Understanding Apologetics: How to Defend Your Faith

This is an article that had been on my heart and mind to write for some time since we are often asked if we will offer “apologetic classes” at the parish. It first appeared in the March 5, 2017 edition of Saint Mary Magdalene’s Parish Bulletin, Vidi Dominum (Latin for – “I have seen the Lord.” The words of St. Mary Magdalene to the Apostles [John 20:18]). With permission, I am able to provide this article to you here.

In a world filled with buzzwords, there is one on the lips of many Catholics I run into. That buzzword is apologetics. Recently, a lot of parishioners have been requesting that more apologetics classes be offered here at St. Mary Magdalene. Before I address that, we should first ask whether we really understand what this word means – what apologetics is, and what it isn’t.

What is Apologetics?

The word apologetics comes from the Greek root word, apologia, which means to defend. In Ancient Greece, it was referred to as the formal way one would defend a belief, explanation, or argument for one’s philosophy or religion. Although we might associate this term with the word, apologize, it does mean to say that we are sorry for what we believe, or that we are sorry for offending someone because of our beliefs.

The term apologia cannot only be found in the New Testament (Acts 22:1 and 1 Peter 3:15), but also in other documents in ancient history, such as The Apology of Socrates by the Greek philosopher Plato. In this text, he makes a defense for Socrates when accused of wrongdoing. Furthermore, we also see this word in the Early Church writings of St. Irenaeus (Against the Heresies), St. Justin Martyr (The First Apology), and, most notably, St. Clement of Alexandria, St. Clement of Rome, St. Polycarp, St. Ignatius of Antioch, and Tertullian, among others. In more modern times, we have G.K. Chesterton, Bishop Fulton Sheen, Frank Sheed, Peter Kreeft, Jimmy Akin, and Arizona’s own, Trent Horn.

Although the aforementioned Early Church Fathers defended their newfound Catholic faith and beliefs to a pagan culture of non-believers, Catholics today are in a similar position. We are constantly being required to explain and defend our Catholic faith to many non-believers, even to those who were raised Catholic but were never truly taught their Catholic faith correctly. Many people have left the Catholic Church as a result of having been poorly catechized. Even I was not catechized correctly as a young child and adolescent. I first had to learn the truth before having the courage to defend it.

Preaching of Saint Peter by Masolino da Panicale (The Brancacci Chapel in Florence, Italy).

For us today, and for our older brothers and sisters in the past, the battle cry of defending our Catholic faith should be centered on St. Peter’s words – “Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence” (1 Peter 3:15). In his book, Reasons to Believe – How to Understand, Explain, and Defend the Catholic Faith, Scott Hahn says the following in reference to St. Peter’s words:

 “We should…always “be prepared” to explain the reasons why we believe what we believe. That statement assumes our beliefs are defensible on rational grounds, and that we’re willing to spend a lifetime preparing to defend what we profess in the articles of faith…as Christians, we have the sweet obligation of coming to know them and coming to their defense as often as we please. There is no shortage of opportunity of study, contemplation, and evangelization. Wherever we go, we are in God’s presence and in His world. And in most places we go we can take a good book along for stolen moments of study. It’s the work of a lifetime.”

 Always be prepared

So we might be asking ourselves at this point: How can we make sure that we are always prepared?

First, we must be people of prayer. The greatest apologists in the history of the Church were those striving to be saints. Their work as apologists was secondary. The best way to become a saint is to strive for holiness and to converse with God through prayer. A consistent daily and lively prayer life is fundamental for anyone who wants to learn and defend the Catholic faith. A good place to start with prayer is attending Sunday Mass and spending time with Jesus in Adoration. If you can make daily Mass, that will benefit you even more.

Second, we must come to have a good understanding of what the Catholic Church teaches on the fundamental articles of faith. Although the Catholic faith is vast and contains a wealth of knowledge, starting with the Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, amplified with strong works of biblical and theological learning is fundamental. You can read and learn on your own, but many people find it overwhelming to pick up the Bible or the Catechism. I have heard it here at the parish many times.

Do We Offer Apologetics Classes?

In a recent Flocknote survey that I sent out, I received numerous requests to offer “apologetics classes.” Although I understand what people are asking, the simple response to the question above is, “We already do!” Through the Porta Fidei Adult Faith Formation Program, we have already provided Bible studies such as Genesis to Jesus, The Gospel of Matthew, Book of Revelation; the Catholicism Series, sessions on the Mass and the Eucharist, Consecration to Jesus through Mary, Prayer, and many others.

Third, we must realize what apologetics is and isn’t. Apologetics is simply, as I stated above, the ability to defend one’s faith, but more than that, apologetics should remove false notions of Catholicism. We should be able to explain to people, through reason, what Catholicism is, and what it is not. Many people have been given a false perception of the Church through no fault of their own.

Apologetics seeks to bring people to Jesus Christ through conversion. It is not about bringing someone to Christ by force. Apologetics is not about winning or trying to recruit people to the faith. People must be open to hearing the truth of Jesus Christ and His Catholic Church in order for conversion to take place, and the Holy Spirit will take care of that.

Lastly, Apologetics is not just answering questions or giving quick answers to questions asked by our friends and coworkers. Many people I encounter just want some rote answer to a question (although memorization does have its place too). However, that often does nothing but give a cold response when so much more could be achieved. Our sessions will help you understand Catholicism as a whole, not just give you answers to questions your neighbor might ask you.

Giving a quick answer is not what St. Peter meant in his letter. St. Peter, along with Jesus, wants us to be well-trained Christians with minds and hearts formed in love, humility, and generosity. Scott Hahn says in the aforementioned book,

“We’re not looking for the quick comeback…we’re looking for answers that will satisfy – first ourselves and then others. Apologetics is a theological art that must rest on a firm foundation of theological science. If our defense does not flow from deep preparation, deep Christian formation, it will be unconvincing at best, but merely offensive at worst.”  

Saint Paul delivering the Areopagus Sermon in Athens by Raphael, 1515.

 To defend our faith is about engaging the culture in which we live, actually that’s the mission of the Catholic Church – to engage the culture, to be counter-cultural, and to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Each person we encounter in our daily lives is different. We must learn to develop relationships with each of them. One of the best sort of apologetic “arguments” is giving your personal testimony to those who question our beliefs. Cardinal Avery Dulles once said,

“The apologetics of personal testimony is particularly suited to the genius of Catholicism. In the act of the Catholic faith, reliance on testimony goes out indivisibly to Christ and to the Church through which he continues his mission in the world. Such testimony invites us not only to individual conversion but to communion with the whole body of believers.”

 Suggestions for Further Reading

Below are five books that I suggest for further reading. It’s my hope that if you have not attended one of our Porta Fidei Adult Faith Formation sessions in the past, that you will seek out what we will offer in the months and years ahead, in order that you will have the proper formation, and as St. Peter states, “Always be prepared to make a defense.”

  1. Reasons to Believe – How to Understand, Explain, and Defend the Catholic Faith, Scott Hahn.
  2. Theology for Beginners and Theology and Sanity, Frank Sheed.
  3. Catholicism and Fundamentalism, Karl Keating
  4. The Fundamentals of the Faith, Peter Kreeft
  5. Handbooks of Christian Apologetics, Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli, Jr.

Sources:

“”Be A Catholic Apologist – Without Apology”. Ignatius Insight, n.d. Web. 01 Feb. 2017.

Hahn, Scott. Reasons to Believe: How to Understand, Explain, and Defend the Catholic Faith. New York: Doubleday, 2007. Print.

“Starting Out as an Apologist.” Catholic Answers, n.d. Web. 01 Feb. 2017.

The Witty Banter of a Practicing Catholic

Earlier today, I was giving some insight to a friend of mine through wit, banter, and humor about going to Confession and what they should do so they could make the Latin Novos Ordo Mass at the parish tonight.  As I was sitting around the house today, I also thought to myself that I ate a lot of meat yesterday since on Friday (First Friday of Lent), I didn’t eat any meat. In these two moments, I came up with the new page on my blog of comments that a practicing catholic might say to oneself or to others to be serious, but more funny than serious. The new page – The Witty Banter of a Practicing Catholic

There is a twofold purpose of this new page, first, it’s meant to be funny. As practicing Catholics, the world thinks we are crazy, but in that craziness, we can have a lot of fun – such as knowing that you sometimes have to line up one hour before Confession begins. Second, it will provide insight to the beauty and mystery of Catholicism. The same Catholicism that a practicing Catholic witnesses every day in the Church.

As I think of sayings or comments that come into mind or come out of my lips or things I hear others say, I will write them on this page. Credit will be given. If you want some wit, banter, and humor, read this post – 12 Sayings of Mother Angelica that Made Me Laugh Out Loud.

Saint Philip Neri…Pray for Us. 

Solidarity HealthShare: The Catholic Answer to the Healthcare Dilemma

Through a group of friends here in Phoenix, I recently discovered the Catholic answer to the healthcare dilemma that faces many people in our country today. With the rise of medical costs for so many from the Affordable Care Act (commonly known as ObamaCare), Solidarity HealthShare, which understands the commonality to care for each other as stated in the Sacred Scriptures, stands to be the answer for so many that would be subjected to astronomical costs from the ACA or otherwise go without medical care.

If you are one of the many Americans enduring this crisis of rising medical costs, I would encourage you to check out and join a community of health focused American Christians who seek to practice quality healthcare rooted in Catholic principles. If you are seeking to control your healthcare and the healthcare of your family as you see fit, then Solidarity HealthShare is the answer for you. Solidarity HealthShare brings together like-minded Christians to share together medical costs and as the Gospel of Matthew states, to be “reconciled to one another” (Mt. 5:21) in unity.

Solidarity HealthShare desires to rebuild and restore a true healthcare system that is Catholic in every way as well as promote the teachings and traditions of the Church through her social teachings, which are rooted in self-sacrificial love and the sanctity of all human life. As Christians families, you will “practice the sharing of material and spiritual goods (Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) #1948) and promote a network of members who will pray for each other and share in their Monthly Share Amount while growing together in a “human and Christian brotherhood” (CCC, 1939).

solidarity_opengraph

Solidarity HealthShare received approval from Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of the Diocese of Phoenix on October 4, 2016. In his letter, Bishop Olmsted says the following,

“At a time when many Catholics and other people of faith face challenges in making the best healthcare decisions for themselves and their families, Solidarity HealthShare can provide critical assistance to navigate options that are available.”

The CEO of Solidarity HealthShare, Bradley Hahn, is very hopeful that this ministry will be the answer for so many families seeking another avenue to care for their loved ones healthcare –

“We have spent several years searching for a way to help other like-minded individuals, families and organizations pay for medical costs without violating their consciences or breaking their bank accounts…I’m happy and grateful to God that we have found and can now offer this ministry to the many people who have been waiting for it.”

For more information on Solidarity HealthShare, I would encourage you to visit their website and see the options available. If you are aware of a family member or friend that is need of healthcare, and they refuse to subscribe to the Affordable Care Act, please forward this onto them as well.

I would also encourage you to Like and Follow Solidarity HealthShare on Facebook and Twitter.

Don’t pass up this great opportunity to be member of a great Catholic community that will provide you with ethical and affordable options for your healthcare.

“So my Fellow Catholics: Ask not what your God can do for you…”

In light of today’s Inauguration of the 45th President of the United States of America – Donald J. Trump, I found it fitting to share with you an excellent homily I personally heard last weekend at the parish of St. Mary Magdalene Catholic Church. The homily is given by my Pastor and Boss, Fr. Will Schmid.

Focusing on the words of John F. Kennedy Jr from his inaugural speech, Fr. Will breaks open for us as Catholics the importance of what we can do for God, instead of asking what God can do for us. In his homily, Fr. Will also focuses on the Catholic Mass and the primary reason of why we attend Mass weekly. To learn the primary reason, I would encourage you to listen to the homily below.

He also focuses on the importance of discipleship and how the Catholic Mass allows us to be disciples to the world. Drawing from the readings of the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Fr. Will in a most excellent way, examines how important it is for us to give back to God instead of always expecting God to give us something.

He concludes with the words – “So my Fellow Catholics: Ask not what your God can do for you (because he’s already done it) — instead, ask today what you can do for your God.”

Fr. Will’s homily:

If you are interested, all Sunday homilies and Saturday Morning Speaker Series talks are available for download via iTunes and Google Play Music.

Fr. Will Schmid

725th Blog Post 

Giving Thanks to God on Thanksgiving

Today is November 24 and the holiday of Thanksgiving here in the United States of America. If you want to know more about the Thanksgiving holiday, its origin, traditions, and forms of celebration, I would encourage you to look it up online.

The Thanksgiving holiday is a time when family and friends gather together, however, it’s more than just eating turkey, gathering with family around a table, and watching football on television.

As Catholics, we are able to celebrate “thanksgiving” every day. Everyday we can go to Mass and receive Our Lord Jesus Christ – body, blood, soul, and divinity. The word Eucharist comes from the Latin term, eucharistia, which means “thanksgiving.” Turkey might be good to eat, but it will never provide eternal life. Only Jesus Christ in Sacrament of all Sacraments can do that.

Today’s blog is to remind all of us that we must give thanks to God. All that we have comes from Him. He is our provider. When He answers your prayer…Give Him thanks! Don’t forget to Thank Him for answering that prayer. When we ask someone for a cup of coffee, we say thank you. So too must we thank God when he provides for us something we requested from Him.

The great 20th century Catholic writer, G.K. Chesterton, once said, “Nothing taken for granted; everything received with gratitude; everything passed on with grace.”

This year, I am thankful for my family (my Mom, my sister, my brother-in-law, my niece and nephew, and my cousins). I am thankful for having a job that I love where I can teach many people on a daily basis about Jesus Christ and His Catholic Church. I am thankful for having a roof over my head and the ability to build up that home. I am thankful to my coworkers and all the people in my life who I get to interact with on a daily basis.

What are you thankful for this year (and let’s avoid politics)? Share with us in the comment box.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING

Sunday Homilies and Saturday Morning Speaker Series on iTunes and Google Play Music

As I have done in the past, I want to share with all of you some exciting news coming out of the parish that I work for in Gilbert, Arizona. Our parishioners as well as all of you can now download our Sunday homilies and Saturday Morning Speaker Series through iTunes and Google Play Music. We have been offering this service since July, when I first wrote about it. Every month our download numbers increase, and although it’s not about numbers, I felt the desire to share this information again, especially since I gained many new followers in the month of October.

For the longest time, we have offered the homilies on our website for our parishioners (and visitors to the website), but now using iTunes and Google Play, a person can download the homilies (and the Saturday Morning Speaker Series) to their device and listen to them anytime and anywhere. I hope that many of you will take the time to listen to the great preaching many of us here on a weekly and daily basis. I hope that you will also share it with your family and friends.

Francis.Benedict - SMM Homilies meme

For those of you that don’t have a device and just want to listen to the homilies via the website, click here.

For those of you that prefer iTunes, and more than likely own Apple products, click here.

For those of you that prefer Google Play, and more than likely own an Android, click here.

10 Quotes from the Saints on Death

Today is the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed, which is also known as All Souls Day. After the celebration of All Saints, the Church prays for all of those souls that are currently suffering and being purified in Purgatory.

Although we can offer our sufferings here on earth for these souls, the primary means that the Church prays for the dead is by offering up the Holy Mass, the Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. The Holy Mass displays the perfect and most complete means of charity for the dead. Even in death, the Mystical Body of Christ remains intact. The Church Militant (on earth), the Church Suffering (in Purgatory), and Church Triumphant (in Heaven) are all united through the love of Jesus Christ.

Even though these souls have departed from our presence, it doesn’t mean they have left us or we will forget them. The connection and love that unites us is through the Communion of Saints and today’s feast of All Souls. Ever since my Dad passed away, I have felt a connection to him even greater than when he was still here on earth and in the hospital.

The Catholic Church isn’t afraid to talk about suffering and death; since suffering and death is an element of life. So many of the saints have looked forward to death, for they knew in their death they would be united with Jesus Christ.

Madonna and Child with the Souls in Purgatory - Luca Giodarno

Madonna and Child with the Souls in Purgatory – Luca Giodarno

To conclude this post, here are 10 quotes from the Saints on Death –

I. “The more we are afflicted in this world, the greater is our assurance in the next; the more sorrow in the present, the greater will be our joy in the future.” – St. Isidore of Seville

II. “Death is more than falling blindly into the arms of God.” – St. Maria Maravillas de Jesus

III. “After my death, I will let fall a shower of roses. I will spend my heaven doing good upon the earth. I will raise up a mighty host of little saints. My mission is to make God loved.” – St. Therese of Lisieux

IV. “Live so as not to fear death. For those who live well in the world, death is not frightening but sweet and precious.” – St. Rose of Viterbo

V. “He who bears his sufferings with patience for God’s sake, will soon arrive at high perfection. He will be Master of the world and will already have one foot in the other world.” – St. Giles of Assisi

VI. “Go forth in peace, for you have followed the good road. Go forth without fear; for He that created you has sanctified you, has always protected you, and loves you as a mother. Blessed be Thou, O God, for having created me.” – St. Clare, on her deathbed speaking to herself

VII. “They must be esteemed to have lost their sense, who either pursuing abundance, or fearing lack of temporal goods, lose those who are eternal. – St. Thomas Aquinas

VIII. “Christ’s martyrs feared neither death nor pain. He triumphed in them who lived in them; and they, who lived not for themselves but for Him, found in death itself the way to life.” – St. Augustine of Hippo

IX. “A man may very well lose his head and yet come to no harm – yea, I say to unspeakable good and everlasting happiness.” – St. Thomas More

X. “For I trust, in whatever manner I die, that I shall not be deprived of the mercy of my God, without which my eternal ruin would be inevitable, whether I die an unprepared death, or whether I have long anticipated my end.” – St. Gertrude

All the Holy Souls…Pray for Us as We Pray for You

All the Holy Saints in Heaven…Pray for Us