Patrick Archbold is co-founder of Creative Minority Report, a Catholic website that puts a refreshing spin on the intersection of religion, culture, and politics. When not writing, Patrick is director of information technology at a large international logistics company in New York.
Recently, I have been giving a lot of thought to how can a regular Catholic Joe like me can fulfill my evangelical duty. I suppose when I think about evangelism, I conjure images of a man on a soapbox on the corner or walking door to door like the Jehovah Witnesses do. When I think of these things, I get intimidated and turned off. And then I do nothing.
So I have been wondering how a guy like me, a guy with a 50+ hour a week job with frequent business travel, a family with a wife and five young children, a mortgage and home could possibly evangelize too. It is so daunting and it seems impossible. And so I do nothing.
And then something happened that made me think that all my nothing may be something after all.
I watched an interview of author Dean Koontz with Raymond Arroyo on the World Over. I am a big Koontz fan and have read everything he has written since the eighties. I remember some years back (in the pre-Internet days) I was reading a Koontz novel and I noticed something. I called by brother Matthew, also a Koontz fan, and said to him, "I think Koontz might be home team. I think he might be Catholic."
It wasn't something overt, Koontz doesn't preach, but there were all these small elements, respect for virtue, and an acknowledgement of evil, that gave me the impression of Catholic thinking in his story telling. Later on I would come to find that I was right. I would also come to find out that Dean Koontz is a Catholic convert.
In the Arroyo interview, Koontz talks about how he came to his conversion. He had a rough childhood as the result of a very troubled father. In college he was dating a Catholic girl, his future wife Gerda. But Koontz said that she never asked him to convert. But on weekends and holidays Dean and Gerda would go to visit Gerda's extended family including aunts and uncles.
Koontz says that is was their joy, their generosity, and their love for one another that struck him the most as it was so different from his family. They were a Catholic family and their virtues were on display for the world to see. It was these virtues, the joy, the generosity, and the love that Koontz began to associate with Catholicism. It eventually intrigued him enough to begin researching and reading about it and we all know how that ends. Koontz converted.
And Koontz, through his non-preachy novels, is conducting his own form of evangelism even though he is just doing his job, being Catholic and doing his job. And I bet most of his readers would never even know it. Cardinal Dolan has even written Koontz to express admiration for his writing even going so far as to call it 'Apostolic.'
When listening to this interview, it struck me that all this evangelism is going on and their wasn't a soapbox to be found.
Do you think that Gerda's aunts and uncles thought they were evangelizing when they were kind and generous to this young college kid dating their niece? Probably not. They were just living their lives according to their faith, in joy and generosity, and then someone, maybe even an unlikely someone noticed.
And now Dean Koontz writes and has sold millions of copies of his books and entertained many. But he is a Catholic while he does it. He extols virtue and calls evil by name and because of that maybe somebody will notice.
And that's it, isn't it? Be Catholic. Be joyous. Be generous. And some day someone will notice.
So this got me to thinking, how I am I ever Catholic in public?
Well, every Sunday morning we load all the kids up in the van and we take them to Mass. When we go to Applebee's and get the extra chairs around the table, we always say grace together as a family. My wife frequently encouraged a Christmas/Easter Catholic neighbor to sign her kids up for Catechism. She eventually did and now we see them in Church every Sunday. Do these things and maybe somebody will notice, maybe they already have.
So maybe evangelism isn't just about the soap box, although there is surely a place for that. But maybe the evangelism that I am called to do is this other kind. Live your every day busy life the best way you can, the way Jesus would want you to. And if you do that long enough, consistently enough, and joyously enough somebody will notice.
It is amazing what God can do with a whole lot of nothing.