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Dr. Scott Hahn: "The Evangelical Catholic Moment?"

In Germany, evangelizing, mission work, making disciples or whatever you might call it, is a touchy subject. At best, smaller evangelical churches might practice it - the way it should be done. The two big ones - Lutheran and Catholic - have (if at all) a totally different concept. For most of the Christians here, this is at best something fundamentalists do. Ar members of religious orders when they go to Africa. We donate a little money. This is what we contribute to mission work.
Evangelizing Jews is something the big churches won't even think of - or reject straight away (where in the Bible does God exclude the Jews from the Great Commission?).
Even Muslims or members of other religions are "non-touchables" when it comes to evangelizing.
What lacks, is an understanding of what discipleship is all about to begin with. You cannot pass on what you do not love. And you cannot love what you do not know.
At the moment, God blesses us with pastors, priests and nuns from Africa, India and similar countries that used to be the object of mission and evangelizing work. They sometimes painfully remind us of what being a disciple of Jesus Christ is all about (though German Christians would never call themselves like that. They are Lutherans or Catholics - and not disciples of Jesus Christ).
The idea that both the Great Commandment and the Great Commission is something EVERY Christian is called to and will be held accountable for lacks completely.
Lukewarm cafeteria Christianity and moral relativism reign.

So far, so bad.

But! It does not end there.

In the worst of times, God sometimes calls the least of the least. Simple laypeople stand up for Him, even though others attack them. Simple people like Peter was one. It is easy to spread the faith when everything goes easy street. When things get rough though, it becomes a challenge. Jesus did not come to heal the healthy, but the sick.

The situation in Europe is very grave - spiritually and politically. Things can escalate and explode very fast. The current times remind me of the Weimar Republic - the political system here before Hitler got to power. Likewise today people do not seem to be able and willing to read the sign of the times.

To live in such times is both very hard and very rewarding. It has been a long time when being a true disciple was such a challenge. Then again - it was worse for the early Christians and reading their testimonies, we get an idea of what discipleship is all about.

Our hearts must burn for the love of God, neighbor and self. Burn so much we set others on fire!

"What are we so afraid of," Fr. Bill Casey from the Fathers of Mercy in Kentucky, USA, might say now. That we get angry emails? That others will not talk with us anymore?

So be it! Christianity is the most persecuted religion in the world at the moment. Many are brutally murdered for their faith.

And yet - their light will continue to shine. They will not be forgotten.

Some time ago, I visited the memorial site of the former concentration camp in Dachau near Munich, Germany. The tour guide showed us the cells where the priests were at. Technically, they were even allowed to celebrate mass there. In reality, it could happen that someone took the chalice and smashed it into their face.

People like Dietrich Bonhoeffer were there (I had also been at the site where he was finally killed in Flossenbürg). He wrote a book that fascinated me: "Life together".

Or take people like Mother Theresa. She could not care less when she was talking in the USA in front of the President and other celebrities. She said what needed to be said, not would people wanted to hear. Among others, she very strongly condemned one of the most horrible crimes - abortion.

However, it has always been the most simple people that touched my heart deeply. Those that nobody knows and talks about and whose life witness had been a tremendous testimony for the hope and love within them. They evangelized in a way that puts me to shame.

Among many, I want to mention my mom. She died last year after 30 (!) years of illness. No, she was no saint. She was an ordinary woman. Except for the way she dealt with her pain. I had been with her the last months when it got really bad. The way she bravely coped with her deteriorating health while at the same time keeping a strong faith very much impressed me.

In her last days she fell into a coma after water got into her lungs. They put a tube down her air pipe so she would get oxygen and also many cables into her arms to supply her with what her body needed, to watch over the body functions, to put her on dialysis and so on. I was told that even if she woke up she would not be the same as her brain was damaged through the lack of oxygen. Anyways she would notice nothing as she was in a coma, they said.

The family gathered around her bed and we had a priest come for the anointing of the sick. We prayed over her and the priest performed the rite. I stood beside her head and my sister near me.

When the priest made the cross on her forehead with the chrisam oil, I thought my heart would stop beating and my blood would freeze. Tears were rolling down her cheek. I nudged my sister to show her.

There was no dry eye in the room.

Sometimes God shows you through the weakest of the weakest that He is still there, that He is in control and that He is - and will always be - God.

In her hardest hour, my mother most likely drew more people to God than in her whole life.

Munich. August 9th 2016

Robert Anton Gollwitzer

Want to know how to evangelize? Here's how: Tell it like it is.

Tell people there is objective truth. Explain the relevance of truth in a person's life, the consequences of living against it, both in this life and most especially in the next. Understand, before you ever open your mouth, that the point of evangelization is to master sin so as to become holy.

Evangelization has one goal: to encourage and convince people to become living saints so they can get you to Heaven. None of this is possible without knowledge. People don't respond immediately out of love. They respond to negative consequences. It's how we are built. It's one of the horrible effects of Original Sin.

Very few of us jump up and rush headlong toward God. We are lazy and self-centered and unwilling to put in the effort. Emotions only go so far. They wear out. Our wills need to guided by our intellects, which need to be convinced, have brought home to them the necessity of the Catholic faith.

All of this is why discipline is necessary. Catechesis is necessary before one can evangelize. And the problem in the Church today is not a lack of people willing to emote about their faith. The problem is the lack of people who know what the Faith teaches — which begs the question: What are they emoting about if it isn't the Faith?

When we began this apostolate going on 11 years ago, this is precisely what we saw — huge numbers of Catholics who knew nothing or next to nothing about their faith. We set out to evangelize them, which is to say teach them about the Faith.

Say what you want about Church Militant, but thousands and thousands of people watch our stuff every day and they come to the Faith or are strengthened in it. We know, because we continually hear from them in emails and speaking engagements and letters and phone calls and so forth. And blessed be God for it.

It's all Him in the end anyway. Our daily prayer here is: "Use us to save souls." We've prayed that prayer since the very first day and always will. Practically every Vortex episode garners at least 10,000 views, many of them considerably more than that. Why? Not because of me, or that we give things away for free, or anything else. It's simply because we say it like it is — something the Church of Nice doesn't know how to do.

We talk about Hell and call out those who refuse to do so. We talk about the superiority of the Catholic Church over all other religions which are false and call out those who in the Church who refuse to do so. We say what the Church has always taught, that outside of Her there is no salvation; and we call out those in the Church who shirk their responsibility to teach in the same manner.

We are hated, despised, plotted against and so forth because of it — and we couldn't care less. We have taken as our models for evangelization the four original Evangelists themselves, of whom we have a relic of each and a statue of each in our chapel. We preach and teach like them because they taught and preached in the same fashion they learned from their Master.

No one "evangelized" better or more truthfully than Our Blessed Lord, so what He did and said is the only manner worth paying attention to. So you can scrap Alpha and the laser light shows and the rock bands and theatrical productions at parishes. All you have to do is say what He said and do what He did — like the Church has largely done for 2,000 years.

A major ingredient of His preaching was about Hell, the consequence of rejecting Him. In short, Our Blessed Lord as well as the Apostles who learned at His sacred feet simply said it like it is.

He wasn't rude, but He was offensive. His Apostle Matthew even interrupts his gospel at one point to tell us that. There was no pussy-footing around by Our Lord or trying to accommodate sin. He, nor later His disciples, didn't take 100 words to say what they could say in 10. Brevity, clarity directness. Those are the hallmarks of sound preaching and evangelization.

In fact, to that point, it is eye-popping when you notice how brief and direct the four gospels are. With only a handful of exceptions, the four gospels — which are the zenith of the Bible — are the shortest books in the Bible. Their brevity and directness belie an urgency to the message.

The first recorded words Our Lord spoke were short and to the point: "Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand." Pretty clear there. And not a lot of room for ambiguity. Why take 20 minutes to say what you can say in 20 seconds?

Of course there are times when a more in-depth approach is necessary. But going more in depth never necessitates that something lack clarity. The whole point, the only reason for going on about something is to make it more clear, not less clear. Our Blessed Lord did not speak to hear the sound of His own voice. He already knew the eternal truth of what He was saying. He Himself was the Word, the Logos.

What He said was for our benefit, and no one doubted the meaning of what He said once they grasped it in its completeness. They understood Him so plainly that they first walked away from Him at Capernaum, abandoning Him by the thousands — and then they killed Him.

Clarity is the hallmark of effective evangelization, not presenting things in such a way that people are left to decide for themselves what you meant, and then sign onto something they don't sufficiently understand — but saying it as clearly and directly as you can. People have a right to know the fullness of truth, so they are free to embrace it. Those who refuse to embrace it are damned. But everyone has a right to know the whole truth. That's how Our Lord treated them.

Another way to evangelize is to know what the heck you are talking about. Today, lots of evangelization efforts in the Church take little care to make sure that those who are "discipling" (hate that protestant-sounding expression) actually know the Faith and can defend it. The emphasis is on being able to transmit "joy" to people. Well, if the joy is based on a firm grasp of the truth, amen.

But quite often, as in the small-group discussions at Alpha meetings, for example, practically nothing is understood of the Faith, and to grasp that fact more clearly, all you need to do is talk to a faithful Catholic who has ever sat around one of those small-group discussion tables. It takes about 30 seconds to realize that people there know very little. And these people are supposed to go out and evangelize? Evangelize about what exactly?

Learn the Faith and then teach it clearly and directly. That's how to evangelize?


Dear Pope Francis,

I read these days that you that you spoke against “religious proselytism” which in your view means talking with someone to persuade him. Instead we should respect other’s beliefs and inspire them through witness so we can grow together in communicating.

As a fellow Catholic who loves you like a father I want to respond you publicly.

You might mean well when you are saying this, but this goes so much against everything Christianity stands for I need to reply in love.

I am a cradle Catholic, but I have taken a long way till I came back to the Catholic Church. Among others I spend years with Israelis and in evangelical churches, so I am somewhat familiar with non-Catholic belief systems.

Wikipedia says “proselytism […] is the act of attempting to convert people to another religion or opinion”. How can this be wrong for a Christian?

Matthew 28:16-20New International Version (NIV)

The Great Commission

16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

You seem to have a great love for Evangelicals. So do I. I would even call myself an Evangelical Catholic. Evangelicals, however, pay great importance to evangelizing (or what you might call “proselytizing”). That’s something different, you might object. No, it’s not – not with regard to the Great Commission. We could discuss about the means (and here our personal witness through our words and deeds is very important), but not about the need thereof.

Sadly though most Catholics seem to have given up on the Great Commission or do not even know what that is. The common view is “live and let live” or “it does not matter what somebody believes in, they will all go to heaven”.

No, they won’t. I am not saying that all of those who have never heard of Jesus will go to hell, but from that speaking against attempts to convert people is a whole lot different.

Look to Jesus and His apostles: They gave their lives to convert other people who previously adhered to pagan beliefs – or to Judaism. That is exactly what “proselytizing” is all about. Saint Paul was even chosen for this reason – the disciple of the most important Jewish rabbi in history that became a follower of Jesus to reach out especially to the non-Jews.

I am afraid that what you said will confirm people in the erroneous belief that it does not matter what people believe in and that evangelizing (or however we might call it) is something we don’t do anymore.

Jesus did not talk about the small and the wide gate for no reason. Neither was his warning that nobody will come to the Father unless through Him just something one needs to see in a different light today.

It is not up to us to decide who will go to the Father and who not. However, it IS up to us to fulfill the Great Commandment and the Great Commission.

Dear Pope Francis, I respect you and I love you – but there is someone I respect and love even more: Jesus. Therefore I call you to clarify your position so people will not be lead astray.

Some might laugh and say who is this guy that he dares to tell the Holy Father what to do?

I am nobody – and I am everybody. Jesus died for me as He died for each one of us. In His eyes we are all at one level – God’s children. As a brother in Christ – with the full responsibility and authority thereof – I call you to follow Jesus’s Great Commandment and teach others how to do that.

In brotherly love,

Robert Gollwitzer

July 30th, 2014

(Sources: http://www.ucatholic.com/blog/10-secrets-for-happiness/ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proselytism)

“It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

Links International

Should Catholics not try to convince others – as in “proselytizing”?

Of course they should! “Proselytizing” has a bad sound to it, but it need not be so. It is just another aspect of evangelizing. Yes, we should also convince others through our own life example – through our works of love, through the way we act and talk, and through the way we worship. But this is not all there is to it. We can and should also try to challenge other people’s beliefs and try to win their hearts and minds! Outreach is not just a matter of the heart, it also affects the intellect. Peter taught us we should always be ready to give an account of the hope that is within us. That also includes the knowledge about this hope. Knowing what the Church and with it the Bible teaches. Knowing what we believe and why we believe it. Giving our faith a reason and being ready to defend it when necessary. We can only love what we know, so a solid foundation is essential for our faith. This knowledge and foundation can help us convincing others. Now I said it. And with full intention – this is something we MUST do. And we must be able to do it. Yes, we should avoid being arrogant, prideful and the like. We should not try to win the argument, but the heart – and soul. Bottom line: As bad as it might sound to some, but there is nothing wrong with it – on the contrary, it is a must for every Catholic.

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