“The Lord has never stopped thinking about you,” the young evangelist said with a gentle smile on his face. “I often say this when I’m evangelizing to people and telling people about the Lord’s love. From the beginning of time, God had you in mind. He has been thinking about you and created you for his love, for his joy, and for his happiness.”
These words of truth and encouragement come from Lucas Miles, a 19-year-old from Gladewater. At the end of Mark’s Gospel, Jesus tells us to “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.” (Mk 16:15) Following this command is something Lucas strives to do in the ordinary circumstances of his daily life.
A little about Lucus
Born in Georgia, Lucas moved to the Diocese of Tyler with his parents and two younger brothers about 12 years ago. The family settled in Gladewater, where they are parishioners of St. Theresa Catholic Church.
In 2015, Lucas’ father passed away from cancer. His father’s profession as a nuclear robotics welder was influential in Lucas’ desire to attend school to become a welder.
After graduating from high school, Lucas attended Kilgore College, from which he graduated with an associate degree in applied science in December 2022. He now works as a welder at MavTech Fabrication in Gladewater.
His conversion story
Like many young people, Lucas didn’t always take his Catholic faith seriously. But shortly after graduation from high school, everything changed.
“High school was really, really rough,” Lucas explained. “But looking back on it, the Lord poured out so much grace in ways I didn’t even expect. Not only that, I was getting to the point in life where I knew there had to be something more. I knew there was a bigger thing that I was missing.”
Around this time, Lucas also had a memory of his father before he died sitting on his mind. “One of the last things he told me,” Lucas remembered. “He looked me dead in the eyes and said, ‘Lucas, I want you to do the best that you can. The best that you can. That’s all we can do, the best that we can.’”
So these two desires stirred up in Lucas’ heart. The desire for something more and the desire to do the best that he could do in life.
At the time, Lucas enjoyed watching TV shows. One day the show The Chosen came across his feed. “I was like, ‘This Jesus guy looks familiar, I’ll tap him and watch him,’” Lucas said with a chuckle.
In The Chosen, the first episode is a beautiful story about Mary Magdalene and her encounter with Jesus. This episode was extremely moving for Lucas.
“As Mary was walking away and Jesus called her name, at that moment it was like all the veils were off,” Lucas explained. “I was looking heart to heart with Jesus. That was me. I’d been running all this time. I think I understood where she was going and where she’d been. And then Jesus embraced her and I fell apart, I was crying and everything.”
Lucas realized the Lord was calling him into something deeper.
“I realized there is something greater, ” Lucas continued. “Like when the Lord says, ‘something greater than that temple is here.’ (Mt 12:6) There’s something bigger than me here and he’s calling me into that something bigger. After that, I just got more and more curious.”
Conversion for Lucas was a gradual process. “It was a deepening over time of this conversion of the heart,” he said. “I think that’s what the Lord was really after, my heart. And over time I realized, ‘You know what, Lord? I want to be after yours, too.’”
And so the Lord taught him, bringing new people into Lucas’ life to help him grow and bringing new opportunities for evangelization to help him proclaim the Gospel.
Proclaiming the Gospel at school and in the workplace
By simply being open and willing to enter into conversation with others, Lucas has found himself in dialogue with different people about Catholicism, including his welding professor and fellow students at Kilgore College.
“This is really the crux of everything the Lord has been taking me through,” Lucas said. “No matter where I am or what I’m doing, it always happens. Someone comes up to me with a question or it happens in conversion. It’s a mixture of apologetics, catechetics, and just teaching what the Catholic Church teaches to people who are curious.”
Lucas has answered questions about Mary, the Bible, the sacraments, the papacy, and more. These conversations have also helped him to learn and study more about the faith he loves.
“It’s really cool,” Lucas explained. “You tell someone you’re a Catholic, and you’re faithful about it and you say it with love, and our Protestant brothers and sisters, or even people without faith, they hear that and they become curious on some level. Some people will boldly ask, ‘Mary, what about that?’ And you get to walk with people through that. It’s really like teaching a class, but it’s also walking with them. Because I’m also learning with them as I’m telling them all of this.”
While completing his studies at Kilgore College, Lucas worked at Ace Hardware in Gladewater. While there, he also found himself in conversations with customers and co-workers about Catholicism.
“In the workforce, people are very vocal about their opinions. They are vocal about what they think about politics, economics, and stuff like that. They are vocal about what they think about religion, too,” Lucas observed. These become great opportunities for evangelization for Lucas.
Lucas has had conversations with people who were open to the faith and with some who have been more guarded or hostile to the faith, struggling with some Church teachings.
“It’s through our relationship that others are going to see the light,” Lucas said. “Just me being with the Lord in the workplace. People see that and they notice that whenever you’re the Lord’s, you’re different. You’re set apart, and it captures people’s attention.
“I know some may go back to being the way they were,” he continued. “But others are going to be curious for a little longer, and that’s really their walk with the Lord. But being able to see where they’re at and being able to help them back to their heavenly Father is a really beautiful grace, and it’s a really beautiful way of life.”
We’re all called to be evangelists
Often, we’re made to believe that to proclaim the Gospel, we need to travel to a foreign country or stand on a street corner proclaiming it to strangers. But, in reality, it’s often the people who already are part of our daily lives that God is calling us to evangelize.
“This is how we are called to work in his vineyard,” Lucas said. “He calls everyone differently. But the vineyard is so big and the harvest is so plentiful! We don’t have to go across the world to do good. We just have to step outside and be open to people. All you have to do is be available. That’s all we’re called to do. Be available.
“It’s really like surgery, but I’m not the physician. I’m just the tool,” Lucas continued. He described how when people come to us with their questions about faith, or they bring their struggles, concerns, or wounds, these become opportunities for us to give these individuals to the Lord and ask the question: “Which instrument are you calling me to be to this person.”
“Sometimes, we’re just called to listen. Other times, we’re called to speak. Listen to the Lord and to what he’s calling you to address. Is he calling you to address anything at all, or just listen?” Lucas said.
“I think this is what the Lord is calling us to when someone opens up to us,” Lucas explained. “He’s calling us to speak to them in that language of love. To really reach in and grab them in that deep dark cave that they’ve either placed themselves in or that they have been placed in, then pull them out.”
To pull them out and help them understand the tremendous love God has for them. This is what it means to evangelize.
The role of his parish
Among the many things that feed Lucas spiritually, the parish plays a special role. “It’s like home base,” Lucas said.
The community Lucas has found in his parish, St. Theresa Catholic Church in Gladewater, has become a place where he can allow himself to be built up so he can go out and evangelize.
“Whenever I get weak out there, or come across something I’m not sure about, I can come back here for either advice, or just to be loved,” Lucas said. “Whenever we give God that yes and we walk this good path, he brings these good people to us to help us. This is a really beautiful community that I can go to to ask for prayers, but also to just get to know each other.”
Lucas described the community as one that watches each other’s backs and that strives to pour into each other so they can all go out and proclaim the Gospel in the world.
The Lord holds nothing back
If there’s one thing even a short conversation with Lucas reveals about him, it’s that he is a young man full of hope. This hope comes from his deep understanding of who God is.
“The Lord holds nothing back. Look at the Incarnation,” Lucas concluded. “That just screams that the Lord holds nothing back. He doesn’t give himself in pieces. He gives all of himself to us. What a grace and what a gift that is, that the Lord is so vulnerable with us. The Lord cannot be outdone in generosity. The Lord holds absolutely nothing back. Therefore, we ought not hold anything back from him either.”