Behind the dwindling attendance in our churches lies the heartbreak of parents, grandparents, spouses, friends, and children who lament those who have drifted away from the regular practice of their faith. Every one of us knows someone we love who has turned their back on their Catholic faith, for a time or maybe even permanently. We wonder what we can do. Let’s start with Jesus.
As much as our parishes should work towards becoming places of welcome, invitation, and missionary discipleship, it is in our homes and neighborhoods that the majority of opportunities to share our faith will come our way. Each one of us must be prepared to be a credible and authentic witness in the world. Here are two simple but impactful steps to undertake to help us embrace our call.
Share our story of faith.
Sharing our story of faith seems to be incredibly difficult for Catholics, even for our parish leaders. But it is something that we must do. Storytelling is the oldest form of education and, in faith formation, we share the ultimate story of faith: the love story between God and his people. Unpacking our story of faith is a necessary step for our own spiritual growth, of course, but it is also a wonderful way to evangelize and witness to our friends, family, and children. Sharing our story of faith is a gift both for the storyteller and for the listener, for it is in the sharing of our stories that communal bonds are strengthened, relationships are deepened, faith is nourished, and God’s movement in our lives is revealed.
Pray for and with others.
One of the best ways that we can unite in one faith and heart with others is through what I call “share prayer.” Like most people, I am often asked to pray for others. For many years, I would assure the person that I would pray for him or her and would do so at night or in the morning. But one day I had an insight: Why was I delaying this prayer when I could pray immediately with the person instead? I began to ask a bold but simple question of the person who had asked me for prayer: “Can we pray together now?”
This practice, which is fully in line with our Tradition as Catholics, transforms us from passivity to reaching out with a missionary heart. We can teach this practice to children, including very young children, but it is never too late to learn this approach or practice it.
At the heart of the call to missionary discipleship is the invitation to reorient ourselves to the person of Jesus and the call to holiness. Jesus took ordinary people, people the world at the time often saw as being dispensable and unimportant, and turned them into the greatest saints the world has ever known. He transformed simple fishermen and traders into men and women who utterly altered the society in which they lived. This is a call for each one of us, no matter what our level of formation in faith or what burdens we carry. There is no better person to start with than Jesus, and there is no better time than now.