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Growing up, Catholicism was present in our home but it was quiet. A consistent undercurrent of which we were almost unaware. We didn’t discuss it. It just was.
My father was a typical Irish Roman Catholic who took us all to church each Sunday in a parish his family had attended for generations, and who made sure we kids did our CCD classes, our Sacraments, and whatever else was expected. But there wasn’t a lot of talk about it. And we didn’t know anything different.
When I went off to college, I remember young Mormons going door-to-door, asking to discuss their faith. One summer, a housemate kept inviting them back to sit on the porch and chat. She clearly was looking for something. Upon graduation, she became a Mormon and I heard she moved to Utah.
That was foreign to me. I thought that kind of mission work, that type of evangelization, was intrusive and certainly unnecessary for Catholics to engage in. And to just up and join someone else’s church… My experience was with quiet Catholics who did their quiet Catholic things and sped out of the church parking lot on Sunday when they were done. Boxes checked off for another week.
Walk the walk
But there has been a shift – in myself as I’ve become a wife and mother and a more active Catholic, and in the Church. Pope Francis, and Pope Benedict XVI before him, have made evangelizing part of our charge. Not necessarily door-to-door mission work. But we are expected to “go forth to proclaim the Gospel.” The New Evangelization is meant to touch those who are “awaiting the first evangelization” and those who “have experienced a serious crisis of faith due to secularization.” Pope Francis says one of the most effective ways is witnessing the faith in our own lives, serving as a model for others, showing firsthand how to live as disciples of Jesus.Pope Francis says one of the most effective ways is witnessing the faith in our own lives, serving as a model for others, showing firsthand how to live as disciples of Jesus. Click To Tweet
He appeared to the Eleven and said to them “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.” Mark 16:15
Jesus asked them to walk the walk. He is asking us all to do that, in some way. What it looks like is different for each individual. And it’s not about going door-to-door.
Sharing the faith
I have gained a comfort level with my faith and have a strong need to make sure Jesus is front and center for my kids, so that the quiet Catholicism I grew up with, which instilled a foundation I rely on to this day, is amplified by a thousand in my home. So that it is the norm, not the exception.
Yet it’s not only about spreading faith at home. I reference it in other settings, too, simply because it’s part of my life. It’s often what I’m thinking about and what I’m doing. It becomes a subtle evangelization.
It’s freely mentioning, when a neighbor asks about the weekend, that my kids were great at Mass. Or that they weren’t. It’s the one-decade Rosary hanging from a shelf above my desk at work. And my somewhat irreverent Pope Francis bobblehead that I move around my office to remind me to keep my faith in front of me. Literally. Some days he moves twice. People notice. I love that.
I would not have been that open about my faith ten years ago, or even five. But I want to share. I’m excited. It fills me up. It addresses a need I didn’t know I had, one that had been overshadowed by other, worldly concerns for a good portion of my life. (Truth be told, the world is still a huge distraction for me. I have a very long way to go before I satisfy my requirements for sainthood!)
Attempting to make my faith a centerpiece of my life makes me happy. I want to talk about it and share that joy more than I ever have.
It’s a conversion of sorts, really, to believing that evangelization is not odd or inappropriate. It’s simply about freely sharing faith through actions and words. Strengthening the hearts of practicing Catholics (we all need regular infusions of faith, right?), and winning the hearts of those who may have fallen away, or who are not Catholic at all.It’s a conversion of sorts, really, to believing that evangelization is not odd or inappropriate. It’s simply about freely sharing faith through actions and words. Click To Tweet
Polls show a steady decline in the number of people who identify as Catholic, particularly those in their 20s. For many, atheism is the answer. That frankly is a complex issue beyond my direct control.
But as St. Teresa of Calcutta said, “We cannot all do great things, but we can do small things with great love.”
I trust small things add up and have impact. I can make a small difference in my home, my parish and my immediate community. And perhaps my interactions on social media are offering, on a slightly broader scale, something someone needs. If we all commit to playing a small role, even quietly, we can do great things.