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Nick LaBanca
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First Time Evangelist's Report from Taste of Wheaton 2022

June 13, 2022


We had an awesome time at Taste of Wheaton during the weekend of June 3-5! Many first time evangelists went out, and this report is from one of our newest recruits, Trinity. Check out her story below, and I hope it inspires you to come out and join us if you have yet to be out on the streets with us!

Wow!!!!! I cannot say enough about my first St. Paul Street Evangelization event at the Cream of Wheaton Festival in Wheaton, IL! It was definitely one of the most moving experiences I have had because I was able to witness the Holy Ghost work in ways I thought would never happen to me as a little 21-year-old from the Chicago suburbs.

For example, I had only been able to view a few of the training videos beforehand, I did not plan what I would say, and though I have heavily studied my faith I do not consider myself an expert at engaging in apologetics discussions. However, sometimes all God needs to work wonders is for us to make a small action of trust in Him. My friends and I made little acts of faith by deciding to come to the event in spite of our shortcomings, believing that God would take over and compensate for them. This allowed the Holy Ghost the room to work through us by giving us the perfect words to make thoughtful and strong arguments for Catholicism.SPSE Team Photo

 

Most of all, this allowed Him to even more deeply instill in us what is especially vital for effective evangelization: a particular authentic love for those who came to us, which enabled us to show them that we genuinely cared and wanted the best for them. This helped them be more engaged in the conversation, gave them an open heart to what we were saying, and made them feel comfortable opening up more to us than they would with most in general society.

This love also led us to listen extra intently to them and take special interest in learning from their wisdom, talents, and life stories. It is especially vital that all Catholics do this when evangelizing, and do not carry the prideful attitude that because we may be significantly stronger in our faith we are the only ones that have anything of value to say.

Yes, if they are not practicing Catholics some of their religious insights will probably be off, and no matter how difficult it may be we have a duty to tell them the full truth and that being a faithful Catholic is necessary for salvation. However, they could mention something valuable on aspects of the Catholic faith we do agree upon and may have wisdom to impart on
non-religious matters such as business or hobbies outside of work.

The aforementioned bad disposition on our part will lead us to have the mindset of merely trying to win an argument and being able to record another statistic to our number of converts instead of trying to allow a precious, unrepeatable human being a chance to experience the beautiful fruits that come from living a solid Catholic life and attaining Heaven. People will

sense that they are being engaged in conversation not out of love for them and their good but instead for yours, and will be deterred from wanting to be around practicing Catholics for a long time.

I am so blessed to have been able to learned so much from those I interacted with that night! For example, one man whom I’ll call Don spoke about how he gave unplanned eulogies for his father and his wife’s mom’s funerals that profoundly moved the crowd, which furthered my understanding of the fact that the Holy Ghost is the one who inspires us with all the insightful comments we give.

I even picked up tips on smaller matters, such as learning about new forms of exercise from a girl I’ll call Danielle from the booth for a gym across from us, as well as Don sharing fascinating stories about St. Teresa of Calcutta and an amazing musician. As a musician myself, I looked up more information on him later and was completely blown away by his almost superhuman talent!

I also saw that people are more open to the Catholic faith than we might guess. To my astonishment, everyone that walked by our table was kind whether they stopped there or not. Two devout Protestant women I spoke to on separate occasions made it clear they did not have issues with the Catholic faith, and one of them was extremely touched by the fact that one of the people at my booth offered to pray with her because she really needed this very moving experience with what she was going through.

These same women were also receptive to hearing how the Church views The Blessed Mother and did not seem to be aware of the many stumbling blocks Protestants have with this --especially because they were very eager to take the miraculous medal. I made an extra effort to share with them as well as some other people the proper understanding of this teaching before anyone else could transmit misinformation to them on this topic.

I explained that we as Christians ask each other for prayers, but imagine how much more powerful this is when we petition someone who is in Heaven before God’s throne -- especially when it is His own Mother! I also warned that some people accuse Catholics of worshiping Mary, but we do not do that because the Bible maintains that we only can worship God and instead we are merely imploring her to pray for us.

The following example of a man probably in his mid-20’s whom I’ll call Max proves that people can especially be open to Catholicism when times are tough. When he and his friends were selecting their miraculous medals, he instantly requested a St. Anthony one because this great Saint had quickly found a lost item for him a few days prior. I explained that St. Anthony has aided me a ton: so much so one time that he recovered my favorite pair of boots even though

it was a big project to find them and they had to cross four state lines to get back to me! Max and his friends were in awe at this and we all had a great time laughing over this story as I shared it!

It is ironic that Max sought St. Anthony’s intercession because when I asked if he was of any faith he explained that he was not any religion even though he was born Presbyterian. It goes to show God has a sense of humor in bringing people to Him and I do not think it is coincidental that He had this transpire just a few days before he came to our table. Perhaps He wanted his mind to already be on Catholicism when he approached us so our faith popping up in his life so frequently all the sudden would make him wonder if the Lord is trying to grab his attention.

Max then revealed that he was currently very lost and trying to figure out his life. I expressed how sorry I was to hear this and that I have experienced that at our age topics like dating and jobs can be confusing. He indicated those issues were part of the problem, and he felt an even stronger connection with me since I demonstrated that I could at least somewhat relate to what he was going through.

Since all people -- especially ones who are young and in this vulnerable situation -- more than anything yearn to be truly happy, I made a point to present how practicing Catholicism is the only way to get this result. I began by saying “we all want to be happy all the time, right?”

After he said “yes,” I explained how I tried to find happiness in various earthly goods that I listed, but that I learned the hard way that only God can provide this authentic consistent happiness for which we all long. I emphasized that since I began to find my joy in God, I have been able to always feel an internal peace even when everything appeared to be exploding externally, and he seemed amazed to hear that true happiness was possible.

I could sense the Holy Ghost especially opening his heart to the faith, so I knew I had to do what I could to ensure he would pursue it further. I realized that if I just left him with my few words, the momentum of the conversation and with it the excitement about the faith fostered in him during it would dwindle.

I understood that the best way to do this was to give him a physical token that would not only remind him of the discussion but would include more information on Catholicism that would encourage him to continue looking into it. Knowing this and that two key ingredients people need to become solid Catholics is to understand our doctrine and have reverent liturgies, I wrote down for him a few of the most reverent parishes in the area (including my own) and I also added a few good Catholic YouTube channels he could look up.

When I mentioned that one of the Churches I wrote down was particularly gorgeous, he exclaimed that he loved beautiful Churches. This is yet another example of how even with young people who are so immersed in the world that they drift far from the faith and with it are stereotypically not very sentimental (especially regarding religion), not all are that way and there is still a soft side in everyone which allows God the ability to plant these types of seeds in them. The conversation had even convinced him enough that the faith was the answer to his problems that he exclaimed at the end, “I had better give religion a shot!”

Max’s openness to having the faith give him the direction he so urgently needed demonstrates that more young people are open to having God fulfill this role than we would guess. These actions of his show that he is at the point where he realizes he is having trouble navigating life on his own, which is perfect ground for him to start relying on the Lord. This makes it much easier for Him to come in than with most people his age because they desperately strive to convince themselves and others they have it all together just on their own.

SPSE Team Photo

The love God had given my friends and I for the people who came to us also enabled us to have a special sympathy for what they were going through to where we would try our best to relate to it and help them through it. For example, Danielle from the fitness station later revealed to me individually that her mother passed away when she was younger. I shared my utmost sympathies with her and expressed how hard that must have been, and she shared she had reached the point of accepting it.

I also explained how suffering helps us grow stronger in virtue and that it only happens for that greater good, and then I prayed with her about her Mom’s passing. To my fellow young adults, I cannot emphasize enough how crucial it is to reach out to hurting people our age about what is troubling them even though it can be extremely intimidating due to having to breach uncomfortable subjects, us not knowing how emotionally they will react, or if they want to discuss it.

I have seen from my experience doing this that the brief discomfort it brings is beyond worth it because it makes an impact like nothing else can. A peer having enough concern and courage to directly address and help them through their situation when most their age do not means more than words can express and can sometimes be lifechanging or even lifesaving.

Since bringing the issue up often encourages them to talk about it, they realize that if they have the boldness to discuss it they possess the bravery to begin addressing it head-on: for that person burying their struggles in an unhealthy way, your conversation could be the thing that leads them to take this first step of healing that may have not otherwise happened for a while or at all.

There is also sometimes where people are not yet comfortable discussing what they are going through, but perhaps the topic being brought up will encourage them to seek more healing from it later on. I especially hope this is what happened with one lady we spoke to, whom I’ll call Diane. She asked us if we knew of any groups for women in the area, but she was looking for one that was non-denominational and not Catholic because she was very pro-choice due to events that occurred in her life.

We expressed to her how very sorry we were to hear about these experiences and my friend thanked her for being honest that this was what was keeping her away from the Church. I so wish we could have been able to make it more likely that her journey toward recovery would begin by helping her process these events by further discussing them, as well as sharing why accepting the Church’s position on abortion is actually the most therapeutic thing to do if one has a bad past with it, but it was clear she quickly wanted to move to another subject.

However, we were able to gain a lot of ground with many people by explaining how we could relate to the bad experiences they had with the Church. This was because it showed we understood where they were coming from as well as just because we are faithful Catholics does not mean we are going to defend everything members of our faith do simply because they are Catholic.

The first case of this was when Diane shared with us that one stumbling block for her was that a relative of hers had been treated horribly by the Church, to which we said how sorry we were. She especially felt that we got her perspective when I mentioned that my grandmother was bullied by some Catholics and that this definitely scared her away from the Church.

Another instance of this was when I would share why I was Catholic, I would explain that even though the Church currently has lots of bad people in it and scandals with which I am absolutely disgusted, I stay because it is the beautiful Church that Christ founded 2,000 years ago. I brought this up knowing that many cannot fathom how they can be part of a Church let alone raise their kids in one whose face they currently see as the heinous abusive priests that have been prevalent in recent decades.

After I told him the aforementioned statements, one man whose family had been quite involved in the Church when he was growing up mentioned all this to me as he left the table. The corrupt actions of some of the clergy are pure evil not only due to their gross immorality but also because they scandalize people to the point of convincing them that apostatizing from the Church is their only option: I only fully comprehended how completely wicked this is when I witnessed this situation for the first time right before my eyes from a real person with a face, voice, and story during this event.

An approach that I used quite a bit that worked shockingly well was how irreverent Masses impacted my faith journey. Since everyone can relate to it, are especially fed up with it, and it is something drawing many away from the Church, they immediately connected with me on a deeper level upon hearing this aspect of my testimony. This is because it shows that just because I am devoted to the faith does not mean I am blind to the repulsive abuses in many liturgies but instead I am trying to solve this serious problem.

I would say: “Let's face it, most Masses out there today are very boring for many, irreverent, and severely lacking in masculinity. This caused me to not be too into my faith for a lot of my childhood because I subconsciously figured if Catholic leaders were not taking it seriously that must mean it is not that important. Then, as a young teenager, I began to research the faith and discovered how rich and beautiful it is -- especially that it is the Church Jesus Christ founded and He is really present at Mass -- and I became on fire for my faith. Eventually, I started attending very reverent Masses and saw that what I was studying was being reflected on the altar, so that caused the faith to even more fully connect for me.”

I made an special effort to share this with a Catholic school father who was extremely masculine. This is because I realized men like that are exceptionally disgusted with these liturgies and would thus especially identify with what I was saying, and that very much applied in this case. I brought this up knowing that it is key if we sense a person is so strong in a trait (such as masculinity) that they have a particular need to have the faith match up with that, we have to make one of our main priorities presenting to them how this is the case.

He and his wife were interested enough in learning more about what I had to say in this regard and that there was a way to practice the Catholic faith that would be much more suited to their personalities. This reached the point where I was even able to clarify that the very reverent Mass I go to was the Traditional Latin Mass -- the Mass done for the great majority of the Church’s history. Though I did not bring the Latin Mass up with almost everyone else I talked to and did not go into the differences between this and the New Mass because this is not a discussion suited for a street evangelization setting, I did note that it has a special beauty and reverence that has majorly advanced my spiritual life.

They were fascinated to hear this and eagerly took me up on my offer to write down the names of some Latin Masses in the area. Thus, the notecard had the same Mass information and YouTube channels that I gave to Max, and the father exclaimed after I gave this to him, “We definitely have to check this out!”

A related tactic that was also very effective was mentioning to some people how present issues in the Church such as irreverent liturgies and a huge lack of Catholics evangelizing were not a big problem until extremely recently in Church history. This allowed people to take the

Church more seriously knowing that her human element has not always been this way and has conducted itself in much more respectable fashion for most of time.

Part of this was noting that Catholics were extremely effective at sharing the Gospel up until this time, converting large portions of the world for thousands of years. I brought this up because a lot of people think the Church is lousy because we are currently so poor at attempting to draw people in, and this approach especially worked with one Protestant woman I spoke to because she was heavily into this method of sharing the Gospel.

On another note, there was one man probably in his late 50's who was raised Catholic but said even though this is bad, he connects with the Lord most in nature so he does not go to Mass. Even though I love being in God’s creation, as a Catholic and political conservative I view the idea of placing one’s main priority on nature as trivial and difficult to identify with. However, I knew out of true love for people we are called to meet them where they are at by trying our best to relate to their perspective in spite of this.

Thus, I emphasized that I love to connect with God in nature, so much so that this is a reason why I have planned trips to Colorado the last couple years. However, I said that His creation can only be a stepping stone to where we will truly connect with Him the most -- in a very reverent liturgy where He is truly present. I explained that we cannot get more of a close connection with God than being by the Eucharist, so therefore it is important to go to Mass.

I also saw how a misunderstanding of the definition of love is at the heart of so many people’s doubts concerning Catholicism. When I asked Don and his wife if they had any questions or doubts about the Catholic faith, he first mentioned he thought the Church should be open to women priests. Like so many, he believed the loving thing to do was to give women the opportunity to be in any position that exists, instead of understanding that love is to give a woman only the positions that are best for her, which are those that fit the role God gave her.

I kindly explained this concept by mentioning that the Church has always taught that men and women have equally beautiful gifts but they're just different: these strengths not being the same does not mean they are bad and the Church has always greatly praised and respected the woman's role. I noted since the priest is in the person of Christ he should be a man so it would be weird for a woman to take that role and it would actually be us hurting her if we let her do that because it’s forcing her into a role unnatural for her. He said, “it's like the man takes on the role of Christ and the woman takes on the role of the Virgin Mary!”

After I exclaimed “bingo, you've got it” and high-fived him, he then expressed his concern over the Church’s position on LGBTQ+ issues, mentioning his daughter is a lesbian. He elaborated upon how at their Church the pastor had a service for LGBTQ+ people to just

welcome and love them, and he wondered why Jesus would not do that when he sat with all kinds of sinners. I explained that Jesus loved homosexuals too and the Church loves them so much, longs to welcome them there, and has always called everyone to treat them with the utmost respect.

However, I explained that the definition of love is to desire the greatest good for the other, which is Heaven. I noted this means sometimes the only way to get them there is to be very direct in informing them that their behavior will lead them to Hell if they do not repent. I said if we do not do this we would actually be hating them, and I also noted that the Bible mentions what Jesus taught cannot change, so His teaching on this in Scripture has always remained constant. I could clearly tell all this had their wheels spinning that their position might be flawed and they conceded that my point was good.

Looking back on this experience, I continue to be amazed at how the Holy Ghost worked here and gave me the words to say in situations where I believed there was little hope for me to come up with anything meaningful to share. I knew on a head level this was possible, but being able to see, feel, and experience it for myself at this event is what finally enabled me to understand this on a heart level after a years-long struggle to even begin grasping this concept.

This has given me confidence and motivation to share the faith with a greater zeal and frequency than before knowing that the Holy Ghost will provide me with what to speak. I hope each of these experiences will increase my faith in Him to do this, especially as the more trust we have in Him to move through us the more wonders He will be able to work.

It is fitting that this significantly deeper understanding I gained of how much the Holy Ghost can work happened two days before Pentecost, when He descended upon Jesus’ disciples and through them enacted many wonders they could not have said or done otherwise. I believe it is not a coincidence but intended by God that this awakening occurred right before this holy feast day, so I could more fully connect the dots that the Holy Ghost was trying to teach me how to more strongly rely on Him.

I pray that all of us will have a renewal of trust in and love for the Holy Ghost, and may this below Pentecost sequence from the Traditional Latin Mass (that also happens to perfectly sum up my first experience with SPSE) ignite in us a fire for Him that will empower us to strive to save as many souls as possible and ensure Christ is King in the hearts and minds of the whole world once more:

Holy Spirit! Lord of light! From Thy clear celestial height,
Thy pure, beaming radiance give:

Come, Thou, Father of the poor! Come, with treasures which endure! Come, Thou light of all that live!

Thou of all consolers best, Visiting the troubled breast, Dost refreshing peace bestow: Thou in toil art comfort sweet; Pleasant coolness in the heat; Solace in the midst of woe.

Light immortal! Light divine! Visit Thou these hearts of Thine, And our inmost being fill.
If Thou take Thy grace away, Nothing pure in man will stay; All his good is turn’d to ill.

Heal our wounds - our strength renew; On our dryness pour Thy dew; Wash the stains of guilt away: Bend the stubborn heart and will; Melt the frozen, warm the chill; Guide the steps that go astray.

Thou, on those who evermore Thee confess and Thee adore, In Thy sevenfold gifts descend.
Give them comfort when they die; Give them life with Thee on high; Give them joys which never end. Amen. Alleluia. [1]

[1] Divinum Officium. Sancta Missa. 5 June 2022. https://divinumofficium.com/cgi-bin/missa/missa.pl