“The deaf and dumb man from the Decapolis is a wonderful evocation of many in our contemporary secularized culture. Immersed in the concerns of the world, many today no longer hear the word of God, and, as a result, are inarticulate in their religious speech.” – Father Robert Barron
Do you find it difficult to evangelize because you lack the words to express how it is your Catholic life is preferable to another? Do you lack catechesis yourself, and therefore feel ill equipped to explain the WHY behind the teachings of The Church? Or, conversely, are you very familiar and even hyper-scholarly in Catholic theology, and still feel people turn away from your attempts at evangelization?
In either of these cases, the common factor is not so much you, the well-meaning Catholic, as the challenging modern audience. Today our culture is more secularized, sexualized, and separated from traditional Judeo-Christian values than any other period we can recall in our lifetimes. We don’t want to water down the message of the Gospel, and we don’t want to become a stumbling block through our own perceived arrogance and haughtiness either. How do we reach people when the topic of religion arises without turning them off? The key may lie more in what we do before the encounter than during.
Preparing yourself to talk to people about the Catholic faith is not wholly a matter of book knowledge. In fact, if the information we are trying to spread seems too arcane and esoteric, we can easily lose the interest of the listener. No one’s heart is ever pried open by a speaker in love with his own voice and impressed by his own encyclopedic knowledge of facts, dates, and names.
Before you attempt to discuss the faith, you may want to think about emptying your mind and heart, leaving room for Christ to fill them. The goal is to speak to our brothers and sisters with the voice of Jesus, not our own voice. This doesn’t come naturally, and it doesn’t come through study alone. We need Sacramental grace and we need to be receptive to what Jesus wants to tell us and show us. The great Saints and Mystics knew this, and often preached simplicity and vulnerability. But how do we open our souls to Jesus in such a profound way as to allow Him to infuse us with His presence? How do we drop out of the world, tune in to the voice of Jesus, and become vulnerable enough to learn the simple and loving Gospel that will turn on today’s jaded listener?
Everyone’s day can be divided into smaller units of time. If you write out the schedule of your typical day and night, not the ideal schedule, but what you really are living NOW, what does it look like? How many hours are dedicated to television, driving, sleeping, socializing, and study? You may want to write two different schedules, one for the weekend and one for the week, as our lives are often on very different tracks depending on what our weekday responsibilities are versus our weekend diversions.
Now look at your schedules(s) with brutal honesty. How much quiet time is there for you and the Lord? Do you allot any time at all to stillness, to quiet meditative prayer, to contemplating the image of Christ? It is during these “down times” that Christ can refuel you best. In 2015, this seems counterintuitive. We have to be productive every second of the work day and we have to be amused every second of our leisure time. The only “quiet time” we have is in the shower or in bed at night, and even then, many are listening to music or background TV.
It’s time to tune out. Turn everything off and simply “be.” Listen. Focus on Jesus, the Holy Spirit, or God your Father. Ask you Guardian Angel to keep distractions at bay. Ask the Blessed Mother to keep you in that quiet place for as much time as possible, as much time as Her Son needs, and like any good mother, she will gently discipline you until you can do so for increasingly longer periods. Here is where the contact will be made. For some, this happens only during Eucharistic Adoration. For others, it is in a certain designated corner of their apartment or a room of their house. Some find this peaceful meeting place with Jesus out in nature, walking among His innumerable masterpieces.
What will your place be? Where will you sit quietly and wait on the Lord? For how long will you dedicate your time and concentration? And most exciting to ponder, what will Jesus show you and tell you once you are fully dropped out of “the world” and fully tuned IN to His voice?
I know that new, beautiful, and amazing things can and will happen for you during this time, and these supernatural experiences are what will strengthen your faith and your confidence, so that you will have something absolutely cynic-proof to carry into your next evangelizing encounter with a friend or co-worker. Your enthusiasm will be impossible to disguise. Your lack of agenda will be clear. Your words of truth and your loving concern will be evident as coming straight from your heart, and that is the best and most blessed kind of communication, because it is not just from your heart, but from the Sacred Heart of Jesus Himself.