Time is short. I’ve been furiously working on the St Mary’s Hamilton parish website, which is due to be launched next Friday. When I’m not doing that, I’m ironing out creases in the registration software at clergy.asn.au.

And — most importantly — the Grand Final rematch is starting soon. (Go Pies!)

So this is a cheat of a post. “Here’s something I prepare earlier.

This e-mail landed in my inbox today:

Dear John: In your travels, or in your thoughts, have you come across any practical idea/s for turning a person towards the man on the cross?

PS I don’t believe Bible-bashing, Rosary-bashing, Mass-bashing, or indeed any lay-preaching has or can work, even if they ever did.

And here is my reply:

Hmm. I suppose there are some people for whom preaching is a charism, and in that case, lay preaching might do some good. But for the most part, I think you and I would share a similar vision of the lay apostolate as something quite distinct from the priestly and religious apostolates, and preaching has little to do with it.

I must confess, I find the priestly apostolate much easier to exercise than the lay apostolate. Maybe that confirms my preistly vocation, or maybe I’ve just got better at the apostolate as time has passed and my interior life has deepened. But here are some things which as a layman I did find successful:

  • Telling a friend “I’m going to confession this Friday,” and inviting them to accompany me. Almost always, the friend in question would be embarrassed, and decline. But it very often set the scene for a serious conversation about the spiritual life at a later date.
  • Organising to catch up with someone on a Sunday for a drink or a meal, and suggesting we meet up at the cathedral (or wherever) and go to Mass first. This met with much more success! Most people agree to this.
  • Throwing a good book in someone’s direction. Usually something “entry-level” and easy to read. Anything by C.S. Lewis. The Way by St Josemaría Escrivá. Whatever I’d recently read, really, which I thought might help a particular person.
  • I avoided religious arguments. At the start because I didn’t know much, and I’d lose the argument! In the end because I knew too much, and I’d lose the friend!

That’s about it, really, in terms of “laying it on.” The rest consists in being a good friend — I’d try not to let a month pass without catching up with someone. (In this, particularly, I failed more often than not!)

The most important things occurred behind the scenes. I’d try to pray for the person by name at daily mass, and I’d offer up some sacrifices for them once or twice a week.

What have I missed? What are other “practical ideas for turning a person towards the man on the cross?”