Reason #1: To defend the invisible, mysterious and miraculous in a culture where science is the ultimate authority for truth
Reason #2: To strengthen family ties
Reason #3: Because the Church exists to evangelize
“Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize…” —Pope Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi
We, by virtue of our Baptism, are missionaries. And our mission is to evangelize. To evangelize is to spread the Good News, to invite others into a real saving relationship with Jesus Christ, to be fellow workers in building the Kingdom of God. But on a practical level what does this mean? It means inviting people out of their comfort zone and, naturally, people are resistant. Nonetheless, with the right approach people will respond; but they will ask questions and expect an answer.
On May 6, 2014, Pope Francis tweeted:
What does “evangelise” mean? To give witness with joy and simplicity to what we are and what we believe in.
So the keys to effective evangelization (which includes apologetics) according to our Pope are joy and simplicity. Joy will naturally occur when we have an authentic love for Christ and our Catholic faith. The simplicity part takes effort and practice. First we propose the Gospel. In Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis has given us two practical recommendations on how to do this: he says we can do this through sharing what Christ has done in our personal life or, he says, we can share a passage from Scripture that is relevant to the dialogue.
A few weeks ago I was out for a beer with some pals. I casually used the word “blessed,” as in “I was blessed to grow up in a big family,” and one of the men (who I had just been introduced to) piped up immediately and announced proudly that he was a Christian. He had obviously taken my choice of the word “blessed” as a cue that I was a Christian and that one word opened the door for him to speak about his own faith. Soon – he, my brother and I were engaged in an enthusiastic and constructive discussion about our differing faiths (he was Protestant and a fairly new convert to the Christian faith). His first question was “Are Catholics Christian?” Talk about starting out with the simple basics! In the end the conversation was very fruitful and it led to him asking if I would like to go for lunch later in the week to continue our discussion. All because of one word! As you can see, evangelization is not “rocket science.”
The great street corner apologist and author, Frank Sheed, wrote in Catholic Evidence Training Outlines:
“…the human mind can only with profit receive on thing at a time…we should be able to express the exact object of (our) speech with one sentence.”
We should aim to be brief and “to the point” with simple words. It is not difficult to overwhelm when we are sharing our faith. Remember that proposing this new way of life has great implications for the one being evangelized. It is an invitation to change, and change can be a great difficulty for us all. Therefore we must be sensitive to their speech and body language, knowing when we have said enough. It is absolutely crucial that we silently ask the Holy Spirit to lead our intuition so that we know what to say and how to behave; and let’s also not assume that those we speak to know anything about what we believe:
Let me illustrate: One evening my wife and I invited some Protestant friends, Justin and Melanie, over for supper. Our discussions that evening eventually turned to our Christian faiths and some of the doctrinal differences dividing us – including our teaching on the papacy. As our discussion progressed, I was shocked to learn from Melanie that she had never heard of Peter’s connection to the papacy. I had just assumed that all Protestants knew that we believe St. Peter was the first pope. Wrong! If I had just mindlessly and overzealously jumped into quoting church councils and writings of the early Church fathers or defining papal infallibility, I probably would have lost her in the mishmash of my overeager explanations and lecturing. We need to start with the basics when we evangelize!
The world has never needed evangelical Catholics more than today. If you are Catholic, you must be an evangelical as it is part of your identity as a member of the Church. To be a non-evangelical Catholic is like being an irresponsible parent—it is to deny an essential purpose and responsibility. I have shown three reasons (and there are many others) why we must be willing to engage the culture in an intelligent dialogue about what we believe. There is no topic more important than this.
“Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important” (C.S. Lewis)