No Silver Bullet Here
A few weeks ago, I gathered with some of the priests in the surrounding parishes for a lunch meeting and a chance to sign up to help one another for our respective parish’s penance services. As usual, the meeting provided us a chance to shoot the breeze while also taking care of business. During the course of our conversation, one of the priests mentioned he had recently received an email advertising a new book that was guaranteed to change the life of faith in Catholic parishes. I cannot recall the name of the book at this exact time, but it was not unlike the publicity that surrounded such books as Rediscover Catholicism and Rebuilt when they were released.
I don’t intend to pick on any of these books themselves, as each of them has its own merits alongside its own limitations. However, what both my brother priests and I found worthy of reflection is the constant desire on the part of some to move from book to book, or program to program, thinking that they’ll find within one of them the solution to evangelization. A certain percentage of the population seems to think there is a silver bullet waiting to be fired that, once it leaves the barrel, will convert the whole world and make everybody a faithful Catholic. Unfortunately, evangelization does not work that way and we will never find that one method that opens everybody’s heart to the Gospel, nor (dare I say) should we try to find one.
Conversion is not a social process or even a human one. Conversion comes about due to an encounter with God’s grace that impacts the will in such a way as to allow someone to be changed by that grace. Since every person has his or her own will, there is no way we can systematically determine how one will respond to God’s grace. One person may receive the Holy Eucharist on Christmas Day and never look back, while another can receive Communion at the exact same Mass and think nothing of it. Grace is immeasurable in this world and while we can certainly say in faith that God supplies the grace we need to follow Him, nobody can say we know exactly how that grace will be communicated and when.
Instead of focusing so much of our efforts on programs and books that we hope to supply a kind of miracle cure to this age of faithlessness, we instead should realize that the demands of evangelization are not unlike the work of a doctor running a family clinic. Appointments are made, advice is given, patience is practiced, new plans are drawn up as things change, and the process continues without end. Evangelization will never stop, because none of us is fully converted. Just as our life of faith is not the result of a silver bullet, so too will none of our friends, neighbors, or family members come to the faith because we said the right words or gave them the right book.
Evangelization is an endless, arduous, and mostly thankless task…but one that is well worth it.