TOR brother shares tips for how to evangelize lukewarm friends


Photo by: C.E. Adams

“Don’t be fake,” said Brother Zachary Burns, TOR, in his talk on evangelizing friends Wednesday, Nov. 14, in the Fireside Lounge.

Burns shared to a room of household brothers and some other intrigued students his experience of being a friar among non-religious friends and family as well as some tips for how to approach evangelization among lukewarm friends.

Burns reassured the students by saying that, though they are currently in “a special place like Franciscan University … where theology is just second nature,” they should not feel afraid or anxious to go back home as if they were entering back into something merely secular. He said, “All of the world is dripping with the sanctity of God. There is no such thing as the sacred world and the secular world.”

With personal stories interlaced throughout, Burns showed the students that evangelizing friends is not as scary as it may seem and can be done in small ways. After giving the audience a list of do’s and don’ts, Burns laid out his three main tips for casually evangelizing friends and family: be familiar, be present and be Christ.

To “be familiar is not synonymous with being lukewarm; it can be a radical thing for God to call you to be a familiar presence to people,” said Burns.

During his postulancy, Burns was given the option to keep his baptismal name or choose a new name. While at first he considered taking the name “Solanus” after Blessed Solanus Casey, Burns decided to stick with his baptismal name after a conversation with his spiritual advisor.

Retrospectively, Burns explained that the familiarity of keeping his name in religious life helped to better preserve the relationships he had at home. “When I entered religious life, I was very aware of the fact that the people I was closest to didn’t really get what I was doing. … This was a new thing for them.”

“Jesus’ entire ministry was to be familiar; he humbled himself to become man. Is anything more familiar than that?” said Burns.

As for being present, Burns said to simply “spend time with others,” saying that doing an activity one has always shared with his or her friends “opens the door a little.”

He also explained that the world is full of archetypes, such as heroism, triumph over evil and discovering a sense of identity, so people can use these universal truths to talk about Jesus without actually talking about Jesus.

In being familiar and present and in sharing a familiar message, Burns said that one becomes an image of God to others. Though this is a “hard line to walk,” he said, this type of evangelization eventually becomes natural.

As he wrapped up, Burns armed the students with spiritual ammunition by sharing three Scripture passages he believed could help: John 20:24-28, Luke 24:28-34 and John 21:4-8. He also closed with his favorite photo of a saint, which featured a joyful Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati with friends.

“A guy who can have Christ in his heart and a beer in his hand is a friend of mine,” said Burns.

This talk was the second of a four-part series of evangelization talks hosted by the Fishers of Men household. The next evangelization talk will be on Wednesday, Nov. 28, at 9 p.m.