Published March 31, 2005
As I looked into the eyes of the 30-plus newly baptized, professed, and confirmed Catholics at our Cathedral last Saturday evening, I could not help but to ask myself the question: What causes people to join the Catholic Church these days? I know the simple and proper answer to the question is the grace of God, but since grace traditionally builds upon nature, I needed to probe that question more deeply.
Most people come to the Catholic Church because of other Catholics. We Catholics ourselves are the starting place for new Catholics. We are, after all is said and done, a lovable and fascinating people—both corporately and individually. And a great many new Catholics are present in the Church this Easter season because they have come to love other Catholics. Many of our new members have fallen in love with a Catholic and they want to share the faith of these lovable people. Whether many of our new Catholics are engaged to a Catholic or have been married to a Catholic for many years, they have found faith because of their love for one of us!
Others have come to the Church because of their encounter with a Catholic institution, a school or a parish that has welcomed them and made them feel at home and welcome. A few new Catholics have joined us because of the experience of outreach and personal invitation of a neighbor or friend. Some new Catholics have been attracted to our worship, our social outreach and service, our moral or ethical vision of the world.
But all of these examples involve Catholics welcoming others into the Church. Our Church does not grow without Catholics ourselves welcoming and inviting others to join us in the Faith. This is called evangelization.
Some Catholics may envision evangelization as the activity of specialists who preach on street corners or who personally and individually visit homes or distribute religious literature. Those are legitimate forms of evangelization, but they are not the activity that most of us would choose to do.
Evangelization is the warm smile that greets a new face at the back of church and says welcome. Evangelization is the potluck supper that parishes host for new members so that they can come to know the other members and the areas of parish life in which they might share. Evangelization is the invitation that a person extends to a friend to come and to share in a parish activity or function.
Evangelization is outreach and welcome, and all of us can and should be hospitable and cordial in welcoming people into our parish family.
As I attended the reception in the Cathedral hall after the Easter Vigil, I met several people who introduced me to their daughter-in-law or son-in-law who had just entered the Church. They were obviously proud that someone they already loved now shared more completely in the family’s faith.
I met more than a few young people that evening who gave me every indication that the sacraments that we had just celebrated would soon be succeeded by another sacrament that they would share called marriage.
There was a spirit of great joy throughout the hall even at that late hour. The members of the Church were feeling particularly pleased with ourselves because we had these new sisters and brothers. We are at our best when we Catholics welcome others into our Faith. Maybe that is why this Easter season is so filled with smiles and feelings of well-being as we celebrate the fact that so many people have enriched this Church with their presence and their newly celebrated Faith.
Welcome to all of our newest Catholics throughout North Georgia!