19

We Must Evangelize

evangelizeIt’s the great dilemma for Catholics.

We know that we are to share Christ. We are to go into the highways and byways and even into the Internet superhighway and tell the world about Jesus Christ and His Church.

But we don’t know what to do about that troublesome word: proselytizing. Evangelism is good. Proselytizing is bad. So, what’s the difference?

One of these things we must do — it is the reason the Church exists according to Evangelii Nuntiandi. Furthermore, Blessed John Paul II said, “No believer in Christ, no institution of the Church can avoid this supreme duty: to proclaim Christ to all peoples” (3 Redemptoris Missio). We have been given the mandate from Christ and the Church. We must evangelize.

But we also know that we must not dabble in proselytizing.

The difference has everything to do with motivation and  the application of one’s zeal. I think that women hold the key to implementing one without dabbling in the other.

Women are typically successful in turning the hearts of family and friends to faith. How do we do it? We do it by giving of ourselves. We do it because we know how to live the faith and speak the truth in love.

It’s what we do day in and day out. We guide our children, sometimes rather firmly. But always, always with love. We love until we have nothing else to give — physically, spiritually, financially, psychologically. We do not seek to strong arm or wear down an opponent. In fact, we don’t see others as our opponent at all. They are our children, our grandchildren, our dearest friends.

Our actions speak of love. We are forever saying, “Kiddo, you know I love you, but this is just not good for you. Let me show you a better way.” And because we have shown our family and friends much love, we have capital to draw upon when our conversations take a serious turn. Our families and our friends know that we love them. That means our words have staying-power.

Sometimes, that staying-power lasts long after we have gone into eternity. Our loved ones remember what we did – and that’s why they remember what we said.

This is Mary’s way. She shares Christ by giving her life. She pours out her life and holds nothing back.

Mary holds the key to the New Evangelization. Mary would never understand the language of proselytism. It wouldn’t make sense to her.

Why settle for arrogance when one can become a libation?

Why employ mental one-upmanship when love always triumphs?

Why belittle when one can elevate?

This is how God is glorified. This is how hearts are won over. This is Mary’s way.

Right now, the Church is in a crisis. So many have walked away from the Sacraments or refused to join us when we converted to the Catholic faith. We’re all hungering to know how to win souls for Christ. We know, on some level, that they will never respond to proselytizing. We’ve always known it, though we have often dabbled in it out of frustration.

Mary whispers to us: Come and learn from me. Watch me. Feel what I feel. Desire what I desire. Share what I share. Risk everything as I risk everything. Share Jesus Christ like it’s what you were born to do – because it is what you were born to do.

The rest is trappings. Momentary distractions at best. Bullying at the worst. And so, we pause. We say okay. We are willing to learn. This is how a family finds their way back to Christ. This is how a parish is renewed. This is how a diocese rises up and changes the course of a nation. By the power of one fiat. Your fiat.

Not possible, you say? It’s totally possible. We know it’s possible because we are not reinventing the wheel.

Come. Let us journey with Mary and prepare our hearts for the Advent of Our Lord.


Denise Bossert is a convert to the Catholic Church. She is the daughter of a Protestant minister.  In 2005, she converted to Catholicism after reading books by Carmelite saints. Her syndicated column called Catholic by Grace has been published in 50 diocesan newspapers. She has also written for Catholic magazines and appeared on EWTN’s Journey Home and Women of Grace.
  • james

    ” So many have … refused to join us when we converted to the Catholic fiath.”
    How dare they.

    • Denise Johnson-Bossert

      When a mother sets a table and invites those she loves to come and eat, she is sad when they turn their hearts another way. It is love that wishes to share and commune with them at the dinner table. How much more so – the Table of Our Lord. It is not “how dare they” as much as it is “how I wish they would join me.” It is love that calls to them.

      • Mary Kochan

        Perfect answer.

      • james

        You left one table (theirs) for another. Wishing works both ways.

        • Denise Johnson-Bossert

          Ah, that is the problem, isn’t it. There needs to be one table. John 17 and Our Lord’s priestly prayer on the night of the Last Supper reveals this. We are to be one. We are called to one table. Jesus Christ calls us to be one as He and the Father are one. What does that kind of unity look like? One. Holy. Catholic. And Apostolic. While the human-level wishing works both ways, the clarion call for unity by Our Lord seeks something greater. It is not about inviting another to “my” table. It is not about them inviting me to “their” table. It is an invitation to His Table. It is my wish that my dear ones would all join me at This Table, but it is first and foremost His prayer – Jesus Christ prays for this. So, in that regard, wishing does NOT work both ways. This is when we must evangelize. This is where love must seek and find. Hence, the article.

          • james

            ” And when two or more of you gather, I am there “. – at their table too – but that’s where converts usually fail in their understanding. The all or nothing mentality fails the
            test of love. Peace. Take care.

        • Christopher Fish

          yes , but the problem is in which table contains real food and which table contains spoiled food that it is unhealthy to eat. Who is able to tell? The reality is that Protestantism prevents people from fully experiencing Jesus and instead naturally focuses them an a kind of ‘church of me’ because they are not forced to see him in the full context of humanity but rather only in the way they personally interpret the scriptures.

          • james

            Well, at least your not saying that only Catholics get to heaven. Thank God for that.

          • Christopher Fish

            so far as i know the catholic church has never taught that. what it has always taught however is that everyone who is in heaven is a catholic. 😉 big difference.
            If everyone who enters heaven comes into full communion with Jesus and being in full communion with Jesus is exactly the same thing as being a member of the catholic church. It naturally fallows that even if you are a good Buddhist who through no fault of your own did not accept baptism in this life and if God in his mercy still admits you to heaven ( which no one knows how or if that happens). Then you are a catholic in haven.

            Does God let hindu’s or others who do not practice into heaven? Is it my business to tell God what to do?

            What i do know is what God revealed what we should to be in covenant with him on this earth and to enter haven in the afterlife. I hope he treats all with mercy , but where exactly the line is that prevents one from entering and accepts another, is not mine to decide.

          • james

            ” but where exactly the line is that prevents one from entering and accepts another, is not mine to decide.”
            Good thing too.

          • Denise Johnson-Bossert

            It interests me, James, that you come to the Catholic Lane to read the articles. What draws you? Do you find some of the articles compelling? Irritating? In reading the exchange above, it seems to me that the fundamental question you and Christopher are discussing has to do with truth. What is truth? How can we know, well, anything about faith and salvation? I Timothy 3:15 says that the pillar and foundation of truth is the church. Which church? There are so many churches purporting countless versions of truth. Which one is the pillar and foundation of truth? There is only one Church with history to back it up. There is one Church that bears the four marks of Christ’s Church. Like Christ, then, Catholics must participate in evangelization. We must share the good news. Like I said, I don’t know what draws you to CL, but I know what we are called to do. We are called to speak the truth in love. And THAT is the essence of evangelization. Love ensures that evangelization never tumbles into proselytizing.

          • james

            Well ,thank you for asking Denise. Sincereity will. Chris’s ignorance that The CC never taught only Catholics go to heaven (17th council 1447 Florence) and this up to recent times. Zealot converts – to this cradle Catholic with twelve years of pparochial education – do, as I find in their naive
            approach a rigid take on all things Catholic. In your case
            I think of your family who must be as sad as you are. In
            ending, I would say that my visits to these sites is no more than drive-by theology. A chance to evangelize for all the
            people of God no matter what their faith.

          • Christopher Fish

            My friend. I’m not ignorant of history , and was glad to read more deeply about the council of Florence on your prompting.

            http://www.catholicbook.com/AgredaCD/Ecumenical_Councils/Florence.htm

            However, i do not think the counsel was intending to address the issue of what is sometimes called ‘invisible ignorance’

            http://www.ewtn.com/expert/answers/outside_the_church.htm

            And as the article points out, the position you claim the church teaches is subject to interpretation and has been officially condemned by the magisterium.

            I don’t have time to go into further details at the moment, but thought I would address at least that.

          • Christopher Fish

            a deeper treatment of the subject can also be read here.

            http://www.ewtn.com/library/SCRIPTUR/OUTSID.TXT

          • james

            My point, Chris, is we have one magisterium censoring
            another – no matter how many years lie between, and
            the CC is going to keep reinterpreting itself for all time. So, your position today as a traditional might one day seem as vulgar and ignorant as those clergy who did claim what no church can ever claim – invisible or not –
            and that is: salvation is ours.

  • Christopher Fish

    I am confused:
    proselytize –
    convert or attempt to convert (someone) from one religion, belief, or opinion to another.
    “the program did have a tremendous evangelical effect, proselytizing many”
    synonyms:evangelize, convert, save, redeem, win over, preach (to), recruit, act as a missionary

    how is there something wrong with this and how is this thing which is a synonym for evangelize somehow different.

    If you love someone who believes what is wrong and dangerous to them , why wouldn’t you want to divest them of their harmful and dangerous misconceptions or practices? Is anything else sincerely love?

    • Denise Johnson-Bossert

      It is confusing, Christopher. Webster’s dictionary does not make distinctions, but our Holy Father does. Proselytizing is not evangelizing. The former seeks to win arguments and force another to submit. The latter seeks to love, bring redemption, offer healing and restoration. Evangelizing requires love. Here is an article describing the difference through Pope Francis’ eyes. Where Webster muddies the waters, Pope Francis shines a light. http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2013/05/08/pope_francis_at_wednesday_mass:_build_bridges,_not_walls/en1-690203

      • Christopher Fish

        well, that was in interesting article, but I’m still confused, because he seems to have a completely different meaning for the word then the one I have. Maybe it is a language issue. To me proselytizing is what someone may/ or may not due in response to evangelizing. It is a natural part of their own conversion that is necessary if they are to fully embrace the truth. Pope Francis seems to tie it to some kind of exclusionary attitude, an attitude that I would agree is bad. The truth is for everyone, and more importantly everyone needs the truth. Do Jews have the fullness of the truth? Do athiests? do prostitutes or other grave sinners?

        In so much as they are lacking in the truth are they not like blind brothers who are in grave danger of falling into eternal fire?

        How can we love them , so that they encounter Jesus , rather them simply encounter us? How can we bring them an encounter with truth that is also love , which has the goal of helping them , of saving them? Certainly not by ignoring them completely. Are we not obligated, if we can, to prevent a blind man from falling into the fire?

        On the other hand I think we do everyone a grave disservice by ignoring our differences and the consequences of those differences.

        Jesus stood on a hillside and looked directly at a group of his communities leaders and said “you brood of vipers , who told you to look for …. you are like tombs white on the outside be inside filled with dead men’s bones”

        He also fashioned a whip of chords and went into the temple using the whip ( exactly how the scriptures don’t say but presumably to drive out animals and people). And overturning tables yelling at people with sufficient force to drive them from the open courtyard of a large building.

        I think it is important to understand how these actions are also a kind of love? because love is not silent in the face of seeing someone they love being treated unfairly. Love requires, even demands, that the beloved be what the beloved was created by God to be. Lives up to their potential.

        I don’t think without a clear understanding of that element we will every be able to fully understand why some people reject love.

      • Christopher Fish

        After reflecting on this somewhat further I think part of the what to me seems to be a problem , and I have no idea what pope Francis thinks about this. Is the unwillingness to offend others, especially for their own good. For instances, I don’t have any problem hanging out with wiccans or homosexuals or atheists or anyone else. On the other hand if they ask me if I think what they do is wrong I wouldn’t hesitate to explain to them why what they do is wrong, but more importantly that I am concerned for them because I know that their beliefs and or actions are not healthy for them and they would be happier and healthier if they lived another way.