On this last day of 2010, in light of all that we’ve been considering, what next? What can I do? Here are a few suggestions:
1) Spend some time in prayer and re-commit personally to follow Jesus Christ as Lord in the midst of his Church in 2011. You can't share what you yourself don't have and aren't living.
2) Make a personal choice to let go of the trauma of the 20th century and entrust it into God’s hands now. The new nones are the grand children and great grand children of the Catholic adults who experienced the seismic shift of the 60’s. To the average non-Mass-attending 20-something Catholic, the trauma that their grandparents lived through in 60’s and 70’s seems as dim as the fall of Troy. Hey, the fall of communism a mere 20 years ago is already ancient history for them.
American Catholic leaders have spent two generations obsessing over the 60’s while the world has revolved on its axis and our future walked out the door without us noticing. It is time to let go of the past and turn our attention to the present and the future.
3) This New Year, spend some time contemplating our 21 century realities on your knees. Just looking at the new Catholic American “majority” should be enough to drive us to our knees: The 70% of all baptized Catholics who have either dropped the identity altogether or hardly ever darken the door. The 85% of young adult Catholics who still bear the name but don’t attend Mass regularly, who don’t consider it important to be married in the Church (or get married at all!), and who are unlikely to baptize their children – when and if they have them.
4) Deliberately adopt a missional rather than defensive stance toward non-Catholic people in your life and the larger non-Catholic world about you. You can’t evangelize the new agnostics from within a barricade.
5) Remember that the cultural wind of pluralism and personal choice favors those who reach out to evangelize. In the US, at this very moment, roughly a quarter of American adults are either actively spiritually searching or at least passively open and scanning the horizon for intriguing religious options. You are already in relationship with some of these people. Many of them are restless Catholics who are considering leaving or lapsed adults of any faith background who looking for alternatives. The majority of adults raised without a faith in this country will choose one as an adult. Most Americans have talked to others about their view of God and faith, so they might as well be talking to you!
6) Write down your own story of how knowing and loving Jesus Christ and his Church has impacted your life. Actively look for opportunities to share that story with others. St. Francis never said “use words if necessary”. Instead, he walked thousands of miles over Europe and the Middle East to tell The Story to those who had never heard it.
7) Realize that most Catholics and most unbelieving people don’t know much about Jesus and the essentials of the Christian faith and that a good deal of what they “know” is wrong. Contemplate and practice telling what Fr. Robert Barron calls “the Great Story of Jesus”, the basic essentials of the Gospel that awaken initial Christian faith. (This is the kergyma which needs to be proclaimed before people are ready for catechesis which is designed to help those already Christian to mature in their faith. Catholics tend to leap into catechesis long before 21st century people are ready for it and they don't get it.) The only way many of your neighbors will ever hear the Great Story is from you.
8) I'd like to recommend that you read a relatively short, easy to read but remarkably dead-on and practical book: I Once Was Lost: What Post-Modern Skeptics Taught Us About Their Path to Jesus. The authors of "I Once Was Lost have learned some amazing stuff from their work in campus ministry (in the west, California and Colorado) over the past 20 years and have distilled it in a way that all evangelizers can really benefit from. This is the source of the central insight behind our Making Disciples evangelization seminars.
9) In the parish, help revamp your RCIA program so that it isn’t just a rite of religious passage but a true evangelizing experience. As we have seen in parishes, an RCIA program that transforms people’s lives is an RCIA program that other spiritual wanderers will join. More on that in a separate post.
10) Gather a group of friends together and being praying regularly for the spiritual renewal of your families and friends, your parish, your neighborhood, and your city. When God’s people pray with passion and consistency, the spiritual atmosphere of a place changes and suddenly people become open to options they never considered before.
And although this series wasn’t intended to be an ad, consider dropping the Catherine of Siena Institute a line at
or check out our 2011 calendar. We offer unique, cutting edge formation training and resources that change the live of individuals and foster the development of an evangelizing, missional culture at the parish level. We’ve worked in over 100 dioceses and with tens of thousands of lay Catholics and parish and diocesan leaders and we specialize in the formation of evangelizing lay apostles for the 21st century.
Wondering where to start at the parish level? Read Where From Here in the New Year? Start with RCIA