Easter Evangelization Made Easy
St. Peter wrote to the first Christians: “Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence” (1 Peter 5:13).
His apostolic successor, Pope John Paul II, wrote in Redemptoris Missio that “all the laity are missionaries by Baptism.”
Clearly the message of the Church through two millennia has been that the average Catholic should evangelize. It’s not just a job for apostles, popes and priests.
And it is a job to which we should re-commit ourselves every Easter.
But how does a layperson with family, work and social obligations find the time to evangelize?
By witnessing the faith in simple ways wherever you are — at home, in the workplace and in social settings.
This doesn’t mean you have to carry a Bible and a soapbox. It does mean that you have to grow in knowledge and confidence regarding your faith, and be willing to act as a gentle but steady witness at home and in public.
And what does it take to be a Christian witness? Showing or telling people that Jesus Christ has a prominent place in life.
For Catholics, this necessarily means first making a commitment to prayer and the sacraments — knowing that, as we take a small step to spread the faith, God will increase our stride.
Some say they don’t need to mention the specifics of the Catholic faith to bring Christ to the world; all they need to do is be “a good person.” Others argue with all comers over the smallest points of doctrine.
Each approach has its strong and weak points, but, for most laypersons, a middle road between these two extremes is best.
We need to act with “gentleness and reverence” — yet we need to offer substantive answers. Here are some easy ways to get started.
As St. Peter exhorts: Be prepared.
But prepare according to your capacity. If you’re motivated, you can read the Catechism of the Catholic Church and study the Gospels. But for most, a simple practice will be just as effective: Pay attention to the weekly readings at Mass and think about ways that they apply to your daily life at home, at work and in social settings.
This is sacred Scripture, the Word of God, which is speaking to you personally. Being alert to the message of the readings will make you a better Christian; you will naturally become a better witness of the faith to those around you.
Of course, distractions such as caring for children or an awful sound system may preclude keen attention at Mass. So buy a Sunday Missal, or download the readings from a Catholic website. Then read the passages before or after Mass.
Be in tune with the message that the Church presents in her liturgy week to week and you will better discern opportunities for evangelization.
Make your home a domestic church.
Your first sphere of influence is your home, your family. From here, your evangelizing efforts will branch out naturally. First, have your home blessed by a priest or deacon. An image I will never forget is our parish priest sprinkling holy water on our front door, saying, “May all who enter this door know that Christ is the door to heaven.” Suddenly, our home became a sanctuary and a symbol of heaven.
Pray as a family. If you can’t schedule a whole rosary, insist at least on prayers before meals and at bedtime. Keep religious images in the home — crucifixes, pictures of Jesus and Mary, images of the saints and a religious calendar indicating feast days.
When you have guests, make sure to display a book about Mother Teresa or John Paul II on the coffee table. These two are generally recognized as holy figures across all faiths; in fact, even non-believers may be drawn to talk about religion if they see the books.
But the greatest witness will be you and your family members. If guests see that your practice of religion is a vital part of your life, and you work toward peace and harmony at home, they will say to themselves, “I want what they have.”
Keep a religious object visible in your workspace.
When I was in my early 20s and away from the faith, a co-worker had a crucifix at his desk. I told him one day that I used to believe in Jesus, but couldn’t make sense out of him anymore. My friend took the opening to talk about his faith, and our conversation was a key factor in my return to the Church.
Some employers, of course, discourage the posting of religious symbols, so you may need to use more subtle methods. Keep on your desk a photo of your wedding with the church or priest evident in the background, or a photo of your child’s baptism or first Communion. Co-workers are naturally drawn to personal photos; a comment on the picture can lead to a talk about the importance of faith in your life.
Make your car a faithmobile.
There are many tasteful religious objects you can attach to your rear windshield, bumper and rearview mirror. I tend toward the simple and subtle, but a loud bumper sticker with a provocative message might be more to your style.
For the sake of you and your passengers, enroll in the Sacred Heart Auto League and hang a set of rosary beads from the rearview mirror. The Christian fish image posted on the trunk area usually catches the eye. Also effective are images of the Divine Mercy or the Blessed Mother on the rear windshield since they are specifically Catholic.
Messages on cars are effective not only because the driver behind you is a captive audience. In our automotive culture, a person is often judged by the car he drives. (Remember the recent flap over “What Would Jesus Drive?”) If you choose to divert attention from the make, model and status of your car, your message will carry greater weight.
Make it personal.
How you treat people at home, at work and socially will determine to a large extent whether or not you are seen as an honest person of faith. Yet you should go further and identify yourself not just as a generically religious Catholic but as a practicing Catholic.
Men can wear a pin-on crucifix or cross on their “power ties.” Women can wear a small crucifix or religious medal around their neck. Mention during conversation with co-workers that a certain feast day is approaching or that Ash Wednesday follows Fat Tuesday — and wear the ashes all day.
Talk about your religious practice, mention good homilies or point out beautiful churches in the area. Let people know that the Catholic faith is part of who you are, not just what you do.
And be ready — ever-ready — to give an account of your faith. For it won’t be long before you are asked, in so many words, to do just that.
Stephen Vincent writes from