Last year some brother priests and I were talking about all the folks, throughout Europe, who visit Cathedrals and parishes as a tourist attraction on summer vacation. For that matter, it happens in the good ol’ U. S. of A. too.
It got us to thinking, especially regarding visitors to the Vatican. Might we use those visits as a method of evangelization? Especially given the dreadful numbers coming out of Europe regarding unchurched people?
It might be as simple as a standard brochure, welcoming them in their visit to a Catholic church. We might give some general things to look for when visiting a church, and a quick teaching on some of our Sacraments and Sacramentals. What is that gold/silver box up front with the candle near it? What do those racks of burning candles mean? All this sacred and precious art, why should it be kept in this stuffy building? Some proper methods to explore a church as a tourist, etc. Of course, the local Mass times. That’s the simple method.
Here’s one for the Vatican. How about a corps of young people, who volunteer from all over the world, to lead visitors around St. Peter’s Square and the Basilica? Let people see a vibrant and alive church, with enthusiastic young people who know a thing or two about their faith and Church history? Of course, there would be training sessions. The tours could be in several different languages, by the young people, and used as a way of spreading the gospel to folks who are, after all, visiting a sacred place.
Members to this corps would be selected by bishops from all over the world from among their youth, and the expenses for their time at the Vatican would be paid for by the local diocese. It would be an honor to serve as a Vatican Evangelist for some length of time. Of course these same young people would receive not just training for their “jobs” but a close look at the splendors of our faith, and be sent home to bring that back to local towns and parishes.
I’m sure I’m missing a thousand details, and I’m sure there are lots of issues to be solved. But right now I’m seeing hundreds of folks walking into our churches each day, and not a single thing is being said or done about inviting them to know more about Christ and His Church.
You see tour groups being led around by private companies, but who knows what they are being told?
Right now at the Vatican, you’re checked with a metal detector, told to cover up bare arms and legs, and left to wander around on your own. You can rent a recording that guides you around the Basilica, but that seems to be about it.
Just seems like a good opportunity to me.