Monday, October 10, 2005

Preach always...?

I have many, many friends who are not Catholic, or even Christian. I have encountered many Catholics (and Christians) who find it difficult to maintain relationships with "those from the secular world", and I've always tried to understand and respect their needs, but I am just not one of those people. I dearly love my "secular" friends, and while I disagree with many of their choices and/or lifestyles, the warmth I feel for them never cools.

However, I will say that there is somewhat of a barrier between they and I. I can never share my NFP struggles with them, my efforts in maintaining a regular prayer-life, or the reasons behind why I give my children the names I have (mainly religious reasons). I can't make the jokes I do about the need to go to Confession, the lack of meat on Fridays, and I can't say my silly graces/prayers when I go out to lunch with them ("Jesus was a cool dude, 40 days with out food..." is the one my kids love the most). Well, its not that I can't, but that I don't in order to keep the relationship comfortable.

And here is where my dilemma lies. I have never been one to try and convert my friends, and unfortunately, none of my non-believing friends have therefore been converted. I often wonder about that, whether or not I am culpable in any way for their lack of belief? I have always been one to follow that famous saying of St. Francis...the one where he says something along the lines of "preach always; when necessary, use words". And I really do believe in that. But do I use it as an excuse not to go to a place that makes my heart beat fast and my palms sweat? Do I use it as a crutch in order to justify my inaction?

I will concede that speaking about my faith is not my strong point. If I could write all my friends letters as to why I believe what I do, then that would be much better for me. I don't express myself well verbally. I tend to ramble, repeat myself, and mix things up with my words. And if someone disagrees with me in a verbal argument, I am much more likely to get angry, and show it.

But the part that becomes really disheartening is what has lead me to write about this subject today; how can I evangelize by example when my secular friends have seen me behave so badly? Now, not only am I doing them an injustice by not telling of God's glory in words, but what do I do when I fail to do so in action as well?

I have a friend whom I have grown close with in recent months who is not religious at all, and in the course of our friendship she has heard me gossip on numerous occasions, swear, talk inappropriately about certain things, and she has yet to hear me tell my true feelings on matters of a religious nature out of my fear and a so-called "respect" for those around me. She knows I'm Catholic, that my husband was formerly the youth minister at our parish. She knows I'm religious, and still has seen some very bad sides of me. How can I possibly even begin to show her God's glory? How would I even be justified in uttering God's name in front of her now?

I've hear some use the term "loving people into the faith". I have to admit that I'm not quite sure if I am doing that. oh, I think I am surely loving people, but am I doing so enough that their hearts are changed? Am I loving them in a way where they see Jesus in me and are therefore drawn to Him? If I am following the sayings of St. Franics, do I really have the courage to "if necessary, use words"? Am I even implementing his call to "Preach always" in my relationships?


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