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How Pithy Can Your Apologetics Get?
When a child asks “Where do babies come from?” he may just be wondering if the new one can be exchanged, or he may need a simple reassurance that he came ‘from Mommy’ and not from toxic slime as his older brother insists. Experienced parents know what he probably does not want is a long, technical explanation accompanied by slides and illustrations.
Restraint is often the better part of apologetics as well. When an evangelical Christian, who really cares about these things, asks “Do ya’ll worship Mary?” the answer is “No.” If you go into the definition of worship, the historical veneration of Mary, and the different types of worship, he will hear one thing only: “Yep, they do–look at him try to weasel out of it!”
It may be frustrating to you that they don’t want to know the Whole Truth. Especially if you were an evangelical yourself and searched with great zeal for the big ‘T’. Give it up. Anyone with that goal in mind will keep asking questions. You’ll get your chance. Often these questions are trotted out as a ‘gotcha’ or a ‘dare’. They know we worship Mary and plan for you to be mighty uncomfortable being forced by their challenge to admit it.
You must discern when “Do Catholics offer Christ in sacrifice at every Mass?” really means “Do you think Christ’s one death wasn’t enough?” The answer is “No.” Keep to yourself all the rhetoric about un-bloody sacrifice and re-presentation of the one sufficient sacrifice. If you blurt it all out, they’ll hear one thing: “Yep, they think He has to die again every week–look at him try to weasel out of it!”
Here are some other pithy answers to ‘dare ya’ questions:
“Do you pray to dead people?” — “No.” (If you define the word pray, or explain the Church Triumphant, he’ll hear one thing: “Yep, they do–look at him try to weasel out of it!”)
“Is the pope perfect?” — “No.”
“Do Catholics think all of us other Christians won’t go to heaven?” — “No.”
“Did the Catholic Church add books to the Bible?” — “No.”
“Do Catholics worship that bread and wine?” — “No.”
“Do you guys have to earn your salvation?” — “No.”
“Do you worship saints?” — “No.”
“Is there any mediator besides Christ between God and man?” — “No.”
“Do you think saying a formula prayer over and over works better than just sharing your heart with Jesus?” — “No.”
“Do you have to believe all those wild apparitions?” — “No.”
You may need to convert their question into one you can answer concisely. Try to get to the core of their concern in your restatement of the question. Translate “Do you believe Mary is up there answering prayers and working miracles?” by saying “Does the power to work a miracle come from Mary? No!”
Convert “You think I need a priest to stand between me and God?” into “Does everyone have a direct, personal relationship with God? Yes!”
Change “Do you really believe I can say certain prayers or do some good works and then God is obligated to reward me?” to “Does anyone obligate God? No! He rewards good works and answers prayers however He sees fit.”
This refusal to bandy many words is not meant to be a withholding from others of the gift of your apologetics. It is based on careful assessment of your audience and your determination that you are dealing with someone who is daring you to admit what he already knows and considers proof positive against the Faith. He is not asking to hear answers, but an admission of guilt. Wordy answers will only prove things in the Catholic Church are as bad as he suspected. Your pithy ones may surprise him into digging deeper.
Just so you’ll know, I don’t hate Facebook.
I just don’t have the energy to maintain a virtual presence there when my real presence still needs work.
Here are my 10 favorite Facebook usages:
- Asking the world to pray for unity in the Body of Christ on the 17th of each month, per Christ’s own prayer for this great good in John, Chapter 17.
- People on their way to adoration, asking for prayer requests and then really praying for each one before the Real Presence of Jesus Christ.
- Photos of amazing natural wonders and beautiful art images. Yes, add to the beauty my friends!
- Urgent prayer requests…finally a great reason to broadcast instead of to speak to folks individually. I may miss these requests, but I hold in my heart all the intentions of my friends and Facebook connections, so I’m not ignoring these!
- Catholic memes: good, clean fun. Thanks for sharing these!
- Songs that lift up your heart. They usually lift mine, too.
- Links to hopeful news items I might have missed.
- Reminders of what saint’s feast day this is, in case I didn’t know. I especially like the ones with a great quote.
- My blog posts magically link to my FB page and so I appreciate the boost that may give in readership.
- I love that FB will send me an email when someone mentions me, responds to a comment I’ve made, or has sent a message. I’ll miss something by dropping in only monthly, but not miss something meant for me, personally.
#4 Our participation in the life of the Trinity, our sonship, our identity as Christians is the source of our power to evangelize. Nothing new here, or anywhere in this, but a great reminder that to be better givers-away, we need to be more fully who we already are!
#11 Every opportunity for Scripture study should be made available, and the Scripture should permeate homilies, catechesis, and all our evangelization. Amen, amen! Our separated brethren in the Protestant churches will hear us more clearly if we speak ‘scripture,’ and put the lie to their sense that we don’t value the Bible.
#15, 16 Standing up for human rights, for the unborn, for religious freedom IS evangelization! We don’t have to take time away from all that to be contributing mightily to the New Evangelization. Perhaps we’ll add more scripture, more prayer, more loving-kindness to our methods, but rock on, ye who are fighting these fights!
#18 The most effective form of evangelization is the sharing of the testimony of life. How has your life in Christ moved you, changed you, helped you, challenged you, blessed you? TODAY??
#20 There should be a particular attention paid to the way of beauty. Beauty attracts us to love…In this light artists feel themselves privileged communicators of the New Evangelization. Can I hear a big whoop from writers and artists and poets and musicians out there??
#27 Education needs to promote everything that is true, good and beautiful. Is this happening at your school, boys and girls?
#34 Sunday needs to be recovered with its sacred and special character together with Sunday Mass, as the center of Catholic life. Souls at Rest, anyone??
#35 THE LITURGY OF THE CHURCH IS THE BEST SCHOOL OF THE FAITH. No more nun puppets, please Father!
#39 Pilgrimages to shrines and sanctuaries are an important aspect of the New Evangelization. Where shall we go? Who else wants to put up roadside shrines??
#45 The mission proper to lay faithful is the transformation of worldly structures. I love this! Let’s get busy!!! Life witness, works of charity and mercy, renewing the temporal order, and learning how to just flat proclaim what we believe….we can do this!!
# 52 The New Evangelization promotes ecumenical collaboration…in particular, the Church invites Christians to persevere and to intensify their relations with Muslims. Despite difficulties, this dialogue must continue. Sounds pretty clear to me….we can’t be part of the demonize-the-other-guy crowd, but must take the risk of identifying with him as a human being, and keeping a respectful dialogue going. Dialogue – it’s not just for ‘liberals’, but for anyone who wants to set people free: LIBERATORS!!
Well, we’ve got our work cut out for us!! I’d like to know what you think of all this, and what you’re consciously doing for the New Evangelization.
I’m beginning to think we need more conscious practice for being present to persons.
Though I know that you are a deep mystery and a unique, unrepeatable reality, you enter my space as an object in the environment and I often do not register your presence at all. This is a sad state of affairs, exacerbated by the speedy pace of life, the isolation of persons in cars and suburbs, the barely-there transactional symbology that counts as ‘communication,’ and other obvious factors of reality that I can’t change.
What can I change? What can I suggest to help along this ‘practice of the presence of persons’?
- Prayer before coming into the presence of others. “Dear God, please help me to be fully present to those I am about to encounter, to believe you have arranged for me to meet with the particular individuals who are present, to resist my own inward resistance to showing real heart hospitality to them, and to place my interest truly into the essence of who each person is and yearns to be. And Lord, please help me remember their names!” (I am so bad at this!) “Please bless our time together, help us to edify and encourage one another, and remain undistracted by other concerns during our visit. Please come into the space between us to unify us for your greater glory.”
- Courtesy. I think we should resurrect the courtesy of formal greeting and leave-taking. I’m trying to move into a “Grace and peace to you” format that I usually forget as greetings take a much more casual turn and the moment is lost. I love getting and giving good-bye hugs, but still stand there wondering if I’ll seem foolish, old-lady-ish, or overly personal if I lunge forward with a hug someone doesn’t want. Still, if you come to my Open House, please say hello on arriving and good-bye on leaving, please. And I’ll do the same when we all meet for book groups or meetings or whatever.
- Be affected. I need to do more than see you. To be present to you is to receive you into my own being and to be affected by you, there. I can’t be present to you without that opening that allows you entrance and makes me somewhat vulnerable to you. I hope I can look into your eyes and that you’ll see yourself loved in mine. I need to do more than hear you. You need to sound in me so that I resonate with you, mirror your movements and expressions, sense the meaning beneath the message on the surface. Just the other day, as I was listening to a friend and being deeply affected by him, one word he said in passing seemed to reverberate in me. I couldn’t shake the sense that this word held much more meaning for him and, as it turns out, it sure did! When I asked why that word was somehow very important or meaningful to him, out came the stories and the emotions elicited by them. It was fascinating to experience the reality that one word could ‘carry’ so much ‘weight’. He hadn’t realized it himself, but as we explored it together it was clear that God had helped my own heart be troubled with a message meant for his healing. What a delicate, lovely instrument the open, affect-able heart is!
Naturally, I am very much interested in your thoughts about how we can better practice the presence of persons. Please let me hear from you!
Just thinking about how I want to live…
Live so completely immersed in the Faith that you must be in a life support suit to go out into the world.
Live so deeply embedded in Catholic culture that you are a living artifact of that culture wherever you interact with others – your gestures, collar, habits of speech, prayer before meals reveal your home of origin.
Live so fully in kairos that chronos does not limit the scope of your being.
Live so richly in Catholic community that your tribe goes into the world with you – at your back when you encounter enemies; at the service of those you serve.
Live so well-ordered to the Truth that you cannot be deceived.
Live in such need of grace that you cannot take a step without prayer.
Live in such tender awareness of pain that your heart is a fountain of mercy.
Live with such bubbling joy that you seem a foolish, childish, strangely attractive person to those who don’t know the secret of your Source.
Live with such keen perception of beauty that the world becomes a wonderland, and the distressing disguises of the persons around you cannot hide Christ.
Let the word of God dwell in you so richly that it resounds in your sounding and is realized in your becoming.