Sharing the Faith With Loved Ones
We’ve all been there. Maybe the conversation at the holiday dinner table takes a sour turn when topics of religion come up with people who disagree. Or perhaps it feels like all the conversations tend to be surface-level out of fear of diving into meaningful topics that might risk rejection.
No matter where you find yourselves in your relationships with your loved ones, we know that God has a plan for everyone’s salvation. Now that you possess the greatest gift of all — faith in Jesus Christ and His Church — He may be prompting you to play a part in His mission to pursue their soul. But what does that really look like?
QUICK STEPS TO SHARING YOUR FAITH:
Witnessing & Words
The Right Timing
The Right Question
Sharing the Gospel
The Next Step
1. WITNESSING & WORDS
Many people — including those who were raised Catholic — may not have been able to receive the truths of our faith into their hearts. We learn from St. Paul that we are called to evangelize through preaching: “How are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher?” (Rm 10:14). Yet Pope St. Paul VI also reminds us that “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses” (Evangelii Nuntiandi 41).
Witnessing starts with our hearts. Our faith is in the person of Jesus Christ, with whom we are blessed with an intimate friendship, bringing us the authentic joy of salvation! If we truly have an intimate friendship with Christ and constantly seek His grace, that relationship will bear fruit in virtue and charity for others. The way we love, respond to suffering and see ourselves will be attractive to others if it is rooted in Christ. This witness also gives credence to any words you may speak of Christ.
If you are not doing so already, consider starting each day with 15 minutes of set-aside time for conversation with Jesus through Lectio Divina, Ignatian meditation or other forms of personal prayer. Developing this heart-to-heart with Jesus and surrendering your life to Him will prepare you to truly love others with His Love.
The way we love, respond to suffering and see ourselves will be attractive to others if it is rooted in Christ.
2. INTERCESSORY PRAYER
In addition to personal prayer through which we deepen our personal relationship with Jesus, we can also ask God to provide the grace of conversion for our loved ones. This type of prayer — intercessory prayer — invites God to lead the process of conversion and primes our hearts to grow in confidence in Him, purifying our love for others.
What does intercessory prayer look like in your life?
Here are some ways:
- Keep a list of the people God has placed on your heart to pray for and the graces you want to ask Him for (Mt 7:7-11).
- Offer circumstances you do not like, do not want or cannot change that come up throughout the day — or a particular fast — for the conversion of your loved ones.
- Share your prayer requests with friends and organizations that offer to intercede for you (click here to share your prayer intentions with us).
- Pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance before meeting with or encountering loved ones.
- Read CCC 2634 – 2636 on intercessory prayer.
Some family and friends may be in a place where they are not open to a conversation but certainly can be showered with the power of intercessory prayer. Shortly after Élisabeth and Felix Leseur were married in 1889, Felix became a staunch atheist while Élisabeth grew more and more devout in her Catholic faith. Though still very much in love, the couple grew apart spiritually. Élisabeth was moved to witness to him through her intense love for him and pray for his conversion: “Not one of our tears, not one of our prayers is lost, and they have a power that many people never suspect.”
God did answer her prayers in a profound way. After she passed away at age 48, Felix found her spiritual diary and read it. Shortly after, he reverted to his Catholic faith and later was ordained a Dominican priest. Felix speaks of her witness to him throughout her life: “Élisabeth, living in the world, fulfilled every duty of her state, and her example shows how it is possible, when one has the will and calls up divine grace, to live an intense spiritual life and to practice the highest evangelical virtues in the midst of outward activity.” In this case, Élisabeth was always a witness and entrusted her bold words to Christ to use them at the proper time.
“Not one of our tears, not one of our prayers is lost, and they have a power that many people never suspect.”
— Élisabeth Leseur
3. THE RIGHT TIMING
Jesus’ entire ministry was based on the timing of His Father. Nothing was a coincidence; for example, even though it was not convenient, it was necessary for Jesus to go through Samaria to encounter the woman at the well at that particular point in her life (Jn 4). Each encounter was the result of Jesus’ relationship with His Father, whom He constantly listened to for guidance.
In the same way, we must listen to the voice of our Father as we discern when to bring up these deeper questions with our loved ones. Only God knows their hearts, and therefore only He really knows what’s best for them. We can be confident that when we invite the Holy Spirit to convict our hearts of what the person in front of us needs to hear, He will. You may be surprised by how He moves you.
4. MEANINGFUL QUESTIONS
When an opportunity for a conversation arises and your loved one seems open to discussing deeper topics, it can be helpful to have some promptings prepared ahead of time.
Jesus asked many poignant questions. Some were directed at His identity (“Who do you say that I am?” Mt 16:15). Some were directed at His thirst for relationship (“Do you love me?” Jn 21:17). And some were pointed at our deepest desires (“What do you want me to do for you?” Mt 20:32).
5. THE RIGHT QUESTION
As Jesus’ friends, we may not be able to ask the same questions in the same way, but we can seek to understand the hearts of our loved ones by framing these questions from our perspective. Here are some questions to consider bringing into a conversation, keeping in mind what is appropriate to your relationship and what your loved ones have chosen to share with you.
- How do you define love?
- How have you experienced that kind of love in your life?
- Do you think God has that same love for you? Why or why not? (Helpful to focus on sacrificial, unconditional or self-giving natures of His love)
- Why do you think suffering exists?
- How do you think God sees your suffering?
- Do you think God can relate to your suffering? Do you think God has a purpose for your suffering? Why or why not?
- How do you define freedom?
- What does freedom look like in your life?
- How do you think God sees your freedom?
6. SHARING THE GOSPEL
All these questions can help get to the heart of your loved ones’ search for meaning and purpose. Ultimately, they are seeking a person: Jesus Christ. This is the crux of our faith: “For God so loved the world that He gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (Jn 3:16).
Here is a brief summary of the Gospel message, taken from our “Sharing the Gospel” online resource for student missionaries.
You can make this as personal as you want while sharing with your loved ones, keeping the important principles:
- Relationship: What We are Made For— We are made for a relationship with God.
- Rebellion: The Chasm— Our relationship with God was broken by sin.
- Reconciliation: The God-Man Solution— Jesus is the bridge between sinful humanity and our all-holy God.
- Re-Creation: Transformation in Christ— All that Jesus won for us in his death and resurrection comes to us through the Church: through its teachings, its sacraments and the fellowship of believers in the communion of saints.
- Response: “Follow Me”— Jesus invites each of us to respond to the Gospel and follow Him as His disciples.
If someone says yes, praise God! When students on campus reach this stage, our missionaries discuss possible next steps for what following Jesus looks like. Since these are big steps, you might consider offering to accompany them as is appropriate in following through (for example, going to Sunday Mass, prayer or confession together). Based on where they are, some possibilities could include the following:
- Joining RCIA to complete reception of sacraments
- Invitation back to the sacrament of confession
- Invitation to come back to Sunday Mass
- Invitation to consistent daily prayer (starting small and then building)
- Teaching your loved ones how to pray
- Meet with a priest to learn more
If your loved one says no, trust God — and be thankful for the grace He gave you to make an invitation! That gift is planting a seed that may mature later in their life. Though it can be painful to experience rejection on behalf of Christ, as missionaries we strive to unite that with His suffering in a way that will draw us closer to His Heart. Like Elisabeth Leseur, we can cling to Jesus in prayer and intercede for our loved ones throughout our lives.
You are not alone in this battle for souls. Each day we fight alongside you and pray for your intentions at our Denver Support Center. Together, we will see how God’s “light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (Jn 1:5).