Everyone experiences this at some point: you feel you are trying your best, but nobody seems to be changing. You have been joyous and kind; you have been patient and firm; you have been praying for people and always keeping an eye open for the opportunity to share the Faith, yet no one has signed up for RCIA.
Hope is one of the great virtues that an evangelist must possess. However, there are two sins against the virtue of Hope, presumption and despair. Presumption is when an evangelist thinks they can do more than they really can or is more confident in their abilities then they should be. Despair comes to the evangelist when they become disheartened because of the lack conversions. Both presumption and despair are just different sides of the same coin that believes “I can give someone faith.” We can never give someone faith only the Holy Spirit can do that. So to avoid despair keep in mind the following:
- Conversion takes time. It seldom happens that someone gives their life to Christ and His Church in a single moment. Even some of the examples in Scripture such as St. Paul may not have been such a single moment conversion, keep in mind that Paul was at the death of St. Stephan. It would be hard to think that witnessing Stephan’s death would not affect someone. Or if Matthew’s call to “follow” Jesus and he gets up and follows Jesus. Perhaps Matthew had heard Jesus preach or seen Him work a miracle. The fact remains that conversion is normally a step by step process, and once it happens there are still more steps.
- Perseverance is key to evangelization. Since conversion takes time we must be in for the long haul. Think of St. Monica and St. Augustine. How many years did Monica spend in prayers and tears before she saw her son come to Christ? Think of the father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. How many years did the father spend looking out for his son to return?
- Pray and trust in God. We cannot emphasize enough that only the Holy Spirit and grace can give some faith and bring them to conversion. There is a great saying usually accredited to St. Ignatius of Loyola (some say to St. Augustine), “Pray as if everything depended upon God, and work as if everything depended upon you.” This line is no more applicable then with evangelization.
- Remember, “For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor; others have labored, and you have entered into their labor” (John 4:37,38 RSV). Whether it is one quick conversation or a lifelong relationship, we must keep in mind that we are just planting seeds and it might be someone else who gets to witness the fruit.