Tales off the street

December 31st we set up our table at the pancake breakfast in the hallway outside the dining room. When the weather is nice, we set up a table on sidewalks. But due to the cold, we were graciously allowed inside. We stayed about and hour and a half. Everything on the table was free to be given away—rosaries, metals, holy cards and pamphlets—to anyone who wanted them. As usual, we tried to enter into friendly conversation about faith and witness to persons. The homeless have been very appreciative of the New Testaments because they fit in a pocket. We are grateful to all our benefactors.

There was a woman who approached with her 12-year old daughter. The girl pointed to a crucifix on the table and asked, “Who is that?” I said, “That is Jesus Christ. Do you know who Jesus is?” Fortunately, she knew who Jesus was but had never seen Christ crucified. In her mother’s church they don’t use crucifixes because, “Christ does not live on the cross but lives in the hearts of men.” Of course I’ve heard that line many times.
I said to the mom, “Yes, we agree Christ was crucified once for our sins and he does live in the hearts of Christians everywhere. But I can’t think of any other symbol that reminds me more how much God loved us, and I never want to forget the sacrifice He gave to set me free. Don’t you think?”
The mom agreed with me. Then the little girl asked her mother if she could have the crucifix. The mother said, “This is not a toy. What would we do with it?”
I jumped in and answered, “Like a lot of other Catholics, I have one over the doorpost or on the wall next to each door of my house. It’s just like the Hebrews in Egypt did who spread the blood of the Passover lamb over the doors of their homes to protect them from the destroyer. (Exodus 12:22-23) Every time I leave the house this crucifix reminds me that the blood of Christ saves my whole family.”
She said, “I want that for my house, too. I will take this and put it on my wall next to the door. Thank you.”

Praised be to our Lord Jesus Christ who can use a simple crucifix and a few simple words to strengthen someone’s faith and dispel misunderstandings between Christians. It’s so simple to just share a little of your faith with someone. There is nothing more important than bringing people to Christ. What can you do this week to evangelize?

Joan Caldwell
Jesus is Lord. Spread the word.

Spread the seeds of love around

Evangelization is not coming up to a person and asking, “Have you been saved? Do you accept Jesus as your savior?” It is more of planting seeds to people who seem lost, unhappy or having something missing in their life. That something is the joy of Jesus Christ.
We have gone to many places and have left rosaries and talked to people. It may take awhile for this seed to mature but we give them a name of someone or a place they can go for further help.
One gentleman was given a rosary with the method on how to pray it and was invited to come back. We saw him a month later and he said he wore that rosary every day. When he didn’t wear it, he felt like he was missing something. That was a seed. Last week he came and said he had lost it and could he get another one? Fifteen minutes later, another gentleman came up and wanted to know if he could get one too. He said he was new in town and was looking for a church.
It may be the next year, the next week, or the next person, but seeds are growing. Can you help spread seeds of God’s love around?
–Allison Hinde
“I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the growth. Therefore, neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who causes the growth.”–1st Corinthians 3:6-7.

The JW’s are coming!

Last Sunday the Jehovah’s Witnesses had a big rally at the Hulman Center and they must have gotten all riled up because I’ve seen them out twice this week. First was Tuesday in front of the student union center at ISU campus where Friar Mario and I were doing street evangelization. I left Mario at the table while I went over to ask the two ladies some questions about baptism and why they think Jesus Christ is actually St. Michael the Archangel (Yes, they do believe that).

The second occasion was Wednesday morning while I was taking my walk around the neighborhood. Three women got out of a car, one with a Bible and 2 younger women with tablets in their arms. So I caught up with them and started asking them questions, building on the answers I had gotten on Tuesday. I started with why they believe their translation of the Bible is correct when it differs from every other Bible ever printed in 2000 years. The older lady got pretty frustrated with my questions and rebuttal to her answers and finally stormed off in a huff, the other two trailing along with apologetic shrugs. I hollered after them “Know the truth and the truth shall set you free”.

I found they were woefully uninformed about things outside their religion. Then again, most people are (including many Catholics). If you have the occasion to talk with the JW’s, make sure you can express your arguments orally, because they believe if they read anything religious not their own they risk their salvation. They may even refuse to touch it. JW’s are also the ones who believe that to receive a blood transfusion will also cost them their salvation. They would rather die than receive blood and many have.

People who know, say that it’s most helpful to first address the basis of their authority: the governing body that authorizes their unique biblical translation and their publication, the Watchtower, Jehovah’s voice. Also, they believe one truth cannot contradict another and a false prophet is one whose predictions don’t come true. So you can ask them to check their old publication which have flip-flopped over the years predicting Jesus’ second coming and the battle of Armageddon in 1874 and again in 1914 and in 1975.

Here are some other dogma specific to the JW’s:
• There is no separate soul. When your body dies you cease to exist.
• Resurrection is not a raising soul and body to new life so much as re-creating that life anew.
• There is no Hell. Just non-existence. To think otherwise makes Jehovah a monster.
• When you are re-created (the JW’s, not us) you will not be in heaven with Jesus—that is reserved for the 144,000 (Rev. 7, and 14:3-4)who already have their reservations confirmed (Which, if taken literally, are male Israelite virgin converts). The rest are the multitude (Rev.7:9) that will be here on Earth playing with the lions and the lambs.
• Jesus is savior and lord, but not God. He was crucified on a stake, not a cross, and of course when he died he ceased to exist, but when Jehovah God recreated him it was as Michael the archangel and so it was not a bodily resurrection because angels have no bodies.
• Oh yeah, they changed the prologue of John chapter 1 to read, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was a God.” So evidently angels are gods (I need to find another JW and ask about that.)
• The Holy Spirit is not a person, just a force like the wind. When I asked her how it is that Acts chapter 5 refers to the Holy Spirit as a person, as does Jesus in John 14 using the pronoun “he”—“He will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.” I think that’s when she decided to cut and run.

If you think about it, you can find scripture to refute each of these claims. For example, numerous times the resurrected Jesus eats food with the disciples. He says, “touch my wounds”, and in John chapter 2 after he cleanses the Temple he says “destroy this temple and in 3 days I will rebuild it…But he was speaking about the temple of his body.” Clearly there was a bodily resurrection.

So don’t be afraid of the JW’s. Every one I have met is a very nice person, and, as misguided as they are, they really believe what they teach. When they evangelize, they do it out of love, as do we. So when you meet a JW, gently plant some seeds of truth and pray that the Holy Spirit will lead them to all truth. I emphasize being gentle because if they leave the JW’s they will be shunned like the Amish. They have a lot to lose, but a lot to gain.


First Friday

It was the first Friday in October when the stores and restaurants stay open late downtown. The weather had abruptly changed from the warm summer days to which we’d become accustomed into a crisp “Why didn’t I bring a jacket?” evening.
Carol Etling and I set up our table between the band and J Gumbo’s restaurant. We had to change our normal layout because the wind would whisk away anything not nailed down.

It turned out to be a good location and there was moderate to heavy foot traffic. We stayed about an hour from 6 to 7pm and in that time we only gave away about 5 rosaries, but we had at least 3 encounters of substance and 2 women we prayed with.

One that touched my heart was a woman with same-sex attraction. She had tattoos and at first I thought she was a man from the way she dressed. She had a lot of self-loathing for that part of herself, yet she feels a tugging toward God. I told her that is normal because we are created for intimacy with God and we can never be totally happy without that relationship. What she feels is her response to God who never stops calling her. I told her she is a beloved child of God created in God’s image. She can’t help what she feels—but that’s not a sin. We all have crosses to bear. What’s important are her actions. I told her she is not an animal without self-control and God could help her. I gave her a pamphlet about the Church’s position on homosexuality, one “10 things we want you to know about Catholics” pamphlet, and one of the knotted rosaries I had made with another pamphlet on how to pray it. I told her about Mary, Undoer of Knots, and how she can help us untie the knots and tangles of sins and confusion that keep us from being free and to see God clearly. I told her that while I make each rosary I am praying for the person who will use it. When we finished praying, she showed me the rosary and said, “See, I was holding it tight in my hand.” I also showed her how to find St. Joseph’s and told her she can come in any day and spend time with Jesus there because it is a holy place and many people find peace within. We hugged and she went on her way.

Praised be to our Lord Jesus Christ who loves us sinners with a love beyond our understanding and never ever stops calling us. What a joy to take our faith into the streets and what a privilege it is to talk with the people there.

Jesus is Lord. Spread the word.

Not Old Yeller

DSC02351Just got back from ISU campus with Friar Mario and I feel so happy. It was a great outing. We also got another thank-you, contrasting our presence to that of Joe, aka Joe Yeller or Old Yeller. He yells at students passing by, calling the young women sluts and hollering that they’re going to Hell.

We talked with two very interesting students with lots of question this morning: one was a lovely young woman who struggles with same-sex attraction who wanted to know if we worship saints and asked about our stance on homosexuality. The second was a young man who says he is an atheist (we never accept a label for a person) and was raised up in a strict fundamentalist family (which explains his knowledge of scripture and could explain his attitude toward it). He likes that we do not pit faith against science. Please pray for both these young people. We pray the Holy Spirit will fan into flame their curiosity and that they will come back with more questions.
God is good.



You are listening to a coworker and she tells you that her son is failing his classes at school. She is at the end of her rope and doesn’t know what to do. He keeps getting into trouble. She is venting to you. This is a perfect opportunity to offer to pray with her. Sure, she might say no, but she will probably say yes even if she is not a disciple. Just offering to pray with someone is hard, now that you overcame that part; you need to pray for them. Hopefully you pray enough throughout the day that praying for someone else won’t be so hard. There is a formula we can use, though, to help us pray spontaneously when the situation calls for it.
What could you pray if you have to pray spontaneously with a person? Just remember A.C.T.S.! Do not be afraid to pray with others. They will not ask you to pray with them, but you should ask as often as you can if you can pray with them.
• Adoration – As a matter of justice we should worship and recognize God for who He is – Our loving creator and savior. Adoration is a good way to start any prayer. You can open prayer with others by saying “Almighty God and Father, we praise your holy name.” Pray prayers of adoration and praise to God.
• Contrition – We can pray for forgiveness for our sins against God and against others. When you pray with others ask God to forgive OUR trespasses. Pray the Our Father with them.
• Thanksgiving – We can thank God for the good things he has given us and done for us in our life.
• Supplication – We can ask God to provide for our needs.
When praying for others recall ACTS in your own mind. Start by making the sign of the cross and adoring God. “Almighty God and Father we love you and adore your holy name.” Then think in your mind “okay, contrition” and offer a prayer out loud asking for the forgiveness of our sins. “We are sorry for the ways that we have failed you. In Jesus Christ, forgive us our sins against you and against our neighbor.” Thank God for all of the good things in the person’s life, and then implore God to bless the person and fulfill their true needs that they have asked prayer for. “Jesus we ask you to bless and help this mom’s son as he is struggling with school. Give him the courage to talk to his parents about what is bothering him and his parents the openness to listen and respond in love. We pray this in Jesus’ name and implore the intercession of all the saints and angels. Amen.”
-excerpt from SPSE basic evangelization training module

Somebody’s knocking at your door

A pastor from a nearby Baptist Church knocked on my door this morning, with his adorable little boy, passing out religious tracts.
“We want to give you this invitation to our church, and on the back it has gospel and all the information on how you can be saved”, he said, stretching out his hand.
I said, “That’s very kind of you. But I am a Catholic Christian and proud to be part of the one true church founded by Christ 2000 years ago with the promise of the Holy Spirit that protects the church from teaching error. So there’s really no reason to take a card. Thank you very much and God bless you.
He tried one more time. “We have enough for everybody on this street so please take one”.
Thank you, anyway, for caring enough about me enough to come by. Have a good day.” And I closed the door. I said to myself, “Well, that was better than how you handled the Jehovah’s Witnesses who knocked on the door a few weeks ago.” Then almost immediately I thought, “I could’ve done better. What if I’d taken it one step further?
“Thank you for preaching the gospel as you know it. I will gladly take your card if you will take this card “10 Things We Want You To Know About the Catholic Church”. And if you ever have any questions I will be happy to talk with you further.”

When the JW people came by, they cited some examples of crime in the city and how awful things are today (I didn’t ask if they were Trump supporters), and we want to give you this magazine. I said, “The Watchtower? No, thank you.” And that was that. I closed the door and I thought, “What’s wrong with me? I’m supposed to be evangelizing. Why didn’t I say something? I’ll have to do better next time.”

So yeah, I did do better this time. Now I have some pamphlets and a rosary ready on the bookcase near the front door. Next time I’ll try to get the missionary to accept a rosary.


Hell yes or Hell no

DSC02348Steve Dawson, founder and president of St. Paul Street Evangelization, came to Terre Haute to join our team for some evangelizing Monday afternoon September 19th. You can see him in the middle of the picture, between Kevin and another young man. We were very happy that he made the trip from Bloomington just to be with us.

It was fascinating to watch Steve evangelize. He never missed an opportunity to greet someone passing by. He never just said, “hello”, but always, “hello, would you like a miraculous metal?” He had a knack for establishing trust and for engaging people, and if you ask him how he does it, his reply is, “Practice.” It is certainly true he has done this over thousands of times during the past 4 years since he founded SPSE.
He can give the gospel in a few seconds: God created us to be in relationship with God. We’ve broken that relationship through sin. Jesus Christ, who is God, became man to restore that relationship and allow us the opportunity to go to heaven. We need to respond to that. We need to repent of our sins and turn our live over to Jesus and follow him. We need to be his disciples. And he gave us a church to guide us and to give us grace on our journey.

Another thing he is really good about is calling people to action. Let me explain. Say he’s talking to a college student who hasn’t been to Mass or confession for a long time. He will say to them, “Can I give you one good reason why I go to Mass every week?” (Or “why I became Catholic” or “why I go to confession every month?) Then, when he has finished telling them why Mass is important or why the Catholic Church is the one true Church founded by Christ, etc. he finishes with, “Now that you know, you have a decision to make. What are you going to do about it?” He calls for action. Personally, I’m more a teacher than a salesperson. I tend to explain things and assume that, now they know, any reasonable person will naturally see the truth and decide on their own to take the correct action. And that simply is not true much of the time. Inertia keeps us in the same trajectory unless invited or nudged in a different direction. That was very challenging for me.

He did give me one piece of advice that I’ve spent a lot of time pondering since that day. I’m going to share it with you now because I want to start a conversation about this and I really want to hear what you have to say.

He said, “Don’t be afraid to talk about Hell with people.”

He said that reminding people of the eternal consequences of sin is often the only thing that will get the attention of many people. We can talk of the higher motivations to people who already love God. But 9 out of 10 people will blow it off. They need to hear that if we die in mortal sin, we go to Hell. He said we must be very careful not to accuse anybody, and we speak in generalities like, “What do you think will happen if we die in a state of mortal sin?” But because we love them, we have to speak the truth.

Like I said, I’ve been thinking about this a lot. And I am still a little afraid of talking to people about Hell. I know that blowing off Mass is a mortal sin, but the idea of telling someone that blowing off Mass a mortal sin makes me uncomfortable—even if it’s done with charity.

On the other hand, we all know a lot of people these days don’t even believe in Hell. People don’t want to go to confession.

It can even be argued we have an obligation to warn people. God said in Ezekiel 33:8 “When I say to the wicked, “You wicked, you must die, “ and you do not speak up to warn the wicked about their way, they shall die in their sins, but I will hold you responsible for their blood. If, however, you warn the wicked to turn from their ways, but they do not, then they shall die in their sins, but you shall save your life.”

I don’t want to discount what Steve says. He has had these conversations with thousands of people over the past 4 years of SPSE. If he says 9 out of 10 people respond better to fear of damnation than to the love of Christ, he is probably right. I just don’t know if I’m ready to do it. I don’t know if I can do it. It seems confrontational. Maybe it’s not. It doesn’t feel charitable. But maybe it is more charitable than enabling people to continue ignoring the coming judgment. We are our brother’s keeper. Right?

I spoke to Friar Mario who says he has never used fear of hell to evangelize. He says most people are already so bound in their feelings of unworthiness and self-hatred that they find it hard to believe that God could love them. What they really need to hear about is God’s mercy. That, I believe, is most certainly true.

Dear reader, tell me what you think. What is the right path? Is there a right path? Let’s talk.


Thank you

Last Tuesday was a slow day at ISU campus. Friar Mario and Joan had hardly talked to anyone in 2 hours. We were just thinking about bagging up the supplies and leaving when a young man approached and said, “I just want to thank you for your presence here. There are other people on campus who yell at people as they go by and they really give Jesus Christ a bad name. I can’t stop but I wanted you to know.”
That just made our day. After all that time of people walking swiftly by ignoring us, I was starting to wonder if we hadn’t wasted our time. Then God sends this student like an angel with a word of encouragement. God is so good.