Catholic evangelisation

Catholic evangelisation

Michael Brown, who is a sort of ‘Catholic Matt Drudge’ has a new article which is certainly worth reading, if not heeding. Its title says it all: Evangelize, evangelize! If Jehovah’s Witnesses can go door to door, what about us Catholics?

First disclosure: the idea of knocking on doors and speaking to strangers about Jesus Christ makes my blood run cold. This is a gut reaction which I’m conscious could well close me off from the Holy Spirit. I’m happy to be reasoned with, so if you think door knocking strangers is a good idea, please make your case. I promise a fair hearing!

I’m not against all “street evangelisation.” Marcus Goulding and Trevor Tibbertsma, friends of mine from the seminary, had a positive experience of a street evangelisation initiative in Soho, London. Moreover, walking around in a clerical collar presents me with an occasional opportunity to engage in spiritual conversation with strangers.

But none of this, I think, relates to the main task of evangelisation. If “charity begins at home,” shouldn’t evangelisation follow suit? It seems to me that the most effective evangelisation occurs within established relationships — especially loving relationships. It consists primarily in pursuing deeper, more meaningful conversations with friends and relatives. And secondarily, in challenging them to deepen their faith — by means of a good book maybe, or inviting them to Mass, or adoration, or (eek!) confession.

In some ways, this sort of evangelisation requires greater courage than random door-knocking. But it’s also more natural, and for all that, more effective. It’s the sort of evangelisation we see in the New Testament — especially in the calling of the apostles.

As I am wont to do, especially when I get started on the apostolate, I’ll finish with a quote from St Josemaría:

The Christian apostolate — and I’m talking about an ordinary Christian living as just one more man or woman among equals — is a great work of teaching. Through real, personal, loyal friendship, you create in others a hunger for God and you help them to discover new horizons — naturally, simply. With the example of your faith lived to the full, with a loving word which is full of the force of divine truth.

Second disclosure: though it’s long been on my to-do list, I have never read Pope Paul’s Evangelii Nuntiandi. That’s my homework for this week.

(H/T Marcus. Great picture!)

5 Comments

  1. MuMu
    May 9, 2013

    Going door-to-door is not that hard. First you must be convinced that you have a duty and responsibility to offer others the opportunity to learn about the Catholic faith. You don’t shout out as soon as the door is opened, “Hey Brother (Sister) are you saved?”
    No, you announce you are with the Legion of Mary, attached to the Catholic Church in the parish and that you are seeking Catholics or people who may be interested in the Church …. and then you begin the process of building a relationship with the person; showing interest in them, asking whether they have ever seen the Church or been inside, but respecting the person’s spiritual boundaries. Everyday chat.
    Oh yes, first you pray for inspiration…
    You must have some authority do do this type of evangelisation, conferred either by a formal apostolate or your parish.

  2. Fr John
    May 10, 2013

    The Legion of Mary! Oops! They are mentioned explicitly in Michael Brown’s article. I intended, but forgot to address them myself.

    Of course in one sense, the door knocking the Legion of Mary often performs at a parish priest’s request is precisely the sort of evangelisation Brown endorses.

    But I think it’s also a form of visitation. As far as I know (?) the Legion won’t blanket entire neighbourhoods; they visit addresses known to the parish. That’s a little bit different, I think, from approaching random strangers.

    Visitation is an important parish apostolate. Critically important, I think. Thanks for opportunity to clarify myself MuMu. And kudos to the Legion of Mary!

    • MuMu
      May 10, 2013

      No, no, Fr John. Every door – including businesses!

  3. Jake Byrne
    May 10, 2013

    I think both are really important. I love the quote you chose from St Josemaria and try to practice the apostolate of friendship in my own life, but I do wish there were more opportunities in Melbourne to engage in direct street evagenlisation.

    There’s a group called “St Paul Street Evangelisation” who do great work in this regard, and whenever they update their facebook they always have a positive story to tell about a lapsed Catholic who decided to go to confession or a non-Catholic who asked for more information.

    I read somewhere that the Mormons and the JW’s are two of the fastest growing sects in the world so they must be doing something right.

    • Fr John
      May 10, 2013

      Ha ha. I love the video. I take your point!