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Evangelization: Practical Tips from Parents

We've spoken on and off about evangelization on this blog--often in theoretical terms. One of the best theologically informed and (mirable dictu) practical accounts I've read on the subject is in this week's America: Betty Ann Donnelly and Philip Pulaski reflect about about how the grounded their three daughters in the faith. I think more stories like this ought to be told.Here's the opening paragraph:"In the last week of August, we loaded up the big rig (a k a our minivan) and drove the youngest of our three daughters to Baltimore to begin her freshman year at Loyola University Maryland. Mission accomplished? We now have three lovely young women enrolled at Jesuit universities and discerning their paths forward. At times all three have been frustrated with and uninspired by the institutional church, but they remain engaged in exploring and wrestling with their Catholic Christian faith, whichwe would like to hopehas grounded them and helped to form them into the thoughtful young women they are today." 

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Sadly, the first graf is only available to non-subscribers. I hope the remainder of the article avoids the self-congratulatory tone of the lede.

Evangelization tips, but for subscribers only.

The authors of the America piece, should have congrats to have put their resources where their faith lay and the family engaged in family faith practice from a young age is the key. But at $60k for each of three daughters at Jesuit schools [tuition/room and board] @ $180K a year this is not my answer to on-going evangelization! at least not what I call 'practical.

Regarding Evangelization:I subscribe to both Commonweal and America, and I check the blogs of each daily. It is good to see both magazines in public libraries (maybe "evangelization"). However, this piece in America is mostly inspiration and formation, rather than information. The bishop of Rockville Centre has just changed from a weekly newspaper that did both formation and information, to a monthly magazine (from Faith Publishing, Lansing, Michigan) with a single local editor and two people soliciting local advertising. ---The Catholic Community deserves both formation (bucks spent on schools and Religious Ed, which keeps getting cut back) and information (disclosing what's going on in headquarters, plus listing November 1 Mass schedules and courses in other parishes).----Concerning the America piece, all praise to these parents! Not every family has missionaries up the family tree. Not every family is the same. Not every person follows the same exact path in life. But inspiration helps.

My own feeble attempt to evangelize my kids by having them meet "people [] whom we wanted our girls to come to know as role models, those who had dedicated their lives both to direct service and to engaging in the mystery of the Eucharist in the public square" was, in retrospect, comically disastrous. I once invited a priest over to my house for a meal, specifically with my kids' evangelization in mind, so that "the dining room table [could be a] locale for dialogue and growth in our home". But said priest made a pass at me, a then quite upsetting incident. When a bit later I told my kids about it, my precocious daughter exclaimed, almost triumphantly: "I knew it! I could tell that there was something fishy about him!" Evangelization practical tip #1: do not invite unknown priests to your house without a chaperone.As to my latest attempt (just two days ago) to evangelize my niece by taking her on a walk to drop parish leaflets into neighborhood mailboxes, which I had thought would be a fun "missionary" activity for a young child, it coincided with heavy rain and ended with her, during the entire last half mile walk back home, crying miserably from being wet and cold.Evangelization practical tip #2: no missionary activity when the weather forecast calls for rain.

Another memorable attempt at creative evangelization: for catechism, I decided to take my group of ten-year-old kids on a field trip, taking the RER train to go to a famous Catholic bookstore in Paris. I bought tickets for everyone, they got on the train while I punched the tickets ... and the train left the station with the kids inside it while I was still on the platform punching the tickets! Evangelization practical tip #3: do not lose the kids while they are under your care.And another: one year I convinced one of my kids to embark on a special project for Ash Wednesday: have a bowl of rice instead of dinner. We soberly ate our rice while her father ate a full meal with visible relish. He ended his meal with a juicy pear, quartered and delicately peeled it, showing it to her and asking: "Are you sure you don't want any?" - then, after eating some with ostentatious enjoyment: "Not even a little bit? Come on!" Finally the child, her mouth watering, could not resist anymore and had a small piece of the delicious fruit while her dad threw me a victorious glance. The kid was immediately seized by remorse of her lack of steadfastness, and the evening ended with bitter tears. Evangelization practical tip #4: When embarking on fasting experiments, get everyone on board first.

But at $60k for each of three daughters at Jesuit schools [tuition/room and board] @ $180K a year this is not my answer to on-going evangelization! at least not what I call practical.

What Ed said. And shouldn't the skyrocketing cost of tuition and affordability of education be an election issue not to mention a basic social justice issue that Catholic universities need to examine?

Claire, regarding your experience that led to evangelization practical tip #1: I'm glad you can write about it now with a degree of wry humor, but it's pretty horrifying. I've read that the incidence of what you were subjected to is far more common than the abuse of children and teens that sickens us. What happened to you is abusive, too. I'm sorry that it happened to you.I applaud you for trying to immerse your children and your niece in the church in these ways. But my assumption is that you've been evangelizing your children and those around you all your life, more often than not without even intentionally trying to, just by your example of holy living.

Jim: no big deal. I guess that my larger point is that the family whose life is pictured in the America article seem to be in remarkably favorable circumstances, which, to their credit, they try to leverage as much as possible. But most of us face a more adversarial context. As to showing an "example of holy living": from last Sunday's gospel, it's pretty clear (unless one chooses to breezily relativize what's written according to what's convenient) that I'm headed straight for hell. On the positive side, so is everyone around me, as well as, probably, many readers of this blog, so, even if once we're there we'll have to bear with the absence of God and of the saints, at least we'll have one another for company.

Ha! Great stories, Claire. Your own example of being a good person may be the real evangelization, since it sounds like they have pretty good radar. I don't know how old your kids are, but as mine get older, as I rant about this and that (mostly saying things like "Aquinas says ..."), I hear echoes of what I say in the things they say, as though they thought of it themselves.

Catholicism is an adult religion for adults. It might be taught, but has to be caught or it will not be there.