Fr. Peter Daly
May 22, 2009
Fr. Peter Daly talks about the difficulties of evangelizing Latino men. 600 words.
Not Jesus, our Lord and Savior, but Jesus, a Mexican American man who occasionally comes to our parish.
He wanted to talk about God. We talked for a couple of hours.
Over the years I have seen him and his wife for various things. They come when they want something; like marriage or baptism for their babies. They come when they have financial, legal, medical or marital troubles.
Once they came to see me when they were about to lose their house to foreclosure. I sent money to save their property. They were grateful, but seemed to take it for granted. In their eyes the Catholic Church is a big rich institution. The priest is a community official. You go to him when you need something, but not to talk about faith.
On the rare occasions when they come to our Spanish mass, they fall into the pattern of our sister parish in Mexico. The men mostly sit in the back. They don’t pay any attention to the liturgy. They mostly don’t go to communion.
Latino men see religion as something for women and children. They are not unique. Throughout the world, men see religion as a “female” thing.
They need to be desperate before they seek the face of God.
So, for the first time, Jesus and I sat down and really talked about faith.
He had recently gone through a conversion experience. A couple of weeks before, he had touched bottom. A cousin took him to see a Pentecostal pastor. Jesus really listened. He did not see the pastor as some sort of social service agency. The pastor said the right thing. He told Jesus, “I can’t help you, but there is one who can.” Then he opened the Bible and pointed to Christ.
I was not defensive about it. I am glad when people authentically find God, no matter how. But I was discouraged.
When Jesus came to see me, we also opened the Bible.
I read to him from the story of the cripple whom St. Peter met at the temple gate in Jerusalem. The cripple wanted money. St. Peter said to him, “Silver and gold I have not, but what I have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ, arise and walk.”
I told him, “What do you think I have been preaching all these years in this Church. Why didn’t you ever come to see me about faith?”
I gave him a Bible and Catechism. It was a start.
Before he left, we prayed together. We really prayed. I explained to him the significance of the sign of the cross which he had been making automatically all his life. We agreed to talk some more.
When he left I felt a great sorrow. I was discouraged, not angry.
Why, after all these years of helping them, did he go to the Pentecostal minister for conversion?
They see the Catholic Church through the prism of Mexican culture. We are the background music of life. The priest in Mexican culture is a remote figure, not a spiritual companion.
Our churches are so big it is hard to speak to everyone’s heart. We sacramentalize, but we don’t evangelize. Why?
Partly because they are not listening.
Partly because we are too busy with other things and we assume they already know the faith. But they don’t.
Both Jesus and I have a bit of rethinking to do about our approach to religion.
But I won’t miss another chance to talk about faith. It is the most important thing we do.