Written by Michael Fones
Monday, 11 January 2010 10:43
I think it's safe to say that most Catholics can't imagine attempting to share their faith with another person - even people they might know from Church, must less someone with whom they might have an acquaintance from a "non-church" environment, like the gym. But there are opportunities, if a) we realize that faith is first of all a relationship (and we can talk about relationships pretty easily, can't we?) and b) we believe every person is hungering for a relationship with the Father, through Jesus, and in the Spirit, and c) we begin to recognize opportune moments to bring up the subject of a relationship with God.
Here's an example of someone who attended a retreat I gave in Eugene, OR, earlier this month. Jean (not her real name) a lively, devout life-long Catholic who both knows the essence of her faith and has a living relationship with Jesus. Her e-mail to me yesterday demonstrates the power of simple witness from a man she hardly knew on both her and another woman who is unchurched.
Friday, I went to the funeral for a man I barely knew from the gym ("John Doe" [not his real name, either], early 50s) who always read the bible while he was working out. What I found out at the funeral was that he had a conversion three years ago and went to the 7:00 am Mass daily at St. Mary’s. He is the person I talked about who died on his knees (and I learned with a rosary in him hands). It was very sweet that another women from the gym came, too. (I don’t think she is a connected to any church organization—but she really liked the funeral service. Maybe I can draw her away from her focus on the “stars”).
There are a couple of points of contact that she can make with this relative stranger:
1) they work out together, so there's something in common
2) the woman went to the funeral of John Doe and talked to Jean about the funeral - so they have that experience in common, too
3) the woman has some kind of relationship with Jean, and trusts her enough that she's talked about her interest in the stars (astrology, perhaps?)
So how could a conversation about God begin?
Jean could initiate such a conversation at different places, just based on what she told me in her e-mail:
"What made you decide to go to John's funeral?"
"You said you really enjoyed John's funeral. What did you like about it? Why?"
"You are interested in the stars. The kings in the song, "We Three Kings," were actually wise men who were interested in the stars. There's an interesting website called Bethlehemstar.com you might check out that describes what they saw in the night skies that led them to travel over such a long distance with those gifts. Let me know what you think about it."
The last starting point might be appropriate only if Jean had a pretty established level of trust with the woman, but you get the idea. If we're interested in telling people about a relationship that has changed our own lives for the better, and if we really care about the lives of others (not just their earthly life, but their eternal life), won't we look for opportunities to tell them about Jesus?