We do not need a degree in theology, nor do we need to memorize the bible in order to be an effective evangelizer. But we do need to know our faith. This is important, not only to convert non-Catholics to the faith, but especially to bring back Catholics who have strayed. For, “entire groups of the baptized have lost a living sense of the faith, or even no longer consider themselves members of the Church and live a life far removed from Christ and his Gospel.” (Encyclical Letter Redemptoris Missio – Pope John Paul II)
It is precisely this group that needs to be re evangelized. We must find ways of returning them to the fold. It is no secret that the last two generations have been poorly catechized, and because of this, many have been lost. I have seen some strange beliefs and practices popping up among Catholics, even within my own family. These beliefs rarely stem from hostility towards the Church. Rather, they usually stem from a simple misunderstanding about the actual teachings of the Church.
I do not think I am unique in these experiences. I am sure many of us have come across some strange teachings or assumptions about the Catholic faith that are just not true. But how are we supposed to handle this delicate subject when it comes up? Lets take a look at what the bible has to say on this matter.
Sts. Aquila and Priscilla, husband and wife, were close friends with St. Paul. They accompanied him on some of his journeys and helped him spread the Gospel. They are presented to us in the book of Acts 18, where they gently instructed a man, Apollo, new to the faith and zealous in converting others, who was preaching before he himself was completely “catechized”.
Apollo had a great zeal for souls, however he was preaching an incomplete Gospel. Aquila and Priscilla cleared up his confusion when they “expounded to him the way of the Lord more diligently.” (Acts 18:26). In other words, they taught him the catechism!
Soon, Aquilla and Priscilla had confidence in Apollo and sent him off to evangelize to others, complete with a letter of recommendation! Clearing up Apollo’s confusion was a simple matter of Apollo being open to hearing the truth and Aquila and Priscilla being charitable enough to show him the way.
Clearing up confusion can be a fairly easy task if you are well prepared, but it would be a lot easier to convert non-Catholics to the faith if there was no confusion within the Church’s family to begin with! Teaching our children is a proactive step we can take to avoid future confusion.
The simplest way to do this is to purchase a good old-fashioned Baltimore Catechism. They come in different levels, based on your child’s age, and present the faith in very clear language. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, in any of its editions, is for adults and is too detailed and confusing to children. The Baltimore catechism teaches the faith simply and in a language they can understand. Because the sections in the Baltimore catechism are short, five minutes a night of active teaching is all it takes to teach your children the truths of their faith. Just remember to live your faith the other 23 hours and 55 minutes to let the faith take hold in their hearts!
If your children like a more animated way of learning their faith, Christopher’s Talks to Catholic Children by David Greenstock presents a more relaxed way of teaching the catechism to them. If you do not want to read directly from the book, memorize the main points and use the drawings to illustrate these points to your family. The simple pictures stimulate their memory and help them to recall the topics more readily – and don’t be surprised if many sessions end in giggles!
But be forewarned. Children will ask some incredible questions when exploring their faith! Take the time to answer their questions as best you can, however never answer a question you yourself are unsure about. Instead, bring your child, or the question, to a priest. Remember, we are catechizing our children to convert their generation and there can be no room for confusion!
Do not shy away from evangelizing your children or your fellow Catholics. Become an instrument in God’s hands, to revive the faith in them! And do not let them remain in an incomplete faith as Apollo was. Instead, gently and charitably help them to fill in the gaps by “expounding to them the way of the Lord” just as Sts. Aquila and Priscilla did!
Copyright 2011 Cassandra Poppe