given some great thoughts to chew on in this post!

Tracy said...

kitkat, I agree with what your saying. I was not trying to say that Catholics don't witness, I was trying to show that as Catholics we witness in an different way than evangelicals.. or I do anyways.. I don't carry a Bible in my purse ready to pull out and read scriptures.. I witness my faith by living my life as an example and if and when the situation presents itself, I am more than thrilled to share my faith.. I just have always thought that Catholics witness in such a good way and not "down your throat" so to say. IMO anyways!

sara said...

Kelly, I like this. It's good. It's balanced.

Kitkat, Since you're a Christian, why would Christians be witnessing to you anyway? Is it possible that part of the reason you find it so offensive is because people are preaching to the choir so to speak?

Perplexity said...

I agree with Tracy. The way one lives his or her life is the best way someone can "witness". My Catholic aunt is someone I admire more than just about anyone else. She's been through hell; she lost her 28 year old daughter after a 7 year battle with brain cancer. Just before my cousin died, my uncle (aunt's husband) lost his leg in a work accident. Two years before that, she lost her mother to cancer, very quickly. She is a pillar of faith. It is all in how she lives her life and looks at life. She has always been one of the most inspirational people in our family. She is a huge email forwarder these days, and they're never jokes - they're always spiritual. I don't always agree with them, but I know that when she sends them, they are from her heart. They are not mass mailed for fun. She believes everything they say and is simply sharing them with the people she loves.

To me, that is the most honest, truthful, relevant "witnessing" that can be done. Every single bit of it is in the way she lives her life; in her actions; in her faith. She lives by example. She teaches and shares her faith - by example. it.

And, when it's been needed - by someone she knows and who knows her, she is always the first with encouraging words. The first with a spiritual blessing. The first with a hug.

She shows me every single day of her life what it is to be faithful and to live with God.

Kelly said...

Perplexity, what a beautiful post. If you haven't already, you might want to take the time to let your aunt know how much you admire that. If she's had such a hard time of it, those words might mean a lot to her.

Sara, I can't speak for kitkat, but I have often had people try to evangelize me as soon as they hear me identify myself as a Catholic. It is really annoying that some people assume that Catholic=hellbound.

These days, I just agree with everything they say. Yes, actually I do accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. Yes, I have asked him into my heart. Yes, I am born again. I figure, it's all true, they just aren't using the vocabulary that I would normally use. Usually the evangelizer becomes confused, because a Catholic shouldn't be giving those answers, but since they can't call me a liar, they have to assume that I am sincere and then leave me alone.

I would echo what someone, and maybe it was Tracy, said on Tracy's thread. It seems like so many of them just want another notch on the belt. It doesn't have anything to do with you as a person.

I particularly liked this quote from the CDF document "Indeed, the heart of another person can only be approached in freedom, in love and in dialogue, in such a manner that the word which is spoken is not simply offered, but also truly witnessed in the hearts of those to whom it is addressed."

It's not just offering words to get another soul for your collection, but something that comes from your heart, to the heart of someone else that you care for, even if only as another soul created by God.

Tracy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tracy said...

Kelly, I must have posted at the same time as you, I deleted my post because I was saying so much of exactly what you just posted and you said it way better!!! I don't know how many people have tried to "witness" to me once they find out I'm a Catholic and that.... drives me crazy!

KitKat said...

Hi Sara! :) To answer your question, I think that I am especially "ripe for the witnessing" because I am currently in RCIA. Like Kelly said, as soon as you indentify yourself as Catholic it seems to open the door for people to witness to you. But I do tend to find "out of the blue" witnessing rather aggressive, IMHO. I have always felt this way, even before I decided to become Catholic. Tracy & Perplexity have summed up my personal view of witnessing perfectly.

a soldier's wife said...

Hi,
My first post here :) so please be kind. I'm always so hesitant to comment at first on new blogs,especially on subjects that I'm not sure I understand, which if I'm honest, tends to be most subjects.
I wanted to ask a few questions on this topic in general. I read the article about this on Keeping the home and I found this one very useful for me as this has been a subject I've been worrying and praying over for some time. A lot of things there, I don't agree with, or don't pertain to me (I think anyway) but this one did. I'm not a person who whips my bible out and starts quoting scripture to everyone. I've never felt comfortable doing that as I feel like it can be a bigger turn-off, for lack of a better word, to come on too strong to someone. I try to live my life so that I'm an example to my faith. Of course there are times, more than I'd like to admit that I very likely fail at this. I also can't just start quoting scripture at the top of a hat. I can paraphase, but I struggle with remembering where everything is.
I felt like this could be a good thing for me to have my bible with me and some scripture marked that isn't what is in my personal bible ( I have so much marked and highlighted there that speak to me personally) so that if a conversation comes up and we are talking about this and perhaps I'm asked for scripture to support what I'm saying, I actually have it and don't have to say, Let me get back to you on that.
So in a round about way to my question, is this the type of actions that you are talking about, or would this offend you? Not that I'm talking about this type of talking personally to you exactly...I would never presume to know more than someone else who is also serving the Lord. In my community, and within my own family, there are many who are not believers. I'm hoping, that maybe my daily actions and behavior will stir some interest, so that maybe questions may follow and if so, I want to be prepared.

Tracy said...

Soldiers Wife, what your doing is just fine!! I use my Bible to back me up too! What I find offensive is if someone asks me if I have a personal relationship with the Lord and I say yes I do and in the conversation it comes out that I'm Catholic and all of a sudden they think that I need to be saved!
Now, if I met you Soldiers Wife and we started to visit and the conversation turned to "do you know the Lord?" and you told me that yes, you do and you shared your faith with me, I would be so happy for you and would share with you as well and if you told me you were not Catholic.. I would not care a less and would just be thrilled to be visiting with a fellow Christian... you don't need me to witness to you that your faith is wrong and I don't need you to witness that to me... witnessing should be left for those who don't even know the Lord or who have fallen away from the Lord.
That is not to say that we should not explain why we choose the Church we do etc. but it should never become a issue of trying to tell someone that because they belong to a certain church that they are not really saved... etc. that is the big problem I have encountered, people find out I'm Catholic and all of a sudden they discredit everything I've just said and insist they need to save me.. that is just plain wrong and ignorant. So, to answer your question.. you are doing everything right and having your Bible to back you up is an excellent idea!

KitKat said...

Hi Soldier's Wife! :) So happy to "see" you! I definitely can't answer for the other folks here, but for me I never take offense at someone who is simply willing to share their faith or who has scriptures ready to help spread the Good News. I think that it is a lovely idea to have a small purse sized Bible and I do plan to get one someday myself. I didn't mean to sound harsh or offended by ALL forms of evangelization. I just tend shake my head in wonder at those folks who simply must spread the Word Of God by ,um, WORDS at all times to all people without a personal relationship with those people and without being asked. Or those who continue to "share" their faith even when someone has told them that they believe but are from a different branch of the Christian tree. As Tracy and Kelly have said (and I agree with), there is a time and a place to share the depth of your faith, i.e. the faith beyond what is visible in your actions. For me, it is easier to know the time and place when I have a relationship or at least a conversation lasting longer than a few moments with that person. Just as long as it doesn't come off like I am simply "soul winning" without considering the *person* who carries the soul. Does that make sense? I'm going to stop now because I am sure that one of these kind ladies here will have a much better explanation than I do.

Besides, soldier's wife, I think that you said it best in your last sentence. You life and actions will make people notice and wonder where you get your joy and strength. Personally, I think that being fully prepared (with scriptures, etc.) to share your faith when you are called to do so is wonderful!

As a side note, I feel differently about missionary work in those parts of the world where people may or may not have heard the Gospel message. You may be dealing with people who have no idea who Jesus really is in those situations. But I have found in my day to day life here in America that most folks have heard about Jesus. Some folks are just "non-believers", and I personally feel that non-believers may benefit from a more gentle approach in evangelizing. Again, this is just my opinion and I am sure that someone else here can tackle this subject with much more grace. :)

Have a wonderful day! (And I really am going to do that post about container gardening! LOL!)

Dana said...

I just want to add in something -- an answer possibly. I am a protestant. I will not claim any denomination. I grew up as a Catholic but was not 'saved' there. My child(ren) will be and are going to a Catholic school. Which I love for two reasons, I believe from experience that there are brothers and sisters amongst all denominations, those who believe, fellowship and trust in Jesus the Christ and they will have a well rounded Christian education because they pray, recognize Christian history and put others before themselves.

What does run rampant in the protestant circle is that the Catholic Church is considered to be the whore. I U S E D to believe that too.
I do NOT believe that any longer but believe that anyone who teaches against Christ is the Whore.

There are traditions in the Catholic faith that I do not believe in nor will I condemn anyone personally (well, I try not to anyway) for doing, but from experience, when approached as a Catholic be as Jesus and see that those who are approaching you in an offensive way, may really need to be educated in regards to your personal relationship with Him.

In that I mean, try to discuss some of your favorite Scriptures with that other person. There is this disconnect, protestants believe that Catholic's don't know the Scriptures. Instead of getting mad and trying to shove in the offensive persons face (do not revile), talk to each other.

I love reading here and I love reading at Keeping the Home. I am blessed by both sites equally.

Tracy said...

Thank you for your honesty Dana and for keeping an open mind and not passing judgement on our faith and beliefs.

Blessings

Elena said...

Thank you for sharing Dana.

I am not blessed by reading Candy's blog. I am insulted, put down and ridiculed because of her posts on Catholicism.

I would like to blessed there. When she blogs about homemaking and homeschooling and even her fitness routine I think she is very encouraging and has a lot to offer women.

But I am not one of the women she is reaching out to because I am Catholic . She has virtually spit in my cyber face more than once.

And so just as I would if she were making racial slurs or anti-semitic remarks, or other hate speech, I cannot recommend her blog.

Tracy said...

Elena, my heart hurts for you when I think of what you have had to put up with from a so called "christian" woman.

I have been blessed over and over from your posts here Elena and at your own blog as well, I don't personally know you and yet I can feel your personal witness through the computer.. you make me proud to be a Christian and proud to be a Catholic and you make me want to be a better Catholic and a better mom!! ((((HUGS)))