Tag Archives: evangelization

I Just Need Somebody to LOOOOOVVEE

Maybe it sounds cheesy to us when Justin Bieber is singing about it.  It certainly sounded much more rock ‘n roll when Queen was talking about it back in the 70s, but it’s a theme that has stood the test of time:

“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.”

This should really come as no surprise, since—the educated Catholics we are—we know that it’s Christian theology 101 that God created us out of love for us, in order that we would love.  Thus, the goal of our life—what we are created for— is to give of ourselves completely in love.  Our life’s fulfillment, true happiness, can only be found in this love.

Of course, life-giving love can express itself in this life in a myriad of ways, but the basic principles are the same.  See 1 Corinthians 13 (hint: it applies to lots more than just romantic love):

Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.

We’re all created for this kind of love.  Priests, religious, married people, single people, young people and old people: love is the call of the Christian life.

Scratch that.  Love is the call of the human being.  Christianity simply presents you with the reality of it: The Cross.

This is kind of a big deal.  We spend so much of our energy trying to come up with a way to package the Gospel in a way that’s appealing to this generation or to that demographic, but when it comes right down to it, there’s a reason why St. Paul says, “We proclaim Christ crucified.”  We proclaim love: the subject of every artist’s work, the answer to every heart’s longing.  No need to convince people they want it, because it’s the one thing we can’t stop talking, singing, or writing about.

If people don’t recognize love in what we’re offering them with our evangelization efforts, then it might be time to revisit our own understanding of what it is we have in the first place.

Avoiding word vomit when evangelizing friends (in 4 steps, of course)

Here’s a problem: our Catholic faith is so vast…there’s so much awesome to share, that sometimes it’s hard to know when to stop—or where to start.  How do you distinguish between those times when you’re being helpful and those times when you’re being downright annoying and/or overbearing?

On the one hand, if people have questions, you want to try and be there with answers.  On the other hand, sometimes we forget that ultimately what this person is seeking is a real relationship with Jesus, and without that, your answers don’t mean a whole lot, no matter how perfectly crafted or philosophically sound.

So what do you do when your friend asks you a question about the faith and you’re so excited that all you want to do is grab your Catechism and go over it paragraph by paragraph with them from beginning to end?

Short answer: I’m not entirely sure.  But I have a couple of ideas…

 1. Breathe. 

Put yourself in your friend’s shoes.  If you suddenly and reluctantly asked a question about something they were passionate about but you only think is sort of cool, would you really want them to introduce you to their entire Pokemon card collection?  No.  (and yeah, I just compared the Catechism to Pokemon.  Lord, Have Mercy).

Take your friend’s words at face value and simply answer the question they asked and no more.  If they want to go deeper, let them make the first move.

2. Pray to the Holy Spirit. 

Ever done that before?  The Holy Spirit we all received at Baptism and were sealed with at Confirmation is someone we can talk to.  Plus, He gives out gifts.  Sweet.  Ask for them.

 3. Recognize: it all boils down to believing in, and coming into relationship with, the Person of Jesus Christ.

Did Jesus exist?  Is He really God made man?  Did He really rise from the dead?  If “yes” to all of the above, then feel free to point out that it means a lot.

  1. God is not dead.  We can talk to him and grow in relationship with him.
  2. That same God?  He set up a Church and guaranteed that it would be protected from the gates of Hell.  (Matthew 16:18) Because we believe He’s God, there’s a pretty good chance that 100% of the things that Church teaches as dogma are true.

Ok, but what if your friend believes that Jesus guy most likely existed but doesn’t really buy the spiel about the Resurrection and all that jazz?  Try this one on for size: Basically all of Jesus’ followers that He lived with on Earth died awful deaths at the hands of persecutors.  And they all went to their deaths proclaiming to their very last breath the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.  I think it’s fair to assume that at least one of them would’ve cracked and dug up the body to save their life if it was all made up to make them famous (famous still counts when you’re dead, right?).

And then leave it at that.  Simple.  Introductory.  Remember you want them to meet a Person, not just read a book.

 4. Go surfing.

Or shopping.  Or to a movie.  Or out to lunch.  Point is: don’t take your friend’s first ever question about the faith as an invitation to talk about the Church and nothing but the Church until you’re watching them get baptized at the Easter Vigil.  Patience.  God has a great plan for this person’s life.  Don’t make the mistake of thinking it all depends on you.

 

On Being Cheerful in the Face of Stupid-Heads

Ok, so “stupid-head” may not be the most charitable descriptor, but the point is: sometimes other people say or do things that hurt us or, at the very least, make us angry.

Of course, we have all heard that the Christian thing to do is to “turn the other cheek,” “forgive and forget,” and other clichés.  We also know that Scripture tells us that we ought not be surprised at trials and hardships—and that we especially shouldn’t be surprised at insults and persecutions that come as a result of our preaching the Gospel.  Jesus told us plainly, “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you” (John 15:20).

But knowing all of that doesn’t always make it easy to handle when you’re just going about your business, being who you are and, all of a sudden, someone calls you fat and ugly for simply suggesting that bikinis may not be the most modest of swim attire (Speaking in strictly hypothetical terms, of course 🙂 ).

Not that I’m trying to make myself into some prophet or martyr being persecuted “for righteousness’ sake,” it’s just that dealing with rude remarks and hurt feelings is part of the deal in life—for all of us.

My mother, if she weren’t the holy and kind woman that she is, would be the first to tell you that I have a fuse about the size of thumbtack.  I have most definitely been on the stupid-headed end of an exchange on more occasions than I wish to admit.  But here’s the thing about stupid-headedness: when there are two bullies in the conversation, the finger can easily be pointed at either one as being the bad guy.  When there’s only one, no finger needs to be pointed.  It’s plain as day who the stupid-head is, as well as who is the one being unfairly bullied.

All that this means is that we need to rise above.  We can’t engage in name-calling, heavy doses of sarcasm, or any other kind of verbal abuse even if it’s being thrown in our face (and it should go without saying that under no circumstances should we be the one to initiate conversations in any such manner).  It’s never going to be an effective means of evangelization if these elements are present, and our entire life is meant to be a witness to Jesus Christ.

It doesn’t mean we have to be so serious in discussions and/or play the wounded puppy if other people are mean to us.  It actually means just the opposite.  Stupid-headedness doesn’t know how to react to cheerfulness.  It expects the sarcastic reply or the insult hurled back at it.  It gets caught off-guard when we have the courage to not take ourselves so seriously as to get offended at every rebuke.  We know who we are: we are God’s children—who can be against us?

And of course, you always have the option to respectfully walk away from a conversation from a bully that simply has made it his or her goal to demoralize you.

Do Boycotts Work?

Most of us know this story.  Back in January, Starbucks issued a statement that said that a core part of their identity as a corporation is to support the redefinition of marriage into one that would include same-sex unions. In more recent news, tens of thousands of people have voiced their decision to “dump Starbucks” as a result, expressing their disapproval of Starbucks’ most recent business decision.  Unfortunately, if this were a numbers game, those tens of thousands of people didn’t quite make the same point that the hundreds of thousands of people did when they thanked Starbucks for taking this stance as a company.

Ok then.  This post isn’t about why I disagree with what Starbucks is doing…mostly because I think that, despite how we may have each reacted to the news, we probably all agree to disagree with Starbucks for choosing to state that the redefinition of marriage is core to who they are as a company (since this is a blog for young Catholics, who are presumably at least trying to live in accordance with the faith).  This post is rather about what the faithful Catholic is called to do in situations like this, as well as what we should try to avoid doing…

“Boycotts Don’t Work”

I know.  If we boycotted every company or organization that had any sort of questionable tie, then we would probably have to grow our own food, make our own clothes, and stop paying taxes.  I know that we can’t control where every dime of money we spend goes (after all, who is to say that the drive-thru cashier, whose paycheck we help supply by being a customer, is not going to use his or her money to do something terrible?).  And no, I do not perform a thorough background check of every single company I ever happen to give money to in order to make sure they won’t misuse my money.  Apparently from this follows that it would be hypocritical of me to ever intentionally decide to withhold money from a corporation over a moral issue.

Still, while it unfortunately may not be practically possible to boycott every company or organization that contradicts our faith, I personally feel that when a company goes so far as to make a public announcement stating that it is core to who they are to advance the goal of something so contradictory to our faith, we don’t have a choice but to respond—and that going on as if nothing happened is in itself a response.  Going on as if nothing happened says that this specific part of our faith—of the truth that ought to transform every part of our being so profoundly that we cannot help but share it— this part of it just isn’t something worth making a fuss about over.

Ok, so we have to respond in some way.  The question is, “how?”  I want to be clear here: Boycotts can be an effective way to get a message across to a company or organization (Need I remind you of Susan G Komen for the Cure who, merely days after cutting funds to Planned Parenthood, crumbled to the masses that boycotted, and tragically reversed their decision?).  HOWEVER, I think that in the excitement and righteous anger that occurs during these boycotts, we as Christians often have this terrible tendency to forget a crucial part of the story: the ending (you know…what we celebrated two days ago and are still celebrating today?).

Spoiler Alert: Jesus wins.  No matter what the petition counts or the voting booths tell us, Jesus wins in the end.  I say this because as terrible as it is to not say anything when your favorite coffee shop decries your faith, it’s almost just as bad when we work ourselves into a frenzy and allow ourselves to be fooled into thinking that such an act is a legitimate threat to our Church or to God Himself.  Jesus has triumphed over death.  I think He can take this one, too.  So, boycott all you wish and encourage others to do the same, but never make the mistake of thinking the battle is anyone’s but the Lord’s (and remember that He already won).  We’re not fighting with other people to win an argument.  We’re allowing Christ to transform lives to win souls.

Now, that doesn’t excuse us from standing up and being heard.  We have a responsibility as Catholics to profess our faith.  That includes professing our faith when it is unpopular and in the face of opposition.  Personally, I chose to respond to Starbucks’ announcement by making the decision to #dumpstarbucks.  I shared a link on my Twitter account inviting others to do the same, and I am writing this post now.  I’m ok with people thinking I’m silly for doing so.  I realize that Starbucks as a company will probably continue to do just fine, and I’m not condemning those I see on the street with Starbucks cups to Hell.  But I know that my response was heard; and I am proud to stand up for Christ and His Church.

Of course, as with anything in my life, it is a work in progress.  What are your thoughts?