Faith is the belief in something intangible, something invisible – and it’s the hardest thing to relay in words to those who don’t believe, or who haven’t experienced the depths of faith. St. Paul put it more eloquently in his letter to the Hebrews:
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old received divine approval. By faith we understand that the world was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was made out of things which do not appear (Hebrews 11: 1-3)
The Effects of the So-Called Enlightenment
The modern world is skeptical of the invisible and the Divine. This poisonous outlook was started in the so-called Enlightenment when Kant, and many others to follow, emphasized the human over the Divine. The reason of human beings was painted as the primary mover in society. This kernel of rebellion against the Divine rapidly blossomed into revolution after revolution in which the Church was directly attacked as standing in opposition to reason and human freedom. France, Russia, Mexico are all prime examples in which countless Christians were murdered for their faith during revolutions which turned society upside down.
Also from this root came Historical-critical biblical interpretation, started by atheistic Protestants such as Rudolph Bultmann. Again, the emphasis of the human over the Divine was the primary theme. Today we can see this mode of interpretation being used within the Catholic Church, with the unfortunate side-effect of throwing doubt upon the supernatural truths revealed in the sacred scriptures. Examples include the outrageous suggestion that the miracle of the loaves and fishes was merely a sharing of the loaves and fishes. A spectacular miracle foreshadowing the Eucharist gets reduced by some scholars to a hokey social-justice exercise in which Christ becomes a community organizer. How can this not erode the faith of the listener?
Among Catholics, unfortunately, believe in the supernatural aspects of our faith are on the decline. I have written about this quite a bit because I believe it to be the fundamental crisis of the Church today. Over 60% of Catholics no longer believe in the Real Presence – Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity – of Our Lord Jesus in the Eucharist.
In a humanist world, which remains incredulous and even in opposition to the supernatural, how does one share their faith, especially faith in the Eucharist?
Get Your Own House In Order
The first and foremost thing to do in any evangelization effort is to take care of your own spiritual self. What do I mean by this? I mean to build up your own holiness by tapping into the graces available through the Church and through holy works. You basically can’t give, or communicate what you don’t have. St. Teresa of Avila called this interior state, the Interior Castle. Her book by the same name is a spectacular and deep treatise on how to go about delving into the interior life. She describes what each phase of contemplative prayer and unity with God looks like using the metaphor of a crystalline castle at the center of which is God. Fr. Thomas Dubay, a master of giving retreats, wrote a book about the Interior Castle and the works of St. John of the Cross, another Carmelite Mystic.
Fundamentally, the idea is to engage in the discipline of a regular prayer life which deepens over time. Participate in the sacraments, especially confession and the Eucharist, as frequently as possible given your state in life. St. Teresa and St. John were both consecrated religious people, but even as a single or married layperson, there is a depth that can be reached in the interior life given spiritual discipline. A disciple is someone who has discipline. Eucharistic adoration is an important feature of developing a deep prayer life, and ultimately finding a state of unity (of mind and will) with God. Many perpetual adoration chapels are available for such devotional practices. Check with your diocesan chancery office for a list of locations in your area.
Develop Your Knowledge of the Church
The goal of a Christian is to know, love and serve God in this life and the next, to paraphrase the Baltimore Catechism. And to share the faith with others, you must take this very seriously. Knowledge is gained first by prayer, discussed above, and by studying. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, published in the 1980’s, as well as the accompanying Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church are storehouses of spiritual wealth. Get a Catechism, and study it. The Catechism is basically an index of Catholic Teaching separated by topic, with lots of footnotes to Sacred Scripture and other Church documents.
Books from solid Catholic authors, both modern and ancient are very important to get the depth of knowledge needed to share the faith. Cardinal Newman, Frank Sheed, Scott Hahn, St. Francis de Sales, St. Louis de Montfort, and the encyclicals of Pope Leo XIII, Pope St John Paul II, Pope St. Pius X are all excellent resources that have helped me.
The New St. Thomas Institute, founded by Taylor Marshall, Ph.D. is also an excellent resource to learning theology, philosophy, and apologetics (among other topics). You have to pay a monthly fee, and sometimes wait to get a membership, but it is well worth it.
One simple thing that you can do, is to get yourself a quality translation of the Bible. I like the Revised Standard Edition – especially the Ignatius Press version with side notes written by Scott Hahn. Read the Gospels, the Epistles, and Revelation. Read them twice. It is amazing how well you get to know Christ, and the teachings of the Church pop right off the page at you. Of course, interpretation of scripture must be guided by the teaching of the Church. Individual interpretation must always give way to the Magisterium. AgapeBibleStudy.com has an excellent page with all the relevant documents on Catholic scripture study, and the Roman Theological Forum sponsored by the Priestly Association of the Oblates of Wisdom has an excellent free course on Neo-Patristic Studies.
Proceed with Charity and Discretion
Pope Francis once said that nobody likes a sour face. This is true on many levels, but it is virtually impossible to reach anyone if you have a sour and angry disposition. A true disciple of Jesus will project a realistic, but a positive attitude towards the Church. This is especially true of the joy found in the sacraments. A personal witness to the joy of one’s own conversion and devotional life is a non-confrontational and non-judgmental way of showing people why they should be Catholic.
We live in a very challenging time to be an evangelist. Confusion is created by high-level prelates in the Vatican over marriage and the Eucharist (see previous articles on this subject) simply pour fuel on the fire for those who already confuse the fallible leaders and the infallible teachings and sacramental graces of the mystical Church. It has encouraged the heterodox dissident members of our family to continue with their incredulity, misunderstanding that the Vatican somehow now supports their viewpoints. Lastly, its aggravated the radical traditional members of the Church, because right or wrong they see a slide into heterodoxy among our top leaders. This poses a supreme challenge to those defending Holy Mother Church and the indefectibility of her teachings. The best policy seems to be to focus on the teaching of the Catechism which explains unchangeable doctrine and infallible dogma.
Witness to the Faith Because You Love God
The last point that I’d like to make is that its sometimes difficult to stay above the fray in conversations with those who do not accept what you are saying. This is especially true if the person is stubborn and insulting to the things you hold dear. Its always important to remember that we evangelize and witness to the faith for two reasons – because we love God and we love our neighbor so much that we want them to know him better. The salvation of souls is at stake. Thus, always avoid an argument – agree to disagree. Never waver in your faith (since you’ve studied and prayed and are convicted in your beliefs), but be satisfied to plant seeds that others will cultivate and the Holy Spirit will water.