My paternal grandmother used to pray the rosary every morning before Mass. On Sundays, when my sisters and I would file into the pew, she would greet us with hugs and kisses, her beads swaying, and then return to her prayer. In adulthood, I learned that she began this practice on the day Pearl Harbor was attacked.
That same grandmother had a magnetic Holy Family statue on the dashboard of her car right up until dashboards stopped being made of metal. I’m pretty sure she taped it down for a while after that.
My maternal grandparents used to invite their grandkids on long RV vacations. I remember praying the rosary on my knees behind the cab of the camper as the interstate unfolded (well before seat-belt laws).
My father used to begin every day with a reflection on Scripture. Often, as my sisters and I tore through the living room looking for shoes and getting breakfast before the country bus arrived, Dad would be sitting in his easy chair with his eyes closed, praying.
My childhood was steeped in the devotions of the Catholic Church, and although I never questioned it then, I realize now that those continuous contacts with the faith of my elders were a silent witness, an unobtrusive evangelization.
I don’t think I ever had a conversation on matters of faith with my father’s mother, for instance. Yet I knew her faith was central to her identity.
Usually I interpret that statement attributed to St. Francis—“Preach Jesus, and if necessary use words”—to mean “live a good life, and if people know you’re Catholic, you’ll be inviting them in.” Sometimes, though, it is the overt, yet quiet, practice of our faith that makes the biggest impact on those within our spheres of influence.
Perhaps what we need is a “stealthy” approach to witnessing, one in which we do what nourishes us spiritually without trying either to hide or to display it.
What part of Catholic culture and spirituality is meaningful in your life? Where and when can you set aside a few minutes in your day for a rosary, for quiet contemplative prayer, for Scripture and Catechism study? Is there space on your cubicle wall for an unobtrusive yet meaningful work of religious art? What about a screen saver with an inspirational message?
If we can find a way simply to be ourselves in the world—devoted Catholic Christians—perhaps we’ll find we not only evangelize to others but also to ourselves.
Kathleen M. Basi
What part of Catholic culture and spirituality is meaningful in your life?