Jim Graves is a Catholic writer and editor living in Newport Beach, California. He previously served as Managing Editor for the Diocese of Orange Bulletin, the official newspaper of the Diocese of Orange, California. His work has appeared in the National Catholic Register, Our Sunday Visitor, Cal Catholic Daily and Catholic World Report.
Many Catholics may want to share their faith with others, but not know the best way to do it. I asked seven Catholics involved in full-time evangelization apostolates for tips on how one may best share his Catholic faith with others.
Matthew Arnold, founder of Pro Multis Media, Catholic radio show host and author
Matthew converted to the Catholic faith after marrying a Catholic. He recalled the ineffective attempts of well-meaning Evangelical Christian friends to convert him while he was an unbelieving teen. He said, “They made appeals to Scripture to someone who didn’t believe it.”
Another turnoff was the lax behavior of Catholics at Mass when he began attending as a non-Catholic with his future wife. He said, “They’d be chewing gum, leaving early and otherwise not taking it seriously.”
His advice to win converts is what he terms “the three B’s”: (1) Be bold, (2) Be brief, make your points, but realize you can’t explain the whole Catholic faith in a few minutes, and (3) Be biblical when speaking with non-Catholic Christians, as they’ll be impressed with Catholics who know their faith and Scripture.
And, he added a fourth “B”: Be Catholic all the time. He explained, “Make the sign of the cross and say grace before meals, for example, whether you’re at home or at McDonald’s. As a non-Catholic, when I met Catholics who really lived their faith it was very compelling.”
Terry Barber, founder of St. Joseph Communications, EWTN radio show host and author of How to Share your Faith with Anyone: a Practical Manual for Catholic Evangelization
Terry had a successful real estate career before becoming a full-time evangelist. He finds success in evangelizing using many of the techniques he used in selling real estate. For example, when sharing the Faith, use your listener’s name repeatedly to get his attention. Human minds often wander in conversations, and saying your listener’s name can help redirect him to your message.
Also, when initiating a conversation, ask simple questions to elicit an affirmative response. It’s another effective way to get a conversation going. It could be as basic as: “Can I ask you a question?”
Terry also relies heavily on prayer, and especially likes to ask the help of his guardian angels and those to whom he speaks. And, if he’s successful in sparking the interest of a person he’s evangelizing, he suggests they get together for a follow-up appointment to discuss the matter further.
Some things never to do while evangelizing, he cautions are first, never judge, even if the person in involved in a lifestyle you know is wrong. Better to suggest, “It’s obvious you’re missing something in your life.”
Second, never get angry. He quotes the adage, “Win an argument, lose a soul.” And third, “don’t be a sourpuss.” Smile frequently, as it is a small form of enthusiasm.
Deacon Joe Calvert, Archdiocese of Louisville, Kentucky
Deacon Calvert is a convert to the Catholic faith from atheism. For him, a hindrance to his entry into the Catholic Church was the widespread ignorance among the Catholics he knew about the basics of their faith. He said, “I’d ask them questions, but so few knew why they believed what they did.”
He gave the example of one young woman he met who, after 12 years of Catholic school, did not understand what “Real Presence” of Christ in the Eucharist meant. He continued, “And she was a top student. I don’t blame her, as the problem was the schools she attended. We need to have Catholic schools that are not just excellent private schools, but excellent teachers of Catholic doctrine.”
When evangelizing others, he recommended patience: “When you evangelize, remember you’re working on God’s time, not yours. We don’t know what’s going on inside someone; often when they’re most obstinate they’re just about ready to convert. Pray, trust in God and put it into the hands of the Blessed Mother.”
Niru De Silva, FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) missionary, who has worked with college students at Columbia University in New York City.
Niru believes authentic friendship to be an effective evangelization tool. Friendships at Columbia, he said, are often not true friendships, but merely networking opportunities to advance one’s career. Hence, when an evangelist offers a student genuine interest and concern, students can be especially receptive.
He said, “Students thank me for talking with them. Some believe that no one loves them or cares about them. At the end of the day we don’t need to convince people of something, but love them.”
Fr. Peter Mussett is pastor at the St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Center serving the University of Colorado Boulder.
For Fr. Mussett, effective evangelization involves getting to know people as individuals and getting involved in their lives. He said, “Evangelism is not about programs but people. We can have programs, but we need to evangelize one-on-one, accompanying and encountering each person.”
Tom Peterson, founder of Catholics Come Home
Tom’s first rule of evangelization is: “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” Potential converts must first experience an evangelist’s love and caring, he explained, before they will listen to Catholic teaching or accept an invitation to Church.
Also, he recommends praying every day for the opportunity to share one’s faith. One of his favorite times is at Mass, during the elevation of the chalice, when he specifically mentions people away from the Church. And finally, he said, it can be helpful to have ready to share some literature or a CD on the Catholic faith.
Tina Sanchez, also served as a FOCUS missionary, at the University of Texas at Austin (UT)
Tina, too, stresses the important role prayer plays in evangelization. She and her fellow missionaries would begin the day with a Holy Hour and Mass because “without prayer joyful evangelization is lost.”
She continued, “We need to have authentic joy. I’m a daughter of God, beloved by Christ. I obtain much fruit in prayer which I can share with others.”
She herself was drawn to the active practice of the Faith after experiencing the authentic joy of FOCUS missionaries at her alma mater, the University of Connecticut. The missionaries, she recalled, “lived the faith in a way I had not seen. It was radical and beautiful.”