When you look at all the countries that have active Catholic Churches, it’s rather amazing. For over 2,000 years, evangelists have been setting out on missionary journeys. Our world today seems rather small, yet the need for evangelists never goes away. One might even think that it’s grown greater through the years.
When we hear of recent studies where a fraction of Catholics attend Mass every Sunday or believe the eucharist is simply a symbol of Jesus, we wring our hands and bemoan the situation. It seems like these statistics are presented as if never before in history has this happened. Scandals are always tragic and may differ from age to age, but they have happened before and will again in the future. The need to evangelize both baptized Catholics and non-Catholics has been based on the erroneous beliefs of each era. We need to remember that hindsight is 20/20, and use caution that we aren’t interpreting past events with our present-day understanding.
The past — good, bad, and ugly, has made us who we are today. As a result of these trials, Councils like those of Nicea and Trent brought together those consecrated to God to pray, discuss, and refine the tenants of faith. They didn’t bring new revelations to light, but clarified existing beliefs. These teachings have helped us to connect the dots, but they will always remain imperfect due to our human nature. The Infinite God will always be beyond our comprehension, no matter how much our logical brains desire a firm grasp. Those who have gone before us have laid a foundation for us to build upon and we should appreciate the efforts, while continuing to evangelize today. It is our turn to write church history!
Before we can go out and try to inspire lapsed Catholics, we need to make sure we understand what we believe. Our beliefs go beyond the list of items we recite in the creed weekly. We believe that the purpose of the Catholic faith is to nurture and grow a personal relationship with God. We believe Jesus Christ is present — Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, in the consecrated hosts. All our actions, all our decisions need to reflect these beliefs. When we live as we believe, we will be evangelists to all our brothers and sisters.