Ways to Share Your Faith as a Catholic

When I moved away from my small-town, rural home for college, and then eventually to an East-coast city for graduate school and the rest of my twenties, people often asked me (as we politely do of others), “where are you from?” I’d tell them the geographic area, and then describe it as the kind of place where there are more cows than people and traffic jams only exist when there is a twenty-car pile up behind a tractor driving 20 miles per hour down a state highway. 

Sometimes I would also share this “fun fact”: when I was growing up and in my teens, no school functions or sporting events were ever scheduled for Wednesday nights, because everyone would be at church. It’s true. The town was (and still is! The demographics haven’t shifted) comprised mostly of fundamentalist, evangelical Christian churches, and they regularly had services on the middle evening of the work week. 

Given the proliferation of evangelical churches in my town (I’ve moved back!), it’s not infrequent that we have visitors stop by our house handing out Bible tracts, or strangers at the library or grocery store striking up a conversation about the Gospel and whether or not I’ve “been saved.” Proselytism, or the attempt to convert people's religious beliefs, is common in my neck of the woods. 

Proselytism is a bit different of an approach than what the Catholic church takes when it comes to expanding its flock. In the words of Pope Benedict XVI, “The Church does not grow by proselytizing; she grows by attracting others.” Said another way, the Catholic church draws people to it through demonstration of abundant life in Jesus rather than by seeking conversion of others through discussion about Jesus alone. As St. Francis of Assisi said, “Preach the Gospel daily. When necessary, use words.” 

I take these ideas to heart. I’m not opposed to talking about my faith – heck, I’m a writer whose work mainly exists in Catholic spaces – but my first impulse in conversation with strangers, acquaintances, or even friends isn’t to share my particular brand of spirituality with them. As Pope Francis declared in his 2013 Address to Catechists, “Words come . . . but witness comes first: people should see the Gospel, read the Gospel, in our lives.” 

So how do we show the Gospel with our lives? How do we preach without words? Here are a few simple ways.

Weave your faith into the fabric of your home

It’s pretty clear to anyone who comes into my family’s house that we are Catholic and that our faith matters to us. Our shelves are full of books like Catholic All Year and The Interior Castle. Our walls are adorned with crucifixes and saint prints. And our mantle decorations change every few months to reflect the liturgical season we’re currently inhabiting – a nativity for Advent and Christmas, a crown of thorns for Lent, a Hosanna banner for Triduum. 

I mainly fill our home in this way for the faith formation of my children and because it’s my taste. Our bookshelves contain the books that I like to read, after all, and I’m the primary person looking at the art on our walls. But an added benefit is that these items become symbols of our faith for people who enter our house. 

Know Jesus 

It goes without saying that if I showed off my faith with physical objects but did a lousy job following in the footsteps of Christ, I’d be more likely to drive people away from the church than towards it. And so I try to live like Jesus. For me, a first step towards this end is simply knowing how Jesus lived. This involves making regular reading of Scripture (and books that help me dive deeper into Scripture) a part of my daily life.

Live like you know Jesus

And just like visually demonstrating my faith with decor would mean nothing if I didn’t know how Jesus lived, knowing how Jesus lived means little if I don’t strive to incorporate his ways and teachings into my life. Belief ought to beget behavior. The Gospel literally provides a road map for us for how to walk in the way of goodness: love God, love your neighbor, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, let your light shine, rejoice and be glad…and so much more. 

Consistently keep the practices of your faith 

There was a time when I felt funny about saying prayers before meals when friends who are atheists came for dinner at our house, or like I should skip going to Mass when we had non-Catholic weekend guests. I can’t pinpoint an exact moment when this changed for me, but at some point it did, because now I view this consistency as a simple way that I can share my faith with non-Catholic friends. My friends don’t need to take part in the practices with me, but sometimes they do, and either way, I know they can appreciate the sentiment of gratitude and togetherness regardless of their religious beliefs. 

To be clear, this list is incomplete. Entire books are dedicated to single points from this list, for goodness sake. But still, it is a place to start when considering how to share your faith, Catholic style.

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