By Matthew Lau
Upon being offered a selection of Year of Youth catechesis topics to speak on, the subject of “sharing our faith with others” stood out for Perth Auxiliary Bishop Don Sproxton.
Thus, Bishop Sproxton imparted his knowledge on eagerly listening Catholics at Redemptorist Monastery Church, North Perth Parish on Sunday 8 April.
“Sharing what you believe with your friends is challenging,” he began.
“We can see how easy it would be for them to not just reject our view but us as well, as a person deluded and stuck in a long discredited world view that is no longer needed in our times of scientific and technological enlightenment.
“It could be so easy for them to find excuses not to be around us so much.”
Bishop Sproxton began speaking from the heart when telling the story of his attempt to evangelise his elderly father, while trying to maintain a good rapport with him.
“I remember giving him a book about the Catholic faith many years before [his passing], but I left it to him to make a response. I never referred to the book again,” he said.
“The book remained under some magazines and books for probably 20 years. Had it been read or was it even remembered? I do not know.”
Eventually, Bishop Sproxton’s efforts of persuading his father to join the Catholic Church paid off, as, to the Bishop’s amazement, he asked to be baptised.
“It was almost too much to believe. It was a prayer answered that I had been asking for many years, and now the answer seemed to come out of nowhere, as it seemed to me.
“I had the enormous privilege to be able to baptise, confirm him, and to give him Holy Communion for the first time. This had become his desire, so late in his life; he had turned 90 that year.”
In giving advice to the congregation at his catechesis, Bishop Sproxton explained how our actions speak louder than words.
“Our primary work of evangelisation is to give witness to what we believe in the silent way of living lovingly: with heartfelt compassion, generosity and humility, gentleness and patience, putting up with one another, and being ready to forgive one another.
“This will lay a foundation for deeper discussions on the Good News about Jesus. Beyond that will come more formal teaching and preaching, which may be the role of others who have been given the charism for that work of evangelisation.”
He said the effectiveness of how we convey the message of Jesus Christ depends on our methods of evangelising.
“Person to person interaction is where the Spirit will be felt, especially in the generous giving of our time to listen and to encourage that person.
“Misunderstandings can more easily be overcome through one to one dialogue that is, mostly, from our side, listening attentively.”
Bishop Sproxton said proclaiming the Word of God builds a foundation for the Holy Spirit to work in the life of the other person.
“Preaching doctrine and morals at this fragile first stage of forming a connection is counterproductive. There will be a time for that, maybe, in the future and it may not be you who will be that preacher or teacher.
“Another element has to be prayer. We know that praying for a person is a sign of our love for them. Prayer on our part is recognising that we evangelise for God and, whatever our part in this, the greater part is God’s.
“He sees into the heart and knows what is needed. His patience is something we learn through our prayer. God knows when the time is right to offer the invitation to believe,” he concluded.