Talk 1: Home Visitation
Talk 2: Work Report
Talk 3: Prayer & Spirituality
Talk 4: Difficult Road
Sr. Chelyse Miller
Talk by Fr. Francis Peffley
Home visitation, which the Handbook calls, “a characteristic of the Legion” is also called by the Handbook, “the preferred work of the Legion.” It is a work that every praesidia must strive to undertake regularly, and one which requires physically little more effort than that of visiting a friend. Many who have been even in their 90s have gone on home visitation; I have gone pregnant, and a friend of mine a month after giving birth to her little girl was out going door-to-door and taking her daughter a long with her. I have seen Spanish only speakers team with English only speakers where the person who could speak to the person would, and the other would pray.
Robert H. Nyssen wrote and article from Reno, Nevada. “I've trained hundreds of people to do door-to-door work, and practically anyone can do it after a few hours of instruction and field training. There's no need to be a salesman or a theologian. Seldom do we encounter difficult questions; if a sticky situation does arise, we have techniques for handling it. There are few requirements in this work: a desire to engage in it, a willingness to learn a few tricks of the trade, confidence in the Holy Spirit, confidence in our Lady. If those are in place, the work proceeds and becomes challenging, at times exhilarating, possibly addictive. (But it's a good addiction.)”
Home visitation takes many forms which some of our praesidia already undertake: whether going door-to-door to pass out literature, enthroning the Sacred Heart in homes, or the making of a parish census. It has several common elements. First, each form of home visitation seeks to go out into the world and proclaim the gospel. We must cast our nets wide out into the deep, trusting Mary as our guide, and proclaim the Gospel to return as many as we can to the Church. Second, each is a highly organized effort, seeking to make contact with souls, keep in touch with them, and help them grow, over time, in holiness. The aim in all these tasks is to make continued contact with long conversations, life-time connections, and continued follow-up. It is not a one-time visit that is the goal. Third, perhaps the most important, the primary actions that one does during a home visitation are listening and pray. While these may be difficult for some of our more talkative members, with God’s help, I know they are able to silently pray.
There was a recent letter in the Diocesan newspaper, Catholic Virginian that I would like to read if you would humor me. This letter is being used in Dublin, Ireland as part of Concillium’s own recruiting efforts; it is titled: Legion of Mary provides witness and it reads:
It is not just Mormons and Jehovah witnesses, who are going door-to-door to share their faith — Catholics are too!
A little known part of the Code of Canon Law requires that the pastor of every parish proclaim the word of God to those living in his parish. Notice the requirement — every person. Not just practicing Catholics; indeed, not even just Catholics. Thus, the Code goes further to say, “With the collaboration of the faithful, he is to make every effort to bring the gospel message to those also who have given up religious practice or who do not profess the true faith.”
How are pastors in the diocese reaching lapsed Catholics and non-Catholics? Many are turning to the Legion of Mary.
of the Legion of Mary, under the
guidance and supervision of their pastors are going door-to-door to
who are lapsed in their faith or who are not of the true faith. The
Mary is the largest apostolic organization of lay people in the
Church, with well over 3 million active members in almost every country
world, including hundreds in the Richmond Diocese. It was endorsed by
Second Vatican Council, and by six popes.
What have been the results? Members of the Legion of Mary have grown in their own personal holiness by their participation in this mission. A number of lapsed Catholics have come back to their faith — experience suggests that a single visit is enough to lead 10 percent of non-practicing Catholics back to the Church. A number of non-Catholics have converted. Finally, a number of luke-warm Catholics have been inspired to pray the Rosary more often, attend daily Mass, or participate more actively in their Church. For more information on the Legion of Mary go to www.legionofmarytidewater.com
Every senior praesidium is called to imitate the apostolate that Christ commissioned to the 12 to go out in pairs each week and to go to different towns (or in our case, within our parish boundaries) to bring souls back to the fold. The pair should take literature with them. They need packets in clear plastic bags, about 40 packets in all. If people are not home, the packet can be left under the doormat, the flowerpot or inside the screen door, but not on the doorknob. It would be a good idea to have the image of the Sacred Heart on top of the packet, so it is the first thing the person visited sees is Jesus Christ. The packet could contain the following materials: the schedule of the Masses and Confessions; a letter from the pastor inviting them to come to the church; any information on CCD classes and RCIA; information on the Eucharist; a mini Catechism like “Pillar of Fire;” and the parish bulletin.
The teams should go out equipped with the following:
1) An area to visit of addresses
2) A worksheet to allow the legionary to record results for each home, including the names of those going on the assignment, the date, the addresses of those visited, if those visited are home, what materials were left, how many Catholics, non-Catholics, sacramental and literature given, etc.
3) About 40 packets of materials to give out. Our Curia has purchased supplies for each praesidia to buy for the starting of their door-to-door effort which will cost you only about $14.00. More information will be available at the registration table at the break and lunchtime.
4) Additional literature, if needed, for special cases (such as Hispanics, or maybe those who are Catholics but not in the Legion)
5) Appropriate dress – meaning dress nicely, no jeans or tee-shirts
6)And a smile
Before each visit, one person should be determined to do much of the talking and another to focus on praying. The team could alternate the two tasks between each door if preferred. When approaching the door for any type of home visitation, make a sign of the cross on the door with your thumb and silently pray, “Peace be to this home” in imitation of the disciples visits and instructions of Jesus Himself or a similar prayer like, “O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you,” or a similar brief prayer. Jesus said in the Gospel, “if there is a man of peace dwelling there, your peace will rest on him.” Visits should start with immediate eye contact and a brief introduction which is to be said sincerely each time, such as:
Hello, I am Chelyse and this is Chris from St. Gregory Catholic Church, at the request of our pastor, we are going to all the homes in your neighborhood, to determine if there are any unregistered Catholics in this area. Are you, or is anyone in your home a Catholic or do you have questions about the Catholic faith?
After the question is answered, conversation should be politely continued, with legionaries politely listening, praying, and talking about the faith. Each visit will be different and the Holy Spirit must be trusted that the words needed will come. If a question is posed that you may not know the answer to, tell them if it is alright with them, you would like to go look up the answer and come back and let them know. And remember, the second member of the pair, should be silently praying during the visit. If the visit goes well, ask the person if they are willing for you to come back sometime. You may even find a home willing to say a prayer or two with you. At the end, thank the person for their visit and maybe say “God Bless you” or similar words. As you walk from that house to another, stop before entering the yard of the next and write down what happened on the visit on the record sheet including if they were a practicing Catholic, non-practicing, or other, and any Literature given. Keep very careful notes so as to provide follow-up visitors with as much information as possible including the literature given.
Will there be times when people do not want to talk or what we term having the door slammed in our face (which usually does not occur as an actual slam)? Sure. You must not let this get to you because the reward for the souls who are open to you is so great. And, you must also remember, we are planting seeds. We are casting out nets. We may not see the fruits of our labors, but our reward will be great in heaven, we are promised that. We may go our entire lifetime and not know the effect we had in just knocking. One time, a man was walking on the street and as the Legion pair approached him in going to the next house he informed them it was his house and not to bother he wasn’t interested. The pair kept a positive atmosphere and a Christian attitude with the man and thanked him for their few moments. Two weeks later, that same man was standing there and he approached the pair and talked with them at great length. This result could be seen, but by the simple action of remaining Christian, the man became more open to the follow-up visit. Others, who we may never see again, could have the same effect. Trust Mary to put you in the path of those she wants you to visit.
After the visits, come back to the meeting to give your report. The most important part is then to follow-up with cases that need to be followed-up. For example, if you happen upon a house where the parents are Catholic and the children are not, but they do want them baptized. Or maybe, you visit a protestant who expresses interest in the Catholic Church. The results will come through following-up sometimes for quite a while. You may happen upon someone who is Catholic but not attending Mass, encourage them and follow-up so that they may attend Mass again. Last year in the Arlington Regia, which we are all a part of, as a result of home visitation, there were 281 people who returned to the faith, 121 people who converted to Catholicism, 273 people baptized, and 52 marriages validated! These results show us how important home visitation is and why we must persevere to challenge ourselves to take it on weekly in our Praesidia.
So as we begin our discussion today, let us pray through Mary that our discussion may be fruitful, that we will become faithful soldiers “to lead us forth united – to kindle everywhere the fires of divine love – to enlighten those who are in darkness and in the shadow of death – to inflame those who are lukewarm – to bring back life to those who are dead in sin; and which will guide our own feet in the way of peace.” Amen.