Most of us know people who are distanced from the Catholic Church or are not affiliated with any faith community or denomination. These may be our spouses, children, grandchildren, siblings, and friends. According to the Pew Research Center, 23 percent of Americans recently answered “none” when asked what religion they practice. This figure is even higher among people younger than 35 years old.Still, you may sense that a person in your life is seeking “something more.” Here are some prompts that may indicate a gradual openness to faith along with a few gentle yet powerful ways to respond.
- Questions. The most common sign is that someone begins to ask questions about God, good and evil, or the meaning of life. A lot of people in our society have lost that sense of meaning. They begin to ask, “What is my life about? Why do I do what I do? Is there any purpose in all of this?” As a parent, spouse, sibling, or friend, your role is not to restore that meaning but to help the person find meaning for him or herself. You can do that by active listening. Non-threatening comments such as, “It sounds like you’re really searching” will encourage the person to talk in a more open manner. You don’t have to offer solutions or answers. Offer your opinion only when asked.
- Memories. Reminiscing is another sign that someone may be open to evangelization. Sometimes people will recall childhood devotions to Our Lady or the saints. Memories of music, incense, or some special liturgy will surface. Don’t be afraid to share your own memories. You might want to suggest revisiting a childhood parish together or seeking out a priest or religious who had a profound impact on the person. If remembering takes a negative turn, don’t be defensive. The person may be justified in his or her anger. Sometimes, talking about a bad experience can put it in perspective. If possible, encourage the person to separate anger toward a person from anger at the Church and the sacraments. It wasn’t the Church that caused the pain. It was a person connected to the Church. If a person is open to praying, ask the Holy Spirit for healing of memories.
- Reading. Some people are evangelized through reading. Keep Catholic books, magazines, newspapers, and even your parish bulletin in places where family members and friends can pick them up. Follow Catholic organizations, writers, and public figures on social media. If there’s something particular that you find interesting, recommend it to family members and friends. One woman sent articles on the Vatican Observatory and its astronomical research to her son who was struggling with how he perceived the Church views scientific inquiry.
- Current Events. Catholic news events can spark curiosity in some people. Certainly, Pope Francis has generated significant interest and discussion, even among inactive Catholics and non-Catholics. Local news stories about Catholic people and events can offer inspiration and insights into faith. When discussing any aspect of Catholic news, emphasize the universality of the Church. The Catholic Church numbers one billion people with different cultural, intellectual, and socioeconomic backgrounds. As author James Joyce said, Catholic means, “Here comes everybody!”
- Major Life Events. Illness, death, divorce, the birth of a baby, a job loss or transfer, kids growing into teen years, moving to a new home are all life events that make people open to evangelization. It’s important to listen. Then share how you got through difficult times with the help of your Catholic faith. Offer to pray for or with the person who is having this experience. If the person seems open to it, recommend a priest, deacon, or other pastoral minister who might be a sounding board. Invite that person to come to Mass with you.
- God’s Presence. The real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist is often a factor in bringing people back. Be an inviter. Invite people to come with you for family funerals, weddings, baptisms, First Communions, confirmations, Ash Wednesday, and Mass on Christmas and Easter. It’s hard for people to go to church by themselves. If they don’t want to go to Mass, invite them to parish social, cultural, or educational events. One of the best ways for people to reconnect with faith is through participation in a small-group experience. As adults gather to reflect on Scripture and make connections to daily life, their sense of belonging grows. That may lead to a desire to return to the sacraments and the life of the parish. Take part in a small group yourself, and bring a friend!
No matter what signs you see in the people around you, keep the lines of communication open. Radiate God’s love to everyone. Let the Holy Spirit work through you. Before long, you’ll begin to see that people will be drawn to Jesus Christ and attracted to the Catholic Church because they want the faith, the love, and the peace you possess.
Read more about Sharing the Love of Jesus with Others.