Where is the sincere and thoughtful Catholic who has not strongly wished at times that he could make some converts to the one true Faith?
All of us know so deeply, from our everyday experience, the sweetness and the strength, the beauty, tenderness, and power of our holy religion, and the cheer and guidance that it gives us on our way toward Heaven, that we should be dull clods indeed not to desire to share these amazing and neglected treasures with our fellowmen.
It is true, of course that a sincere and God-fearing non-Catholic may hope to save his soul. True, also, that there is many such a one who puts half-hearted Catholics utterly to shame by the earnestness, uprightness, and goodness of his life.
But if such men walk so well in the twilight, how gloriously, we think, they would run onward in the noonday splendor!
If they fight so valiantly, nourished with the crumbs that have fallen from the children’s table, what heroes they would become if they were fed on the strong Bread of Angels and given to drink of the sweet waters of God’s full and satisfying truth!
The fervor and earnestness we have noted in so many converts confirms this view and urges us the more to the work of conversion.
How ardently they leap forward in the ways of sanctity, when first they feel the mighty aid of the sacraments and of holy Mass!
How eagerly they receive the rich teachings of Catholic Tradition and embrace the thousand helps and stays that God’s Church alone can give!
He would be an ungenerous and selfish man – or, at least, a very thoughtless one – who had never wished to make a convert to Catholic truth. But when it comes to choosing the means, the average Catholic man or woman may well be perplexed to know just how the good work is to be begun.
“Arguing is no use,” they say. “It only makes people stubborn and angry. To explain the truths of Faith is all very good, but how am I to get people to listen, and how am I to answer the awkward questions they will be sure to ask? I cannot write or give lectures or preach sermons. It isn’t my business, and, besides, I haven’t the talent or the time. So what in the world am I to do?”
This may be all very natural and true, and if these were indeed the only ways of making converts to the Faith, many Catholics might be pardoned for shrinking from the task. Fortunately, these are not the only ways.
There is an argument stronger with most men than any logic – a way of preaching that is open to everyone and to which no living soul can choose but listen: the argument of steadfast good example, of a consistent living up to our Catholic principles and our Catholic beliefs.
We walk about in this world very obscurely, it may be. We do not seem prominent persons in the scheme of things, nor apt to draw men’s eyes to look at us.
Yet every day of our lives, almost at every hour of our days, at home and in the street, in the busy hours or when we are taking our ease and our pleasure, careless and free and unconscious of the world’s remark, we are being watched, studied, thought of, imitated, it may be, by the restless, eager spirits of our fellowmen.
What is a man so interested in as in his neighbor? What does he talk of more often? What does he speculate on so eagerly? By what is he so deeply moved as by the sayings and doings, the character and principles of other men?
Blind and deluded though men often are as to their own proper vices and virtues, they have a wonderful shrewdness in searching out and summing up the genuine character of another.
It is no use, in the matter of religious principle especially, to try to play the saint and be the sinner.
Nothing but sincere and practical fidelity, the pure gold of honesty, seven times tried, will wear well and shine well for long against the rough usage and trying ways of this hurly-burly world.
These are truisms, as we all know; but apply them to yourself, the individual Catholic, moving about in the highways of life and dealing with your fellows. Although they know that you are a Catholic, many of them realize only vaguely what the name implies.
But if they recognize in you a man apart from and distinguished above his fellowmen by reason of his honesty, industry, and kindness to his neighbors, by his truth, honor, and good faith, they will grow a bit curious to learn more of what Catholics think and strive for and believe.
Your courage, your consistency, and your modest faithfulness to your principles will make you stand out in noble relief against the general carelessness and self-indulgence of the times.
They will conceive a huge respect for the Faith that can so lift a man above the common lust and avarice of the world; they will inquire into the Church’s teaching and open their hearts to her appeal, and God’s grace will have an entrance to win them over to the truth.
And you, sincere, simple, and consistent with your Catholic principles, without any noise of argument or any array of lectures or of books, will truly have converted them; you will have convinced and persuaded them by the most convincing, most persuasive of all arguments: by the solid and practical proof of a life consistent with your holy Faith.