The Audacity to Take it to the Streets

Sermon on the MountMost of us are doing a severe disservice to the faith. We’re keeping it locked up—enclosed within the walls of our personal lives, our homes, our church, basically everywhere it fails to be a “burden” on others, an embarrassment to ourselves, a big, fat, glaring “elephant in the room.”

Of course, many of you may be exceptions to this rule of presenting your faith only at convenience, and if so, please pray for the rest of us. Sharing the faith takes courage, conviction, “guts,” and a burning desire to be a saint and bring everyone else with you on the journey.

Blessed John Henry Newman titled one of his sermons: “Personal Influence, The Means of Propagating the Truth.” What a striking thought—all in simply the title. How are people supposed to encounter the Truth if we aren’t the ones bringing it to them?

Do you ever feel a little uneasy when the RCIA programs roll around every year? I do. Isn’t it my personal responsibility to help the RCIA program grow? Isn’t it my duty—and shouldn’t it be my pleasure­—to guide those on the “streets,” those outside the walls of our beautiful Catholic Church, into the Body of Christ?

Rodney Stark, in his well-known work, The Rise of Christianity, made some quite intriguing observations about religious conversions. In studying a group of converts to a particular religious community, he discovered that conversions came as a direct result of the relationships formed between the converts and the current members of the religion; in other words, he concluded that interpersonal attachments could be found at the center of the conversion process. (Just to clarify, Stark is not Catholic, and I do not agree with all of the observations in his book, though findings like these should certainly give those of us concerned with evangelization some worthy food for thought!)

WE are the ones who Christ is counting on to spread the Gospel to those in our modern culture starving for meaning, hope, and God (whether or not they realize it is Him they are looking for). We are the ones who are supposed to build the Church, person to person—one soul at a time. We must never underestimate the power of personal witness. Are you witnessing through your actions and your words?

A few months ago, one of my sister’s friends came to her asking questions about the Catholic faith. She began to devote time to her friend, whenever he needed it, always lending a listening ear and a powerful guiding witness, introducing him to the wonderful aspects of the Catholic Church, while building a friendship that allowed him to look to her, trust her, and be open with her as he continued his search for truth. My sister’s friend recently joined the RCIA program, asking my sister to be his sponsor. In an email exchange, he told me that he is “falling in love with the Church more and more every day” and that he “treasures my sister’s friendship and support more than she realizes.” All he needed was hand, a friend who cared about him enough to share with him the ultimate source of happiness and peace. I imagine that God looks with sheer joy upon my sister, saying to her heart, “Thank you for building my Kingdom.”

Robert Louis Wilken, in The Spirit of Early Christian Thought, says, “The Word of God makes its way not by argument but as men and women bear witness to what has happened” (p. 6).

One of the professors in my graduate program was a street preacher in high school. Yes, you read that correctly. He was one of those rooftop proclaimers of the Gospel, standing on an upside-down milk crate in the center of a highly populated area with no fear. He had the audacity to take his faith to the streets—literally. Why? He wanted to propagate the faith through his own personal influence, because he knew the power of witness.

“…Grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness” (Acts 4:29, emphasis added). We need to pray for courage in giving account for the hope that is in us. Not all of us are called to turn a box upside down and win converts on the paved sidewalks in our communities. But we are all called to be bringing people into the Church—more than we are currently doing. And we must take love as our weapon, for “only when wounded by love can one know the God of the Bible” (Wilken, p. 7).

Now, what if…you asked that person you struck up a conversation with in the coffee shop if he or she were interested in coming to Mass with you on Sunday? What if you asked that coworker you keep trying to muster up the courage to confront? What if you had that much-needed conversation about God and church with the friend who you know really needs faith right now? What if you had no fear? What if you allowed your love for Christ and His holy, magnificent, incomparable Church to conquer all your anxieties, insecurities, and wishy-washiness?

Well, you would be answering the call to the mission of the Church, a call that we are all supposed to be answering frequently and with fearless passion—a call to evangelize. “The Church must continue to be missionary. Indeed, missionary outreach is part of her very nature,” said Pope John Paul II. You would be helping to build the Body of Christ, to bring more souls to experience the immeasurable love and happiness that only comes from God, the source of all that is true, good, and beautiful.

In my favorite passage from St. Augustine’s Confessions, he cries, “Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you” (Book X, Chapter 27).

Take it to the streets and catch these souls in their search. Be the voice that breaks through the deafness.

“Christian truth is attractive and persuasive precisely because it responds to the profound needs of human existence, announcing convincingly that Christ is the Savior of all mankind. This is still valid today as it was in early Christianity during the first great missionary expansion of the Gospel.” -Pope Benedict XVI

Have the audacity to share the Truth without reservation—to gather God’s children back to Himself, to help expand the Gospel until it reaches every needy heart in every corner of the world.

If you liked this article, click on “Recommend” to share with your Facebook network.  And please share your thoughts on this article by submitting your comments below. – The Editors

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About the Author

Katie Warner is a Catholic wife, stay-at-home mother, speaker, writer, and evangelist who is passionate about taking small steps toward a more meaningful and spiritual life, and helping others do the same.

She is the author of Head & Heart: Becoming Spiritual Leaders for Your Family (Emmaus Road Publishing, Fall 2015), a book that offers practical strategies and inspiring stories to help men and women better lead and love their families toward heaven.

Katie writes and speaks about a variety of spiritual and practical topics, and has presented in venues like the National Catholic Bible Conference and numerous Legatus chapters, the Eucharistic Congress of Atlanta, EWTN radio, and on EWTN television. She is also a presenter for the Symbolon RCIA and Opening the Word programs produced by the Augustine Institute. Katie is one of the original contributing writers for The Integrated Catholic Life and a correspondent for the National Catholic Register.

Katie works very part-time (usually during toddler naps and late at night) as the Manager of Communication and Evangelization for Catholics Come Home, a national Catholic evangelism apostolate working to invite fallen-away Catholics and non-Catholics home to the Catholic Church. She holds a graduate degree in Catholic Theology, specializing in Evangelization and Catechesis, from the Augustine Institute in Denver, Colorado. Her favorite ministry work—and day-job—is family life, and she enjoys homemaking and mothering in sunny Southern California, where she lives with her husband and son.

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5 Comments

  1. Katie,

    This is a fantastic article! I feel a mix of guilt and inspiration after reading it which I suspect many of us will share. I was particularly struck by your “what if” section:

    “Now, what if…you asked that person you struck up a conversation with in the coffee shop if he or she were interested in coming to Mass with you on Sunday? What if you asked that coworker you keep trying to muster up the courage to confront? What if you had that much-needed conversation about God and church with the friend who you know really needs faith right now? What if you had no fear? What if you allowed your love for Christ and His holy, magnificent, incomparable Church to conquer all your anxieties, insecurities, and wishy-washiness?”

    Here is the road map for all of us to follow today. Thank you for your witness and the gift of your writing.

    In Christ,

    Randy Hain

  2. Thank you, Katie. I have posted it on my Facebook, twitter, and shared this with my family.

    Sharing your words is a step in the right direction.

    Blessings to you and your family in these challenging times. For those of you in the North Atlanta area…

    Invitation to the 2010 Rosary Rally on Saturday October 16 at noon
    The Depot – Downtown Kennesaw

    PLEASE JOIN US IN PRAYING FOR AMERICA !!
    THE 2010 PUBLIC SQUARE ROSARY CRUSADE IN DOWNTOWN KENNESAW!

  3. Your article, Kate, has filled me with rejoicing! If there are too many pools of apathy, there is also great vitality in the Church today, reflected in voices like yours! I, too, have found, working in RCIA , that a great number of those who come, come because of the friendship, love and personal witness of someone they have met along the highways of the world–someone who shows new possibilities to them, someone, who in Christ’s name has said, “Come”.

    As the late Cardinal Avery Dulles said, “The living testimony of believers rather than philosophical arguments are what is needed today. In former days we focused on how ‘we get to God’; today it is more important to understand ‘how God comes to us'”.

    I would like to join my witness to yours by means of a memoir I have just published called ‘Graffiti On My Soul’. under the name , simply, Johanna. After more than 40 years of working in the Church in many capacities one of the observations that stands out in my mind is that our Catholic people do not feed their faith enough through the kind of reading that will stimulate prayer. A “religious” book, in too many minds’ is equated with a boring book and many people simply will not pick one up. Added to that number are our children and friends who have drifted from the Faith and to whom the mention of anything regarding Church has become a taboo subject.

    I have come to understand that God wants me to bridge that gulf by sharing my story, which is powerful, gripping and inspiring, a memoir which reads like a suspense novel and so will be read by the general public and can be given as a gift without offense to those standing on the fringes of faith. While being read for its story value, Graffiti On My Soul is ‘a faith witness in disguise’; with strong pro-life and Eucharistic content . Readers have said, “It shows the importance of faith in one’s life”.

    I also see its mission as a counterbalance to the wildly popular book, The Shack, which is drawing many Catholics with its engaging picture of the Trinity, but unfortunately, also tacking on some very bad theology. Graffiti On My Soul can be used as a tool for ‘the new evangelization’; it is a true story of God-with-us, and a profound journey of hope and forgiveness. My prayer is that it can be used to reach many who cannot be reached by other means. For further information see: http://www.eloquentbooks.com/GraffittiOnMySoul.html

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