"HANDING ON THE FAITH"
by Rev. Fr. T. White
Catholic Enquiry Centre,
Box 63, Maroubra, N.S.W. 2035.
A.C.T.S. No 1423 (1964)
Handing on the Faith
When Our Lord told His apostles "Go teach all nations" it must have
seemed a formidable assignment. "What can we twelve do?" could well
have been their reaction. There they were surrounded by paganism,
centred in the powerful Roman empire, and themselves belonging to a
people who had largely rejected Christ and even brought about His
crucifixion. Such a death added as well the stigma of a condemned
criminal to their leader.
Humanly speaking, it was not only a formidable but an impossible
assignment. Only the grace of God could make it possible, and only the
grace of God could give the apostles the necessary strength and
courage, and make their efforts fruitful. The result was that they did
preach the Gospel at the cost of great suffering and adversity, knowing
that their efforts were to be the instrument God would use for the
conversion of others.
What they did we, as members of the same Church to which the Apostles
belonged, can also do - according to our state in life, our sphere of
influence, our capabilities. Those words of Christ "Go teach all
nations" were also addressed to us.
Because of the Sacrament of Confirmation our souls are stamped with the
character of a witness to Jesus Christ. What Pentecost was to the
Apostles, Confirmation is to the individual Catholic. In ordinary life,
a child's main work is to grow and learn - it is the adult who is
expected to hold responsibility, earn money to keep a family, take over
the care of the home. Confirmation is the Sacrament of maturity in the
supernatural life of grace - that life which was begun at Baptism is
strengthened and complemented at Confirmation. At Confirmation we
become adult Christians and as such we are, or should be, witnesses for
Christ to others. In short, Confirmation stamps us as apostles. It
gives us the grace to be apostolic. That means that in God's plan every
confirmed Catholic is supposed to be doing something about spreading
the True Faith.
In Australia at present three-quarters of the people do not belong to
the True Faith. More than half of them seldom or never go to any church
at all. Recent extensive Gallup polls have shown that 61 % of
Australians do not go to any church. Most Catholics are aware of this
but comparatively few of them do anything about it. Why? Critics will
say they have not enough zeal to make the effort.
I don't think that is true. Far more often the reason is lack of "know
Our Australian Catholics are outstanding in the Catholic world for
their generosity towards the foreign Missions. They delight to read of
the growth and development of the Missions in Africa and Asia. They are
overjoyed when they see a new face at the altar-rails in their own
parish church. This is a real Christian joy in the knowledge that
someone else has received the priceless gift of the Faith.
I do not agree that our Catholics are wanting in zeal. But I am
convinced that they need to learn the "know-how" of helping others to
find the True Faith.
This little booklet gives seven practical suggestions which, if taken
seriously by every sincere Catholic, will bring the priceless treasure
of the True Faith every year to many thousands of those to whom
religion means little or nothing today.
Ways and Means to Help a Non-Catholic Friend
1. Say a daily prayer for the
Conversion of a non-Catholic Friend.
Faith is a gift of God. No one can earn or merit this gift of faith, as
St. Paul says in his letter to the Ephesians, 2, 8: "Yes, it was grace
that saved you, with faith for its instrument; it did not come from
yourselves, it was God's gift, not from any action of yours, or there
would be room for pride." Our Lord also expressed the same thought when
He said: "Nobody can come to me without being attracted towards Me by
the Father Who sent me." (John 6, 44.)
Any ordinary man is capable of learning the fundamental truths of
religion, of knowing that God exists and that He has given a revelation
to man. But in order to perceive the vital force and the sheer reality
of the truths God has revealed, in order to believe in them in such a
way that they have a profound influence on one's life, a special help
from God is required.
Hence the necessity of prayer for the gift of faith. Prayer is not just
"the nice thing to do" or "the nice-sounding bit of advice to give".
Prayer is absolutely essential. Any priest who has had experience of
convert work will tell you just how true it is. Often he has come
across people who have no objection to Catholic teachings after they
have been explained to them. But in their own words they "just can't
bring themselves to believe".
Cardinal Newman sums it up as follows: "Faith is not a mere conviction
in reason; it is a firm assent, it is a clear certainty, greater than
any other certainty; and this is wrought in the mind by the grace of
God, and by it alone. Here is the difference between other exercises of
reason and arguments for the truth of religion. It requires no act of
faith to assent to the truth that two and two make four; we cannot help
assenting to it, and hence there is no merit in assenting to it. But
there is merit in believing that the Church is from God; for, though
there are abundant reasons to prove it to us, yet we can, without any
absurdity, quarrel with the conclusion; we may complain that it is not
clearer, we may suspend our assent, we may doubt about it, if we will;
and grace alone can turn a bad will into a good one." (Discourses to
Mixed Congregations, on Faith and Doubt, No. 11.)
There should be no need to stress further the importance of prayer. We
should pray daily for the gift of faith for others. Perhaps the
following prayer will be helpful:
PRAYER FOR THE CONVERSION OF MY
Sacred Heart of Jesus, burning with love for men, grant that by my
prayers, words and example, I may help to bring all men to know, love
and serve You.
In Your love and mercy bestow the priceless gift of Faith on all those
of my own parish who still remain outside the One True Church.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, teach me to be an apostle of your Son.
Prayer and also work
St. Thomas More died for his faith during the Reformation in England.
His biographies recall a motto which was the inspiration of his life.
He wrote it on the walls of his prison cell while awaiting execution.
It said: "The things we pray for, Lord, give us strength to work for."
St. Vincent de Paul expressed the same thought when he said, "We should
pray as if everything depends on our prayers, and then work as if
everything depends on our work." These are simply expressions of the
great truth that Our Lord works through the members of His Church, and,
in His plan of Redemption, wants us to be instrumental in bringing Him
into the lives of others.
2. Offer To Take a Non-Catholic
Friend on a Tour of Your Church
As you enter the church show him the Holy
Water and bless yourself with it. Tell him that this water has
been blessed by the priest, who has prayed for God's blessing on those
who use it. Water is a symbol of cleansing. Our use of it as we enter
the church is an expression of our desire to be internally pure and
clean in God's House. Show your friend how to bless himself with the
Holy Water. It also reminds the Catholic that he was Baptized in water
and the Holy Spirit.
When you enter the church the altar
and tabernacle should be the
first to attract your friend's attention.
Tell him that we believe Christ is really present in the
tabernacle. If he asks why you believe this you will be able to say a
few words about the story of the Last Supper. Try not to say too much;
just. a few words about each thing, leaving him time to have a good
look and ask questions. When you pass in front of the altar genuflect
and tell your friend that you do this as an act of worship of God Who
is really present there. Ask him if he would like to genuflect and show
him how. Draw his attention to the sanctuary
lamp and tell him that it is kept alight always while the
consecrated Host is there. If for some reason the consecrated Host were
taken away (e.g., while the church is being repaired) this lamp would
be extinguished. The lamp is a token of homage to Our Lord, and when
people see it alight they know that the consecrated Host is reserved in
the tabernacle. The Veiling over the tabernacle indicates that Christ,
our 'Commander-in-Chief' is truly present in his 'tent' (that's what
the word 'tabernacle' means)..
Why are there candles on the
altar? They originated in the Catacombs simply to give light but are
now used as a symbol of Christ Who is "the light of the world". Usually
two are lighted for Mass on ordinary week-days and six on Sundays and
big feast days called Solemnities. Four are used on Feast-days.
The crucifix above the altar
reminds us of the identity of the Mass and the sacrifice of Calvary.
The crucifix reminds us too of Christ's sufferings for us. You can fill
the story of His sufferings and death in more details while showing
your friend the Stations of the Cross.
Take him from station to station as you tell him the story.
Show. him the Statues. Tell
him something about the saints they represent. This will -give you an
opportunity for a few words about the true meaning of devotion to Our
Lady and the saints. The saints are our brothers and sisters in Christ
and are now with God in heaven. Maybe there will be flowers or shrine
candles in front of a statue. Catholics put flowers or candles before
statues just as your non-Catholic friend would keep and show respect
for a picture or photograph of a dear friend. The saints are our
friends. We as Catholics like to remember the good lives they lived and
to ask them to pray for us. (A book such as "The Externals of the Catholic Church"
by Mgr. Sullivan will tell you a lot more about all these things but a
few words will be sufficient for the purposes of helping your friend.)
Your friend will be particularly curious about the Confession Boxes and the Reconciliation Area.
Show him inside one and tell him just how a Catholic goes to
Confession. He may ask you why you go to Confession. You will be able
to tell him that you go to Confession because you want to have your
Invite your friend to join you for a short silent prayer before you
leave or, if he prefers, just to sit and wait for a moment while you
say a short prayer. Let your prayer be (e.g. a Hail Mary) for his
conversion. As you leave, you may be able to get him some little
pamphlet from the pamphlet rack. Assure him that he will be welcome to
drop in for a quiet prayer any time. Then the time is ripe to suggest
the next step. Tell him that he would be welcome to come to Mass with
you if he would like to.
to Take Him to Mass.
Ask a non-Catholic friend if he would like to come to Mass with you
some day. It will be necessary to assure him that he is quite welcome
and that he will be quite free just to sit and watch and listen if he
wishes. Nowadays many non-Catholics like to say that they are "going
along to Mass just as observers".
If he decides that he would like to go to Mass with you, arrange a time
and place to meet him. He is going to be very shy about it and will
imagine that everyone is looking at him, so stick close to him all the
time. If it can be arranged, a week-day when everything is quieter
would be better for a first attempt. However, this may often be
impossible. Get him a copy of the A.C.T.S. booklet No. 497, "How to Follow the Mass", in
advance if you can. A Missal is a bit too complicated for a beginning.
Assure him that he may just sit and watch right throughout if he
wishes, but he will probably prefer to kneel and sit and stand as you
do. Point out just the main parts. You will only confuse him if you try
to be too detailed. Everything up to the Offertory is preparation for
the real sacrifice. Then draw his attention to the Offertory, The
Consecration, The Communion.
It is wise to remind him that he may not receive Holy Communion since
he is not a Catholic. Assure him that he will be able to follow it a
bit better each time he goes to Mass, and encourage him to read through
his copy of "How to Follow the Mass"
before he goes again. Later offer him some other pamphlet such as "What Is He Doing at the Altar" or "What the Mass Means".
He may wonder why the priest wears all "those elaborate robes". One
simple explanation is that the Mass is the most solemn occasion in all
the world for Catholics. Naturally then the priest, who takes the
leading part, gets specially dressed up for it. The vestments were
originally robes worn by people for solemn occasions in the early
centuries of Christianity. They have been retained with slight
modification for the priest and his assistants at Mass.
[Next, Father White addresses the
issue of Latin in the Mass. Latin is still the normative language of
the Western (or Roman Rite) Liturgy. The standard for the rubrics of
the Mass is the Latin of the 'Novus Ordo', which is said in its
entirety in Latin in many places. Of course, numbers of parishes also
provide Masses in Latin under the dispensation of 'Ecclesia Dei'. Take
special note of Father White's wise words about the reforms then (1964)
being considered by the Pope and the Second Vatican Council.]
He is almost sure to ask you why the priest says the prayers in
Latin. There are some good reasons for having Latin. The main one is
that it gives us a common language for the Catholic Church in the
various countries of the world. Certainly it would be easier for a
beginner if there were no Latin, but once we have made the effort to
follow it with our Missals we will feel quite at home at Mass any place
in the world. There are some reasons also why it might be better to use
our own language, particularly for the prayers and readings that the
priest says aloud. The Pope and the Bishops are considering all these
things at the Vatican Council. They will introduce the use of the
vernacular, at least to some degree, if they feel that it would be
"What is the little bell for at Mass?" Every non-Catholic wants to know
this the first time he goes. It enables everyone, especially in a big
crowded church, to follow the Mass with the priest more easily. In the
earlier centuries of Christianity the big bells in the church were rung
at the consecration. In this way the people of all that district who
could not go to Mass were reminded to turn their thoughts to God at the
moment of the consecration. Sometimes this is still done, but usually
it is only "the little bell" that is used.
4. Offer to Introduce Your
Non-Catholic Friend to a Priest.
A very good Catholic lady once said to me, "Father, I have a
non-Catholic neighbour who seems a bit interested in our Faith; I'd
like you to meet him." "Certainly," I said, "you name the time and
"Well, I thought it might be an idea to invite him to dinner one night
if you could come too." We made a night and I went along. The dinner
would do justice to a king. I met her non-Catholic neighbour. We had a
pleasant evening talking, mainly about photography, but it led to other
meetings and more serious topics. That man is an exceptionally fine
It is not necessary, or even practical in most cases, to go to such
extraordinary trouble to introduce a non-Catholic to a priest, but an
introduction of some kind is often an important milestone in a
non-Catholic's search for religious truth. The fact of knowing a priest
personally and feeling that he is someone who will be willing and able
to give helpful advice is a big thing.
I remember another occasion when one of the Children
of Mary in my parish rang the presbytery door quite unexpectedly and
said, "Father, this is so and so," introducing one of her non-Catholic
girl friends. "She has never spoken to a priest; she would like to meet
you." I had half an hour to spare so I talked to the young lady about
her work and her home and her family. She had no particular questions
and no intention whatever of being a Catholic, just wanted "to see what
a priest was like". I have no reason to believe that she even became a
Catholic; but I happened to hear two years later that she did a great
deal to stem the tide of her father's anger when another member of the
family married a Catholic girl in the Catholic Church.
All this is by way of example to show that it is a good thing to
provide an opportunity for a non-Catholic to meet a priest whenever
possible. A great many non-Catholics have never met a priest and would
be quite frightened by the thought of doing so. Often their only
contact with the Church is a lay Catholic whom they know socially or as
a work partner or a neighbour. Some of them may want to see a priest
for a particular reason; others, like the Child of Mary's girl friend I
mentioned, may be just curious "to see what a priest is like". Whatever
the reason, every Catholic should be ready and willing to arrange a
meeting when he can.
Normally it would not be advisable to go to as much trouble as the good
lady who put on a big dinner for us; every priest's time is limited; he
would not be able to attend such a meeting very often. On the other
hand, it is wise whenever possible to make some sort of appointment
with the priest in advance so that he will be ready and expecting you.
It is not very wise just to bring your non-Catholic friend along to the
presbytery at any old time. Father may be up to his eyes. in half a
dozen things, instructions, meetings, parish committees or such like.
The non-Catholic will be disheartened if Father is not there, or is too
busy to talk to him. So get it lined up in advance, and if your friend
has some special query or problem that he is going to talk about let
Father know so that he will be ready for it. Be sure to go along with
him and introduce him. Don't just tell him the appointment has been
made because the most difficult thing for the non-Catholic will be that
first meeting. He will need you right there with him.
5. Offer to Take Him to a Day of
In many places in Australia the members of the Legion of Mary organize
what they call Days of Enquiry for non-Catholics who wish to know more
about the Catholic Faith. They are usually held on a Sunday morning and
afternoon at a Convent or Monastery. A priest gives some talks on
Catholic teaching and allows time for questions. He takes the
non-Catholic on a conducted tour of the Chapel. Sometimes there is a
Mass which is explained by one priest while being celebrated by
another. There are priests and nuns and many members of the Legion of
Mary present to talk to the non-Catholics and make them welcome.
Everyone is entertained to meals.
The purpose of these Days of Enquiry is to give non-Catholics an
opportunity to meet. Catholics and get to know them, to realize that
Catholics are genuinely anxious to let others know about their faith,
and to share it. Non-Catholics who attend one of these Days of Enquiry
go away feeling that they have seen something of the charity of Christ
in the Catholics who made them welcome that day. They do not
necessarily learn a great deal but that does not matter at this stage.
The first thing is to help them to be friendly with Catholics and to
see what kind of people Catholics are. A non-Catholic is not placing
himself under an obligation of any kind by going along to one of these
Days of Enquiry. It will be important to assure your friend of that.
There is no charge whatever. He will be made very welcome. Most
non-Catholics would be too shy to go on their own, but it is a matter
of experience that there are many who are delighted to go if a Catholic
friend invites them and goes along with them. The Catholic who takes
along a non-Catholic will be made welcome for the whole day and will
share in everything that goes on. By ringing the Legion of Mary
headquarters in any city in Australia you will get complete details of
dates and places and times of Days of Enquiry.
If you know a few days in advance that you will be going with a
non-Catholic friend it would -be helpful to let the Legion of Mary
know: This gives them an idea of how many to expect. However, if you
have no time to let them know, you will still be just as welcome.
Untold good for souls would be done if every Catholic made an effort to
bring someone to one of these gatherings. It is something that any
Catholic could do if he made the effort.
6. Offer to Take Him to a Course
of Talks at a Parish Enquiry Class.
There are Parish Enquiry Classes in at least a few parishes in each of
the big cities in Australia. These classes are simply a series of well
planned weekly talks given by the parish priest or his assistant on the
teachings of the Catholic Church. The location and starting time of the
talks and the subjects to be explained each week are published on
printed programmes which are distributed to the Catholics in the
parish. Sometimes they are advertised in the local paper. It will not
require any very heroic effort to find out the location, time, etc., of
the nearest Parish Enquiry Class to your home. We realize that there
are at present far too few of these classes, but more about that later.
Once you know where there is a Parish Enquiry Class start looking
around for some non-Catholic who would be prepared to attend the weekly
talks with you. You must be prepared to go along with your non-Catholic
friend. It is very little use telling him that the classes are on and
that he will be welcome. He will be too shy to go on his own. You must
take him along, get there a few minutes before starting time and
introduce yourself and your friend to the priest who is going to give
You will have to make it very clear to any non-Catholic that these
classes are not just for people who have made up their minds to become
Catholics. No one is going to assume that he intends to be a Catholic
just because he attends the talks. - He is there because he wants to
learn the truth about the Catholic Church. He is not putting himself
under any obligation whatever: Whether he decides later to become a
Catholic or not is a matter between himself and God. No one is going to
put any pressure at all on him. That seems so obvious to you that you
may wonder why there is any need even to mention it. We know from
hundreds of cases that many non-Catholics believe that they will be
forced into the Catholic Church whether they like it or not "if the
priest once gets his hands on you". A real effort must be made to
dispel this strange misunderstanding. Lay Catholics can do it even
better than priests because non-Catholics will often believe a lay
person whom they know as a friend when they would not trust the priest
of whom they are so suspicious.
It is good to have one of the printed programmes when inviting a friend
to the talks. Give it to him personally with a few words of
explanation. Come with him to the class every week. He will probably
ask you many questions he is too shy to ask the priest. If you don't
know the answers ask his questions for him next week. You will learn a
lot yourself. It is a remarkable thing that the more you try to help
your friend the more you will help yourself too. As the weekly talks
progress the non-Catholics will want someone to show them around the
church, or take them to Mass. You will be an obvious choice as a guide
and helper for the friend you have brought this far. Later, with God's
grace, he may express a wish to become a Catholic. He will want you to
be his god-parent.
We have said that we feel Enquiry Classes are far too few. This is very
true. However, it is encouraging to see that they are on the increase.
Good Catholic lay people can do more than they think to multiply them.
Nearly every priest realizes the great value of such classes in his
work for souls but the majority of priests are so overwhelmed with work
that they never get around to the practicalities of organizing them.
"Will anyone come to them?" they wonder. "Will my parishioners make an
effort to bring non-Catholics along? Maybe after I have spent a lot of
time preparing for it no one will turn up. What will I do with the ones
who miss out on some of the talks? How do I fit in someone who wants to
start half way through? How many talks will I put into the whole
series? How can I best divide the whole of Catholic teachings into a
series of simple talks? Should I follow the Catechism or give each one
a copy of some book? What is the most suitable book? etc etc.,". With
all these doubts and queries many priests never manage to get their
Enquiry Class started although they would love to have a good Enquiry
Class in the parish. Such a priest will welcome a practical offer of
help from a good parishioner. The Catholic Enquiry Centre, P.O. Box 63,
Maroubra, N.S.W., 2035, [Australia,] has a complete handbook for
priests setting out step by step how to get a class started and to
ensure that it will be successful. It offers printed notes on
twenty-one talks for distribution to everyone who attends the classes.
Some good Catholic parishioners should attend the talks to act as hosts
and hostesses to the non-Catholics. This leaves the priest more free to
concentrate on giving the talks. People who miss a talk can get a
printed summary of it the next week and talk about it with one of the
hosts or hostesses.
In addition to this ready-to-use programme of talks the busy priest
will need your help as a good parishioner to prepare some suitable
meeting room or small hall for the classes. The starting point is to
fix a date for the first talk. Father will remind the parishioners
about it every Sunday for the previous five or six Sundays. The
handbook will give him a list to remind him of what to say each Sunday.
Once all the Catholics of the parish know about the time and place of
the first talk they will be given printed copies of the programme and
will begin inviting their non-Catholic friends. The members of the
Legion of Mary will take them on visitation and all the members of the
sodalities will make a special effort to find someone who is prepared
to come. Young people who have non-Catholic boy-friends or girl-friends
will invite them to come and listen. It has been our experience that
after the second or third series of talks the whole parish becomes much
more interested in conversion work, and the annual number of converts
in the parish increases very considerably.
The Class will be of very special value to the parishioners because now
they will have something definite to which they can invite their
non-Catholic friends without making any extra demands on Father's time.
Father himself will find that he has much more time to spare for his
many other duties because now he has far less private instruction to do
even though he is baptizing many more converts each year. Of course
each one who decides to become a Catholic will need at least a couple
of private talks with him before the day for baptism is arranged, but
most of the necessary instruction will have been already done in
[Any enquirer who feels ready to make a conversion-commitment to the
Catholic Church, and who is wanting to be made ready for Adult Baptism
could then easily join the parish's R.C.I.A. programme. (Rite of
Christian Initiation of Adults.) ]
Any good Catholic who feels that he ought to be doing more to share his
faith with others should think these points over carefully and talk
about them with one of the priests in his parish.
7. Tell non-Catholic friends
about the Catholic Enquiry Centre's free correspondence course.
There is no doubt that you will meet non-Catholics who are a bit
interested in the Catholic faith but, for one reason or another are not
willing to meet a priest personally, either at a presbytery or a Day of
Enquiry, or in a Parish Enquiry Class. A few years ago the Bishops of
Australia set up the Catholic Enquiry Centre to give you a very
practical way of helping such people.
The Catholic Enquiry Centre offers a confidential correspondence course
of lessons about the Catholic Faith to any non-Catholic who writes for
it. This course is absolutely free. Quite often there are
advertisements in Australian newspapers and magazines to tell
non-Catholics about it but of course many people do not even see them.
Others who see them and decide to write forget about it as soon as
they. put the paper aside. More than 10,000 non-Catholics have answered
the advertisements in the past four years, but almost as many more who
never saw the advertisements wrote for the course of lessons in that
time because Catholic friends told them about it.
Be sure you know what the Catholic Enquiry Centre offers and be always
ready to talk about it when an opportunity arises. Anywhere people
congregate religious topics sooner or later come up for discussion. In
a country like Australia, where three out of every four people are
non-Catholics, you are sure to find yourself in one of these
discussions sooner or later. Those who know that you are a Catholic
will ask you questions. It is quite likely that you will not be able to
give a short simple answer on the spur of the moment. By all means know
as much as you can about your religion and answer questions whenever
you can. But there are a lot of questions to which no one can give a
short simple answer. Often the answer depends on a complexity of basic
principles which the questioner does not understand and which cannot
possibly be explained in a few minutes.
This, however, is no reason for trying to side-step the whole issue.
Every Catholic can at least say "Would you like me to take you to
someone who will go into it for you?" or "I know where you can write
for a free correspondence course which will answer that quite fully for
Remember first of all what not to do. Don't refuse to discuss religion.
Dozens of sincere non-Catholics have written to us to ask what is the
reason why Catholics so often refuse to talk about their religion. I
remember one good man who put it this way: "Are Catholics forbidden to
talk about their religion, I worked with Catholics for five years" he
said, "and often tried to ask them the questions you have answered for
me, but they always changed the subject and talked about football". I
am not suggesting that all Catholics do that but it is a pity that any
Catholic does it.
It is equally important not to try to bluff your way out of a question
you cannot answer. People do that because they are too proud to admit
that they do not know the answer. The average person can easily see
through the evasion and bluff and is not at all impressed. It is far
better to be truly humble about it and admit the limits of your
knowledge. Then show a genuine readiness to do what you can to find an
answer for the questioner. If he is not willing to meet a priest he may
welcome some information about what the Catholic Enquiry Centre offers
You will be surer of your ground if you have one of the Catholic
Enquiry Centre's Personal Contact Cards to offer him. The Personal
Contact Card is a business reply postcard addressed to the Centre at
Post Office Box 63, Maroubra, N.S.W., 2035, and carrying an application
for detailed information and brochures on the Centre's free
correspondence course. All he will have to do is fill in his name and
address on the card, sign it and drop it in a post box. A detailed
brochure of the free course will come to him through the post in a plain sealed envelope. If he
hesitates about giving his address, fearing that someone is going to
call and try to push religion on him, you can assure him that the
Enquiry Centre will not give his name or address to anyone. It
guarantees that it will not send anyone to call on him. Assure him too
that he is not placing himself under any obligation and that it will
not cost him anything.
You may get copies of the Catholic Enquiry Centre's Contact Card simply
by writing for them to P.O. Box 63, Maroubra, N.S.W., 2035. There is no
charge for them. You can also get them from anyone who runs a Sponsor
Group for the Enquiry Centre. Very likely your local priest will have
some copies; most priests keep a supply, so also do the head offices of
the Legion of Mary in some places.
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Alternatively, contact Maroubra and offer to cover your international
General Suggestions for Approaching
The only way to learn to do a job is to start doing it. That is true of
the task of the apostle. Too often we hear the cry "Why doesn't someone
give us a lead" or "Tell me what I can do to convert Australia and I am
ready to do it". The only real way to become an apostle is to start
being an apostle in one's own immediate circle. Gather all the hints,
the suggestions and the advice of others that you can, by all means,
but find your own method. Fit yourself into the task and discover for
yourselves what is the best approach you can make, taking into
consideration your own temperament and that of your friends.
Suppose you were told by an unquestioned authority that you must
convert five people within the next twelve months. How would you go
about it? A wise man once said that, when faced with a problem, we
should first divide it into its component parts. Let us try it out on
Your field for possible converts are the non-Catholics you know.
Ask yourself how many of them are likely to be interested. Many of them
are clearly indifferent. A few, a very few, may even be hostile. Very
well, your apostolate to those two groups will be that of example and
prayer. You have narrowed the field down now to those whom you judge
likely to be interested. Take as a principle that you will give
everyone a chance to be interested and that you will give everyone who
is interested a chance to know more.
Recently a good Catholic said: "In all the years I have been a Catholic
I never fully realized my duty to spread the Faith. I work with four
non-Catholics. I decided to tell them all about our Parish Enquiry
Class. One of them, I thought, was completely indifferent. But when I
talked to them, it was this one who came."
How can you interest people in the Faith? Here again you must learn to
do the job in your own way. Ask the converts whom you know personally
what first interested them in the Faith. Ask them what especially
attracted them. Ask what were their main difficulties
in accepting the Faith. It may help you to read what
converts have written, for example, the three books of the series "The Road to Damascus", in which a
number of well-known converts have told the story of their conversion. "This City of Peace" gives a number
of conversion stories by Australian converts.
Now, consider the non-Catholics you know. Ask yourself where they are
most likely to feel the need of the helps which the Catholic Faith can
give. They do feel the need even if they do not realize it. For
example, we find non-Catholics listen with the closest attention to the
Catholic teaching on marriage and the Family. True, they find many
difficulties here. But they also find a powerful attraction in the
Catholic teaching on the grace of the Sacrament - the idea of God as a
continuing partner of the marriage. The point is that every married
couple without exception, feels the need of something more than a mere
civil contract to help them to make a success of their married life.
The Catholic Church is alone, now, in giving definite and unwavering
teaching on this matter, and the Catholic Church is alone in assuring
them, incessantly, of the help of God.
Think over your conversations with non-Catholic friends. Where have
they shown themselves to feel a need? For one it is Marriage, another
Charity, another the Social question, another the problem of sickness
or death. Now gather together your conclusions. You have decided on the
people you are going to approach. You have formed some idea of the
points which are most likely to interest them. So we come to Part Three.
The difficulty most people feel is this. How can I mention the Catholic
Faith without seeming to be "dragging it in" or "thrusting it down
people's throats?" Now, there is a real danger here which must not be
overlooked. G. K. Chesterton said that when he was approaching the
Faith, every setback was caused by some over-enthusiastic Catholic who
tried to push him forward. So, don't push. But this does not mean do
nothing. It means speak when it is tactful to speak.
Let us have an obvious example. Somebody is in trouble. There is
sickness in the family or someone has died. Tell them you will say a
prayer for them. Tell them that you will say a prayer for the person
who has died. This will never be resented. On the contrary it is just
at such moments that people are most appreciative of sympathy. Prayer
for the dead especially is something which only the Church has. Here
again a need is given fulfilment by the Faith. Do not be afraid of
using the name of God in your conversation.
Speak as a Catholic, simply, in a quite matter of fact manner and with
good humour. Sometimes people say: "You know, Father, I was working
with him for ten years and he never knew I was a Catholic until one day
. . ." Surely there is something missing here. Surely, in ten years, a
conversation must have touched on some subject on which a Catholic
could speak as a Catholic.
There are two indispensable conditions in every apostolate. You must
show what the Faith means in your life and you must pray. Most people
will judge the Catholic Faith by what they see of it in your life. it
may be unfair, but it is natural and, after all, Our Lord says: "By
their fruits you shall know them". So, first of all, be a good Catholic.
Secondly pray. Pray every day for the conversion of your parish. Pray
for the conversion of individuals known to you. Say the Family Rosary.
Get up and go to morning Mass. Pray for opportunities to be an apostle
and God will provide them in abundance.
Nihil Obstat :BERNARD O'CONNOR, Diocesan Censor.
Imprimatur: + JUSTIN D. SIMONDS, Archiepiscopus Melburnensis
31st December, 1963