Paul greeted them, then proceeded to tell them in detail what God had accomplished among the Gentiles through his ministry (Acts 21:19).
“The Church needs to know about this.” This thought struck me as I reflected on my time spent over the weekend as part of a St. Paul Street Evangelization team. Four of us set up a small table on a street corner in Easton, Pennsylvania, with hundreds of rosaries, miraculous medals, and books on the Catholic Faith.
As people walked by, we offered them free rosaries and miraculous medals, as a means of entering into conversations about the Faith. “Do you know what the Rosary is? Are you Catholic? Do you have any faith background?” Such questions are meant to lead to deeper conversations in which we can figure out where a person is coming from and hopefully lead them closer to the Catholic Church.
Orthodox. Faithful. Free.
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The response to our evangelization team was unexpectedly and overwhelmingly positive. People flocked to us. We met people from all walks of life: non-practicing Catholics, Protestants, non-religious people, atheists, you name it! So many people stopped by our table that it was a challenge to keep up with them at times. Moreover, many of our conversations were truly substantive and meaningful.
These were not just people looking to grab a free rosary to hang on their rearview mirror. Many people had deep questions about faith and life. Many were already on a journey of discovering the Church, and we were able to take them a few steps farther down that road. Others were just so touched to receive a miraculous medal, a cross, or a prayer from one of our team members. A number of people were grateful to receive books, such as Trent Horn’s Why We’re Catholic, so that they could learn more about the Catholic Faith.
I would like to highlight a couple of our conversations to give you a sense of the interactions we had. First, we met a man named John who has recently been volunteering at a local Catholic Church. He was baptized Catholic but has no conception of the Catholic Faith and does not attend Mass. However, he has been reading the Bible and is curious about the Church. We were able to answer some of his questions, and I shared my own journey back to the Catholic Church with him. He was very excited to receive Trent Horn’s book so that he could learn more. We exchanged information, and I intend to keep in touch with him and continue to help him until he is fully received into the Church.
We met a woman who passed us by at first but then came back a few minutes later to say that it was such a coincidence that she saw us that day because her parents have been trying to get her to come back home to the Catholic Church. She was raised Catholic but has been attending Protestant services recently. Now that she is an adult, she said, she is less resistant to the Catholic Church and has been thinking of returning. I shared why I was Catholic and gave her Scott Hahn’s book Rome Sweet Home. It was wonderful to be another “knock” on the door of her heart, in addition to the promptings of her parents, encouraging her to return to the Catholic Church.
Countless other people stopped by our table simply to take information, books, rosaries, or miraculous medals. While such encounters are perhaps less exciting than the deeper conversations we have, they might still have a profound impact on a person’s life. Maximilian Kolbe called the miraculous medal his “silver bullet” in the battle of evangelization, and he would hand them out to all people, in hopes of opening a door to the grace of God. Insofar as sacramentals lead people to the sacraments, it is always positive when someone takes one.
Why do I think that this experience of street evangelization is so significant? Because, on the one hand, it shows that there is a profound openness to the Catholic Faith in many people, and, on the other hand, it shows how simple and effective Catholic evangelization can be. If you are tempted to think that evangelization is impossible or unwelcome in our current cultural climate, think again!
Whereas we often expect to be met with hostility when we attempt to share our Faith with others, especially if we should do so in such a public and explicit way as through street evangelization, our team experienced just the opposite. Instead, we were met with gratitude, curiosity, and abundant receptivity to the Catholic Faith. I would not at all be surprised if multiple people that we met eventually come into or come home to the Catholic Church. This, I think, is good news for the Church. Truly, “The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few.” I hope that this account gives you some encouragement to share your Faith with others as one of the laborers in the vineyard of the Lord.