One of the most difficult things we can encounter as Christians are friends who have no interest at all in Christianity, even if they “respect me for being a Catholic”. It is like a bridge of trust is there, between them and me, and yet they couldn’t be less interested.
In the five thresholds of conversion, discussed by Sherry Weddell inForming Intentional Disciples, curiosity is the second threshold. Once a bridge of trust exists between the person and God, and/or the Church, and/or a Christian… our task as an evangeliser is to arouse curiosity.
Curiosity in what is a big question. I knew a lady who was fascinated by the Church her daughter had joined because it seemed like a big, intriguing club. Curiosity as a threshold of conversion really means curiosity about Christ – and about things in relation to him.
Often, for many of our friends, colleagues, and family members a ‘bridge of trust’ is in place because of us and the relationship they have with us. I think we can also think about those who come to enquiry sessions of RCIA – many will already be at the point of curiosity for them to be there at all; but it is good to be open to the fact that some may not have any curiosity about Jesus… Perhaps they are there for other reasons we won’t rehearse right now, but, whatever reason they’re there, our job is to awaken curiosity.
Here, I’ve written some suggestions: both how to arouse curiosity, and how we can dampen it (usually by making Catholics look somewhat socially awkward…) Good to be aware of both!
Ways to arouse curiosity:
- Be your cheerful, loving, helpful, efficient, friendly, peace-exuding Christian self – no better way
- Drop into conversation that you’re going to Mass/a prayer group/retreat – but only say more about it if they ask (going to Mass in your lunch break is pretty curiosity-inducing)
- Have a small crucifix on your desk/a rosary in your bag/a holy picture in your home
- Talk a little about Christian heroism we don’t often see in mainstream media, e.g. the Iraqi Christians
- Pose curiosity-arousing questions when you talk about topical issues: happiness, freedom, life, family… bring all these topics up and ask interesting questions
- Live a life with many different interests – sports, hobbies, travel – and share conversations about many different things
- Make the sign of the cross before eating a meal when you’re in a restaurant
- Invite your friend to a gathering or event with other Christians you think they’ll get along well with
- If someone notices you don’t eat meat on Fridays or don’t eat sweets during Lent, have a good reason why you don’t
- If your friend begins asking questions, answer them in a Christ-centred way
- Match your answer to your friend’s level of curiosity
Ways to drown curiosity:
- Be moany, lazy, judgemental, [insert other unattractive character adjectives] and still say you’re a Christian – see people lose interest in droves
- Give a blow-by-blow account of the retreat you went on
- Make a disparaging joke about some aspect of Catholic teaching, “Most Catholics don’t believe that”
- Clutter your entire workspace with prayer cards and small statues
- Tell your friend about the in-fighting at your church
- Pray the whole of Night Prayer loudly in a public place, complete with Salve Regina
- Invite someone to spend time with you and other Christians then have a fiery debate about inside-Catholic hot issues in front of them
- Draw unnecessary attention, in a self-conscious way, to saying grace before meals/not eating meat on a Friday/going to Mass on a holy day of obligation/fasting on Ash Wednesday, etc.
- When someone asks a serious question, you give a jokey response, or a human-centred rather than a Christ-centred perspective
- Your friend asks a quick, simple question about the faith, and you give a long, convoluted answer, quoting the Catechism, the Church Fathers, and St Thomas Aquinas till they’re not listening anymore
How about you? What ways do you help arouse curiosity in others? What do you think is off-putting?