Catholics and Evangelization

Last night I reached into the back pocket of the pants I wore to Mass Sunday and pulled out the bulletin from the Mass I attended at Our Lady of Lourdes. The pastor’s message, written by my friend Fr. Dan Griffith, had a very sobering statement in it.

Dan began by referring to the American gymnast Gabby Douglas’ statement in an interview after winning the gold medal for the all-around performance. She said, “It’s a win, win; we give glory to God and He showers blessings upon us.”

Dan then shared that his thought as he watched her praise of God was that “the chances of her being Catholic are about 1%.” He elaborated:

One rarely hears Catholics thanking or praising God in public. We often keep our faith very tightly to ourselves, rarely engaging in public manifestations of our faith.

If Dan is right, that is a pretty damning indictment. As he pointed out in his message, the original impulse of the Church was evangelical. More importantly, we are called to proclaim the Gospel just as Jesus instructed his disciples. to do so. In his Apostolic exhortation, Christifideles Laici, Pope John Paul II wrote:

The entire mission of the Church, then, is concentrated and manifested in evangelization. Through the winding passages of history the Church has made her way under the grace and the command of Jesus Christ: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation” …and lo, I am with you always, until the close of the age”…. “To evangelize,” writes Paul VI, “is the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her most profound identity.”

Do we behave as Gabby Douglas did? Or is Fr. Dan right that we who call ourselves Catholics have fallen down on our task to go out into the world to live and speak God’s word?