How to talk with family and friends

By | January 27, 2010

How can this be? First and foremost, people in your life want to know what you think and feel. While it might be nice if you can quote the catechism or the Bible, what matters most is that you share from the heart. People know when we are sharing something of vital importance to us. If we share what matters about the Catholic faith, people will recognize this. Whether or not they are moved to take the next steps in their own faith journey will then be up to God and to that individual.

Besides being genuine, what might we share? Initially, the commercials themselves provide a safe, common ground. What did they like or dislike about the commercials? What questions did it bring to mind? What is the overall reaction or feeling elicited by each commercial? While discussing the actual commercials, attentively listen more than focus on what we might ourselves share.

Why do you go to Mass?

In addition to being genuine and actively listening, there are three key questions for which we would be well advised to prepare prior to the commercials airing. First, why do we go to Mass? This is a critical question. Many Americans feel perfectly happy sleeping in on Sundays and reading the Bible when they feel like it. Why does a person need to belong to a faith community? Why is it important to go to Mass, even when it seems boring and doesn’t seem like we are getting any spiritual nourishment from it? Beyond the answer that we go because we were raised that way or we know we are “supposed” to go, what can we share about why it matters that we go to Mass? How does it help us in our spiritual journey to belong to a faith community?

Why are you Catholic?

The second key question we should be prepared to discuss is, “Why Catholic?” Of course, friends and family who ask you this probably already know you were born and raised Catholic. That is not the issue, especially since many of them have also been baptized and raised as a Catholic. What is really being asked is: What is special about the Catholic Church? Why haven’t you left and gone to another church that seems so much more “interesting?” Why have you remained active in the Catholic Church, knowing it is not perfect and has its share of challenges and problems?

While they may be thinking of specific problems associated with our fallible, human institution, what is truly being asked is what, for you, remains true and good about the Catholic Church. Why it the Catholic Church “home” for you (as each of the commercials suggest) such that you can’t imagine belonging to another church?

What do you know about Jesus Christ?

The final key question is “What do I know about Jesus Christ?” Many people today, including inactive Catholics, want to talk about Jesus. We hunger to know more about this person who changed the world and who continues to impact our daily lives. One good way to prepare to speak more easily about Jesus is to prayerfully reflect on which Gospel story is our current favorite. We need not look up the direct quote from the Bible to be able share what Jesus means to us. Just share one or more of our favorite stories about him.

Now, what if someone does ask a question we feel uncomfortable answering? Of course, this may happen; each of us is limited in our understanding and our faith is definitely deep and rich. There is absolutely nothing wrong with saying we aren’t sure of the best way to answer. We can respond that they ask an important question and we promise to research it more and get back with them. Make sure you follow up later. When we do, we express as much by our effort as by anything we might (awkwardly) share. Sharing what we’ve can, we might also indicate where we found the information, preferably online. Later, they might even look it up for themselves.

DeNeve is director of spirituality and evangelization for the Diocese of Green Bay.

Next week: “Compassionate caring in a reorganized parish”

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