Talk: Inviting the Act of Faith

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I was honored recently to be invited by the Youth Apostles community to speak at one of their regular formation nights.  The invitation was extended based on a series of posts I wrote on Inviting the Act of Faith, which was an exploration on my part of how we can invite people to make an explicit decision for Christ in a Catholic context.  The talk I presented, which can be viewed on Youtube below, was a summary of that series with practical pointers for how to put it into practice.  A brief outline and summary can also be found below. Thanks again to the Youth Apostles for this opportunity and for allowing me to share this talk here on my blog!

RENEWED EMPHASIS ON THE KERYGMA

A consistent theme in discussions on the New Evangelization is the importance of a renewed emphasis on the kerygma in Catholic evangelization efforts.  Pope John Paul II defines the kerygma as "the initial ardent proclamation by which a person is one day overwhelmed and brought to the decision to entrust himself to Jesus Christ by faith" (Catachesi Tradendae 25).  This definition contains two key elements: (1) the content of the kerygma, and (2) the goal of the kerygma.  Aggie Catholic blogger Marcel LeJeune keenly observes that Catholics have made great strides in communicating the content of the kerygma, but we often stop short of offering people the opportunity to make a decision for Christ.

WHAT DOES THIS DECISION LOOK LIKE?

What we are talking about here is initial conversion.  "Conversion means accepting, by a personal decision, the saving sovereignty of Christ and becoming his disciple" (Redemptoris Missio 46).  To Catholic ears, this definition sounds very Protestant.  Without attribution, one would hardly guess that it came from the writings of a Pope!  This is one of the hurdles that we need to overcome if we are to become more effective evangelizers.  The decision to be a disciple of Christ is and must be a conscious decision.  Sherry Weddell has helped bring this emphasis into the spotlight by using the admittedly redundant term "intentional disciple" - there is no such thing as an "accidental disciple," and yet this sense of intentionality is largely missing from the Catholic mindset.

The decision at the heart of conversion is an existential surrender to Jesus.  It is conscious admission of one's absolute dependence on Jesus for salvation and an abandonment of one's past, present, and future to him.  How explicit does this need to be?  In the words of Dietrich von Hildebrand:

By virtue of consciousness alone can we give the answer which God demands of us. For it is that unconditional and explicit assent on our part…which He demands of us… God expects each of us individually, and man as the highest and most lavishly endowed of His creatures, to say this ["yes" to Him]. It is the constitutive core of consciousness; and it cannot be spoken too clearly, too wakefully, too explicitly.

Thus, this decision should continue to grow even more conscious and more explicit over time!

INVITING FAITH IN A CATHOLIC CONTEXT

Here are some pointers for putting this into practice in a Catholic context.  For more details on each point below, see the concluding post from the original series, "Practical Ways to Invite Faith."

  1. Speak openly and often about commitment to Christ
  2. Provide specific opportunities
  3. Make it an invitation, not a commandment
  4. Let them determine their own readiness
  5. There may be a time for urgency, but never fear
  6. Be ready to help them with their "next steps"