A recurring theme of the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI is the need for Catholics – all Catholics – to evangelize. In many ways, BXVI is almost sounding like a broken record with his repeated calls for the Church to evangelize the world (for you young people out there, a “record” is the way we used to listen to music thousands of years ago, and if it was broken, then it would repeat over and over). Most recently, the Holy Father stated,
The Church, each one of us, must bring the world the good news that Jesus is Lord, the One in Whom God’s closeness and love for each man and woman became flesh.
Yesterday on my radio show Catholic Matters we interviewed Fr. James Brent, O.P., and he discussed the stages of conversion, and part of our discussion focused on how we can help others move to conversion. In other words, how we can evangelize. Fr. Brent gave three main activities we can do to help our loved ones come to conversion:
1) Pray for others – and especially have Masses said for the conversion of others
Everything we do must be founded in prayer, and if we don’t pray, all our activities are worthless. But Fr. Brent especially emphasized the importance of having Masses said for our loved one’s conversion. Mass is the “secret weapon” we Catholics have, and when a Mass is said for the conversion of someone, it has a powerful impact in his life. So pray unceasingly for those outside the Church, and especially ask that Mass be offered for their conversion.
2) Tell others about your Faith, and speak the name of Jesus
I’ve mentioned before how many Catholics overemphasize the importance of deeds over words in the process of evangelization, and Fr. Brent also noted that we are all called to tell others – with words – about the saving power of Christ. Anyone can do this – you don’t need a Theology degree or be ordained to do so. There are two primary ways we can evangelize with words: (1) tell others about what Christ has done in our lives, i.e. give our personal testimony; and (2) speak the name of Jesus.
Fr. Brent mentioned that when Catholics gather, we often talk about the Church, but rarely talk about Christ. The Church, however, is the means by which we are to draw closer to the Lord – Christ is the ultimate end to which we are reaching. And his name is powerful: throughout Church history, saints have recognized the incredible power which invoking the name of Jesus has. Do not be afraid to proclaim the name of Jesus in your everyday conversations – you’ll be surprised what happens.
3) Witness to the Gospel with your deeds
Just because many overemphasize the importance of deeds over words doesn’t mean deeds are not important. In fact, our words will have little impact if we don’t back them up with our lives. We must constantly strive for holiness and beg for the graces to become saints. By doing so, we witness to the great joy and peace that comes from following Christ, which will lead others to inquire as to how they too can obtain that joy and peace (which then leads to using words…)
Pope Benedict is practically begging the Church to evangelize, and by virtue of our baptism, we have both the obligation and the grace to follow this call.