How To Witness To Faith In Awkward Situations

It makes for an awkward situation. You run into a third-cousin-twice-removed whom you haven't seen in years, who (knowing what a devoted Catholic you are) is eager to tell you how appreciative he or she is that Pope Francis is “rewriting the rules” about a certain under-appreciated area of Church teaching. 

It's both an opportunity and a bit of a pickle. Are we supposed to set the record straight right away, assuring the speaker that Pope Francis is upholding the same Catechism as his predecessor—or can we let that part go (for now)? Are we failing as evangelizers if we don't take the occasion to teach the fullness of the faith? Or is a different approach not only permitted, but advisable? 

The first Pope already hinted at an answer: “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence” (1 Peter 3: 15-16). Pope Francis, like Pope Benedict before him, eschews collar-grabbing proselytizing as unworthy of human dignity and freedom. But Peter assumes that the other has come to you, and is expressing appreciation of a hope you share. This points out the pathway to follow. 

People who have been alienated from Catholic life for years may not have anywhere near enough an understanding of foundational teachings for you to be able to build on in presenting an accurate picture of Church teachings. But you have all you need to work with in that social setting: the interest your relative (or old neighbor, or the co-worker from the out-of-state branch office) showed in Pope Francis himself is a great starting point for a conversation. Speaking for myself, I like to acknowledge that the events of the past yearsince the resignation of Pope Benedict XVIhave awakened in me a new level of faith in the Holy Spirit. Rather than focus on the particulars of a papal statement taken out of context, turn the conversation to the presence of God at work in history, here and now for all to see. We have not been left at the mercy of political movements or the forces of nature. God is acting in our times! This is the rock-bottom “reason for our hope,” and in these unexpected opportunities to speak with others in terms of faith, it may be just the right way to start a longer, Spirit-led journey of faith.

by Sr. Anne Joan Flanagan, FSP



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Inspiration, Pope Francis School of Life, How to Share Your Faith



  • This is a very good website.
    11/13/2014 2:11:05 AM Reply
  • Julie, thank you for posting your quteison and response. This has been something that I have been struggling with as well. On one hand I know that the Church sees marriage as joining of 2 souls to become 1 with one of the main focus of that marriage is to have children. On the other hand, I see nothing wrong with being able to designate someone you love as being able to make medical decisions for you if you are unable, ability to avoid estate taxes when a person you lived with for 30 years passes away or have someone you can confide in. With the way the laws are set up the only way to achieve this is through marriage (unless you can afford a lawyer to prepare legal documents and this will only take care of some of these issues). The Church is not against love. It isn't against two people of the same sex living a life together. What it is against is sex between two men or two women because that type of sex is not capable of producing children. So the way I see it is there are really 2 separate issues here that people are confusing as one. The Church is arguing that marriage between 2 men or 2 women is not right in God's eyes because no children can come of that marriage. Don't forget we refer to God as Our Father and Mary as Blessed Mother. The gay right movement is focused on the legal benefits of marriage. Being able to visit a partner in the hospital, avoiding tax penalties, provide health insurance to someone they love. I personally believe the gay right movement focusing on marriage and not civil unions is because they feel they would not be treated equally (it would be like a second class marriage). I do see the argument for this. We know how the south was segregated for so many years and how separate but equal was not truly equal. To me the real way to solve this to provide an easy way for someone to designate another that they would like to have the legal ability to make decisions (health, legal or otherwise), ability to designate one person (other then one's children) that they would like to add to their health care plan, and the right to provide the house 2 people have shared for years to avoid being taxed outrageously when the other person passes. To me this would be more inline with what Jesus would be in favor of. Don't forget that Jesus told John to take care of Mary after He rose from the dead. In our current legal and health system, John would not have been able to visit Mary if she was in the hospital or make legal decisions if she was not able to do so. I personally don't think that is what Jesus would have wanted and we should look for a way to provide the benefits that have been attached to those that are married in the government eyes to those that do not fit into the one man/one women marriage role, but to those that are single and want to select their best friend of 20 years or two men or two women that chose to share a life together. As Catholics, we need to stop believing that the best way to stop sin is through the legal system and start looking for ways to support and truly show love to one another.
    6/15/2014 1:45:06 PM Reply
  • Pat
    Thanks for addressing this issue, Sister Anne Joan. I often get dismayed with the way the media comments on what the Pope says and uses it for its own agenda. I need to be reminded to be happy that he is drawing attention to the Church and that the Holy Spirit is working in ways that are difficult for me with my limited insight to understand.
    2/8/2014 3:57:55 PM Reply
  • Sr Anne Joan, THANK YOU for enlightening me by your wonderful article that I have just read , and which I will forward to all my friends. It means so much to me and I can now confidently address everyday comments with regards to the NEW POPE with your guidance and that of the Holy Spirit. May God bless you and your Sisters.
    2/8/2014 3:22:50 PM Reply
  • Bernadette, I say just what I wrote above: "Seeing the way Pope Francis has stepped up to this unexpected ministry (just when he thought he could retire!) and the way people respond to him renews my faith in the Holy Spirit!" I just keep going back to the power of the Spirit; that God is leading the Church; that I am praying to cooperate with grace and respond to the calls for interior renewal that the Pope's ministry is offering…. I say that the interest people show in Pope Francis means that there always has been a kind of openness there, and that is a sign of hope… and that we all need to pray to welcome God's action in our lives… How's that?
    2/8/2014 7:25:11 AM Reply
  • Thank you for this reminder to speak of our faith 'with gentleness and reverence'. I often find myself faced with extended (non-Catholic) family members who throw the supposed liberalism of Pope Francis in my face, as a challenge. I heartily agree with them that he is good ambassador of the faith (to them), and a Holy Father (to me). For one particularly sarcastic brother-in-law, this disarms him because we are in agreement, and then I point out, with a smile, that Pope Francis is not any different in how he upholds dogma than his predecessors. I then never fail to praise and revere Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, my beloved 'German shepard'.
    2/8/2014 5:31:38 AM Reply
  • Can you be more specific Sr Anne? What exactly would you say to start out? Thank you !!
    2/8/2014 4:35:37 AM Reply

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