The Catholic Defender: Learning Evangelization the Hard Way
On September 21 and 22, 2018, I will be speaking at Guardian Angels Parish and St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Kansas City Missouri on Evangelization and Catholics are born for combat. The Parish Missions are part of the "Igniting a Fire" intending to light a fire with the Truth.
I returned to the Catholic Faith officially October 1978 after a powerful weekend making my Cursillo retreat. I returned back to College a serious Catholic who became on fire for the faith. In those days, it wasn't that popular for lay Catholics to be evangelistic witnessing for the Church. The common perception at the time was evangelism was a responsibility for the Clergy. That began to change following the Second Vatican Council (1962-65).
Pope St. John Paul II would speak of this movement as the "Springtime of Evangelization" producing a major Catholic Catechism as the guide for everyday Catholics and scholars alike. Unfortunately, many were really not equipped as there were lots of confusion following the Council.
I found myself principally on my own when it came to defending my Catholic Faith. Growing up going to a Catholic school did not prepare our youth to defend against Protestant Evangelicals and as a result many fell away from the Faith. I studied more my last year at College in 1979 on Religion than all my classes combine.
I would have four or five people waiting for me to get out of baseball practice or game to try and reach me for their faiths. I could be in the Student Union or the Dining Hall and they would gather around me there. My roommates when they discovered I had a Catholic background would invite friends to debate me in our dorm room. This was a daily ongoing activity where I had to learn about the Catholic Faith or I would fall from it.
Obviously, I was troubled with much of the attacks and I spent a lot of time in the Library. I would have several dreams that felt so real. One particular dream had the greatest impact on me. After a major debate in the room where I took on a number of those attacking the Catholic Church, I went to bed troubled. I slept hard, but I dreamed that God's Church, the Catholic Church, was dead. I felt such despair, and sadness I began to cry.
I found myself in a church that was in ruins, that the Sanctuary was in ruins and that Christ on the cross was shedding tears for His Body, the Church. I never felt such anguish, I cried so much that I woke up out of my sleep totally wet from crying. My pillow, the bed, and the blankets were all wet.
I sat up as it took me a couple of minutes to realize it was a dream. I recalled my Confirmation that took place in Blue Springs Mo on September 23, 1968 by Bishop Sullivan. I renewed my vows and told the Lord that I will be a soldier for Him. I will not betray Him and leave the Church even when people around me do. I will do my best to remain loyal and stand for Him. A promise that I have tried to keep since 1978.
Since that time I have been graced to have witnessed thousands of conversions. I use to love to read the "Catholic Digest" because it show cased conversion stories. I think that had a lot on influence on me. I have always felt inspired by the testimonies of those who converted to the Catholic Faith. In the beginning, I was willing to discuss the faith anywhere at anytime. I would have Protestant Ministers come to my home wanting to debate me.
From my experience, I learned the importance of Evangelization with the right motivation. Today, we have great Catholic converts like Scott Hahn, Tim Staples, Steve Ray and thousands more. We have great Catholic organizations like Deepertruth, Catholics Come Home, Catholic Answers, St. Paul's Street Evangelization and many more. But in the 1970's I found myself debating these guys before their many conversions. It felt like the Lone Ranger.
Today, you can Google and find examples of what people do to evangelize. A lot of them are similar, but the following are my tips to being an Evangelist.
1. Understanding the importance for Evangelization. The Great Commission and why Truth matters.
2. Importance for Prayer, keeping communication with the Lord and His Mother. Going out on the Perimeter you have to be "Prayered Up". St. Padre Pio called the Rosary "The Weapon"!
3. Preparation, always seek to grow in knowledge with experience. Use the Catholic Catechism, the Bible, the Councils, the Saints. There is a wealth of opportunity to grow and learn.
4. Be open to opportunities, I have had thousands of encounters when many opportunities just came my way. There is such a hunger out there whether in the weight room working out, Wal-Mart, just about anywhere.
5 Your actions should speak your words. People hear what you say, see what you do, and observe what you love.
6. Share your experience, What does the Faith mean to you. I've always loved stories of conversion, those are inspiring as well.
7. Have a caring attitude, not a judging, condemning attitude, but to see where an individual is coming from. Be a good listener as well.
8. Know the various issues surrounding a person. Are they a non-believer? Are they Protestant? Are they a Fallen away Catholic? We act like a first base coach helping them to get on first base. Then hopefully we can send them to second where the Priest (third base coach) sends them home.
9. Recognizing faith is a journey, RCIA gives a great opportunity to grow in the faith. I wish I had a nickel for each time a person told me that they want to sponsor a person because they themselves learn so much more in the process.
I like to incorporate the RCIA Sponsorship with Evangelization because they can have a mutual effect.
Be a spiritual friend, it is a journey
Know where to find answers
Make the commitment
Accompany at Mass
Prepare and rehearse the rites
Need to be close in proximity
Be a practicing Catholic
Go deep into the teachings and share
The Easter Vigil will be awesome
To be an evangelist today, you will ready yourself for spiritual combat. Nothing greater than leading and helping a person come to faith, Heaven calls you wise for doing so.