Evangelization is a word that makes some eyes glaze over, particularly among those who don’t know what it really means. To some it might sound too “churchspeak,” and it can conjure images in their mind of smiling, Bible-toting visitors ringing our doorbells at inconvenient times. But that’s not really what it’s all about.
Evangelization is simply making God’s message known to others and inviting them to embrace the Christian faith. We can knock on doors and distribute pamphlets if we want, but evangelization is much bigger than that. More than anything, it is our living example, our witness to the image and power of Christ in our lives.
The bottom line is that evangelization is about love for others. “It’s not arrogance that impels us to share that message,” said Thomas Wurtz, a member of Our Lady of Fatima Council 9597 in Lakewood Colo., and director of Varsity Catholic, an outreach to Catholic athletes. “It’s a love that says, ‘Hey, I know the answer. I know it’s going to bring you fulfillment. I know it’s going to get you to heaven, and I want to share it with you.’”
It’s a call to all Christians, and particularly to men in their vocation as spiritual fathers, who are called to put their faith into action in every way possible.
“If I'm a man, I'm called to pass on the faith. If I’m a man, I'm called to live the faith,” said Father Mike Schmitz, a priest, author, and speaker.
For that reason, it’s important that men study and know the Catholic faith well, Father Schmitz added: “If I don't even know the faith, I don’t know how to live it, I don’t know how to pass it on.”
Father Schmitz and Wurtz were among Catholic leaders interviewed for “Evangelization,” an episode in the Into the Breach video series produced by the Knights of Columbus. The series is inspired by a 2015 pastoral letter by Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of Phoenix in which he challenges all Catholic men to live their vocation “to do the work of Christ’s soldiers in the world today.”
Taking evangelization seriously is a vital part of the call, perhaps the central challenge, of Into the Breach.
“We who are Catholic have been given amazing gifts — the seven sacraments, the Bible, the great teachings of the Church that the magisterium protects for us, [and] the communion of saints, one of the most powerful mysteries in the Church,” Bishop Olmsted said. “So I would hope that our people would grow more and more in appreciation of the great richness of our Catholic faith, and that would move them to want to be witnesses to Jesus — living, present, now.”
Ryan Young is one who takes to heart the call to evangelize. He realizes his first call is to live the faith within his own family, with his wife, Elizabeth, and their eight children.
“Our faith and our marriage is everything,” said Young, whose family was named the Knights of Columbus International Family of the Year in 2018. “I want my kids to be loving, to be generous, to be working to their absolute potential. … And I think God’s measure for me is basically the same.” Instilling faith in young people is tough, he noted, but as a father he can point the way.
He does likewise for teens who attend Camp Veritas, which he founded with his wife in 2008. He calls it a “boot camp for the soul,” centered on the Catholic faith and the Eucharist.
It’s all about evangelizing the kids. “At Camp Veritas, I get to know them. I get to know their families. I get to know their problems and their struggles, and I love them,” Young said.
That’s why love is the foundation of evangelization. “My question is, do you love the people you see? Do you love the people you encounter?” he asked. “And if you love them, why would you not want them to know the truth and to come into the reality of Jesus Christ?”
There’s the axiom that actions speak louder than words. Legend attributes to St. Francis of Assisi the advice to “preach always, and if necessary, use words.” People — whether our neighbor or our own children — might hear what we say, but they certainly will note what we do. We must say the right things but also do the right things, and those “right things” include the corporal works of mercy.
“More is going to come from your acts of charity and kindness than your words,” said Mark Houck, founder of The King’s Men. “Your defense of your faith is really in your living out the joy” of being a faithful Catholic.
While you might find opportunities to formally teach the Catholic faith, or you might want to ring doorbells, that’s only one aspect of evangelization.
“The key to living the faith isn’t hitting people upside the head with a Catechism,” said Kevin Lowry, a popular speaker at men’s conferences. “The key is to be Christ to others.”
We plant the seeds, but it’s up to the Holy Spirit to do the rest, Lowry said.
To get started evangelizing, start local, suggests Steve Greene — even within your own home.
“You don’t even need to walk out your front door to find mission field,” said Greene, director of the Kino Catechetical Institute for the Diocese of Phoenix. “Look at your family, look at your marriage, look at your kids. Is there one of your kids you could spend more time with? Have you maybe not been leading the family in prayer like you should? Are you and your wife praying separately, but not together yet?
“We’re just meant to contribute whatever we can, no matter how small.”
To view episodes of the Into the Breach video series and to access the study guide and other resources for promoting the series in your parish, visit kofc.org/intothebreach.