Have you experienced this? You’re out in public, someone finds out that you are Catholic, and you immediately get asked about Pope Francis.
I think most of us have found ourselves in this situation. I encountered it last week at a conference and spoke with several folks about this situation after a talk I gave on Pope Francis.
So, what do we do about it?
Here are 4 steps on how to use Pope Francis to share the Catholic faith:
Step 1 – Don’t Get Annoyed.
Some people’s immediate reaction is to be annoyed by the situation. They are frustrated with Pope Francis because they wish he were clearer in his teaching. Or, they are afraid of what he might say next. Or, they are mad because their family member, friend, co-worker, or fellow parishioner uses their understanding of Pope Francis to show them that they are wrong about the Catholic faith.
All this is understandable. All of this can be frustrating. But, no matter what your feelings are, you have to realize that this is a fantastic opportunity to share the Catholic faith. Prior to Pope Francis, not many people wanted to talk freely and willingly about Catholicism. Don’t miss these opportunities!
Step 2 – Find the Positive Intention.
When someone brings up Pope Francis, they may do so for various reasons. Perhaps they really enjoy how he serves the poor or embraces those with physical and mental handicaps. Maybe they’ve read a news article about how Pope Francis is going to change Church doctrine on a particular issue. Whatever it may be, find a way to connect with them on what they are bringing up.
Note: This is different than agreeing with them! One thing we do need to recognize is that even when people have opinions that run contrary to the Catholic faith, it doesn’t mean they are pure evil. In fact, in their own way, they believe they are trying to make the world a better place. We can agree with their intention without agreeing with their opinion. I’ll explain more in my example below.
Step 3 – Share What You Love about the Faith.
Sometimes we can be so quick to correct others that they don’t get to see the joy that our faith brings us. Instead, they see someone who is bitter, angry, or only concerned about rules. Make sure you show them the joy of the Catholic faith. Share with them some of the things you love about Pope Francis. Witness to them why you love the Catholic faith. Most people don’t meet Catholics who love the faith; make sure they have a great experience with you.
Step 4 – Correct Any Mistakes Charitably.
So, after you have seized the opportunity, positively responded to the person’s comment, and shared why you love Pope Francis and the Catholic faith, correct any mistakes that may have been shared in a charitable way.
If the matter is doctrine, you can mention that Pope Francis has a great way of trying to connect the teachings of the Church to the modern world, but hasn’t changed any Church teaching. You can also mention that it is important to read the actual words of Pope Francis instead of listening to what the media is saying.
Also, be aware of the language and detail that you use when discussing the faith. Don’t talk to them like they are insiders if they aren’t. Use language and terms they can understand. Err on the side of caution in these situations.
So, practically, what does this look like? Here’s an example conversation with Cathy, the Catholic and Agnes, the Agnostic.
Cathy: We tried a new breakfast place this weekend after Mass.
Agnes: You’re Catholic! What do you think about Pope Francis? I loved how he said, “Who am I to judge about homosexuals?” Finally, the Catholic Church is changing for the better.
Cathy: Boy, I love when people bring up Pope Francis. [Step 1: Don’t get annoyed.] He’s really caught people’s attention. On this particular issue, I understand how many people think the Catholic Church is so judgmental and condemning on this issue. Pope Francis does a great job of opening dialogue and showing that the Church seeks to be merciful more than just telling people what to do. [Step 2: Positive Intention]
Agnes: Absolutely. He gives such a better face to the Catholic Church.
Cathy: It was the mercy of the Church that really deepened my own faith. I was going to Mass each week but wasn’t very engaged until I went on a retreat last year. I finally discovered what the mercy and love of God truly meant and it changed my life. My husband says I’m a different person now! [Step 3: Share what you love about the faith.]
Cathy: That’s why I love Pope Francis. He’s been able to show the mercy and love of the Church that I experienced on that retreat. Plus, I think he isn’t afraid to share the truth of the Church. While his comments definitely have a different style than popes in the past, he hasn’t changed any fundamental teachings of the Church. On the topic of homosexuals, he said that he believes in the teaching of the Church. Also, the context of the actual quote isn’t about all homosexuals, but about one’s that are seeking to do the will of God. As you probably understand, sometimes the media quotes him out of context. But, either way, it’s been awesome to see how it opens up great conversations like these. [Step 4 – Correct Any Mistakes Charitably.]
Agnes: Hmm…Well, thanks for talking to me about Pope Francis. Have a great day!
Cathy: Until next time!
Your conversation might not look exactly like this, but think about using some of these principles the next time you talk about Pope Francis. Good luck!