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With respect to responding to atheists, I'm inclined to think they are generally both evil and insincere, and not deserving of much time or comment unless they exhibit some elements of good will and repentance, but I hope others will comment on their philosophy about this.
I too struggle with Dr Kreeft's QA (see comments in other threads), but let's remember the challenges of the old Catechism, and also the new Compendium, and be patient and keep on reading.
I'm not happy with the name of that group either--there should be a more general "Catholics on LT" group. But anyway, that's where the conversation is.
I also helped teach RCIA courses--not for 25 years. I'm interested in your take.
My time for evangelism and ecumenism is probably mostly past (as a retiree), and even after Pope Francis started writing about it, I've been inclined to think that evangelism was a very special calling that warranted high levels of both training and skill that were beyond me.
But apologetics keeps calling me, at least to the extent that it is very difficult for me to let anti-Christian or even other anti-religion comments go past without some comment on my part, not necessarily a refutation, but at least an indication of my faith.
For years I've tried to reflect my faith in my conversation, especially among family, friends, and neighbors: using expressions like pray for us, God bless you, thanks to God, Heaven help us. Occasionally one of these will slip out with an atheist, and one in particular has responded at least a couple of times with something like I'll wish you good luck (instead of prayer). Although I don't deliberately provoke her, I have struggled to think of a meaningful response:
a-Do you think that (luck) will help?
b-I'm afraid that might not help.
c-I think I need more than that.
How would you respond?
Have you found an interesting Catechism Group here?
I've been a "professional" missionary for much of my adult life, working with the church in Africa, and at that level I suppose it is a "very special calling" (and you're right, it does involve specialist training). But I think evangelism is something that we are all called to. Simply living a good life is evangelism, preaching by example - as St Francis reportedly said, "Evangelise always and use words (only) when necessary".
But I also hear what you say about being a retiree. I'm not there yet, but I'm in my sixties and I feel myself moving towards a less active life, consciously handing over to younger colleagues, taking a step back, seeking "being" rather than "doing", perhaps doing some more reflecting and writing. In that respect, I see myself moving more towards the contemplative side of life than apologetics.
one in particular has responded at least a couple of times with something like I'll wish you good luck (instead of prayer)... How would you respond?
I think my first reaction would be gratituude to God and to her that she wishes the best for me according to her own worldview; that is indeed God's grace at work. My verbal response (St Francis' second choice of evangelism!) would be simply to say, "Thank you" and to show appreciation. And then I would continue, in a low-key manner through my normal actions and engagement with her, to show her that she is loved and valued for who she is, regardless of whether or not she shares my own understanding of God.
* I don't see a clear path forward for Catholic evangelism in the US.
* The closest I can see is if Francis can effectively rebrand Catholicism, toward love, mercy, and openness that calls us to draw closer to Christ--in prayer, in life, in care for the marginalized, etc. But most of the US bishops, and indeed the most active Catholics, seem unalterably focused on culture-war issues that widen the chasm between the church and those who might ever join it.
* Even if the bishops' weren't doing so, the sexual issues are a meat-grinder for efforts to convert effectively, especially among young people.
* However you look at it, Catholics are bad at evangelism. Bad overall—six Catholics leave the church for every one that enters. And they're bad compared to Protestant denominations. This isn't new—the Catholic church in the US has never been good at it; the Catholic church in the US grew by immigration, not persuasion.
* In my experience, RCIA draws from Catholics who lapsed very young and from evangelical Protestants. There's minimal recruitment from the secularized. Actual, committed atheists are sometimes more receptive—they are at least actively engaged in a religious conversation, not just dismissing the whole topic and the purview of magical bigots.
* As someone I know in ministry remarked, Catholic evangelism tends to draw exactly the Catholics who shouldn't be doing it. I once sat in a meeting of the RCIA leaders from my entire state. All I could think was "we're screwed."
* As a former Protestant myself, I see so many ways the church screws up the basics. Few Catholic churches welcome new people. Few have so much as a post-mass coffee--they're sacramental filling stations, and that's that. Few make any real effort to reach out to them, or to lapsed Catholics who wander in. Although in theory the first stage of RCIA is "inquiry," practically RCIA is only offered to those who've already committed to becoming Catholic.
* There is no Catholic equivalent to C. S. Lewis, or more modern Protestant authors. There is a crying need for such a book.
I have struggled to think of a meaningful response:
I don't think someone wishing you luck is a good opportunity to evangelize.
* I used to listen to Kreeft, but since his friendly, bantering debate with the disgusting anti-Islamic bigot Robert Spencer, I've stopped.
I think that is indeed the hope, not just for the USA or for Catholics, but for the world.
Few Catholic churches welcome new people. Few have so much as a post-mass coffee--they're sacramental filling stations, and that's that. Few make any real effort to reach out to them, or to lapsed Catholics who wander in
This conversation goes back at least as far as the 1970s. When I was studying theology the narrative was framed as "mission or maintenance". The image of the sacramental filling station was definitely identified with maintenance.
There is a crying need for such a book
Yes, we probably lack thoughtful but accessible authors. I'm currently very taken with the Franciscan-based thinking of Richard Rohr, particularly his latest book, The Divine Dance, but I'm not sure how accessible it would seem to a complete outsider - ironic, really, as one of his aims is to abolish the insider/outsider identity dichotomy.
I followed your comments looking for discussions and books about evangelism--wound up frustrated that although there are loads of books I could find few reviews and discussion, so I started a new group which I pray you will visit and contribute to.
Also, you got me searching into Catechism. I spent about 20 years on our parish RCIA team, so I have a few thoughts--but mostly along the line of thought that most generalizations are used foolishly or deceitfully, and the sacramental filling station remark I consider obnoxious when you consider the demands on the pastor of even a small parish.
I would agree there is a very unfortunate lack of integration between many parishes and such separate Church functions as Catholic Services, missionary services, and monasteries, and this is sad, a big mistake, and needs correction both by parishes seeking more programs to better acquaint parishioners with other regional Church organizations, and those organizations to contribute to the education and motivation of nearby parishioners.
Somewhere here at LT there must be a better place to discuss the Pope's rebranding interests, and how recent emphasis on Ecumenism undermines Evangelism.
I've encounter several praises of Richard Rohr, but haven't found any compelling reviews yet--could you wrote one--or point me in the right direction?
Could you give us the link, please, or at least the name of the group?
when you consider the demands on the pastor of even a small parish
I would rather say, "when you consider the demands that the current models of ministry make on the pastor".
Somewhere here at LT there must be a better places to discuss the Pope's rebranding interests
There is an ongoing thread about Francis in general on the Catholic Tradition group at http://www.librarything.com/topic/245267
recent emphasis on Ecumenism undermines Evangelism
That's certainly not my experience. I would rather say that the two are complementary.
I would be most grateful for your support, suggested readings, and comments. If you search for books on Evangelism at LT, you'll find quite a number of books, but very few member-owners and almost never a review.
Your posts on Pope Francis' activities in 'Tradition' are much appreciated and I follow them closely, even though I struggle with temptation to post against some of his issues.
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