We’re all called to participate in the New Evangelization—even kids! Here are five easy ways to bring the light of the gospel to others, and clickable resources to help.
by Regina Lordan
How can we become better Catholics as a family so that by our example we can encourage Catholics, Christians, and non-Christians to want to know more about and love our faith? The Church calls this idea of strengthening and deepening one’s faith with the true Gospel message and sharing that faith with authentic actions and words the New Evangelization. The focus of the New Evangelization — highlighted by retired Pope Benedict XVI during the 2012 year of faith — is to live a life steeped in the Gospel message and to share that message with those who do not know God or who are in a crisis of faith due to the forces of secularization. It’s a heady concept for little ones (as per the Pope Benedict way), but actually can be simple and accessible to put into practice with your kids. Give it a try this summer: at the playground, at the pool, on social media and on vacation.
Five Ways to Participate in the New Evangelization
1. Deepen your faith and know your stuff
Step one is to strengthen your family’s faith. Preview the scriptures at home with your kids before and after Mass, learn the Gospel message, and discover saints who have lived that message. Arm yourself with the Church’s true teachings on issues, even the sticky ones. The best sources of information about the teachings of the Church come from the Church itself. Here are a few of my most-trusted sources after working in the Catholic press for some time.
Searchable Sources on Church Teaching
2. Encourage your children to talk about their faith and the teachings of the Church
You and your kids cannot share the faith with others without believing and showing that it is an awesome faith. It is cool to be Catholic.
- Talk freely in public about the Catholic faith. My kids always ask me questions while waiting in line or in a waiting room at their school lobby, and at the doctor’s or dentist’s offices. Most of the time they moan in boredom but sometimes they ask questions … even interesting ones about the world, religion, and our Church. Instead of asking them to wait to talk about it at home or at another private place, we indeed openly discuss these questions, and I give my very best answers right then and there (sometimes a little loudly and clearly if I can sense a curious eavesdropper). I make sure my answers are accurate, and if I don’t know the answer, I don’t make it up. I look it up (see resources above). (Full disclosure: I am writing this in public right now, realizing the parent behind me most likely is reading over my shoulder while she waits for her child like I am waiting for mine. “Hi parent, I love my faith!”)
- Wear your faith on your sleeve … or neck or backpack. I send my son to (public) school with a picture and prayer of his patron saint and a rosary. You and your kids can also wear a crucifix, scapula or rosary bracelet. Why not use fashion as an occasion to show you are Catholic, and it is cool, awesome and beautiful to be Catholic? [Related: Let Your Kids Wear Their Prayer]
- Consider praying before eating at a restaurant. If you are the type of family that feels comfortable and not as though you are putting on a show by praying together aloud before eating, go for it. And then quietly pray that your children behave themselves for the duration of the meal because you are now that family.
3. Encourage your family to say, “I will pray for you.”
Lately during times of sadness, healing, and change, I have witnessed many a very secular “sending good thoughts or good vibes your way.” Good thoughts are … nice. But we are Catholics! We believe healing and change (in some way and at some time beyond our control) comes from prayer. Pray for each other. Pray for those undergoing a crisis of health or of faith.
4. Live the faith in real life
Practice the spiritual and corporal works of mercy in big and small ways as a parent and as a family. Participate in family activities that do service for others. Participate in church-run activities that serve all communities of people or be that one Catholic family that shines with Jesus’ love in a mixed-faith or secular service community. Be the living example of the Gospel message and of Jesus’ love and compassion not only in your church community but in the public square: the post office, supermarket, at sporting events.
5. Share the love
- Share the truth online. Encourage your children to post and share only information that accurately represents the Church’s true teachings. Model this for your children by only posting and sharing true representations of the Church’s teachings. This is a tough one, especially since our Church does not fit nicely into any one political box. We are a pro-life Church of social justice, focused on sharing the Gospel message and Jesus’ love to the most vulnerable and poorest among us. We are a Church of human rights, protecting the environment and religious freedom. We are a Church that promotes marriage, family and life — from creation to natural death.
- Share posts and images that reflect God’s love for you and your family. God made us in his image and likeness. Encourage your children to post and share images that reflect that we are made in his image and likeness with pictures of ourselves that show we are valued, treated with dignity and respect.
- Share the good news. Our Church has been a leader in reacting effectively and efficiently during times of disaster, man made or natural. See a story that makes you proud to be Catholic, perhaps like this one? Share it online. (New Evangelization impact bonus: If the story appears in a secular news source, you’ll win extra brownie points from discerners.)
- Share a fun video … or 10. Here you can find 10 videos recommended for sharing by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. They hit all the good points.
- Go to Mass, wherever you are, take a pic and share it with a hashtag. A few summers ago, in an effort to encourage continued Mass attendance during the summer months, my parish started a hashtag campaign #seeyouatmass. What started as an idea to take a picture every time you and your family attended Mass while away and then share that with the parish community to encourage each other to do the same is now a hashtag for any and all encouragement of Mass attendance. The hashtag has become a collection of some really interesting pictures and histories of churches around the world as well as a place for reminders about various Mass times and holy days of obligation.
We swim against this strong secular tide together, but our faith is one of hope and you and your kids can help share it. Give these a try and share your ideas. In the meantime, maybe I’ll #seeyouatmass.
Regina Lordan, a digital editor at Peanut Butter & Grace, is a mother of three with master’s degrees in education and political science. She currently reviews books for Catholic News Service and is a former assistant international editor of Catholic News Service.