A Million-and-One New Ways to Proclaim Jesus

Once in a blue moon, I get my hair cut at a hair salon, and last week afforded me one of those rare occasions. The lady who cut my hair was a thin middle-aged woman with a stiff dark bob and arms heavily splattered with a rainbow of tattoos. She was efficient and excellent at her job; she also was sensitive to the fact that I, unlike many of her customers, was not a “talker,” so she resorted to talking to the other stylists as she combed and cut my hair.

“I had a dream last night that I was pregnant again,” she laughed, turning to the woman on her right.

“Oh, Lord . . .” groaned her companion, shaking her head.

“I know, isn’t that nuts,” my stylist replied. Glancing at me in the mirror, she explained that she had sterilized herself years previously. “So it’s like not even possible,” she said.

I squirmed uncomfortably as the conversation swiftly moved on to other topics. Somehow I felt guilty at having missed an opportunity. There sat I, a Catholic young adult with a solid Catholic education under my belt, one of the John Paul II generation that was supposed to change the world and restore all things in Christ. And I couldn’t even bring up morality in front of my hairdresser as she casually dismissed the sacred, life-giving powers of human sexuality. I just sat there, shrinking behind my big black cape and trying to melt into the salon chair.

As much as I failed to do so, I did desperately want to plant a seed, ask a question, open up an opportunity. That’s the way personal evangelization starts—or so I’m told, because, as you probably have guessed, I’m awfully bad at it. When face-to-face with a chance to speak the truth to one who thinks differently, I always seem to utterly flub it. I miss the cue and fail to speak before the topic changes, or I cannot think of what to say until hours later.

If that sort of evangelization was the only kind out there, I would be, to put it mildly, sunk. But fortunately for people like me, in our day and age, when every faithful Catholic is called upon to be a witness for Christ in a world that has rejected Him, there is a multitude of other chances, in many different fields and through many approaches. In particular, in these times there is an immeasurably vast new ground to be won for Christ, and Pope Benedict XVI has been particularly vocal in urging young Catholics to use the new tools at their disposal to evangelize that new world.

I’m speaking, of course, of the internet. There is incredible potential for evangelization in social networking like Facebook, in YouTube, in the blogging world, in Twitter. Those of us who can use these tools, who maybe even are skilled at using them, have an increasingly important responsibility to use them well, to use them for the greater glory of God. Although they are most often used to transmit secular messages, these sites can and should be used to actively proclaim the truth.  As our contemporaries, dissatisfied and longing for happiness, wander about the cyber-world seeking not only entertainment but fulfillment, we should be out there letting them know where that abiding fulfillment can be found: in Christ.

Take Facebook, for instance. It’s a social networking stream that, if not heavily polluted, can at least be pretty pointless—a hub of mindless procrastination. But precisely because it can reach so many people, it’s a perfect outlet for Christians to witness to the truth—to post about it, talk about it, proclaim it in that very public world by showing that they’re not afraid to identify themselves with their Faith and show the world what living the Christian life looks like. Catholics on Facebook can share their faith experiences with those who otherwise may never come into contact with faithful Christianity.  Moreover, because social networking is exactly that—a network—when someone connects with one person who lives the Faith to the fullest, he often quickly comes into contact with a whole group of others who are doing the same. For that reason, Catholics can use the same outlet to actively spread the Catholic position on key issues. For instance, I know an actively pro-life young woman who frequently posts pro-life images and news to her Facebook feed—and all of her “friends,” and her “friends of friends,” Christian, agnostic, or whatever, pro-life and pro-choice alike, will stumble across that taste of the truth as they browse their Facebook Newsfeed over their morning coffee—and even more people will see it if it has “likes” or comments.

That’s just one small example; but there are many other avenues of using new media for Christ that are rapidly rising in importance and influence. Catholic bloggers have in recent years dramatically increased the volume of the Catholic voice on the web on political issues, pro-life and pro-family topics.  Catholic magazines and news sites that have moved online in recent years are now reaching a much larger audience. Young adults gifted with video-editing skills have also taken huge strides in promulgating the faith to an image-and-sound-byte driven world. Such tools and opportunities are available for free to everyone with internet access; so virtually every Catholic has the chance to make the best of them. On the web, we can also expand our ability to evangelize in new media by connecting with and supporting other Catholics across the world in ways we were never able to do previously, so that together we can speak about Christ to a generation that is giving Him the cold shoulder.

It’s not my charism to argue apologetics over the fence with my Baptist neighbor or catechize my hairdresser on sexual morality as she evens out my bangs. There are gifted individuals that can do that, and it’s a special responsibility they are called to exercise prudently; I hope that maybe it’s a skill I can pick up with time. But right now, for those of us who aren’t so adept at being vocal in those situations but still want to be Christian witnesses, there are thousands of less time-sensitive opportunities right at our fingertips. Across the internet, young adult Catholics who understand this new world have a special opportunity to proclaim Christ, to speak the truth, and to get the message of the Gospel “out there” where our secular counterparts can find it.

Lauren Enk

By

Lauren Enk is a student at Christendom College in Front Royal, VA, where she plans to major in English and minor in Philosophy. She writes as an editor for Christendom’s student newspaper, The Rambler, regularly posts opinion articles at her own blog, God’s Spies, and is a regular contributor to The Catholic Young Woman Blog.

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  • Annie

    OK, once again I am hearing the unbelievable stance on “be fruitful and multiple” if it is God’s will. Do you have children of your own? I have three children, all healthy and active. In order to send them to Catholic school we have to sacrifice a great deal, such as, not eating out, not going to the movies or amusement parks, not having cell phones or other popular electronics, VERY few vacations over the years, buying our clothes at the Goodwill, etc. None of that we mind doing, but if I had more children I would quickly have to go on welfare and we are not at all near poverty level.

    Get a grip people, I did multiply and I do not believe for one minute that Gods has a problem with me not having more children, no matter what means I take to avoid having another child. You are listen to men who have never raised a child and who know nothing of the physical, emotional, and mental energy it take to raise children and than do everything else that is required of you. A spoke to my priest when my husband and I decided 3 children was enough for us and he gave me his blessing that God would be ok with that. Thank God there are reasonable priests out there to guide people to logical, understandable decision.

  • Patricia

     Dear Annie,

    I completely understand your anxiety about having more children.  After the birth of my third child, I experienced what all parents dread, a life-threatening illness of a child.  Hospital bills piled up, the house was falling apart.  How could I deal with another pregnancy?  What if the next child had to go through the suffering that the last child had?  How could we handle it financially?  Millions of fears! 
    Eventually, for me it came down to this question… is there a God? “Yes” was the answer.  Does He know we’re broke? “Yes.”  Does He know how hard it is to bear the suffering of your own child? Definitely “Yes”.  Do I trust God?  I hadn’t, but I wanted to.  I asked His help to trust Him, to have another child.  The result is the author of this article, Lauren Enk.  I’ve had two more after Lauren, after 40 years old, and two more in heaven.  Eight total.  Eternal lives! Eternally grateful to God for those lives.  I can’t answer for the priest who gave you the advice, but I can tell you and anyone suffering from fear and anxiety over the future… Turst God!  He is GOD!

  • Jordan

    Annie,

    There is much to be said concerning you fear of and anxiety
    over raising children. I believe you have genuine concerns, but a wrong view of life, love, and reality. I’ve never raised children myself, and I not going to be
    pretentious and tell you how to do it, but I’m going to rely on principles here
    that are universal: one does not need to be a parent to understand these things.

     

    First of all, as a mother, you are called to love and to
    love selflessly. What does this mean except to give your all for your
    children? Well, it seems like you understand this to an extent, but not really.
    You only give to the children you have now. Not the children you were, perhaps,
    going to have by the love of God. Which is more important anyway? A new infant’s
    life, under what you might call less than the best circumstances; or the fact
    that you don’t want to be on welfare? I’m sorry. Your reasoning and complaint
    would have induced more sympathy if you had said that you did not want your now never-to-be future children to need to live on welfare. But you did not say
    that. You said that you did not want
    to live on welfare. You sacrificed those children for your own comfort. That does
    not sound very selfless to me.

     

    As for God not having a problem with you not having more
    children, I agree . . . if you do it God’s way. God never said you needed to
    have children indefinitely. That being said, He never said you could mutilate
    His creation of your body to accommodate your ends. If you wanted to stop
    having children, you could have done it in a natural and moral way. I’m sorry
    your priest said what he said. I can’t read his mind or his heart, but it makes
    me sad that there are priests who have lost their sense of reason.  

     

    I agree with Patricia about trusting God. After all, who is
    all powerful? Who made the world and creates life? Who would have created those
    children whose lives you’ve now cut out? God. Do you think God, the One Who
    holds creation together with His love and loves new creatures into existence through
    that same love, would have given you or these children a life you or they could
    not bear without His love, help, and grace? Do you really think God would give
    you a child – your child – if He did not think you could raise the child in a
    manner both for your good and the child’s? If you believe in God, which you
    imply you do, believe that He actually does have the best interest of His
    creatures in mind, and He does love you, and He would never have given you a
    gift of a child you could not bear. He says He won’t give us a cross we cannot
    carry; how much better could we carry our gifts. Life is a gift. Please never
    think of it as a burden again.

     

    Thanks to parents who love selflessly and give themselves
    totally and whole-heartedly to their vocations, trusting in God and without
    counting the cost to themselves. Without them we would not have this beautiful
    article, and I would not have a beautiful girlfriend, who is its author.

  • Annie

    Patricia,

    Thank you for sharing; however I want to let you know I had no fears of having more children. I believe got gave me common sense and a sense of responsibility to look at my situation in a mature manner. Even if I had wanted more children I would have adopted rather than getting pregnant. I loved being pregnant, but there are to many children out there with no families for me to go and have 6 or 7 kids of my own, I respect your decision, but it is not one I would have ever made.I was “fruitful and multiplied” I do not think God has a problem with me having only three children.

  • Annie

    Well Jordan yes you were completely pretentious in your first paragraph, but I continued reading. If you don’t have children yet you know NOTHING about what your are talking about. You will be shocked when you do have children and I am sure you will remember your critical and naive response.

    Yes I only give to the children I have now, what do you give to the children you haven’t had yet. When I am fighting against inappropriate subject matter, drugs, bullying, depression, anxiety, self esteem issue, and all everyday issues. When I am trying to get them to church, to put them through Catholic school (at the cost of $15, 000 a year each), work to put them there, extracurricular activities,and giving back to the community and others, I have no time to give to a potential child that may never come and I would be less of a parent if I did.

    Again no one talks about adopting children rather than having more of my own, which is what I would do if I ever had more children. If I am selfish it is because I haven’t adopted a child yet. I NEVER said I cannot have more children, I did nothing to my body, again you were critical and presumptuous.

    Now for the welfare part, if I was on welfare, all my children would be on welfare. It isn’t about my comfort it is about someone else paying for my life, many of who do not believe what you believe. Why should our government pay for a family that has more children than they can possibly afford? Yes I could go on to have many more children if God wills it, but than we would end up living in a dangerous housing complex where there are drug addicts and prostitutes on every corner. I could send all my children to public school and pray they get through the day. I am sorry if you and your girlfriend are upset by my response, but if she could not handle people who disagree with her she should not have posted, especially on a subject she knows very little about.

    Lets say the two of you go on to have children but her pregnancies are horrific, not deadly but months of pain and suffering to be followed by a tremendously hard delivery, you would want her to go through that possibly 6, 7, 8 times because God wants you to have more children. Yes I believe in God’s love and I trust him to give me common sense, to use educated rational choices, not naive blind faith. What about all those people starving, who cannot feed all the children they have, does God not love them? Why hasn’t he helped them? Men should not even have the biggest say on the issue of having children. If you are going by the Bible you are reading from men who wanted to have many children for much different cultural reasons than we have today. If men had to be pregnant and deliver a child there would be millions of less children in the world.You have a great deal of growing up to do Jordan, so why don’t you do that then come back and be critical and judgmental, at least you will then have a clue to what your are talking about.

  • Lauren

    Dear Annie,

     

    First, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts regarding
    the first part of my article. I appreciate that you read it even though you may
    disagree somewhat. I hope we can have a clear
    discussion about these things, and I know that none of us want it to degenerate
    into personal attacks on each other. We all would like to hold a good conversation,
    I’m sure, without fighting or hurting one another. J I am sorry if anyone offended or
    upset you, or if what I wrote upset you. I love getting feedback on
    what I wrote, though, and I certainly hope I can handle someone disagreeing
    with me. J

     

    I think maybe, though, that you might be taking what I said
    about sterilization a little bit in the wrong direction, or maybe you
    misunderstood. The command in Genesis for couples to “be fruitful and multiply”
    is not some sort of checklist for married life: “Okay, we did that, now moving
    on.” It’s meant to encourage an attitude of openness to the gift of life which
    is a characteristic of a Christian marriage—and that in no way dictates exactly
    how many children one has. It’s perfectly alright for a woman and her husband to
    prayerfully discern whether for some grave financial or health-related reason,
    it may be God’s will for them to limit or space the number of their children;
    it’s just that the Holy Spirit through the Church has made it very clear that
    there are certain ways that are good and natural in which that may be done, and
    certain ways that violate the dignity of the human person, that do more harm to
    the love and holiness of the marriage bed than good for the family as a whole.

     

    Sterilization and contraception are two of those ways that
    destroy the natural ordering of the human person to God, because they violate
    the natural design of the body God created; they treat the God-given gift of
    fertility like an illness to be fixed or a tumor to be removed, instead of a
    gift to be taken care of responsibly.

     

    Natural Family Planning is one way in which couples are encouraged,
    for a serious reason, to be prudent in discerning God’s plan for the size of
    their families. NFP does this through certain planned periods of abstinence,
    which, unlike contraception or sterilization, are not a violation of the marital
    act, since in abstinence no marital act is taking place during the time in
    question. Although this is certainly more difficult than a quick operation or
    popping a pill, as it requires the faithful love and commitment of both spouses, the
    best way to do something is often also the hardest way—as Jesus himself warned
    us.

     

    This isn’t an arbitrary commandment made by old men who don’t
    care about or understand the sufferings of women; it’s a teaching of our
    Mother, the Church, inspired directly by the Holy Spirit—who is not a man, nor a woman,
    but God, who understands very intimately every heartache and pain of His loved
    ones. It’s offered with the utmost respect for the sanctity of a woman’s body, and for the sacredness of the human power to give life through sexuality.

     

    I hope maybe this clears up a little bit what exactly my
    stance is, and that maybe this will help dissipate some of the tension and drama
    this discussion has caused. Again, thanks for reading my article and sharing
    your thoughts on it! I’m always excited to hear other opinions on what I have
    to say.

     

     

    God bless you, Annie, and I hope you have a beautiful day! J

     

    ~Lauren 

  • Annie

    Lauren,

    Thank you for your reply. I truly respect your beliefs, although it sounds like you are very young and have many great and not so great experiences to go through. I don’t like to assume, but it sounds like you are very dedicated to the beliefs of The Church, that leads me to believe you have not had any sexual relationships as of yet. That in itself will be a huge growing experience and I hope a very spiritual and positive one for you when you get married. However, at the age of 45 and talking to many very devoted Catholic over the years, there are many issues that can arise even to the most spiritual couples. Some you could not possibly imagine.

    My husband and I tried for a long time to have our first child. We did the charting and the planning, along with the praying; however, it was one of the most polarizing, stressful things we have ever gone through and in no way helped our marriage. We found that with many couples we spoke with that were trying natural planning. After a good amount of time, we chose to have help having our first child, going against the Catholic Church’s teachings. Are you ready to face that kind of situation and not have children of your own because you cannot have help having them?

    Birth control pills are a form of something that is naturally in our body. If we were treating fertility as a tumor like you said, we would be putting poison in our bodies to prevent preganacy.Yes, The Church who made these beliefs has been inspired by The Holy Spirit, The Holy Spirit tries to inspire all of us, but that does not mean we do not make mistakes or misinterpret God’s wants for us. Again these are men, who know very little about a woman’s body even if they do have the best intentions for us. I respect all those who are true to NFP and succeed and I hope that works for you in your life.

    It sounds like you are a very intelligent person and a fine writer; plus you have a boyfriend who cares for you very much. I do believe God was looking out for you that day in the salon, because I believe that woman would have given you a tongue lashing commenting on things you have not even experienced yet. For your boyfriend, he will continue to bring about drama by being so complete judgmental about something he knows absolutely nothing about. I will concede to being a selfish person, but no one who knows me would ever say I am a selfish mother by any stretch of the imagination. I would never pressume to know what being elderly is like in the world today and I believe their is much more I have to learn in life as do the two of you. I hope you both have lives that fit your beliefs.

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