Friday, 02 May 2014 16:04

Frequently Asked Questions

Conversion: What is it?

We should take care to avoid a definition of “conversion” that is too shallow. A popular definition of the word sees it to mean the process where someone changes from membership in one religion (or denomination) to membership in another (in our case the Catholic Church).

To adopt a fuller, deeper and more versatile definition of “conversion”, let us see it as a “change of heart”, or a turning of one’s heart towards God. Therefore, a conversion is not just when someone joins the Church, turning their heart from non-belief to belief in Christ, but also when a person turns from a state of belief to a state of greater belief in Christ, as when a Christian repents of his or her sin, or steps out in faith, and orients a part of his or her heart more towards Christ.

I was born a Catholic. That means that I’m already there, doesn’t it? I don’t need to be converted or evangelised any more, right?

The person who asks these questions misses out on the richness of a deep faith in Jesus Christ. When talking about the need for conversion, if we only look at which institution a person is a member of, then we aren’t going deep enough. Of course, for many people, the choice to enter into full and visible membership with the Catholic Church is a big decision, and the process of doing so is most certainly a “conversion”. However, in such cases, the external, visible, ritual conversion that takes place is usually an exterior sign of a deeper, interior conversion that is occurring in the person’s heart.

Why do people come back to the Catholic Church?

  1. Because they want meaning for life.
  2. Because childhood memories surface.
  3. Because they made mistakes.
  4. Because they need to forgive others.
  5. Because they want to be healed.
  6. Because the Catholic Church is the fullness of truth and grace.
  7. Because they want their children to have a faith foundation.
  8. Because they want to be part of a faith community.
  9. Because they want to help other people.
  10. Because they hunger for the Eucharist.

Why should I impose my belief system on another?

Evangelisation is to propose the faith, not to impose. When evangelising individuals and cultures need to be respected, as well as the sanctuary of conscience honoured. It should be done without coercion, or dishonourable or unworthy pressure.1

Evangelisation should not be confused with proselytization which is to impose one’s belief systems without regard freedom to choose.

Pope Francis warns against this in Evangelii Gaudium (n15):

Instead of seeming to impose new obligations, they should appear as people who wish to share their joy, who point to a horizon of beauty and who invite others to a delicious banquet. It is not by proselytizing that the Church grows, but “by attraction”.

An evangeliser is a witness and engages in meaningful and compassionate dialogue and invites others to follow Christ without judging their choice. An evangeliser is aware of another’s needs yet knows that the deepest need of the human soul is unity with God.

  1. Evangelii Nuntiandi, n79

Doesn’t evangelisation impose on another’s freedom?

Pope John Paul II answered this concern in Redemptoris Missio where in paragraph 39 it reads:

On her part the Church addresses people with full respect for their freedom. Her mission does not restrict freedom but rather promotes it. The Church proposes; she imposes nothing. She respects individuals and cultures, and she honors the sanctuary of conscience. To those who for various reasons oppose missionary activity, the Church repeats: Open the doors to Christ!

Often it is maintained that any attempts to convince others on religious matters is a limitation on their freedom.1  Inviting someone to “come and see” Christ is in full respect to their religious liberty and provides the opportunity for them to make a conscience decision to follow Christ. If someone is given a choice to follow Christ this does not place an imposition on their religious freedom but rather opens a new possibility in their life - Man is free to say yes or no to the path placed before them. Faith demands a free adherence on the part of man, but at the same time faith must also be offered to him2. Withholding the faith from another deprives them of the freedom to choose Christ. A person cannot choose something that they have not heard of. When we propose the option of following Christ, we give them the freedom to choose or reject Him, which they did not necessarily have before.

Moreover, Christ gives us true liberation and promises us “life to the full.” When we evangelise we are giving true freedom. All forms of missionary activity are marked by an awareness that one is furthering human freedom by proclaiming Jesus Christ.3

  1. New Evangelisation and the Transmission of the Christian Faith, n35
  2. Redemptoris Missio, n8
  3. Redemptoris Missio, n39

Faith is personal, so why is it my business to share it with others?

Faith is not born out of self-revelation, it is born because someone has shared it with you and because the Church has preserved it for thousands of years. It is, in fact, through the public practice and communal profession of believers that faith has been preserved, passed down and shared with you. So faith is not just personal it’s a communal walk as without Church sharing Christ’s goodness it would not be preserved. So faith is something you share with others not to be kept to oneself, especially as everyone has a right to know Christ not just yourself.

Without the public witness of the faith others will never have the ability to:

  • Receive the Good News
  • Know Jesus
  • Choose Christ
  • Christ asked us to
  • Without evangelisation there will be no new members in the Church, no Church and then no preservation of the faith
  • It’s good for you

Other reasons it is good to share the faith (See “Why should I evangelise?”):

  • Christ asked us to
  • Without evangelisation there will be no new members in the Church, no Church and then no preservation of the faith
  • It’s good for you

What if it doesn’t work?

Evangelisation involves taking risks, but the Pope Francis tells us that if we want to grow as a Church we need to be prepared to take these risks.

Pope Francis has said that “the Church must step outside herself. What happens when we step outside ourselves? The same as can happen to anyone who comes out of the house and onto the street: an accident. But I tell you, I far prefer a Church that has had a few accidents to a Church that has fallen sick.”He has likened a Church closed in on it, locked in our parish, among friends, as a room without open windows – sick and smelly. The Church is meant to be missionary and closing in on ourselves in fear of failure is closing the doors to others to know Christ. We become inward looking instead of outward looking.

Even if it does not work it is a step towards making the Church missionary – there may be another way or project to evangelise.

  1. Pentecost Audience with Ecclesial Movements, 18 May 2014

How is the Good News spread?

(from the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church 80)

From the very beginning the first disciples burned with the desire to proclaim Jesus Christ in order to lead all to faith in him. Even today, from the loving knowledge of Christ there springs up in the believer the desireto evangelize and catechize, that is, to reveal in the Person of Christ the entire design of God and to put humanity in communion with him.

Why must the Church proclaim the Gospel to the Whole World?

(from the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church n172)

The Church must do so because Christ has given the command: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). This missionary mandate of the Lord has its origin in the eternal love of God who has sent his Son and the Holy Spirit because “he desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).

What is the vocation of the lay faithful?

(from the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church n188-n191)

The lay faithful have as their own vocation to seek the Kingdom of God by illuminating and ordering temporal affairs according to the plan of God. They carry out in this way their call to holiness and to the apostolate, a call given to all the baptized.

They participate in it especially in the Eucharist by offering as a spiritual sacrifice “acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5) their own lives with all of their works, their prayers, their apostolic undertakings, their family life, their daily work and hardships borne with patience and even their consolations of spirit and body. In this way, even the laity, dedicated to Christ and consecrated by the Holy Spirit, offer to God the world itself.

They participate in it by welcoming evermore in faith the Word of Christ and proclaiming it to the world by the witness of their lives, their words, their evangelizing action, and by catechesis. This evangelizing action acquires a particular efficacy because it is accomplished in the ordinary circumstances of the world.

The laity participate in the kingly function of Christ because they have received from him the power to overcome sin in themselves and in the world by self-denial and the holiness of their lives. They exercise various ministries at the service of the community and they imbue temporal activities and the institutions of society with moral values.

What is the Kerygma?

The Kerygma is the first proclamation of the gospel in which Jesus Christ is announced as the giver of Salvation to humanity by his life, death and resurrection.  Pope Francis speaks about the Trinitarian nature of the kerygma in Evangelii Gaudium, “The fire of the Spirit is given in the form of tongues and leads us to believe in Jesus Christ who, by his death and resurrection, reveals and communicates to us the Father’s infinite mercy.”  (EG 164)

The Kerygma is at the heart of every proclamation of the gospel.  When we teach, preach or witness to others, the mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection founds and illuminates our message.  St Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom.  For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” (1 Cor 2:1-2)

The Goal
The goal of the Kerygma is to lead individuals to enter into a relationship with Jesus and respond to the call to repentance; to experience salvation and transformation.  

The Kerygma impels us to act out charitable works of evangelisation in society as we seek to transform its structures and thoughts for its benefit.  As Pope Francis writes, “Accepting the first proclamation, which invites us to receive God’s love and to love him in return with the very love which is his gift, brings forth in our lives and actions a primary and fundamental response: to desire, seek and protect the good of others.” (EG 178)

Questions to Consider
•    Do I believe that in the Father’s mercy, through Christ’s death and resurrection and the reception of the Holy Spirit, I can be forgiven of all my sins?
•    How has Christ’s death and resurrection impacted my life?
•    What influence has being baptised had on my life and my place in society?
•    What does it mean to me to be a Child of God?
•    How has the Holy Spirit guided, transformed and helped me?
•    What graces do I see in my life that I would not have had without the Holy Spirit?
•    How do I try to announce the Kerygma in my daily life?

Speeches in ACTS

Peter to the Jews:
2:14-39 at Pentecost
3:11-26 in the Temple
4:8-12 before the Sanhedrin
5:29-32 before the Sanhedrin

Peter to the Pagans
10:34-43 in Caesarea

  Stephen to the Jews
7:2-53 before the Sanhedrin
  Paul
13:16-41 at Pisidian Antioch to the Jews
17:22-31 at Athens to Greek pagans
20: 18-35 at Ephesus to Christian elders’
22:3-21 at Jerusalem to Jewish mob
24:10-21 at Caesarea before Governor Felix
26: 1-23 at Caesarea before King Agrippa
28:17-29 at Rome to Jewish leaders

Further Reading
Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, IV. Evangelization and the deeper understanding of the kerygma (n160-n179) (November 2013)
Monsignor Charles Pope, What do we mean by the term Kerygma? http://blog.adw.org/2012/10/what-do-we-mean-by-the-term-kerygma/ (October 28 2012)

End FAQ

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