Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

Sound Bite Evangelization

April 14th, 2015, Promulgated by Diane Harris
The Cross found in the ruins of the World Trade Center is an apt metaphor for evangelizing in the culture of death.

The Cross found in the ruins of the World Trade Center is an apt metaphor for evangelizing in the culture of death.

What are we really doing about the call for a new evangelization?  Doesn’t it start with evangelizing and preparing ourselves for the battlefield?  How are we to do so, when even the call from many pulpits is ambiguous or non-existent? How are we to do so in the shadow of a Synod that threatens to change the unchangeable?  How are we to do so without preparation, training and practice?

Four ideas:  quick prayer, clarification of the question; immediate response with Sound Bite Truth; extend an offer to discuss further or to provide information.  One need not be a trained public speaker, or have memorized the Catechism or Bible, or be an accredited logician or theologian.  Probably we already know most of the answers.

1. Quick Prayer:  the words are simple and easy.  “God, help me to answer this with what You want me to say.”  They can be said privately or aloud.  This is not a long, embellished invocation.  It is easy, as in: “Okay; I pray God helps me with this one; I’m no expert.” But we don’t want to dwell on what we don’t know, rather on what we do know.  So we have to trust that, having prayed, we’ll be given the right response FOR THE GOOD OF THE OTHER PERSON’S SOUL; not because we don’t want to be embarrassed.  And, if the inquirer doesn’t want to hear us, that does not mean that the little we have said or done won’t bear fruit at some future point.  Such a quick prayer for help can also prevent our damaging God’s Truth; e.g. answers like “Well, the Church is opposed to contraception, but I think….” should obviously be left unsaid.  Prayer helps to avoid our wandering into our own weaknesses, being less than faithful.

2. Clarification (or correction of the question).  For example, how do we answer the question: “Why do you Catholics hate homosexuals?”  Before proceeding with any answer, it is helpful to clarify:  “We don’t hate homosexuals.  But we do oppose homosexual lifestyle (or same-sex marriage, etc).  Do you want me to tell you why?” Thus, we create an opportunity to go further and witness more to God’s teachings; but if the person doesn’t want to hear, they at least have heard that their presupposition is wrong — and heard a statement of truth.”

3.   Sound Bite Truth:  Most faithful Catholics already know the short form answer to many questions that touch on areas of popular sin, or defined doctrine.  Today, the former is more often argued than the latter.  Instead of reaching for some eloquent answer, citing Chapter and Verse from the Bible, or Catechism answers, or flipping the question to a priest, many of our most poignant and clear answers are simply “Because it is a sin.” Period.  For example, how do we answer the question: “How can you deny abortion to a young girl who has been raped?” Answer: “Because abortion of any kind is a sin.”  Or “How can you Catholics refuse to help people to die when they are suffering?”  Answer:  “Because euthanasia is a sin; life is precious.” In today’s culture, where the pro-sin onslaught is very vocal against those who stand for God, we are rarely granted much time to elaborate or explain.  They hated Christ; naturally they will hate us. Thus, the sound-bite answer is more important than ever. Even the famed “elevator speech” is too long to hold attention or interest.

4.  Offer to Discuss Further:  In order that the Sound Bite isn’t dismissive of genuine interest, one can offer: “Would you like to talk more about this?” or, especially when our own knowledge is vulnerable, “May I find some information and give it to you?” Sometimes we might refer to someone else or to a resource, but we don’t just leave the inquirer with an unhelpful answer equivalent to “Buy a Catechism and look it up!” The reaction of the inquirer may vary from an enthusiastic ‘yes’ to anger and hostility. But then we have done all that we needed to do.  And that is consistent with Christ’s words in Luke 17:10 “So you also, when you have done all that is commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.'” And it is helpful to remember that we aren’t called to be successful, just faithful. Christ Himself allowed for the fact that some of the disciples He sent out were going to be rejected.  In Mark 6:11 we read:  “And if any place will not receive you and they refuse to hear you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet for a testimony against them.”  It is comforting for us to know we don’t have to nag anyone to effect their conversion (God does that!), just to present them with the Truth.

So Many Questions on “How” to Evangelize are just not being discussed

Answering a question is but one kind of evangelization.  So too is publicly blessing ourselves before saying grace in a restaurant, our referring to having heard something at Mass (instead of just the more common “at Church” which fits almost any faith community).  Sometimes instead of waiting for a question, we can simply offering an opinion:  “I disagree with that (comment, platform, conclusion).  “Why?” we are asked, and hence the opportunity to answer “Because it is a sin.” The basic answer “Because it’s a sin” submits to the Authority of God and so is the most defensible of all.  And He does help us when we are not ashamed to acknowledge Him before the world.  If the inquirer is seriously interested in the details, he or she will welcome our return to the subject, to discuss further, unless all that was wanted was an argument or a fight. But avoiding the question isn’t what the Lord is calling us to do and, in particular, Christ’s words in Mark Chapter 8, verse 38 are a reminder to alert our consciences to the need to respond, not to be silent.  “For whoever is ashamed of Me and of My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed, when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”  Not everything is this clear, of course, but the basics  can and do seem quite simple.  It’s not a question of whether simplicity works; rather, it seems to be that there is often waffling or ambiguity in giving a direct response. Sometimes it even seems that there can be a deliberate effort not to say the Holy Name, not to call something ‘sin.’

If we really need to be extensively catechized, in order to evangelize, it becomes almost a self-fulfilling prophecy that very few people will ever be ready to evangelize! What a clever way to delay all evangelization!   Is God the one Who is asking for such an advanced degree of preparation, or our own egos?  After all, He chose Moses with a speech defect to lead a million people out of Egypt.  And St. Paul had to put aside his eloquence, find communication bridges to the people, but still depend on the compelling “stumbling block” story of Christ, i.e. preaching Christ crucified!  Sometimes, when we try to do it ourselves, to express well-reasoned positions based on natural law alone, or when we appeal to what should be a natural human revulsion to dismemberment of babies, or when we argue for the integrity of the fabric of marriage for the welfare of children, all are true, but are we educating or evangelizing?  Sometimes, the humility required to simply state the obvious of what is sin, or what is God’s Word, makes it mostly about Him, and not about us.  As Catholics, of course, we should have a respect for the learning and intellectual arguments which might be persuasive at the right time to the right person, but LACK OF SUCH ability should never keep us from the simple argument, when we know our faith to any extent: “Because it is a sin.” or “Because God says so.”  Our Faith itself becomes the witness. All argument short of acknowledging our faith is the weaker argument, even when effective.   

The question we might ponder, and ponder deeply, is whether or not our Defense of the Faith gives sufficient honor and service to God as the true cause of our words, beliefs, opinions, actions? 

Do our efforts to confront the sinful, our campaigns of moral outrage against evils such as contraception, abortion, euthanasia, same-sex marriage and now even infanticide, visibly derive from our beliefs? Or do we confront the secular world’s opinions only with our own opinions?  Is our denunciation of sin mostly an intellectual apologetic?  Does our voice in the public square usually echo a Judeo-Christian heritage and intrinsic social mores as historically foundational but not contemporarily operational?  And are all those elegant arguments,  marshaled against voices from a wholly different perspective of personal rights, civil penalties and license,  efficacious?  Or are we talking at cross-purposes and thus feeding the continuity of debate, all the while sliding farther down the slippery slope?  Are we just in a bumper-sticker war, instead of evangelizing from our own sure belief? Can we credibly argue that, because we personally believe in the teachings of Jesus Christ, He is the true driving force of our witness?  Or is He set aside as a spectator in our debates? Given the persecution of Christians in the world today, truly faithful Christians are themselves perhaps a minority, smaller than many groups who do self-identify as a “minority,” and confronting the secular world on its own platform has been singularly unsuccessful in stemming its onslaught.  Perhaps we should be partnering more openly with Christ in these efforts, to involve Him more deeply, not in intellectual argument but in the simplicity of “Because God said it is a sin; that’s why.”  Or “Christians don’t do that because God told us not to do it,”  e.g. “Because Christ does not permit divorce.”   By naming Christ it takes Him to the barricades with us. Perhaps He is waiting to be carried into the battle?

Sometimes it seems that many Catholics don’t even want to say “Christ” or “God” or “sin” in a conversation with others, instead trying to handle the arguments ourselves, or with clever quotes, dramatic pictures, groping for common ground, but not saying what an inquirer might resent or find offensive.  But, in essence, does this not violate Mark 8:38?  Are we acting ashamed of bringing Christ into the conversation?  If so, we can hardly expect Him to bless our efforts and bring them to success.  If we are not asserting this particular aspect of our Freedom of Religion, when it is most needed, can we hope to preserve any such capability in the future? Or are we just accepting being forced into a “Freedom of Worship” mode, constrained to the four walls of a church for an hour each Sunday? Is it at least partly our fault that little progress is being made because we haven’t brought Jesus Christ to the front line of the battle?  Why not?  Put simply, what are we really doing whenever we avoid bringing the Will of the Father, the Name of the Son, and the Guidance of the Holy Spirit prominently into the conversation?  Would that not be truer evangelization?  And the conclusion is really very simple.  If we are going to be persecuted, better it should be for our Faith in God, than for any other reason.

PS  I’ve written about this matter, NOT because I am good at it, but because I’ve been so bad at it.  And I keep learning how I get in the way of what He calls me to do. I hope we’ll encourage each other by sharing evangelization experiences! Support each other in our efforts!   Pray for each other! 


26 Responses to “Sound Bite Evangelization”

  1. Midwest St. Michael says:

    Miss Diane,

    This is great! I really appreciate your words in this post.

    Here is one that is somewhat related over at 1P5:


  2. Diane Harris says:

    Thanks Midwest St. Michael! Excellent link you presented.

  3. Richard Thomas says:

    Unfortunately my city of residence gives me little hope for evangelization. I am concerned that even if I were able to communicate Catholic teachings, people would not be nourished in the Catholic churches in my area. The only hope is that they would take upon themselves to really learn the faith and then try living it out inspite of all the nonsense.

    In my area, people routinely converse before and sometimes even during mass. They have now instituted applause when announcements are made, either before, during or after mass. And everyone gets to lay hands on people for many reasons during and after mass. I won’t lay out my hand but I will pray for them. The priests are now enablers. They frequently greet everyone under the sun when processing into and leaving mass. Talk about lack of solemnity and reverence.

    And the homilies. Well, they are marshmellow like.

    I had the opportunity of talking to several catechumens recently. I was very pleasantly surprised by their knowledge and zeal for the faith. This includes, birth control, homosexuality, pornograpgy, premarital sex and abortion. One is a teacher and one is a lawyer. They are in their 30’s. I can rest asure the faith is in good hands. The teacher, after her baptism and confirmation, and I assume she is now a full Catholic, will be in charge of the youth program.

  4. Eliza10 says:

    Thanks for this good teaching. I do in fact avoid discussing the Catholic view because I know its probably not welcome, because the person talking seems too shallow, because I don’t have my great argument ready. Particularly, I avoid the word “sin”! Its so un-politically correct. It makes people mad! It can bring a torrent of scorn with no opportunity to defend yourself! I suppose I am worried about turning a person off and then they don’t want to hear truth later. But I think that’s not right.

    You have convinced me here. I am going to “be not afraid”, so that I do not dare be ashamed of the truth. Its the simple answer and it is my simple truth for so many things: “Because its a sin”. Yes. The fact is there are many things I just “don’t do” or I just “avoid” just because of that – its sin – and I don’t always research all the good reasons, since I know the final answer. (I know the Church has wonderful and rich reasons for anything that is deemed wrong). I can do the same thing, then, in conversation. I do not have to have a great argument ready to explain, I can just say my truth: “Because its sin”, or, “Because Jesus doesn’t want it.” It will either be condemned, or, occasionally, some might genuinely want to know why. And if they do, I can say why, or, if I don’t have real wisdom at hand, I can tell them I will get back to them after I find it if they want.

    The main Evangelism tool I am trying is important, which is to show God’s love and mercy to all. Jesus looked at people with love. Pope Francis is emphasizing that and its important. However, one also needs to speak the truth, and be unafraid. And I got that from what you said here.

    Thanks for the lesson! God bless you!

  5. catholicmom says:

    Such an excellent post. Please visit We have a local organization here in Rochester started by Father Mike Mayer. The web page offers an opportunity to become a member and receive online training to assist us in the work of evangelization.

  6. christian says:

    Excellent Teaching Post Diane! Your words are so true!

    Regarding the argument for abortion in the rape of a girl: Abortion only adds another victim, and further trauma and devastation to the initial victimization, trauma, and devastation. What most of these people who argue for abortion in the case of rape don’t realize, is down the road, a girl/woman is faced with the fact that she killed a child that within her. She might have been talked into abortion by others who thought it was in her best interest when she was vulnerable, but will more than likely be faced with distress, guilt, and depression when she comes to the realization of what was advocated for her and what she had done. Human life is precious. Respect Life and Right to Life.

    I have a female relative through marriage who was raped as a young woman while away at college. This female relative was a virgin and a devout Catholic Christian. It turned out that her male rapist was an exchange student and had raped many young women on campus. The college thought he may have had additional victims who hadn’t come forward. This female cousin went through a horrible ordeal as the court case against this male exchange student kept getting postponed and rescheduled until finally he was given diplomatic immunity and returned to his own country, never having to face any consequences for all the rapes he committed.
    This female cousin became pregnant as a result of the rape. Her parents sent her away to Fr. Baker’s Home for Unwed Mothers in Lackawanna, New York because it they probably thought it was an uncomfortable issue and they wanted to conceal it from relatives and friends. She lived there with other unwed mothers and gave birth without any family present. She had a baby boy which she put up for adoption.

    This female cousin had her “down times” well after her entire ordeal. Later on, she was distressed over whether she should have kept him, but eventually arrived at peace over having given him up so he could be raised by a good family. I saw this female cousin get teared up at times when holding cousins’ and siblings’ newborn children, and knew it had to be difficult. She is a beautiful woman inside and out, yet has never married and has never gotten pregnant and given birth to another child.

    In all of this, she says she has Peace over what she did by carrying her child to term, giving him birth, and allowing him to be raised in a good family with a mother and a father. It is a Peace that comes from doing the Will of God. The young woman virgin through the horrible devastation of rape and resulting pregnancy, and her further victimization and lack of justice by the legal system, chose Life for her unborn, innocent baby and did not make him a victim. I regard this female cousin to be in league with the Virgin Mary. I’m not sure if I have stated it appropriately, but I think you all know what I mean.

    We may not always know why God wants us to do what he wants us to do, but by Faith we trust he has our eternal soul and salvation at heart, and we follow his commandments out of obedience. He is All-Seeing, we are not. It reminds me of the personal account she wanted of my sister years ago, waiting at a traffic light. She thinking of a particular personal situation she wanted to occur and kept praying for it, and couldn’t understand why God wouldn’t give it to her. She then saw a blind man with a seeing eye dog which had been given the light to cross. The man tried to move ahead with the dog, but the dog wouldn’t let him move forward. The man then got angry at the dog and tried to force the dog forward with him. The dog then got into a defensive position to block the man’s advance forward. With that a car rushed past them that ran a red light. When the blind man realized what had had happened and how his seeing eye dog had prevented him from a horrible fate, he got down and started hugging his dog.

    I agree with you Diane. We need to say because it’s a sin and that God in His ultimate Wisdom knows what’s best for us.

  7. Diane Harris says:

    Thank you, Christian, for such a deeply moving story. Again it shows how obeying God’s will continues to bear fruit, such as we have received through you sharing. Shalom!

  8. Pianist9591 says:

    As catholicmom has already suggested, please check out

    St. Paul Street Evangelization is an international ministry started in 2012 by a couple of converts to the Catholic Church. This ministry is committed to sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a joyful & non-confrontational manner. The organization is faithful to the teachings of the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. Persons who participate on evangelization teams receive training either in a classroom setting or online, & sign an Oath of Fidelity upon completion of the training.

    Our Rochester chapter, started by Fr. Mike Mayer, has been in existence for a year. So far, we have evangelized at the Rochester Public Market, Charlotte Beach, Frontier Field, & the Geneva Public Market. We also went door-to-door in Webster. During the winter months, we went to a couple of craft sales/bazaars. We had a table at the recent Catholic Women’s Conference & we will be having a table at the upcoming Catholic Men’s Conference as well.

    We have given away literally hundreds of free rosaries as well as other free materials. We have talked to many, many people about Jesus Christ & the Catholic Church. Once in a great while we have encountered someone asking about various doctrines of the Catholic Church. But usually people just really talk to us about where they are (or are not) on their faith journey. So many people are wounded & hurting, enslaved to sin, & needing to hear the Good News. We ask if they have any prayer needs, & we pray for them right on the spot. When we encounter people who have left the Catholic Church, we ask them to consider returning & discuss parishes in the area where they live. For persons who are not Catholic, we ask them if they have ever considered the Catholic Church. Generally speaking, people are minimally polite, but often curious & willing to take the materials we offer them. I know of at least two persons who have returned to the Church through our ministry, thanks be to God! But even when we don’t know the specific outcomes of our encounters, we know that seeds are being planted.

    If you have any interest in the local chapter, the email address is

  9. Dominick Anthony Zarcone says:

    Pianist9591 has described well the Rochester Chapter of SPSE.
    I am thankful for the opportunity of having become a trained member. Hopefully many more Catholic evangelizers in our Diocese will discover the value of SPSE’s commitment to Catholic orthodoxy and joyful methodology.


  10. Dominick Anthony Zarcone says:

    I read and enjoyed the artilce accessed at the link provided by Midwest St. Michael. That article’s author understands what does and what does not constitute pharisaism.

    Four years ago a priest accused me of pharisaism when politely and lovingly I told him how difficult it was to pray when he changes the words of institution during the consecration. Patiently I endured the liturgical abuse believing his last Mass at Saint Andrew was the most appropriate opportunity to invite him to reconsider his ‘tradition’ which potentially kept many from Christ Jesus.

    Furthermore, the article’s sentence which states, “A parishioner suggests to the pastor a door-to-door campaign to try to bring people into the Church, but is turned down on the grounds that “Catholics don’t do that.” Additionally he is told that “proselytization” isn’t in keeping with ecumenism” reminds me of other experiences.

    Since the 1980’s I have promoted going into the Parish neighborhoods for door to door Evangelization. Clergy and Laity responses have included:
    1. We are not Mormons or Jehovah Witnesses.
    2. We will not use the name Jesus so as not to offend anyone.
    3. We can evangelize without going into the streets.
    4. I am very busy, you set it up.
    5. Yes, let’s go find the baptized, their families and other parishioners who have disappeared.
    6. I want to do it.
    7. This is a Census.
    8. Let’s Share A Prayer
    9. Grow the Parish
    10. We evangelizers will be more blessed than the people we evangelize.
    11. Christ’s Love Welcomes All
    12. I can’t wait to get out there and give away Rosaries

    The Church turned the world upside in the first century. Let us be reawakened in this the 21st century. Let us faithfully do and say what the Lord Jesus commands.

    Blessed Be The Name of the Lord!

  11. Dominick Anthony Zarcone says:

    On April 15 Richard Thomas wrote:
    “I had the opportunity of talking to several catechumens recently. I was very pleasantly surprised by their knowledge and zeal for the faith. This includes, birth control, homosexuality, pornograpgy, premarital sex and abortion. One is a teacher and one is a lawyer. They are in their 30?s. I can rest assured the faith is in good hands. The teacher, after her baptism and confirmation, and I assume she is now a full Catholic, will be in charge of the youth program.”

    My reaction is: Good, those Catechumens are demonstrating faithful discipleship of The Lord Christ regarding life and sexual morality as believed, lived and taught in Christ’s Catholic Church. But Brother Richard, is that the knowledge and faith for which zeal has priority? Of their knowledge and zeal for Jesus Christ himself, for his saving and life transforming good news, what can be said? Are they excited about the sacraments of initiation; do they express gratitude and love for the Father who so generously gave his Son? Are they beginning to experience mercy? Are they talking about their paschal joy in being translated from darkness into the light of the kingdom of the Son?

    Diane has written well of bringing God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Paraclete Holy Spirit into the equation. No doubt having knowledge and obedient faith to current life and sexual morality issues absolutely are necessary elements to faithful discipleship. Yet it is always about discipleship and faithfulness to The Lord Christ.

    It is all about Jesus; it has always been all about Jesus.

    To Diane I offer wholehearted support of her effort to refocus all of us.

    In a later post I will list a number of personal habits which helped me to keep focused on the Savior and to proclaim His Holy Name.

    Happy Lord’s Day!

  12. Dominick Anthony Zarcone says:

    Since an adult conversion to Jesus experience in June 1978, I have believed wholeheartedly it is God’s will for me to grow in relationship with the Son of God and to invite others to accept God’s invitation to this covenant relationship through Jesus Christ the One Savior of the world.

    While my understanding of ‘the message’ to be communicated has matured and some mistaken notions corrected, consistent from the beginning of these two new found life purposes has been the conviction that God is trustworthy and we confidently can trust the Lord’s promised provisions through Jesus Christ Crucified and Risen.

    Moreover, increasingly it has become apparent that personally growing in relationship with Christ Jesus and proclaiming Him/inviting others to a relationship with Him are inter-related and rightly dependent upon each other. Catholic Evangelizers, like Dr. Ralph Martin, remind us that papal interpretations and implementations of the Second Vatican Council are based upon the universal call to holiness for the sake of mission. Renewal in Holiness and Renewal in Mission are related to each other pursuant to correct reading of the Vatican 2 documents.

    As mentioned in an earlier post, I can list some personal habits which help focus me on Jesus and therefore help further the Church’s evangelistic mission. Soon after the June 1978 conversion experience I developed daily devotions and daily habits:
    1. Speak to Jesus thanking Him and telling Him I love Him using my own words remembering his personal love to me demonstrated by his grace, mercy and generous forgiveness of my sins.
    2. Read portions of Scripture… Some Old Testament including the Psalms and lots of New Testament, Epistles as well as Gospels.
    3. Sing outloud to the Lord using responsorial psalms froHm Mass, Church Hymns or made up songs based on Scriptures that really warmed my heart.
    4. Pray, intercede, with thanksgiving. I prayed for family, friends, neighbors, parishioners, Church Leaders, work colleagues, bus passengers and for enemies. I pray for opportunities to speak of Jesus; who he is, what he has done and is doing, what that means for us and what ought be our response.
    5. Confess my sins, seek spiritual help and always tell the Lord I love you Jesus, help me love you more.

    Where do I fail? I do not read, re-read and read again as much as I should the Catechism, magisterial documents and spiritual counsel of the saints.

    Let us support each other’s efforts to focus on Jesus, God’s call to holiness and mission. Let us do this praying, loving and trusting.
    Let us speak the truth in love trusting the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.


  13. christian says:

    Dominick Anthony Zarcone – I was one of those from St. Andrew Church who went out into the neighborhood of Portland Avenue to Evangelize. Fr. Mike Mayer was enmeshed in this project. We initially brought a message of love and concern to how our church, St. Andrew Church, could help them. When bringing across an attitude of love and concern for these people’s individual situations and a willingness to help, almost all of these people invited into their house or onto their front porch to talk to us.

    Jesus drew people out of love and concern for them.

    We let people tell us their story. We listened. We heard of the hardships of supporting a family and raising children on public assistance or low income. We heard of people who relocated to find work after losing a job they had had from 14 to 20 years. We heard of injury sustained at work and having to live on disability payments. We heard of the plight of single mothers who wanted the best for their children and that entailed making sure they came home at particular time, did their homework, and did not have bad influences in their life.

    We invited these families to partake in our (St. Andrew Roman Catholic Church) many, varied ministries and outreach to the community, and gave them the information. (Ex. Basketball Camp, Arts and Crafts camp, After-School Program and Youth Drop-In Center, Beacon of Hope Clothing, St. Vincent de Paul Society which supplied beds and furniture, also hospital/medical equipment, St. Andrew Food Cupboard, Breakfast and Lunch program in St. Andrew School Cafeteria during the summer, Family, Friends, Fun, Food, and Fellowship Fairs during summer months where there was free food and drink, scripture and inspirational literature given away, pony rides, traveling zoo, face-painting, a live nativity scene, etc. We also had book bags with school supplies that we were donated, organized, and given away at the beginning of the school year. A martial arts program was also started for the children and youth of the neighborhood with the uniforms of the gi being donated. (There was also St. Andrew Music which brought well-known and established musical groups, choirs,and individuals with incredible talent (i.e. Eastman School of Music, Chamber Orchestra, Roberts Wesleyan)into that neighborhood at St. Andrew Church for free community concerts). There was LIFE TEEN and THE EDGE for high school students and Junior High School students which was very successful. There were a lot of programs that served our neighborhood and Volunteerism was alive and well on behalf of the parishioners at St. Andrew Church. We also referred some of the people we came across during our neighborhood visits, to different agencies that could help them.

    (St. Andrew Church also provided support for groups of people trying to turn their life around and get back on their feet, through an agency nearby, such as one for recovering alcoholic and drug abusers. Many years earlier, St. Andrew Church started an Adoption Agency. There had been additional community activities too numerous to mention).

    ***During our community visits, we also heard about the exit of Catholics from the Catholic Church, and from a particular parish, due to inappropriate and offending behavior on the part of clergy and religious, that was often misguided, judgmental, and harsh as well. We acknowledged the wrong of how they were treated and apologized to them on behalf of the Catholic Church. We personally welcomed them back and relayed the pastor of our church, St. Andrew Roman Catholic Church, Fr. Mike Mayer, was a wonderful priest. And the deacon and parish staff were also wonderful. We told them they would not encounter the judgmental, harsh, misguided, inappropriate, and offending behavior they had in the past.

    ***One older man relayed that he had been a long time parishioner of many years at St. Andrew Roman Catholic Church on Portland Avenue. He said he and his wife were there for mass every Sunday and holy days. He said, “But then a new pastor came along who continually yelled at the people, and complained about everything the people did at mass.” As examples, he told us the priest complained and yelled at them about how they made the sign of the cross and also how they knelt. He said they (the parishioners) couldn’t seem to do anything right. He said he and his wife got to hear this ridicule and yelling Sunday after Sunday, until one Sunday he had it and got mad and started swearing after leaving mass. He relayed how upset he was about swearing after leaving mass and decided it was a wake up call. He said, “The day that I’m swearing after leaving mass, is the day I need to go to another church.” The man told us that he and his wife left for another parish and never came back. That was many years ago. Since then, his wife had died. A fellow church visitor with me asked the name of the priest.

    The name of the priest was not a name I ever heard fellow parishioners recall, and it wasn’t a priest who ever came back to St. Andrew Church to celebrate a funeral or wedding, or fill in for celebrating mass. Although other priests’ names of yesteryear were brought up, this priest’s name was never mentioned. This priest pastor’s name was never brought up as a former pastor who parishioners wanted to invite back for the celebration and closing mass of St. Andrew Church. This priest was not excused from the priesthood, yet I do not see him listed anywhere. I am not sure if he has retired, been infirmed, or has died. But it is apparent that parishioners try to blank out a name and and an association with an unpleasant experience.

    ***It touched me deeply to see this man come to mass at St. Andrew Church the following Sunday – the first time back in many years, and without his wife.

    I agree with Dominick, there has to be an experience of translation from darkness into light of the Kingdom of the Son, Divine Love, and Paschal Joy before people can be willing to conform to the commandments of God. Jesus drew people out of Love and once they found that Immeasurable Love, Peace, and Joy in Him, he then told them, “This is what you need to do.” And Jesus was very clear about what they needed to do.

  14. christian says:

    Addendum- We invited people we met in the neighborhood to mass at St. Andrew Roman Catholic Church as well as inviting them to participate in our various outreach ministries to the neighborhood.

    Richard Thomas: Regarding evangelizing -I think you are giving up too easy, and simply implying others who are paid staff who you have deemed as passing your test, can take over your personal duty and obligation as a baptized Catholic to propagate the Faith.

    As Inspiration, I give you the following words:

    Teresa of Avila (1515–1582)

    Christ Has No Body

    Christ has no body but yours,
    No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
    Yours are the eyes with which he looks
    Compassion on this world,
    Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
    Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
    Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
    Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
    Christ has no body now but yours,
    No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
    Yours are the eyes with which he looks
    compassion on this world.
    Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

    I will go further and say Yours are the mouth which he speaks to redeem the world.

    What would I care about what a priest or priests does or does not do, in connection with my Christian obligation to fellow parishioners and other human beings out of love.

  15. Dominick Anthony Zarcone says:

    Christian, Wow, what a gift of memory you have!

    Thanks so much for telling our Saint Andrew story of loving concern that took action; action which touched people’s lives.

    May Jesus Christ be praised; Now and forever.

  16. Richard Thomas says:


    I have met few people who, in believing and professing the points I have mentioned who are not enthusiastic about the faith. How can people who are not in agreement with these issues be really in love with Jesus in totality? One certainly loves the Father by adhering to these principles. Who said anything that these principles were the sole manifestation of the Faith.

    But my issue with modern day Catholicism is the almost total silence of the clergy on these issues while our culture is drowing because of them and the Church is becoming more and more irrelavent because She chooses to remain silent about them. And the clergy and most Catholics claim to profess a love for Jesus and are either ignorant of, or disagree with the Majesterial teachings on these principles. The Leadership here in America turn a blind eye to homosexuality and the Church if infested with this condition. The seminaries are populated with many homosexual clergy and seminarians

    There is a chance that many who will be evangelizing door to door, will not be in agreement with the Majesterial teachings on these issues. So what exactly are these people talking about when they say they “love” the Father. And if they get people to come back to church, what are they coming back to? Poor homilies, homilies deficient in real teaching, liturgical abuses. And how many will stay in church? According to Michael Vorheis, even new converts will leave the Church because of these issues.

    The clergy better start preaching about these issues and do a little less talking about this nebulous “love”, and also start being a lot more reverential during mass. That in itself will draw many to church because reverential worshop and beautiful gregorian chant and the old hymns, touch the soul and attract people to God.

  17. Dominick Anthony Zarcone says:

    Richard Thomas,
    Please forgive my lack of clarity.

    1. I agree that people who accept the Catholic Church’s teaching On life and sexual morality obediently love The Lord Christ. Genuine Catholic faith and authentic Christian discipleship rejects the secularized world’s acceptance of contraception, abortion, homosexual acts, premarital sex, divorce/remarriage etc etc.

    2. I did not mean to give you the impression that you said “these principles are the sole manifestation of the faith.

    What I could have made more clear ( in light of Catechumens experiencing RCIA during Lent in anticipation of and preparation for the Easter Mysteries and Sacraments of Initiation ) your expressions of pleasant surprise that Catechumens with whom you talked had knowledge and zeal for the Faith including the items under discussion. Yet, Brother Richard Thomas, you made no mention of their knowledge and zeal for Jesus Himself, the Good News of the forgiveness of their sins, their hope of eternal life, desire for baptism etc etc.

    Perhaps the Catechumens did express THAT knowledge and zeal. Alas, you only mentioned those particular items. Maybe what needs be clarified is what is meant by any of us when we refer to THE FAITH!

    You now write: the clergy and most Catholics claim to profess a love for Jesus and are either ignorant of, or disagree with the Majesterial teachings on these principles.

    To that apt assessment I encourage what Paul wrote Timothy: Preach the Word ; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage with great patience and careful instruction.

    A ” little less talking about this nebulous “love”?
    Let’s just be reminded WHO is Love and how He defines it.
    (Glance at the Crucifix and recite John 3:16)

    Peace and joy to you, Richard Thomas. Continue steadfast in your Catholic convictions and remember the name above every other.

  18. Richard Thomas says:

    Dear Dominick,

    Thank you for your responce. What would you define as knowledge and zeal for Jesus? Wouldn’t you think that someone, wanting to become Catholic, especially when professing faithfulness to the Majesterial teachings on these issues would have love and zeal for Jesus? How might they be deficient.

    Anyone professing such faithfulness on these issues stands in opposition of the tidal wave of public opinion that is in favor for everything we stand for. And the price is high. They will be ridiculed and possibly persecuted for these beliefs. Isn’t that faithfulness, love and zeal. Isn’t that like the early Christians who suffered for professing their faith? Would you also ask the same questions for these early CHristians in light of the suffering they endured?

    Love is in the will. It’s not a feeling. Simply believing in the truth on these issues is an expression of great love and also zeal because so few do so. And I might also ask those same questions to ALL the Catholics in the pew (what few of them are left) about their love and zeal for Jesus. For if it is true that many do not adhere to the Majesterial teachings on these issues, then I question their love and zeal for Jesus and if these same people are going door to door, then I know that this effore on evangelization will fail.

    My experience with those who adhere to these Majesterial teachings is that they are pillars in the Catholic cummunity. Their faith is exemplary. You don’t believe in these issues without believing in all the other facets of our faith.

    My biggest cross is that I had a wonderful support group of doctors, lawyers and wonderful people at the Women’s Health Center and I had to leave Rochester in the mid 1990’s and I have never found a similar group. These people were awsome in how they not only believed in these issues but how they put it on the line every day fighting not only the culture but also the bishop and his minions. They were daily communicants. They were active in all sorts of projects, just like the Catechumens I spoke with. We shared common ground. When I was in Rochester, I felt like a fish out of water in my local parish, like I do today.

    I have more in common with the catechumens that I do with most of the other people who go to church.

    I would want to know how you define zeal and love for Jesus, excluding faithfulness with these issues. Wouldn’t you admit that some of the people going door to door might be lacking in these qualities?

    Thank you and God bless.

  19. Dominick Anthony Zarcone says:

    Again to Richard Thomas, I never meant to infer that someone wanting to be Catholic who believes Magisterial Teaching on the principles and issues we have been discussing does not have love and zeal for The Lord Jesus. In fact in our society faithfully adhering to Church teaching on those subjects demonstrates love and zeal for the Son of God who commands us to teach baptized disciples all that He has commanded.

    Richard Thomas, with all due respect, the point of my first reference to your comment on the Catechumens was that you did not explicitly mention their knowledge and zeal for Him who is the Alpha and Omega. It is all about Jesus and it is our ( and Catechumens’) personal knowledge and zeal for Him that primarily reflects knowledge and zeal for the faith. Again, it is all about Jesus. Jesus is the Good News. Jesus is The Faith.

    An internationally known evangelizer puts it this way: “Jesus Christ is Lord is the heart of evangelization. The declaration that Jesus Christ, the Word of God made flesh, crucified and risen from the dead, is the LORD. Jesus wants to be the center of our lives and in Him and in relationship to Him we find liberty and joy. That is the Catholic evangelical message from the time of Peter and Paul to today.”

    So what I did not ‘hear’ in your first post was something like this: How wonderful and encouraging to meet Catechumens who profess faith in the Son of God, crucified and risen from the dead who is their and my saving Lord for whom they and I want to live and die as his disciple in the Catholic Church which teaches the truth about homosexuality, premarital sex, contraception and abortion. Thanks be to God The Lord has called them to know Jesus in the Church’s sacraments, liturgy, moral teaching etc. etc. etc.”

    Please believe me we are not at odds here, Richard Thomas. If the Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life which certainly includes those life and sexual morality issues, then let us say so; let us say Jesus in the Eucharist is the source and summit of the Catechumens’ life, my life and the lives of committed Catholics who know and love Jesus Christ. Let us be zealous for Him who is made present in the source and summit of Christian life.

    Lastly, knowledge of, zeal for and love for The Lord Jesus starts with an encounter of Him. Popes, Magisterial documents and the personal testimonies of countless Catholics speak to the reality of, the life changing and transforming personal encounter with the Crucified and Risen Christ, Jesus The Lord.

    Thank you for this discussion, Richard Thomas,in which there really is no disagreement. Personally I consider our discussion closed for the purposes of SOUND BITE EVANGELIZATION.

  20. Pianist9591 says:

    I’ll be attending this conference this weekend, which is being simulcasted at various locations across the country, the closest of which is in Syracuse. Looking forward to what I’m going to learn that will be beneficial for our local chapter of St. Paul Street Evangelization.

  21. christian says:

    I cannot add anything to what Dominick Anthony Zarcone has written, particularly in his last posting.

    I would just like to personally clarify to Richard Thomas what I was talking about with regard to Evangelization in my earlier post. Evangelization involves two main sets of people:

    1. Those who are already believers and followers in Jesus Christ who are in the Church.

    2. Those who have yet to hear the good news and come to a belief and acceptance in Jesus Christ and become one of his followers in the Church.

    There is a subset – 3. A third group of people who have already heard the good news and had become followers of Jesus Christ, but have fallen away from the Church, A. -due to a bad encounter(s) from clergy, religious, lay pastoral person, or less common, member(s) of a parish/congregation, B. -due to personal sin in their life which makes them feel there is no way back,
    C. -less common, -due to a member of the clergy telling them a particular sin they committed was a blasphemy against God and unforgivable, and they were not allowed to be in church.
    (Ex. – I came across such a person many years ago. This person was truly repentant and sought forgiveness from a priest years earlier, but this person relayed to me she was denied forgiveness and absolution as the priest told her that her sin was not forgivable. Without going into too many details, this young women had been involved with a young man who turned out to be very bad, and while she was in very vulnerable state, he involved her in his activity of desecrating the Holy Eucharist. This young woman stated that the priest told her that her sin was a blasphemy against God and was unforgivable, and further told her that she could not come to Church, as well not partake of Holy Communion.
    This young woman had been a very pious woman. She continued to try to live a pious life after she was exiled from the Church. It bothered her greatly to be told that there could never be any forgiveness for her sin, and that she apparently, was eternally doomed. Certainly not excusing the horrible deed that this woman had been involved in, but when listening to her story at length, I believe that she had been a victim in all of this, from beginning to end. She had been and was still very repentant. She had been and was still grieved at being cut off from the Church and Holy Mass, for years. I told her the priest was wrong in the advice he gave her. I told her that there was no sin that God couldn’t forgive. I instructed her to come back to Church, stating she could and she should. I hope she found a priest with good spiritual counseling).

    D. -due to issues over their parish church being sold or disagreements over money matters or politics in their parish or diocese/synod.
    E. -due to disagreements over church teachings and policies.

    But let’s focus on groups 1. and 2.

    Regarding number 1. – One should always be ready to encourage and support another Christian, and additionally, admonish, teach, and guide another Christian when they fail to see a particular situation or act as sin, or in some instances, not in good judgment. Sin needs to be called sin. Because of vague and marshmallow type teaching and preaching, there needs to be more Catholic Christians willing to evangelize their fellow Catholic Christians in these areas out of Christian love.
    Fellow Christians also need to point out to one another when a particular situation or activity is not in good judgment because of the possible repercussions or consequences that may arise despite innocent and well-meaning intentions.
    Christians also need to be open to be admonished, taught, and guided by other Christians out of humility and a desire to better oneself and become more holy because God is Holy.

    Regarding number 2. – What will draw people to Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church who have never been told of Jesus’ story of public ministry, crucifixion, death, and resurrection from the dead, and of His Church established on this earth? What would you tell a co-worker, neighbor, or someone you came across, about your Christian faith to make them want to know more about this Jesus, His life, and His Way? Would it include the love of Jesus and the possibility of a new beginning with their sins forgiven?

    You won’t draw people to Jesus and his Church, (who have never heard the good news), by questioning them about their personal life with regard to their sexual morality and sexual practices, whether they’ve ever had an abortion, and whether or not they use contraceptives. People are drawn to Jesus and His Church out of love and compassion. They are drawn out of the promise of beginning a new life with their sins forgiven, and being part of the Family of God.

    Children who have never been part a family or have been without a family for a long time, are initially drawn to the love and the promise of a new life, and the belonging that adoption into a family can have. Once the adoptive children enter their new family, there are rules set for the betterment of the entire family which they will have to follow to be part of that family. When drawing a comparison to their former state in life, children who now have a sense of belonging, a new life, and unconditional love, will endeavor to get used to the rules and obey them. It may not be the best analogy, but remember, we are all adoptive sons and daughters of God.

    St. Paul is the ideal example of someone who through his conversion, choose the new way of Jesus Christ and the forgiveness of his sins over the learning and position of his old way. As Paul says in Philippians 3:7-3:11 “But what were once my assets I now through Christ Jesus count as losses.
    Yes, I will go further: because of the supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, I count everything else as loss. For him I have accepted the loss of all other things, and look on them all as filth if only I can gain Christ
    and be given a place in him, with the uprightness I have gained not from the Law, but through faith in Christ, an uprightness from God, based on faith,
    that I may come to know him and the power of his resurrection, and partake of his sufferings by being moulded to the pattern of his death,
    striving towards the goal of resurrection from the dead.”

    God Bless You Pianist9591, Dominick, catholic mom, and all those who volunteer with St. Paul Street Evangelization, and God Bless Your Mission.

  22. Ben Anderson says:

    I don’t know all the details around this, but there is this:

    Can. 1367 A person who throws away the consecrated species or takes or retains them for a sacrilegious purpose incurs a latae sententiae excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See;

    It could be that the priest’s response was more nuanced than, “I can’t forgive => you are unforgivable”. It could be more a process than a typical confession.

  23. christian says:

    Ben – It could be the priest did not know the proper channels for this young woman to go about to be reinstated in the faith and never gave her that information. All I know from what this young woman told me was, the older priest told her that her sin was unforgivable because it was a blasphemy against God.

    I encountered this young woman many years ago on a co-ed retreat for young Christian singles. (The group meetings and the retreats took place at the Cenacle retreat House on East Avenue.The Cenacle Retreat House is no longer around).

    The typical Catholic does not know anything about appealing to the Vatican with regard to certain matters, who to write to, and what address to send the letter.

    I have heard others, including someone in my own family, who was given wrong spiritual advice from an older priest many years ago.
    Someone in my own family was seeking information in trying to obtain an annulment, and she certainly had grounds for one. After hearing of the severe mental, physical, emotional, and then sexual assault, which the courthouse had to be cleared for her testimony, the judge granted her an immediate divorce. But the older priest told her that marriage was indissoluble and, implied that she should stick with her marriage. I was told by a pillar of that church of another young woman parishioner who was given the same advice in regard to her marriage where her husband beat her.

    I think often, years ago, some priests were using the standard guideline instead of acknowledging exceptions, and I also think, inserting their own personal views rather than consulting Church laws or policies. As a result, there were people who were not referred to another agency in the Church.

    Regarding the young woman I encountered on the retreat: I think a priest with the proper psychological and spiritual background and gifts would be able to see that this young woman was made a victim in all of this. The young man who turned out to be very bad, had victimized her, and then when she was in a state of shock and vulnerability, involved her in his desecration of the Holy Eucharistic, which in fact, was using her faith against her. (It’s disturbing to know there are people out there with these evil intents).

    Then when this young woman is attempting to overcome her experience of victimization and evil influence, she is told that she can’t be forgiven and is not allowed to be in Church.

    I say, “What Would Jesus Do?”

  24. Hopefull says:

    There are so many sad misunderstandings re the Catholic Faith and what Jesus really taught. For example, He didn’t say divorce is a sin (although for generations many of the divorced acted as if it were a sin and they stayed away from church.) The “sound-bite” is that “Divorce is not a sin in itself; a remarraige without annulment is.” It is like “Homosexuality is not a sin; living a same-sex activist lifestyle is the sin.” (Of course those who want to claim they are hated for being homosexual don’t want to hear the rest of the sentence because they want to choose the lifestyle.”)

    So, when there are sins that only a bishop (or Rome) can forgive, it is easy to think that the sin is “unforgiveable.” I think if a priest can’t or won’t give absolution, he should have to give the person information on what they have to do next in the process and not merely condemn them. Yes, desecrating the Eucharist is one of those sins which needs more formality in the process of forgiveness, but I wish that would include all the priests, bishops and Cardinas who lay the Lord’s Body on the tongue of a politician who promotes abortion or same sex marriage — that they too would have to follow the process for repentance from a sacrilege. Maybe that would get their attention.

  25. christian says:

    I agree with you wholeheartedly with all of your comments Hopeful.

    I think it should be mandatory that a priest who deems they can’t give absolution to a pentintent, give that pentintent information on what they have to do next in the process, in regard to having their sin forgiven and receiving absolution.

    There are horrible sins which involve the desecration of a person such as rape and sexual abuse. I wonder if forgiveness and absolution for these sins would be more appropriately referred to and handled by a bishop. Murder is another serious crime which I wonder would be more appropriately referred to and handled by a bishop.

  26. annonymouse says:

    I dearly hope the priest did not give that woman the impression that her sin was unforgivable or that she could not be reconciled to the Church, although she certainly walked away with that impression. How very sad. Certainly the desecration of the Blessed Sacrament is most serious and incurs an automatic excommunication that can only be lifted by the Holy See, but that priest forgot (or never learned) that excommunication is medicinal in nature, intended to give impetus to reconciliation and restoration of communion, not to leave someone in the throes of despair. It is quite sad that many priests forgot or never learned that our God is a God of unfathomable mercy. Many have left for they heard nothing but stern judgment in the confessional.

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