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Bible Catechism Conversion Evangelization Mass

Be ready!

bible-SunlightOne of my favorite verses in the Bible is 1 Peter 3:15.

…always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope…

What that means to me is that, as followers of Jesus Christ, as the very partakers of His Body and Blood, we should conduct ourselves and our lives in such a way that people wonder about our hope.

But the next part of this is very important. How do we answer?

I had the unexpected blessing of being asked about the reason for our hope the other day. A young woman spends time with our family, helping us with our children. I’ll call her Annie. She asked me a really interesting question about whether, in our faith, we have beliefs about circumcising male children. She told me that she had always wanted to ask someone this but had been too embarrassed. Since we spend a lot of time changing diapers together, it was, humorously, finally the right time.

After discussing this issue in as a clear and straightforward a way as I could, she told me that she was hopeful to start attending church with her children. Having accompanied me to a Bible study once at our local Catholic parish to help with the kiddos, I encouraged her to start coming to Mass.

She immediately answered that she had loved it there, for the brief two or three hours that she had been inside. Having bravely attended daily Mass with us, she said she had felt accepted in spite of obviously “being new” and not knowing what to do. She felt people reached out to her and were welcoming to her, and that the priest did not hesitate to give her a blessing when that time came.

Annie then mentioned that she had tried to read the Bible but was usually unsuccessful because it was so large and confusing.

I quickly started compiling materials. This was one of those hope moments, and she loves books. I passed along to her a small edition with just the New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs, explaining that the whole Bible can be a lot to tackle and can happen in time. I asked my daughter to fetch her beloved copy of YouCat, feeling sad to have not stocked up more copies. I explained that, although a youth catechism, it is an accessible read with a very appealing format. On top of this, the parish had distributed hundreds of copies of Rediscovering Catholicism by Matthew Kelly, with an encouraging note tucked inside by the pastor of the parish. She received these three books with tremendous excitement and gratitude.

Phew. Thank you, God.

I loved being able to honestly tell her that she can enter into the Church at whatever level she feels comfortable. There are classes for adults and children who are interested in learning more and becoming Catholic, and that she can take her time to discern that and pray and get to know us first. Most importantly, she can start to learn about Jesus and get to know Him there, in the Blessed Sacrament.

Now, to stock up the book shelves. I need to be ready for more of these moments!

What are the resources you like to have on hand when someone asks you about your hope? What does your parish do to be ready?

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Evangelization Ink Slingers Martina

The 2012 Non-Evangelizing Guide Every Catholic Needs To Read

Today’s post is an intro into a two {or three} part series depending on how feisty and “write-y”

I feel this week about ways NOT to evangelize. Today’s piece is foundational,

meaning I’m going to build on it by writing a series based on my own personal experiences.

I should start this piece of brilliance by stating that I don’t consider myself to be an expert in evangelizing, I don’t hold multiple degrees in theology from various Catholic universities {in fact, I hold a Spanish language degree that I don’t use from possibly the largest and most liberal university around – the University of Texas at Austin}, and I don’t consider my forte to be speaking to large groups of people with the goal of converting them to the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. What I do have is good, old-fashioned grit. I grew up in a small town in East Texas where Catholics there weren’t {and possibly still aren’t} much of an evangelizing influence by comparison to the prottie population. I also have a lot {read: MASSIVE AMOUNTS} of terrible experiences that I will share with you in an effort to create an “open eyes” effect. Sometimes the approach we feel is glorifying God is, in fact, doing the opposite. It is with painful humility that I will present to you some ways to turn people away from the Faith…if that’s your goal.

Before I delve into all that yummy, delicious turnoff stuff, let me explain a little bit more about who I identify with in my evangelization efforts. I have four heroes in the Faith {after God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, Mary and all the angels, of course :)}. I present to you the cast of characters in the Faith I look to help guide me. My patron entourage, if you will.

  • St. Paul – ::swoon:: From his evil beginnings of persecuting the Church to getting knocked off his horse and infused with the Holy Spirit, how can anyone NOT like him?? The theme of St. Paul for me is one of humility, the realization that God can and will use us regardless of our past sins and/or current sinful state of life if we only submit to His plan for us, and how he constantly exhorts us to always be building up the Church. {remember that last part – it’s kinda an important point, yo}
  • St. Thérèse of Lisieux – I had no idea she was such a key player in my evangelization efforts until I realized what my strengths were. Like her ability to attribute even the smallest sufferings to the souls in Purgatory, I realized that I, too, have the ability to do the same by thanking God for the ability to evangelize in small, tiny ways. {You might find this comment laughable considering this website is my baby and has found a large audience in such a short time, but really what I’m referring to is what I do personally in a one-on-one basis with people I meet, whether online or IRL}
  • Blessed Margaret of Castello – Who? Most people have not heard of her, but her story is an amazing one {I encourage you to pick up a copy and read it!}. Born of nobility in the 1200s, her parents shunned her because of her deformities. She was born lame, blind, ugly and a homely hunchback. Her parents were so disgusted at her appearance that they banished her to a tower when she was just six years old where she remained until she was 16. As if that wasn’t bad enough, her parents abandoned her AGAIN when they took Margaret to the Franciscan Shrine of Castello to cure her deformities and the miracle cure did not happen. Despite the poor treatment of strangers throughout her life, Margaret never gave up hope on her fellow brothers and sisters and often prayed for her parents’ love to be reciprocated despite their despicable acts against her. Her example of unconditional love is one that I look to, especially in a society that is quick to write people off over the most trivial of acts. We have forgotten our ability to forgive and love. We should also be prepared if we are to effectively evangelize that the world at large will hate us for it. I should mention that I have been having a very strong tug on my heart to talk about Blessed Margaret for a while. She is just quite the amazing example of Christ’s love. If you are a fan of incorruptibles or even if you don’t know what they are, you will appreciate this link that talks about where her body lays. Though more than 200 miracles were attributed to her, she still has yet to be canonized. Blessed Margaret of Costello, pray for us!
  • St. Francis of Assisi – He is probably one of my all-time favorites because of the infamous phrase attached to him. Though he never said it, it represents who he was and how he lived – “Preach the Gospel always and when necessary use words.” It’s beautiful and it represents how our approach to the Faith should be. Too often I find that people use this phrase as an excuse to not engage others about the Faith and so it sort of gets swept under the rug as not being very effective with evangelizing, but my personal take on it is simply this: You should live your Faith in such a way that people are IRRESISTIBLY drawn to whatever it is that you have. You OOZE the Holy Spirit. Like a moth to the flame, they don’t even realize you are Catholic because you are so busy living out the Faith in an infectious way that you naturally draw people in. When these people finally DO approach you about the Faith, they have already seen your faith in action and now want to know how to get some of what you’ve got. That’s when the “and when necessary use words” comes in. There is no dismissal of the importance of words if we truly understand how St. Francis lived. We just realized that it takes some balance in bringing others to know Christ and His Church. For some that means our example needs to be silent, for others it means we engage in conversations with them, and still for others it’s a mixture of the two. If we are truly on our evangelizing game {sharpening our tools through frequent attendance of Mass, prayer, confession, consultation with a spiritual director, etc.} then we can read others well enough to know what will reach them most effectively and how to not only bring them to know Christ but to get them so excited to turn around and do the same – in Protestant language, they call it “being on fire for the Lord.”

So, now that my word count is at 1120, I am realizing that I will need to break this into at least two, possibly three parts. Boo hiss, you say? Oh well…you can read up on the virtue of patience in the meantime since I smell bacon cooking {did I mention I have the world’s BEST husband who makes the most AWESOME BACON??} and chitter chatter of four of our five kidlets who are awake at 10:30 a.m. on January 2. It’s time to go be a mom for now and I’ll let some ideas rattle around in my head on how to share with you the best ways to tick off friends and family about the Faith. Oh dear, my stomach is growling…