The Gas Pump Preacher

[T]o speak of a ‘new evangelization’ does not in fact mean that a single formula should be developed that would hold the same for all circumstances.

~ Pope Benedict XVI

He came up to me with a question about Aquinas.

He comes up to a lot of people, apparently.

We were standing on a dimly-lit subway platform. He had a hand-painted portrait of Our Lady of Guadalupe tucked under his arm, several rosaries around his neck, and an earnest look on his face. 

It was clear he understood the faith well and loved it fiercely. And he found opportunities to speak about it. Often.  

“I preach at gas stations,” he told me, matter-of-factly. 

He went on to explain that once a person parks, gets out of the car, and starts pumping their gas, he just walks up and begins talking to them. 

If they really want a full tank, they’re also going to get an earful. (And the gas pump preacher himself must get an earful from station managers, I would suspect.) 

One might have some reservations about this approach to winning souls, of course. (It’s aggressive, and potentially off-putting, for sure.) But it made me wonder: what does he say to these people? After all, it doesn’t take long to fill up. Even if it’s one of those massive Ford F-150’s, he only has a narrow window. So…how does he go about it? 

Put another way, suppose you stepped onto the elevator with a coworker and he happened to turn to you and ask out of the blue, “Why are you Catholic?” 

What would you be prepared to say?  What’s your elevator pitch for Catholicism?

“Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope” (1 Pt 3:15). It pays to be prepared. They say you don’t come to really know a subject until you’ve tried to teach it. So too, in a sense, you can’t really appreciate your faith until you’ve had to account for what you believe—and why. It can do as much for you, as witness, as it may do for those to whom you witness. This all begins with self-reflection: witnessing to yourself, so to speak. Ruminating on what is true, good, and beautiful. Putting words to it. 

There may be many ways to evangelize our culture, but the starting point for every evangelizer is the same: preparedness. The gas pump preacher is definitely prepared. How about you?

Photo by Jonathan Petersson on Unsplash (CC BY-SA 2.0)

From Dominicana Journal