A Burden For Souls?

July-August 1995By Dale Vree

Dale Vree is Editor of New Oxford Review.

Catholics are not given to grabbing people by the collar, and asking, "Are you saved?" A Catholic is taught -- and rightly so -- to worry first about whether he himself is saved. To run around sticking one's nose in other people's business is to risk the sins of presumption and spiritual pride -- presuming that "I'm saved, brother, and you're not," and taking prideful satisfaction in that perception.

But let's say that we are working out our own salvation with properly Pauline fear and trembling. Let's also say that we don't presume to usurp God's role as Judge. We're even "nonjudgmental." But in being nonjudgmental, is there not a risk of becoming dead to spiritual realities, of becoming undiscerning?

We Christians are called to discern the spirits -- and it isn't all that hard. Who has gazed at pictures of the savagery and brutality in, say, Bosnia -- or a half dozen other battle zones at any given time -- without realizing that he's been looking into the face of evil?

But that's boilerplate discernment -- it's culturally safe to be "judgmental" about other people's wars. Let's therefore bring the matter closer to home. Have you ever known a neighbor, relative, or work mate who is rather unmistakably ruining his life, sliding down the slope, heading straight for the Pit? Maybe it's a teenager who's already an alcoholic. Maybe it's an adulterous acquaintance who will soon wreck a marriage and family. Perhaps it's a colleague with a gambling addiction. Maybe it's an old friend who is drug-addicted, can't hold down a job, and is poised for a career in crime, and then jail. If you've known such a person, hasn't your heart ached?

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This is an excellent article, about a topic that really needs to be addressed. Like many people, I am not a good salesman and do not have the gift of persuasion. It makes face-to-face evangelization virtually a lost cause. What I have found to be the best route is to use the kind of inspirational booklets, such as those that Tan Books publishes. There is no way I can be more articulate than these writings. Of course the personal touch usually makes a deeper impact, but in lieu of the ability to articulate things well, I figure that if these booklets don't make the point clearly enough, then little else will. Knowing one's weaknesses and limitations is the first step in attempting to do a bit of evangelizing. Only a true expert could hold in his mind all of the teachings of Catholicism required to answer every query on the spot. Having good literature at your disposal to do the technical work for you when the need arises, can build confidence necessary for future efforts.

Mike Ezzo
Yokkaichi, Japan
Posted by: Mike Ezzo
July 17, 2006 12:16 AM EDT
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