Hopefully every Catholic who attends Mass at least semi-regularly has heard the phrase, "New Evangelization."
The seeds for The New Evangelization were originally planted during the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) and all of the post-council popes have continued to water and nuture those seeds in the hopes of calling those who are away from Christ and his Church back into a deeper relationship with both.
Saint John Paul II spoke on the New Evangelization during a homily he gave when visiting Mexico in 1990. He said:
To evangelize means to announce the Good News. And the Good News which the Christian communicates to the world is that God, who alone is Lord, is merciful towards all his creatures, loves man with limitless love and has sought to intervene personally in his history by means of his Son Jesus Christ, who died and rose for us, to free us from sin and from all its consequences and to make us sharers in his divine life.
There are tons of online resources available to help those wanting to know more about The New Evangelization, so I won't take this post to explain it. Instead, I wanted to take this writing opportunity to contribute a few ideas to the larger thread on evangelization, and explain what Catholics must do in order to be effective as part of The New Evangelization.
1) Catholics must have a deep understanding of the Catholic faith
Arguably, this first point is the most challenging, if for no other reason than it is the most time consuming. Most Catholics agree catechesis in the United States for the past 40+ years has been horrible. Okay, well if we know that, what are we doing about it? If in ten years, people are saying, "Catechesis for the past 50+ years has been horrible," then that means we failed.
We must reject the notion that returning to the "Baltimore Catechism" is the answer. That is a question and answer catechism where people memorized responses to questions. That is simply not good enough. Men and women of faith must know, not only what is taught (i.e. the answer to the question), but why it is taught, along with the historical context, in order to be truly effective.
For example, most Catholics know the answer to the question, "Can my non-Catholic friend receive communion at Mass?" The answer is, "No." But if the person can't provide some additional information - the why - then the answer could be preceived as offensive.
If the person could provide why the Church does not have an "open" communion table, then it invites an opprotunity for discussion. That discussion is evangelization.
Then, if they could take it step further,and provide some historical background, then the richness of the conversation deepens. For example, consider this quotation from St. Justin Martyr from the year 155!
And this food is called among us Ε?χαριστ?α [the Eucharist], of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined (St Justin Martyr, First Apology).
So, the reasons why non-Catholics can't receive communion at Mass is a long-standing teaching, dating back to the very beginnings of Christianity. The justification for it invites Catholics and non-Catholics alike to think about why they even want to go to communion in the first place.
2) Catholics must work to understand the position of those they evangelize
This could be as tough as number one.
It would take a lifetime (and then some) to gain a deep understanding of every world religion (e.g. Judiasm, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, Mormonism, Sikhism, etc.). I wouldn't even invite anyone to try.
However, I would invite Catholics to attempt to understand the people they most come in contact with. Does your town have a Baptist "mega-church" in it? Well, maybe taking some time to understand the tenants of the local Baptists would be helpful in your evangelization efforts. Maybe you have a couple colleagues at work who are Buddhists. Learning some key points about Buddhism would be a good idea.
However, the people you may have the most contact with are fallen away Catholics. You already know Catholicism, if you've been working on #1, so you don't have anything "new" to learn to approach them. The challenge is to listen and learn from them why they left. Be prepared though because it's not likely to be a theological issue. I don't think I have ever encountered anyone who said, "I left the Catholic Church because of their teaching on the Trinity." Most times they left for reasons that are intensely personal, so listening and praying for them (pray with them if they are willing) may be the most important thing you do in bringing them back to the fold.
3) Develop personal and loving responses to arguments against the Catholic faith
Coming right on the heels of learning the position of those you are attempting to evangelize is the need to be able to reply to objections.
Non-Catholics are far more likely to have theological questions, or want to get into an apologetics quid pro quo. That will be no problem, assuming you have done your homework in steps one and two. If you have, then you already know what you're up against.
For example, if you are evangelizing a Protestant Fundamentalist at work, you know they are going to be critical of the Mass, Mary, Saints, and the papacy. There are plenty of resources to help you not only learn about the Catholic faith, but help you with responses to those critical of Catholicism.
A couple of key points to remember. First, I said develop "personal and loving responses." For instance, in addition to knowing key doctrines related to Mary (e.g. Immaculate Conception, Assumption, Perpetual Virginity), and being able to refute common misconceptions, personal stories are a crucial evangelization tool. After discussing the theology, share a bit on how you incorporated the Blessed Mother into your own spiritual life.
Second, resist the temptation to be triumphant. Depending on your personality, that may be difficult. It is bred into people to "win;" everyone wants to be the winner. Evangelization is not about you winning an argument, it's about people's souls.
Third, remember what you sow may not be yours to harvest. In other words, if after a few lunch time conversations with your co-worker, they haven't come to you asking to join RCIA, don't worry about it. Pray. Stay in touch with them. It may be what you've shared with them will take time to mature and produce results. It could be years later, when they hear someone else talking about their Catholic faith, that they are reminded of what you shared, and their heart is stirred to seek the Lord in the Catholic Church.
Depending where you are in these three ideas, you may have a lot of work to do. That's okay. God knows right where you are, and He wants to take you further in your spiritual development, so that He can use you to spread his Good News. So, as Saint John Paul II said:
So, what are you waiting for? Let's get started!