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Evangelization Techniques and Opportunities

By Dr. Jeff Mirus (bio - articles - email) | Nov 16, 2012

It is time to start brainstorming about fresh ways to evangelize during this Year of Faith. Obviously the occasions one chooses to evangelize depend somewhat on the particular aspect of the Gospel message one is most qualified and called to present. Thus some might evangelize in the course of various kinds of counseling, others more subtly in workplace discussions or sales presentations, and still others in coaching or teaching or various kinds of charitable work—and all of us in appropriate discussions with friends. We need to look for and indeed create opportunities. Without sacrificing a legitimate sensitivity, we need also to shake off the prejudice that it is somehow “bad form” to speak of Christ.

I propose that readers send in their ideas about this, so that we can periodically share them here. But let me start the ball rolling by suggesting two very different approaches which grow out of parish life and priestly service. One is an extension into a new forum, the other a byproduct of established ministry. By analogy, these two approaches may suggest other opportunities depending on one’s own gifts and ordinary responsibilities.

First, let us consider public lectures on the Faith, or on various aspects of the Faith. By public I mean presentations which do not (necessarily) take place on church property and which are not promoted only within the parish. Such “lectures” in public auditoriums, theaters and other gathering places used to be far more common in the days before television, and they might still have a place. A parish might sponsor a series of free lectures in a public venue, advertise them widely, make a shrewd selection of topics, showcase either the local priests or other fine speakers, and offer significant refreshments to all comers. If targeting the poor in particular, the refreshments might be very generous. The goal is to stimulate a broader attendance in the community at large, and to provide opportunities for follow-up.

Second, I recently came across a wonderful suggestion by John Cardinal Heenan of Westminster (1905-1975), who emphasized the importance of priests making themselves present at the bedsides of members of their flock at the moment of death. Every priest knows, of course, that ministry at baptisms, weddings and funerals will be experienced by a higher percentage of people who are either not Catholic or not practicing their faith. These are opportunities not to be missed. So too is being with the dying:

It should be our endeavor whenever possible to be with our people at the very last. This may mean that we shall pay several visits in a single day to a person who is dying. It will also mean that we shall have to neglect many other tasks we had intended to do. Nobody chooses his own time for dying. It follows that whenever death comes it is bound to interfere with some programme we had arranged….
No matter to what inconvenience he may need to put himself the priest who loves his flock will count no cost too great which enables him to see a soul safely into eternity. Besides the main effect of easing the soul in the loneliness of the death agony the priest’s tender care will often result in the conversion of those around the bedside who might never be moved by the most eloquent sermon. No man can say what blessings fall upon a parish whose priest has ushered grateful souls into God’s presence. Who can measure the power of their prayers with God? [from The People’s Priest, 1951]

Again, I invite you to share your ideas on fresh opportunities for evangelization. Email me at witness@catholicculture.org.

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  • Posted by: dpatrick2 - Nov. 28, 2012 1:04 PM ET USA

    As far as a powerful method of evangelizing our fellow Americans, my older brother has found a very effective way. He and his wife are blessed to have six daughters and five sons. Their family is a great witness to the favor God showers on those who trust in Him. When my friends come to visit,I bring them over to my brother's home to meet his children. If my friend supports abortion,after we leave I pose the question: which of those children does not deserve to exist as much as you and me?

  • Posted by: dpatrick2 - Nov. 28, 2012 12:48 PM ET USA

    I was blessed to attend the March for Life in Washington D.C. several times. It is always edifying to gather, to pray, and to march with pro-lifers from across the country. The number of young people enthusiastically singing and chanting was deeply moving. It behooves the Church and the laity to persuade young people to marry earlier in order to raise large families.Society expects everyone to go to college. What does God expect of us?God or mammon? Study online,or learn a trade,and choose life!

  • Posted by: Convert96 - Nov. 17, 2012 8:54 PM ET USA

    C.S. Lewis' book the "The Lion,The Witch,and the Wardrobe" (and others in the series)is a great book for evangelization of children and of adults who will read it to children. The Gospel is presented. And the movie based on the book was quite good, also. These can be used in small groups in the parish, where evangelization also needs to take place.

  • Posted by: koinonia - Nov. 16, 2012 9:34 PM ET USA

    Both are tremendous suggestions. The second is an area of ministry and of life that is terribly neglected in our age. Do we lay folk and clergy have the stuff of which Cardinal Heenan speaks? There is work to be done in the Master's Vineyard. As we make our suggestions we would do well to remember how our Savior prepared for his missionary work. He entered the desert. The desert fathers insisted on solitude, silence and prayer. As Advent approaches, the journey is long, but our hope is near.

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