If your answer happens to be in the negative—no worries. I’ll help you get started.
First, let’s take a quick look at what evangelization is so that we can know what exactly we are preparing for in the first place!
Evangelization or “making disciples” is essentially a threefold activity: First, it is a proclamation of the risen Christ. Second, it is an invitation to a personal encounter with the risen Christ. Third, it is a justification of that which (or more accurately, who) we proclaim and invite others to encounter.
The New Evangelization is indeed the same proclamation and invitation that it has always been; but it is also—according to St. John Paul the Great—new in ardor, method and expression; and, as Pope Francis has emphasized, it should be creative.
As New Evangelists, it is our obligation to prepare ourselves to witness to the truth and give good reasons for the hope that is within us. St. Peter is clear on this (1 Pet 3:15).
How then should we prepare? Here are seven suggestions:
1. Go deeper with Jesus. You are not proclaiming a mere idea or a message, in essence, when you evangelize; you are proclaiming a person.
This step never comes to completion in this life. In order to love a person, we must know that person; and the more we know about a person, the more we can love. Ignorance is not a virtue.
First, read the Gospels daily. I challenge you to read one chapter daily of either Matthew, Mark, Luke or John daily. Read with intention. Read with attention. Aim for the morning (the earlier the better) when your mind is clear and silence is easier to come by.
Second, read good books about the life of Christ. I recommend the following:
To Know Christ Jesus by Frank Sheed
The Lord by Romano Guardini
Life Of Christ by Fulton Sheen
Jesus Shock by Peter Kreeft
2. Learn to think like Jesus. Jesus, acting in His human nature, was an extraordinary debater. He was a master of charity and clarity.
In addition to the Gospels and books mentioned in #1, I recommend reading The Philosophy of Jesus by Peter Kreeft.
3. Steep yourself in the genius of Catholic teachings. Read the Catechism. St. John Paul the Great called the Catechism of the Catholic Church (free online version here) a “sure norm for teaching the faith.” As a compilation and summary of two thousand years of official Church teaching, this resource is indispensible for all New Evangelists. It is a great companion to the Scriptures as well. As a companion to the Catechism, I recommend Catholic Christianity: A Complete Catechism by Dr. Peter Kreeft.
4. Seek to understand the psychology of conversion. Read, watch and listen to conversion stories. You will be captivated by these incredible (and shockingly diverse) stories of finding the fullness of Christian truth in the Catholic Church.
Before becoming pope, Cardinal Ratzinger was once asked how many ways there are to God. He replied: “As many ways as there are people.” I think the same answer would apply to the question: How many ways are there to the Catholic Church.
I. For reading I recommend:
Rome Sweet Home by Scott and Kimberley Hahn
Something Other Than God – Jennifer Fulwiler
Crossing The Tiber by Steve Ray
Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic by David Currie
Surprised By Truth I, II & III (3 books) by Patrick Madrid
Not God’s Type by Holly Ordway
II. For video interviews with converts from all backgrounds (atheist, Wicca, Jehovah’s Witness, Calvinist, Lutheran, etc) you’ll love Marcus Grodi’s The Journey Home (almost 200 free videos on YouTube and counting!)
III. For audio recommendations (great for road trips or the daily commute), you can’t go wrong with CDs or digital sound files from Lighthouse Catholic Media.
Three audio recommendations (out of many) include:
Why a Protestant Pastor Became Catholic by Scott Hahn
The Bible Made Me Do It! by Tim Staples
Finding the Fullness of Faith by Steve Ray
5. Learn to answer questions and objections effectively. Refined apologetics skills are a
critical component of effective evangelization. Proposal and invitation of any kind often draw out questions, if not objections. An invitation to change will always require justification (Why should I change? This is the justification component of evangelization.
A good apologist reads good books. Thus, the list of recommended apologetics books are endless.
I recommend the following to get you started:
The Seven Deadly Sins Of Apologetics by Mark Brumley
Where Is That In The Bible? by Patrick Madrid
The Protestant’s Dilemma by Devin Rose
The Fathers Know Best by Jimmy Akin
Refuting the Attack on Mary by Father Matteo
Behold Your Mother by Tim Staples
Any Friend Of God Is A Friend Of Mine by Patrick Madrid
Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist by Brandt Pitre
The Drama Of Salvation by Jimmy Akin
Why Catholic Bibles Are Bigger by Gary Michuta
Pope Fiction by Patrick Madrid
Seven Lies About Catholic History by Diane Moczar
What Is Marriage?: Man and Woman: A Defense by Sherif Girgis, Ryan Anderson & Robert George
6. Observe the Church’s most effective New Evangelists in action. The best way to learn anything is to learn from the best – to watch and then imitate. Even St. Paul understood this (1 Cor 11:1).
In my opinion,the Catholic Answers Live radio show is one of the greatest gifts to the New Evangelization. Why? Because it gives all New Evangelists a unique opportunity to hear seasoned New Evangelists put evangelization theory into practice in a real live context. For details on this live radio show click here.
All of the episodes are also available as a free podcasts on iTunes or at catholic.com/radio.
Now, to make your listening more intentional I recommend:
When you listen to these shows, sit down with a pen and paper, and as you hear the apologists on the other end address the questions, objections and concerns of the callers, write down the arguments in simple terms so that you can commit them to memory.
Keep a notebook full of these notes and eventually you’ll have a nice compendium of apologetics in your own handwritings.
You may also want to put YouTube at the service of the New Evangelization and study clips from Catholic Answers Live on video, or analyze debates by various Catholics (like Patrick Madrid). (Speaking of Patrick, I highly recommend his daily morning radio show, The Patrick Madrid Show, where he constantly engages his listeners on a variety of topics from a Catholic perspective.)
7. Empower evangelization with daily prayer. Evangelization and prayer are a difficult but necessary combination. Yes, prayer is a non-negotiable for the New Evangelist. Why?
First, because it leads us to sanctity. In other words, prayer makes saints. St. Josemaria believed this and wrote:
“A saint, without prayer? I don’t believe in such sanctity.” (The Way, 107)
Second, prayer can expand our time needed to fulfill our daily tasks. God created time and He can create more of it for your projects, if He wills. The life of the New Evangelist should include a commitment to daily prayer.
First recommendation: Frequent the Sacraments! Receiving and adoring the Eucharist, and frequenting the confessional will be your Lifeline. No questions asked.
Here are some books that will help to establish your prayer life:
The Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales: This book is a classic guide to the Christian life for laypeople. In this book, St. Francis (a master apologist and evangelizer I should note) gives practical ways to make life more devout and prayerful for ordinary men and woman like you and I. A must-read for lay Catholics especially.
The Soul of the Apostolate by Jean-Baptiste Chautard: St. Pope Pius X’s favorite book and another must-have. For anyone actively engaged in ministry of any kind, I cannot emphasize the importance of this book enough.
The Practice Of The Presence Of God by Brother Lawrence: Who would have thought picking up a piece of straw could become a devout prayer in and of itself! For a practical (and quick) read on how to pray throughout your busy day, read this classic!
I also recommend these two articles by two great leaders in the New Evangelization:
How I Pray by Brandon Vogt (article): In this recent blog post, Brandon unveils his own creative strategies for maintaining a personal prayer life. You won’t find a more practical leader in the New Evangelization than Brandon Vogt!
How I Pray Now by Patrick Madrid (article): One of the Church’s most experienced apologists explains the ins and outs of his personal and family prayer life.
And if you’re into podcasts:
Prayer For Beginners by Peter Kreeft (podcast): For more insight on “simple” prayer, who could be better to turn to than Dr. Kreeft?
When Should You Begin Evangelizing?
Now! You do not need to master all of these steps before starting your supreme duty of evangelization. All you need is faith in Jesus Christ. Your faith will shine through and have more impact in many scenarios, more than any eloquent speech, thought-provoking quote or logical argument.
Speak from the heart about the God that you love. This is the secret of evangelization.
Pope Francis has given us two strategies which we can begin to utilize immediately, no matter how advanced our expertise is at the moment. In Evangelii Gaudium, he suggests quoting the living Word of God as it applies to a dialogue, or sharing your testimony if the door of opportunity opens. There’s two simple recommendations straight from the successor of St. Peter.
Now go and set the world ablaze!