If you think evangelization is a weird custom practiced only by fundamentalists, Mormons, Muslims, Jehovah’s Witnesses and other religious enthusiasts, think again! That was the message from noted Catholic author and apologist Patrick Madrid as he kicked off the spring season of Theology on Tap in Dayton on last month with a full audience of young adults.
Madrid’s talk focused on how to search for and “rescue” family and friends who are outside of the Catholic Church and to help them with prayer, friendship and common sense.
Jesus didn’t only call others to make disciples of all nations — He called Catholics, Madrid noted.
“The light of Christ has been kindled in our souls beginning with baptism,” Madrid said, “and it is the commission of lay Catholics to shine that light of truth, Jesus Christ, on others.”
He said that God calls Catholics to three important tasks: to explain the Catholic faith intelligently and to articulate it well; to defend their faith charitably; and to share the faith effectively.
“The goal of evangelizing is not to get people to admit that they are wrong but to bring people closer to the truth, to Jesus in His Catholic Church,” Madrid said, a charge that is more important than ever in an increasingly secular world.
“If we are going win souls back for Christ, we have to be willing to open our mouths and speak,” said Madrid, who suggested that evangelization can be done online through chat rooms and blogs or even such programs as Twitter or Facebook.
Madrid shared an experience he once had with a man on an airplane flight. A Muslim, the man spoke for almost an hour about his faith, and Madrid listened with genuine interest, even though he did not agree with much of what the Muslim man was saying.
“I showed him the courtesy of listening that I learned from the saints, and it paid off,” Madrid said. “When it was my turn to speak, he listened to me.”
A polite discussion of Islam versus Catholicism ended in an exchange of business cards. The two men swapped emails for a short time, the Muslim man sending Madrid a video on Islam and Madrid referring the Muslim to an apologetics website.
Although Madrid does not know what happened to the man, he does know that seeds were planted that day.
“Miracles of conversion are able to take place because we open our mouths,” Madrid said.
“If Catholics give in to the temptation of being relaxed and laid back, not saying anything when opportunities arise, there is no telling what occasion for grace may pass by us,” he continued.
Before addressing fallen-away or non-Catholics, Madrid suggested that Catholics study the faith so that they know it well enough to articulate it in an adult way.
He highlighted the fact that the level of knowledge of the faith of average Catholic is that of an eighth grader and theorizes that “by the time a young Catholic receives the Sacrament of Confirmation, their study of the Catholic faith has concluded. There is usually no more formal study of Scripture or of church teachings.”
Madrid’s solution to this lack of knowledge is to encourage Catholics to read one chapter of the Gospels and three paragraphs of the Catechism of the Catholic Church daily, noting that within one month people will notice a marked improvement in their understanding of the faith.
He said that Catholics don’t need to be theological experts in order to evangelize, but they must have a proper mindset towards evangelization and the people they try to evangelize.
“Our pride and arrogance can get in the way of the best laid arguments,” Madrid warned.
He reminded the audience to speak more to God about the person to convert rather than talking to the person about God.
“Recognize that the Holy Spirit does the true converting and that we are but tools of that conversion,” Madrid said.
Printed with permission from The Catholic Telegraph, newspaper for the Diocese of Cincinnati.