The 2012 Non-Evangelizing Guide Every Catholic Needs To Read – part deux

So, if you read the first installment of this series that’s guaranteed to scare people from the Faith and tick them off and possibly snap relationships in two, you’ve come to understand a snippet about myself and where I came from in my evolution of evangelization. I used to be terrible at sharing the Faith. I have many stories to confirm this. But, I think we all have them, though. You are probably thinking of one right now, huh?

When I think of the stories that make me recoil, not so much at what I said, so much as it was the delivery that was deplorable, my mind has a tendency to wander to imaginary places that take the sting away, like this.


…and I go to my happy place, complete with drool and head tilted back until…


pops into my head and as firm as the impression the bishop left on my forehead at confirmation, I am jolted back to reality. Sigh. Ok.

Where were we? Ah, yes. Evangelizing people away from the Church. 

So, here are a few things you’ll want to be aware of when you drive people from the Faith.

1) Focus on being right. Do you remember when Dr. Phil used to be um…a doctor? And he had that nifty t.v. show? When he addressed conflict resolution, he would often say “you can be right or you can be happy.” He called those who focused on being right “right fighters.” Now, let’s not give too much weight to “happy” because that’s irrelevant within a Catholic framework. The real question for Catholics would be, “do you want to be right or do you want to show Jesus to others?” Sometimes when we focus only on being right, we forget even our most basic manners. We are tempted to go tit for tat with others because we KNOW we are right and they are dun-dun-dun!!! WRONG!!!!

  • Here’s why it can turn people off –  Focusing on proving Catholicism right with the wrong intent can be a real turnoff for most people. Think of the hard sell approach of a used car salesman {I’ll help you with this visual – are you feeling a “bada bing bada boom” come on? ::shudder::} People don’t want to feel as though they are being sold the clear spiritual undercoating if they listen to you.

2) Be unapproachable. Be someone who no one can talk to. You shut down their discussions with your non-stop Catholic chatter. They actually don’t mind that you love your faith, but you’ve made yourself into someone they can’t even relate to. A non-Catholic acquaintance comes to you for advice on a situation and you immediately launch into how wonderful the rosary is, how St. So-and-So is a great example of that peril the acquaintance is facing. You might even ask them to come to Adoration with you.

  • Here’s why it can turn people off – While this advice may be perfect for someone who already understands Catholicism, it can read as a brick wall for anyone on the outside looking in. With non-Catholics, we need to be very simple in our approach. Just listen. Just be a friend. They don’t need {nor will they appreciate} upper division catechesis on how to handle life stresses.

3) Strong arm people with the Faith who won’t listen because…it’s you. If you are a revert or convert, this can be particularly true with people who knew you “before.” Ya know…”before you got all holy, uppity, self-righteous and a general ‘know-it-all.'” Not that you actually are any of those things {well, you could be, but that would be an entirely different blog post}, but it’s a tough pill for friends and family to swallow if they saw you in your heathen state before.

  • Here’s why it won’t work – We all have “those people” on our list of who we want to see converted to the Faith. More often than not, we will not be the ones they will hear the Gospel message from. They will see us permanently as “the-heathen-now-known-as-trying-to-be-a-saint-but-really-is-not-because-I-remember-them-when-they-got-in-all-kinds-of-trouble-and-who-are-they-kidding” – it’s a little long, but you get the idea. For these people, praying for the right people to cross their path is far more effective. Put the rest in God’s lap. He can handle it. Promise.
4) Be ignorant in the Faith. When I say ignorant, I am speaking strictly about lacking knowledge, either through no fault of your own or willful ignorance. There is no insult to be extracted from this. It may sound crazy, but this seems to be {if only in my own mind} one of the biggest reasons why people leave the Faith. If you aren’t convinced of your own Faith, why should anyone else take you seriously? If your answers to questions sound like any of the following, you might be a “non/un/poorly-catechized Catholic” {said in Jeff Foxworthy redneck voice}:
“Mom, why do we baptize babies?”
a) Just because.
b) It’s just what we do.
c) It’s tradition.
d) I don’t know, go pester your father about that!
e) all of the above.
  • Here’s why it doesn’t work – Whether we like it or not, people look to us to lead and be an example. If we don’t find it important enough to understand the Faith, then those around us won’t see the value in it either. This is particularly true of parents and children. When we clamor to get our children’s sacraments “just because” and never make any part of our Faith important like going to Mass, it’s easy for our kids to see the hypocrisy of it all. And believe you me, kids can smell hypocrisy a mile away. That and fear. But I digress. The lesson learned here is get thee to your nearest Bible, Catechism, Adult Faith Formation class, RCIA {if you aren’t fully initiated}, etc. Do something. Don’t settle for any of the above answers.
5) Be the “angry-with-the-whole-world” Catholic. These folks can double dip in the “be unapproachable” group as well. Who doesn’t like these people at parties?? They constantly lament how the world has gone to hell in a hand basket and aren’t afraid to tell people they barely know all about the state of the world. You might even get some anti-Christ talk in with all that. {I want to make the distinction between good timing and bad timing – obviously, there are times when we need to discuss these things objectively as Catholics. What I am describing in this scenario is someone who literally cannot tear themselves away to talk about anything other than “the end times are upon us”}.
  • Here’s why it doesn’t work –  It  closes off any opportunity of sharing the Faith with folks and generally leaves people with a bad taste in their mouth for religion. People are typically aware of how the world has its share of problems but sometimes it’s nice to talk to people who will give them hope vs. stuff negativity down their throat. You don’t have to compete for the 5 p.m. news spot to be the Debbie Downer of the group. It’s not a contest you can win, anyway, and people will start to avoid you like the plague if they know they’ll be roped into a 20 minute monologue on how social justice has taken a nose dive in America. Be cheerful, be honest, be someone they want to engage in conversation and leave the negativity for your journal…or spouse. 😉
6) Refuse to talk to people who actually want to talk about Catholicism. You’ve got your office cubicle filled with all kinds of religious items, you are frequently caught jangling at the grocery store with all of your saint medals around your neck, sometimes tangled in your scapular, or you wear your veil at Mass and someone comes up to talk to you about it. You are comfortable with your faith to a certain…point. After that, it is deeply personal and you just. can’t. go. there. You’re worried you may rock the boat or offend someone, so you say nothing.
  • Here’s why it won’t work – I don’t think you have to be very old {said to self in mirror} to remember the days when it was considered basic social etiquette that you “don’t talk religion and politics in polite company.” Nowadays you can’t get people to hush-it about their polarizing political alignments and their over the top religious convictions. There is a balance between out and out offending someone with no regard for the value of friendship or family relationship and saying what needs to be said with love and charity. I have learned {for the most part} to not purposely bring up religion with whom I know could construe the slightest offense because it’s me {see #3}, but when someone else brings it up, I take them up on their line of questioning, commenting and take the time to explain the Faith in a way that dispels even the slightest misconception in their mind; thus paving the way of curiosity on their part for more questions and digging deeper about the Faith. The idea? Not to do any of the above wrong ways to evangelize, but rather focus on planting seeds and being a friend.
Talk to me.
Have you encountered these same situations?
Have you been on the receiving end of any of these?
How did you respond?
How did you improve your approach?

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