One September evening back in 2008, a man, who less than two years later would become my husband, took me on our first date to a small Chinese restaurant in the Twin Cities. I was a little (okay, a lot) nervous, as it was the first time we were seeing each other in about a year. I suspect he was pretty nervous, too. Yet, neither of us thought twice about saying grace together before beginning our meal.
When it came time to leave, the waiter approached with only the classic fortune cookies. When we (or I should say, my husband) asked for the bill, the waiter simply said it was taken care of. Looking around the small restaurant we locked eyes with a lady at the table next to us who couldn’t contain her anonymity any longer. She confessed to the good deed, saying she was impressed that a young couple out on a date would pray together.
When we began with the sign of the cross that evening, it wasn’t our intention to get noticed. Still, in that simple act, others witnessed our love for the Lord and our love of our Catholic faith. Our witness wasn’t anything extraordinary. It only took 10 seconds to pray before the meal, yet it made a profound impact on at least one other person there that evening.
Too often when people think of sharing their faith, they get discouraged or feel they don’t have enough time, believing that witnessing needs to be a grandiose and planned event. On the contrary, it’s most effective when it flows naturally from who we are! Like the woman in the Chinese restaurant, people take notice of how we live our lives, especially in the small and seemingly insignificant moments when we think no one is watching. But how can our families get to the point where evangelization becomes natural?
First, families must be confident in their faith. If they don’t know it, how can they share it? Read scripture and the catechism together. Pray the rosary or chaplet of divine mercy as a family. One childhood memory of mine is being quizzed by my parents on long car trips about the sacraments and corporal and spiritual works of mercy. I’d argue that today, more than ever, when our faith is being attacked on all sides, it’s important that we know our faith. We can’t give away something we don’t have.
Secondly, we must be faithful. It’s one thing to know what our faith teaches, and it’s quite another to live it. Attending Mass every Sunday and on Holy Days of Obligation, regular confession and following the teachings of the Church are necessary for us to stay in accord with Christ and His Church. This also keeps our hearts attuned to the Holy Spirit, whose promptings reveal when, where and how we should share our faith, as well as gives us the words that will be most effective.
Lastly, we must be joyful. We cannot sell something that isn’t attractive, and the very reason Christ gives us His teaching is so that our “joy may be complete.” The teachings of the Church and a deep relationship with Christ do not hinder our joy, but are specifically what causes our joy. It is when people encounter this joy that they think, “I want what they have.” Have a family over for dinner that maybe has left your parish or is struggling in their faith and let them see the joy your family shares in following the Lord. Smile and say “thank you” to the grouchy cashier at the grocery store. Blessed Teresa of Calcutta said it best when she said, “Joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls. A joyful heart is the inevitable result of a heart burning with love.”
Ultimately, don’t give up. There will be situations where you think you’ve done a great job sharing your faith, and then others where you wish you would have said or done something differently. Take heart! You have no idea how the Holy Spirit is moving in the other person’s life. Christ will take care of the rest!
(Kara Storey, Freelance Writer, National Catholic Rural Life Conference)