Christians have lived in various countries throughout the world, and many times in history they were able to transform an entire culture.
How did they do that? What can we learn from them?
French Trappist monk Dom Jean-Baptiste Chautard wrote about the key element that Christians used to convert nations in his popular book The Soul of the Apostolate. In particular, he relates a conversation cardinals had with Pope Pius X.
The Pope asked them:“What is the thing we most need, today, to save society?”“Build Catholic schools,” said one.“No.”“More churches,” said another.“Still no.”“Speed up the recruiting of priests,” said a third.“No, no,” said the Pope, “the MOST necessary thing of all, at this time, is for everyparish to possess a group of laymen who will be at the same time virtuous, enlightened, resolute, and truly apostolic.”
It is the personal witness of the Gospel that is most effective at transforming society. Chautard explains reiterates this idea throughout this book.
The regeneration of society … can come only as a result of a more intense radiation of the holiness of the Church. It is by this means, they say, rather than by lectures and apologetics that Christianity developed so rapidly in the first centuries of its history, in spite of the power of its enemies, of prejudices of all sorts, and of the general corruption.
He even points out how this method was used by the early Church.
It is very certain that the primitive Church, as we have already hinted, knew how to organize magnificent and numerous shock troops [core group of holy people], in the midst of the faithful, and their virtues both struck the pagans with astonishment and excited the admiration of honest souls, even those most prejudiced against Christianity by their principles, their traditions, and their social background. Conversions were the result, even in circles to which no priest had access.
While instruction is important, what is more important is being a personal witness to the joy of the Gospel.
Preaching by example will always be the foremost instrument of conversions.
Prayer for the conversion of a loved one