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Monday, February 13, 2006

"I'll have what she's having."

We all remember the line from "When Harry Met Sally," when Meg Ryan is giving a demonstration (in a public eating establishment) of how easily a woman can... uh... fool a man with a convincing fakery.

In real life, fakery rarely fools anyone. I'm not talking here about sex, mind you. I'm talking about most things. At least most important things. When we are trying to convince people of who we are, what we stand for, and what really guides our lives, we will rarely convince anyone of our sincerity unless we really are sincere. Which brings me to the point I really wanted to discuss: evangelization.

I got started thinking about it when I was reading the foreword and introduction to Surprised by Truth, an excellent book containing the conversion stories of a number of highly intelligent people. The book, edited by Patrick Madrid and forwarded by Scott Hahn, introduces a handful of educated, logical people who show how logic and study necessitated their conversions. I highly recommend the book.

Yet even as I was admiring the book, and not for the first time, it also occurred to me that more is needed. The book is a first rate book for apologetics, a valuable study and a valuable skill. So valuable and in fact necessary do I consider apologetics that it was the first subject my high school daughter and I began when we decided to homeschool. The Bible tells us to be ready to explain why we believe. That's a big reason apologetics is so important; and it's also a big reason that apologetics is not enough.

I spent several years volunteering for RCIA, and have been involved with online ministries for many more years. One thing I've learned through these experiences is that the Church has a lot of doors. There is no one single way that people are brought to the Church, even one as important as apologetics. People come to faith, come to Christ, and come to the Church for many reasons and after being called in many ways. When we limit our efforts to apologetics alone, we may as well be locking most of those other doors.

I know one woman who came to the Church because Jesus said "This is my body," and she believed that He meant it. She couldn't put her trust in a Church that didn't take Him literally. My Charming and Patient Husband joined, in part, because with confession and absolution, you know when you're forgiven. I know people who have either joined, or at least begun to investigate, because they felt God calling them to formal worship, and the other Churches seemed too informal, and people who joined because they discovered that the liturgy is almost entirely Biblical. I even know someone who joined because the Catholic liturgy so closely resembles the Jewish liturgy.

And then there was the lady who was raised with no faith, and few preconceived notions about faith. She felt that there must be a deeper truth than the day-to-day wading through life, and she saw her next door neighbors. They had faith. They shone with it. She could see that their faith was changing their lives. With little knowledge at all, she came to the Church for instruction, because she had seen that they had something she wanted. They were the kind of people she wanted to be, and she decided, in essence, "I'll have what they're having." She never even compared denominations before making her decision.

When we make a decision that we want to be witnesses for Christ, we should learn apologetics. We should read books by people like Patrick Madrid and Scott Hahn. But we must also be aware that Christ calls the whole person, not just the intellect. We need to be prepared to answer emotional needs, and curiosities. We should be in the habit of praying for the guidance of the Holy Spirit each and every time, because He knows what strengths the other person has, and what wounds also. Most of all, it is vital that we live the kind of life we hope to inspire others to live.

If, when others look at us, they can say "I'll have what she's having," then we can be assured that we have evangelized more people than we will even be aware of in this life.