Cortland, NY. Here is a report from Caleb, of the Cortland team:
What an amazing two days! I set up the table and sign at our local St. Anthony’s Italian Festival on both Saturday evening and Sunday. A lot of people both Catholic and non-Catholic were curious about what we had to offer. There were many kids who stopped by and were interested in taking Holy Rosaries and/or Holy Medals. Many people who stopped by were very interested in the 1 million dollar bill tract.
More than ever before, people were able to take the 3 Minute Catechism DVD, which is a great resource that covers the entire basics of Catholic belief and practice in short 3 minute animated cartoons. I always ask people either Catholic or non-Catholic if they are interested or curious about what the Catholic Church believes and why, this is a great resource. For Catholics I have to emphasize the ‘why,’ because many give me the excuse that they already learned the catechism. But then when I ask them more questions, and they will say they learned the main facts but did not learn the WHY … they did not learn the reasons. I estimate we gave out about 20 of these.
I did notice one interesting phenomenon when the table is set up. Some people are very intimidated talking to us about anything … but the table allows them to quietly pick and choose or just browse. And at the same time we become a magnet for those who do want to talk. Some Catholics commented that they were glad to see something promoting the Catholic faith for once at a Catholic festival.
Here are just a few of the interactions I can remember:
A man of retirement age came by and said he was from Florida. He took several tracts, maybe a Holy Rosary, and the 3 Minute Catechism DVD. He said he was not Catholic but that his friend in Florida had been inviting him and his wife to their Catholic church. I told him he was welcome to explore our faith and consider becoming Catholic. He was thankful.
Another acquaintance, whose father I knew recently passed away stopped by with his wife. They took several different items … saint medals, tracts, and the DVD. I had already invited them to come explore the Catholic faith and again invited them to my classes. He shared that his brother whom I also know is in the hospital for an unplanned open heart surgery. I gave him a miraculous medal and explained its history, and instructed him to take it to his brother. I told him we would pray for this. I also tell all who take either Holy Rosaries or Holy Medals to have them blessed by a priest or deacon. This is a great way to get them in contact with clergy and a way to help them get more familiar with the Church as it takes many such positive interactions before they will make a step forward.
A young woman stopped by and also took some items. She said she was Catholic but had fallen away from practicing her faith during college. Someone had already given her a St. Anthony key chain and she had promised that person she would get back to attending mass regularly. She said she was waiting for her boyfriend. I asked if he was Catholic and she said she didn’t know; they hadn’t had that conversation yet. I encouraged her that God wanted to pour out so many blessings on her in the Mass.
Another woman who was not Catholic, but interested, took a DVD and some other material. I met a friend of mine who is not Catholic but is planning on attending my classes. This was all Saturday night and there has to be so many other interactions but it’s all blurring together.
On Sunday we met several who were not Catholic but took material. Jack who came out with me met a couple who were interested in joining the Catholic Church who also took a lot of material. On this day I took the rest of our SPSE St. Anthony Holy Medals and prayer cards (we had a hundred total) and passed them out. “Would you like a free St. Anthony medal and card? This is whom we are celebrating, and of course also Italian culture.” I asked several if they were Catholic or not and encouraged them all to get the medal blessed. One woman, who seemed to have had maybe a few too many beers told me she was baptized Catholic but left because of a scandal (we’ve had some very serious ones here in Cortland). She said her mother was a single mother with no job and several kids and the priest, despite this knowledge still put pressure on her to pay for her children’s religious education when he knew she didn’t have the money. She said she never got confirmation for this very reason. I expressed my sorrow over this and explained to her that my classes for adults who want confirmation are free and she was welcome anytime. She became purposefully argumentative at this point and said she believed that it is only important to believe in a higher power, especially after being scandalized. I said it is better to be scandalized and still believe in God than to be scandalized and lose faith altogether. She wanted to press the issue further saying that believing in a higher power whether adhering to one particular religion or not was all that was necessary. At this point I told her that while many religions claim to believe in a “higher power” I added some do not (Buddhism). Moreover Christ claimed that we could not know God except through Him and He also explicitly said He came to build a Church. Before I could explain more she stopped me there and said the Bible was an unreliable record that was written by men and then interpreted by men. In other words we can’t even trust that those were really Jesus’ words. After a few more comments the conversation ended and I made sure she knew she was still welcome to our free classes.
Another man declined to take a medal as he said it would only collect dust but was curious saying he was more interested in learning about why Catholics do and believe certain things. He said he was raised Catholic as a child but since has not practiced. His mother always talked about the scapular. I gave him a short history of the scapular and its development as a popular devotion and symbol. He was thankful and I pointed out that I teach classes and that he is welcome to attend anytime. These are just a few stories. We should today ask for the intercession of St. Anthony for all who are lost and need help to find their way into the Catholic Church and may we not be afraid to be the instrument that God uses to do this. Amen.
Praised be Jesus Christ! Thank you, team Cortland!