Trust. Such a simple word, but for those of us who have issues with it, a game-changer.

I read this chapter and…well, I nodded a lot. It seems like that’s going to be my reaction to every chapter in this book…

With most twenty-first-century people (there are always exceptions), we can’t start with catechesis. They aren’t ready for it yet, and if they aren’t ready, it will just roll of like water on a duck’s back. In any case, catechesis is designed to foster the maturation of disciples, not the initial conversion of those who aren’t yet disciples.

This would be a point when a person with a tendency to “but if only you understood” and a talent for teaching smacks her head and has a Homer Simpson-esque “D’OH!” moment.

This explains so many things. So. Many. Things.

Weddell continues, in this chapter, with something that endears her to me: she has a list of what she calls thresholds of conversion. A person, she explains, goes from initial trust to spiritual curiosity, continues to spiritual openness and spiritual seeking, and finally arrives at intentional discipleship. She also explains:

There is no one-size-fits-all way of negotiating the journey to discipleship. People will move through at different paces. In intense retreat settings, some may bound through a couple thresholds in a few days. Others may stay stuck in one place for years or ping-pong back and forth between different thresholds. There may be great leaps forward as well as relapses to earlier thresholds.

The things to remember is that we are not in control of this process. Some people will not respond to our best efforts to be helpful. [emphasis mine]

Call this a memo to self in a biiiiig way.

The first task of evangelization is to find out if a bridge of trust already exists. … If this trust does not already exist, then our first job as an evangelizer is to help build that bridge.

…we earn such trust primarily through relationship: through the integrity, compassion, warmth, and joy of our own life and faith. Even excellent Catholic media do not have the impact of a radiant personal witness.

It’s about what happens with the people in my face. It’s about the foundation through eye contact, not through screen time. It’s about the touch, the look, the voice.

Later in the chapter, Weddell includes a quote from Francis Cardinal George of Chicago: “We will never evangelize what we do not love.”

Maybe this is why I resisted the Christian culture in my college years: I didn’t feel love. I didn’t believe they cared. I felt like just one more number, one more success story, one more mindless robot following the flow.

Evangelization isn’t about us. It is about Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, seeking the lost sheep through us. When we forget that, we can alienate and even lose those whom God has called us to bring to Jesus.

I look back, and I’m so thankful for the foundation my parents and family put in my life. I wandered away (oh, did I wander), but I do believe, after considering this chapter, that the bridge of trust came from those memories of being curled up against my dad reading the comic book Bible stories, of singing songs together in the car with my mom, of years of faith-filled experiences. Whatever came after couldn’t trump what was there, planted, waiting to flower.

It’s a lesson I have to take to heart, especially as I look over my shoulder at the kids curled up on the couch with books right now. They may wander away (oh, but I pray not!), they may make bad decisions and choices, but they must always know the Good Shepherd is seeking them, waiting to hold them close and cradle them in His arms as he carries them back to the safety of the fold.

Join the discussion over at CatholicMom.com! There’s a summary (you don’t have to read the book to participate!) and some great questions to get you started.