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Catholic Spiritual Direction

How do I Share my Faith when I am Naturally Shy? (Part I of II)

August 12, 2013 by  
Filed under Faith, Fr. Bartunek

Dear Father John, With the social media we have today (Facebook, etc.), why do I feel hesitant to share God’s messages such as scripture, prayers, testimonies, etc. due to a concern of “negative ramifications.”  Although there are few times I am moved by the Spirit to share without a concern, I am mainly too shy to share; when I do share I can’t help feeling my efforts were done in vain as if expecting positive reinforcement. I tell myself it’s my own vanity, pride and concerns of what people think about me that cause this and praying to our Lord to take this away. Father, do you have any words of wisdom or insights to help me? When coming across moving information, do I share only when I am moved by the Spirit, where I have no hesitations and is rare, or do I put effort to share against my shyness? I fear not being fruitful when an opportunity arrives and I want to make the best of my one little talent. 

Certainly, we are all called to be apostles of Christ’s Kingdom. As baptized Christians, we all participate in the mission to spread the faith that we have received. Before I get to the crux of your question – how to deal with your natural shyness as you try to fulfill your Christian calling – let’s pause to recall this fundamental truth of our faith.

We Are All Called to Be Apostles

Every Christian is a missionary. The Catechism (CCC) expresses this clearly and powerfully:

“The whole Church is apostolic, in that she remains, through the successors of St. Peter and the other apostles, in communion of faith and life with her origin: and in that she is ‘sent out’ into the whole world. All members of the Church share in this mission, though in various ways. ‘The Christian vocation is, of its nature, a vocation to the apostolate as well.’ Indeed, we call an apostolate, ‘every activity of the Mystical Body’ that aims ‘to spread the Kingdom of Christ over all the earth” (CCC #863).

So we are all missionaries, but we are called to sharing in this mission “in various ways.” The second Vatican Council identified three basic forms of apostolate, of sharing our faith. It discussed them in its document, Apostolicam Actuositatem (AA). I like to refer to the three forms as our Way, our Words, and our Works.

Apostolate of Our Way of Living

By the way that we live, by the way that we do the normal things of life, we can reflect God’s goodness and draw other people close to the Lord. This is the power of our example, of our simplicity, of the Holy Spirit’s presence in our souls shining out in the mundane realities of every day. Picture St. Joseph working in his carpenter’s shop; Mary interacting with the other women of Nazareth at the town well; Jesus himself spending 30 years in a normal, working class life-style. The way we do our everyday activities is meant to be a form of apostolate. Here’s how the Council explained it:

“The very testimony of their Christian life and good works done in a supernatural spirit have the power to draw men to belief and to God…” (AA, paragraph 6).

Apostolate of Words

But we are also called to share our faith in God with our words. Here again are the words of the Council:

“…a true apostle looks for opportunities to announce Christ by words addressed either to non-believers with a view to leading them to faith, or to the faithful with a view to instructing, strengthening, and encouraging them to a more fervent life. ‘For the charity of Christ impels us’ (2 Cor. 5:14). The words of the Apostle should echo in all hearts, ‘Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel’ (1 Cor. 9:16)” (AA 6).

This means we need to know our faith, and be willing to talk about it, to announce the Good News to other people. Here, it seems, is where you find your natural shyness causing some turbulence. We will come back to that.

Apostolate of Works

Finally, we are called to build Christ’s Kingdom through our works, through projects and activities that promote God’s plan for ourselves and the world around us. These may be projects of evangelization (teaching catechism classes at the parish, for example), projects that renew the temporal order (contributing to society’s justice and prosperity through an honorable profession or honest labor or other initiatives), or projects and activities that show forth God’s mercy (caring for the sick, for orphans, for the homeless, etc.). These are activities that all can engage in that help spread the light of Christ and roll back the powers of darkness. The Council pointed out that renewing the temporal order is a task particularly entrusted to the laity, as opposed to clergy and religious:

“The laity must take up the renewal of the temporal order as their own special obligation. …the good things of life and the prosperity of the family, culture, economic matters, the arts and professions, the laws of the political community, international relations, and other matters of this kind, as well as their development and progress…” (AA 7).

So the general forms of apostolate are our way, our words, and our works.

In our next post, we will talk about discerning where and how to serve in accordance with our natural temperament.

 

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About Fr. John Bartunek, LC

Fr. John Bartunek, LC, S.Th.D, received his BA in History from Stanford University in 1990. He comes from an evangelical Christian background and became a member of the Catholic Church in 1991. After college he worked as a high school history teacher, drama director, and baseball coach. He then spent a year as a professional actor in Chicago before entering the religious Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ in 1993. He was ordained a Catholic priest in 2003 and earned his doctorate in moral theology in 2010. He provided spiritual support on the set of Mel Gibson’s "The Passion of the Christ" while researching the 2005 Catholic best seller "Inside the Passion"--the only authorized, behind-the-scene explanation of the film. Fr. John has contributed news commentary regarding religious issues on NBC, CNN, Fox, and the BBC. He also served as the English-language press liaison for the Vatican’s 2005 Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist. His most widely known book is called: "The Better Part: A Christ-Centered Resource for Personal Prayer". He has also published four other titles: "Seeking First the Kingdom", "Answers: Catholic Advice for Your Spiritual Questions", "Meditations for Mothers", and "A Guide to Christian Meditation". Fr. John currently splits his time between Rome and Rhode Island, where he teaches theology as an adjunct professor at the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum and at Mater Ecclesia College. He is also continuing his writing apostolate with online retreats at www.RCSpirituality.org and questions and answers on the spiritual life at www.RCSpiritualDirection.com. FATHER JOHN'S BOOKS include: "The Better Part: A Christ-Centered Resource for Personal Prayer", "Inside the Passion"--The Only Authorized Insiders View of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, "Meditations for Mothers", and "A Guide to Christian Meditation".

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  • Jeanette

    May I suggest something practical that I’ve found works regarding the apostolate of words. I try to remember to pray to Jesus before I am to meet non-Christian friends or acquaintances. I ask Him to allow our conversation to include Him in some way. Invariably when I pray this way, the other person brings up something in our conversation that naturally flows into speaking about Jesus in a very natural and acceptable way…it may be just a few words. You never know how that conversation will affect that person. It may be just what they needed to hear. I’m thankful to God and sometimes quite surprised afterward at how accepting people can be and how faithful Jesus is to answering this prayer. I hope this helps.

    • LizEst

      Beautiful! Thanks Jeanette, good advice.

  • patricia

    I have a question that I have been pondering. I pray while I walk like the rosary and divine mercy. My question is when making the sign of the cross while walking down the street should we do that in our hearts in order to show you are not praying or drawing attention to yourself. Or should we make the sign of the cross regardless. I mean especially when people can see you make the sign of the cross. Offten in restaurants my husband and I will pray before we eat and sometimes I will make the sign of the cross what is the right way. I don’t want to show off and I don’t want to deny God. So I need some clarity on this thank you!!!

    • Jeanette

      For me, when I am with other Christians, I make the sign of the cross in restaurants before we say grace even if they are not Catholic Christians. Also, we talk openly about Christian matters in restaurants in a normal voice. I have noticed people looking but, it’s a witness to Christ and it doesn’t bother me if they look. If I am with someone I think may be offended or embarrassed by making the sign of the cross and saying grace, I will not do so but will pray silently. When praying while walking alone with my dog in the woods, I make the sign of the cross and pray while fingering my rosary wheel but say it to myself silently when others come around. I do that for safety reasons too…as I am alone and I don’t want to offend the wrong person. I’m not saying what I do is the right way, it’s just what I do. God bless you!

      • patricia

        Thank you I have better clarity in this. Thanks for sharing

      • LizEst

        Jeanette, I recommend you make the sign of the cross regardless…or, at least, start trying to do this. (I do it but it took me a while to get to this point as I said to Patricia, above). Folks who know you are sincere will admire and respect your faith. Ask yourself if you are letting your perceptions of their offense or embarrassment temper your witness to the faith. Are you afraid they will not associate with you because of it? Have they ever told you not to make the sign of the cross because they can’t stand it? Have they mocked you?

        I can understand quietly praying the rosary when you are alone in the woods, for safety reasons (but not for fear of offending the wrong person) so that you will be aware of your surroundings and the possible approach of someone who could be dangerous to a woman walking alone. That said, would you be embarrassed or offended if your friends or associates witnessed to their faith? Having come to know, through this site, your gentle character, my guess is that you would not be embarrassed or offended. I’m not talking here about forcing faith on someone. This is something Jesus never did. I’m talking about witnessing: faith in action, in other words.

        Look at the witness of some sports players. They make the sign of the cross regardless of who is watching and regardless of who might be offended…and millions are watching! So, it seems, it’s kind of anonymous. But, it’s not anonymous to their teammates and coaches, to their support staff, the cheerleaders and to the other team. It’s a witness…and, that’s what martyrs did. They witnessed to their faith.

        I used to pray the Liturgy of Hours in a separate room rather than our bedroom, apart from my non-Catholic husband. One day he said to me, to do it in our room. Guess what? I was afraid of pushing it on him…and he would rather have me around than apart from him. Then, I began to realize that I probably should be praying it out loud, in case I ever had to articulate it, or parts of it. I explained this to him and asked if he would mind. He didn’t mind. Now, if he’s awake and around, he hears it. If he’s asleep, I pray it silently, so as not wake him or keep him from falling asleep. And, guess what again? I know that, at least sometimes, he’s listening. How? From his reactions a couple of times like when it was the memorial of St. Teresa of Avila and he said, “We’ve been there!”

        So, just some food for thought! God bless you, Jeanette. I hope you try some of this. God will give you the increase. And, He is super-generous in rewarding anything we do for Him.

        • Jeanette

          I have to admit this morning I was reflecting a lot on this and agree with you 100%. I am shy by nature but I’ve come a long way in my witness for Christ over the years and I know it could certainly use improving. I have had much persecution, with anger, regarding my faith in Christ over many years from someone close to me that has affected me greatly so much so that I have had to tread lightly so as not to cause a problem in our relationship…dare I say, something like Elisabeth Leseur. My spiritual director advises me to ‘not rock the boat’, so to speak, to prevent any problems in my family life. I believe all this reflects into my day to day witness and causes me some trepidation. Thanks for the advice Liz, I do appreciate it.

          • LizEst

            Something like Leseur? Then your director is right to advise you not to rock the boat. I can appreciate how this can flow into other areas of your life. Just take little steps in regard to others and ask the Lord to help strengthen your witness in this regard. Some people can change overnight. Most, I dare say, cannot (and you can count me as one of those who could not). But, the Lord will grant increase when you do take those steps. After all, it is His love and His kingdom we witness to. God bless you, Jeanette.

          • Jeanette

            Thanks.

    • LizEst

      I make the sign of the cross regardless (mind you, I didn’t start out doing this)…and, I encourage you to do the same. I do this in restaurants, in the homes of friends who are not Catholic or practicing Christians, in the doctor’s office. And, guess what? They all respect it. It’s not showing off. When one does this regardless of the situation, one strengthens one’s witness…and one’s faith. Think of it as a little martyrdom. This is what the martyrs did. They witnessed to their faith. As St. Paul said, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel. It is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). It is not pushing your faith on someone else or showing off. It is witnessing to what you believe in. Don’t folks respect the witness of Muslims who get out their prayer rugs and pray during the day?

      Per Crucem ad Lucem (Through the Cross to the Light [of Christ])

      • patricia

        Thank you Liz I needed confirmation of that it is not showing off. Thanks!!!

  • http://www.marythedefender.wordpress.com MariaGo

    I was raised to make the sign of the cross whenever I pass by a Church as a sign of respect.

    My family was went on a vacation at beach resort last summer. One time, my Mom was riding in a shuttle with some Korean/Taiwanese tourists. As she passed by the Church my Mom made the sign of the cross. She told me that the tourists noticed what she did and talked about it. Although she could not fully understand what they were saying. One of them mentioned that it was because we passed by a Catholic church.

    Simply making the sign of the cross is a great way to evangelize!

    • LizEst

      Yes, making the sign of the cross is a great way to evangelize. That must have been exciting for your Mother. We have a football player here who has become quite popular. He makes the sign of the cross as well…and I just found out yesterday he is protestant (although high Anglicans do make the sign of the cross, I don’t believe he is one). I love it! What a great witness.

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