[Editor’s Note: This is part 1 of a two part blog series. To read part 2, click here.]
I am a proud convert to Catholicism. I never dreamed that this perspective would ever be of value, but occasionally I have found it helps cradle Catholics appreciate what enormous gifts our Church has. Sometimes it also helps me nudge cradle Catholics in a way I hope burnishes our faith in a beautiful way.
Many Protestant faiths (especially of course, self-described evangelical faiths) place a much higher emphasis on spreading the gospel and encouraging new members than we Catholics do. Granted, in the last several years, a new interest in inviting people to join our faith has arisen and it’s a wonderful endeavor. However, when I was growing up Protestant – in my case, Methodist – I never once heard of Catholics inviting others to Mass, and it was a shame, because I for one was jealous of the tight family, almost exclusive nature of my Catholic friends. Fortunately, that spark remained long enough so that when I could choose for myself as an adult, I chose to become Catholic.
While this was happening, I did observe my own Sunday School teachers always encouraging us to bring our friends with us on Sundays. My parents invited their friends to attend church with them frequently and, though seldom did people ever come along, I know those that did were welcomed warmly at the front door of the church, introduced personally to people their age, ushered over to Fellowship Hall after church for coffee and donuts, and introduced to the minister, who also welcomed them. For people new to the community, this often resulted in an increase in the membership rolls.
Times have changed. The above description sounds like all it needs is June Cleaver in a pretty frock and apron to make it complete, but it does make us wonder, how do we as Catholics get out into the community? How do we become Street Corner Catholics? As a child, I was fascinated by the sight of nuns walking together in their habits. I haven’t even seen such a sight in twenty years, and certainly not where I live. Where is our faith visible in the community?
Where do we show ourselves publicly willing to welcome others to our family?
I’m going to be talking about ways in which we as a family can welcome others into the faith. I know you don’t want to proselytize. I don’t either. But to whet your appetite, here are five things I’m suggesting you could do, together with your children, to get started. Pick one and try it for the next few weeks:
1) When you encounter a hopeless person asking for money, give him/her what you can spare without judging whether they might use it for the wrong reason. Ask them their name and remember it. Call them by name when you see them again.
2) Take your children to an assisted living facility to geriatric ward. Bring along a book or magazine. Ask who needs visitors. Spend 15 minutes with someone you don’t know.
3) Go through your pantry and fill two bags with canned goods. Take them to your church’s food pantry.
4) Think of a favorite hymn your parents or grandparents loved. Look it up in your church hymnal. Take a photo of it on your cell phone and teach the family to sing it at the table on Sunday.
5) This Sunday, after dinner, while everyone is still at the table, get out the Bible and ask an older child to read Matthew 25:40. Ask him/her to read it twice slowly. Then, as a family talk about what it means. Discuss how you as Catholics are called by this verse, and what you might do.
“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
I’ll have more ideas for you coming soon. Please share yours, too!
— Liese Peterson lives in Nevada with her husband and three swimming dogs. She is an international businesswoman and enjoys writing about her experiences as a convert to Catholicism.