The Merry Catholic

"MERRY" (mer - ee) adjective: full of cheerfulness; joyous in spirit; mirthful.
"CATHOLIC" (kath - lick) noun: a believer in Christ; the Church founded by Jesus Christ in 33 A.D.

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The Merry Catholic essay: August 20, 2014:



There is a movement in the Catholic Church called the New Evangelization. The U.S. Bishops’ website explains it this way: “The focus of the New Evangelization calls all Catholics to be evangelized and then go forth to evangelize (others).”

In response, the average Catholic in the pew might say, “OK, fine, the Gospel should be spread. But the priests and nuns should do it. That’s their job.”

Well, obviously it is one of their many jobs, but spreading the Gospel is not their sole responsibility. (Or you could say, “Their SOUL responsibility.” Get it? Soul? Oh, never mind.)

There are many reasons why the average Catholic recoils at the idea of evangelizing others. The first reason is the fact our culture has declared that speaking about religion is rude. Oh sure, we still have our First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and freedom of religion (at least we still did the last time I checked—you never know nowadays), but the conventional wisdom is that speaking about religious faith to other people is offensive. Remember that old expression: “Never discuss politics or religion in polite company”? These days Catholics have no problem yapping away about politics, but we stay silent when it comes to religion.

Another reason Catholics shun the idea of evangelization is because we have been trained for generations that the role of lay people in the Church is to “pray, pay, and obey.” The job of teaching the faith should be left to the professionals: the priests and nuns.

The final and most likely reason why the average Catholic is terrified by the idea of spreading the faith to others is quite simple: he or she does not know what to say. Here are some common objections: “I never went to seminary. I don’t have a degree in theology. I never even taught CCD. I daydream during my pastor’s homilies. So how can I possibly teach others about the Gospel if I’m not a trained theologian?”

To all those who point out they are not trained theologians and therefore unable take part in the New Evangelization, I have good news. (I mean regular good news, not Good News good news. Good News is what the word “Gospel” actually means. Get it? Oh, never mind.)

The world certainly needs trained theologians. But do you know how many people are drawn into a relationship with Christ because someone listed Thomas Aquinas’ philosophical proofs for the existence of God, or explained the doctrine of the Trinity? Yeah, I don’t know either, but I bet it’s a very small number.

By far the most effective way of sharing the faith with others is to tell them what the faith has done for you. Don’t tell the story of God, tell YOUR story of God. Explain what the Lord has done in your life; explain that going to Mass each week and saying your prayers each day makes your life more peaceful and joyful. Explain that knowing God loves you and cares about you is a source of strength, which provides courage to deal with all the struggles of this world.

Personal testimony has always been the most powerful method of spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ. And it’s only fair that I practice what I preach. So next week I will offer my personal testimony. I’ll explain what faith in God has done for me. A little hint: the hymn “Amazing Grace” has a very appropriate line: “…saved a wretch like me.” And if you happened to notice back in 1985 that Anheuser-Busch’s sales took an unexpected dip and the Colombian cartels’ profits were down, well, that was me.

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