Mark Shea has a wonderful article over at Catholic Exchange about the need for Catholics to evangelize like St. Paul. He begins by noting the Catholic attitude about evangelization:
Ask your average Catholic about evangelization and you get a mumble and a shrug. Evangelization? That’s what Evangelicals do, isn’t it?
It’s not that Catholics think it’s bad (though some are, in fact, actively hostile to it since it smacks to them of “imposing our values” on others). Rather, it is that most Catholics simply have no idea what to do. So we console ourselves with that saying of St. Francis that he never actually said: “Preach the gospel at all times. Use words when necessary.”
That apocryphal Franciscanism would be great advice—if we really were preaching the gospel at all times by our lives. But for many of us, evangelizing is near the bottom of our “to do” list. We shift uncomfortably in our seats as we drive past the little fundamentalist church sign that says, “If you were charged with being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” We tell ourselves that our faith is “deeper” then mere talky Evangelical chatter.
My own experience is similar. After converting to Catholicism from Evangelicalism, I never once considered that I should stop evangelizing; now I just have the advantage of evangelizing about the fullness of the faith. Some Catholics, however, seem to think that my conversion won’t be complete until I drop that whole “evangelization” thing. Evangelization isn’t something that Catholics “do”. But in many cases, I think that this aversion to evangelization is due to fear: fear that we will be rejected, fear that we will fail, and also fear that we won’t know what to say. The first two fears are only overcome by a deeper interior life, but the third fear is one that should not even exist. As Mark notes:
Many Catholics wonder if there is some sort of technique they need to master in order to bear witness to their faith. They fear that if they have not taken some sort of course in evangelization, or studied theology for a decade, or otherwise jumped through various hoops, they cannot evangelize. For such folk, the Holy Father has liberating news. In his announcement of the Year of Paul on June 28, 2007, Benedict XVI said that Paul’s success was not due to some “refined strategy” of salesmanship or philosophical wrangling. Instead, the Holy Father essentially said that Paul’s achievement was due to his extraordinary personal involvement springing from his total dedication to Christ, despite all obstacles.
In short, Paul really believed this stuff. He acted exactly like a man who really had met the Risen Christ on the Road to Damascus and was now perfectly convinced that Jesus had conquered death, forgiven his sins, and laid upon him the charge to tell the world. Because he really believed, he was willing to “pay personally for [his] faith in Christ, in every situation.”
Today try to find a way to evangelize – invite a friend to Mass, tell someone something about your faith, recount a positive story about your large family – there are a thousands of ways to evangelize. Pick one and do it!