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 | Mary D. Dillard | Photography By Mary D. Dillard

‘Holy spirit, give me the words and the humility’

A Salesman for Christ

“There’s no shortage of opportunity to share the Faith,” says Paul Noto, a self-described reverted Catholic. “You just have to have your ears and eyes open to recognize it.”

Growing up in an Italian family in the late 1950s, Noto was surrounded by his faith. Describing his youth, he says, “We were all sacramentalized, but I don’t think we were all catechized.” His Catholic education “imprinted” the Church’s tradition, but beyond that, “a lot of it did not stick.”

While Noto never truly fell away from the Church, he didn’t exactly put Catholicism on top of his priority list. He would go to Mass, but, as he puts it, he was “in and out.” Getting involved at his parish or even learning about his Faith was easily dismissed. His “I don’t do that” mentality prevailed.

That is, until he met his future wife, Pat. The two began dating, and, eventually, the relationship took a more serious turn. During the courtship, the future Mrs. Noto became interested in the Catholic Faith. Ironically, however, her interest came courtesy of a good Catholic friend, not her future husband.

Pat was actively pursuing her faith journey, but what about Paul? He says that God “opened some doors.” He was introduced to John Cooper, now a deacon. The two men and their wives would go on social outings together, and during one outing, Cooper said to Noto, “You need to get involved.” True to form, Noto resisted, but Cooper learned his new friend had a penchant for history and lent Noto some books to read. “I was blown away,” Noto remembers.

“He started giving me some books on Church history. I was thinking that a bunch of guys dressed in red, smoking cigars in Rome came up with this stuff that we do, but it’s not like that. It goes all the way back to the Apostles! So, this stuff is the real deal.”

Being in sales, Noto is not a shy individual, so when his eyes were opened to the fullness of the Catholic Faith, he knew he had “to go tell the world!”

In those “early days,” as he calls them, he was a “flamethrower.” “I was just like breathing fire to anybody that would listen to me. I have a lot of Protestant ex-friends now because they just couldn’t understand [when I would ask], ‘What the heck are you protesting? We’ve got the fullness. It’s right here!’”

One of Noto’s first memories of his evangelization efforts started with the Sign of the Cross.

As a salesman, he travels quite a bit, and on one trip, Noto found himself having breakfast with a sales representative in Texas. Naturally, Noto said the blessing over his food, which prompted the question, “Are you Catholic?”

Noto seized the opportunity, and the two spent most of the visit talking about Catholicism. At the end of the day, Noto remembers the gentleman saying, “You know, Paul, I really need to start going back to church for the sake of my kids.” The remark has continued to resonate with Noto: He learned a year after their business meeting that the Texas salesman was killed in a car accident.

Simply making the Sign of the Cross before a meal led to a seed of faith being planted. The Holy Spirit is undoubtedly powerful, but according to Noto, He also has a sense of humor. “He is always putting these Catholic people in my life!”

His profession requires a great deal of travel. On business flights, he either has a faith-based book or a rosary in his hand. “Inevitably,” he says, “somebody will sit down right next to me and ask, ‘Are you Catholic?’” More often than not, he will hear the statement: “Yeah, I used to be Catholic.” However, instead of ending the conversation, Noto employs a tactic he learned in sales: feel, felt, found. He simply says: “I know how you feel. I felt the same thing, but this is what I found.”

Of course, you can’t share what you don’t know. Because of our baptism, we are called to be disciples of Christ. “You have to make an effort,” Noto insists. “It’s like a knife that gets dull, you have to sharpen it. We have to sharpen our beliefs. The good news is that the Holy Spirit’s going to help us with that. We’re not alone. ... Before you open your mouth, pray. It can be something simple like, ‘Holy spirit, give me the words and the humility.’”

Being relatable and sincere equates to credibility and, most of the time, creates openness. For Noto, that openness usually results in him giving away his book or rosary at the end of a flight. However, there have been exceptions.

“I had one guy at the airport,” Noto recalls, “that I had a very serious discussion with and we ended up exchanging cards and emails. For all the objections that he came up with, I went home to research, and I sent him an email on every one of those objections that I could remember. He responded with, ‘I appreciate you sending me this, but don’t ever contact me again.’ Sometimes the truth hurts, but I’ve learned in sales that you’re not going to get a yes on every sales call.”

As much as we want our friends and family in the Church, God wants them infinitely more. So, our role is to “imitate Christ” and “become Christ to others.” We can’t be afraid or ashamed of our faith. We can’t be afraid of offending non-Catholics or even fallen-away Catholics. We can’t be afraid of using the personality and tools God gave each and every one of us. We can’t be afraid of being good witnesses. We simply can’t be afraid of living our faith, the archetype of evangelization.

“God draws straight with crooked lines,” Noto maintains. “You don’t have to look for ways to evangelize. It’s all around us ... every opportunity. We are blessed to be baptized into the Body of Christ ... I tell people about how much I love a restaurant or about a great movie ...

We share that, so why wouldn’t we share the greatest news in the world, which is Jesus Christ and His Church alive and present right here, right now.”