Unfortunately, I cannot sit with you and make sure you don't misunderstand what I am cogitating and the truth is no one actually reads this blog, so I will plunge into it and pray that it is not taken as blasphemous.
An additional preface is that I have been spending a great deal of time trying to construct a verbal bridge from Catholicism to Protestantism, so when I constantly refer back to Protestant thought it is because I dearly want them to understand what Catholic doctrine really means--no matter what is sounds like. Unfortunately it appears I am always knocking Protestantism. The truth is that after 45 years I became Catholic, so I am trying to defend that switch. However, as much as I believe Catholic theology does make more sense historically, logically and BIBLICALLY, I sincerely don't want to come across judgmental of Protestants. I believe God's mercy and grace extends to all.
As a Protestant, I was taught to think of myself as a Christian army of one. It was my sacred commission to confront every person I deemed to be (according to my denomination's criteria) a non-believer with the gospel (according to my denomination's definition of "the gospel.") Just that sentence alone is going to cause enough controversy that I might as well hang up my cyber pen right now. But please stick with me. We can argue if there is a different gospel according to the different denominations later..... But as a former Seventh-day Adventist I can make a very strong argument that different denominations emphasize different aspects of "the gospel."
Growing up Protestant, I was told that I better have a quick-sell, condensed version of the gospel if I was placed in a position of having only five minutes to "save" someone--if on the subway, in a grocery store, tending a dying person at a fiery car crash--anywhere God leads you to a brief encounter with a non-believer. The presupposition is that we needed to be the conduit to coax a non-believer into a verbal response of accepting the gospel. They needed to go through salvific protocol to assure their eternal soul from damnation. Many Christians go through Biblical training (think Kirk Cameron) just as a medic would, except we are doing spiritual CPR.
The Protestants see themselves as providing the introduction to Christ. They are not an integral part of the equation. They stand aside and watch as a best man at the wedding who introduced the bride and groom. Catholics see things slightly differently.
As Catholics we (should) go to mass each week and partake in the Eucharist. It is not symbolic, it is a authentic participation in the life and death of Christ. We then become more than ourselves, we have truly become the body of Christ. That is the most awesome and terrifying responsibility. As Christ broke His own body for us, as He poured Himself out as a holy sacrifice so that we may be one with Him, we then go out as His true, authoritative representative and BE Christ. As Father Ryan said last Sunday, "we bring God's presence to the world." Our words, our actions, our prayers, our very presence becomes God to the unbeliever. Their acceptance of our love to them sanctifies them. When they respond to our service to them, they have responded to God.
It makes you rethink the whole "five-minute" scenario. Instead of worrying about you or the persons saying the "magic words," you can concentrate on loving them and pray they see Christ in you, any positive response to you is a positive response to God. It takes so much pressure off you for formulas and protocols. It puts so much more pressure on you to truly BE Christ in all your words and actions.
So in a way, it is a upwards spiral. As Christ said whatever we do to the least of them, we have done to Him. We can also say whatever anyone does to us, it was done to Christ Himself because we truly are His Body. A mirror of Christ reflecting others as Christ to us and reflecting ourselves as Christ to others. In the end, it is all about Him--we disappear in the mirror of mankind and every side reflects Christ. I like that kind of disappearing act.