Why the Need for Apologetics
By Jose Ma J Fernandez
At the time of this writing, noted Catholic convert and Apologist, Steve Ray, is just about finished with his rather extended tour of Metro Manila and Davao City in the Philippines.
His schedule included talks before budding Catholic Apologists, seminarians and priests, Marian devotees, young professionals & students, and parish-based faithful. Steve, just like this author, is a member of Defensores Fidei Foundation, a barely decade old organization that has its roots in a small group of people who would gather on occasion to discuss the Faith and its ramifications, and figure out ways to defend against increased assaults by bible-based Christians and other sects.
Defensores Fidei began about a dozen years ago, and many of those who found their way into its initial roster of founding members had to face up to a litany of questions about the Faith being posed by both family members and friends who had either defected to other sects or who were in the process of doing so. After conducting several series’ of 10-day sessions on basic apologetics, the group has spawned a more substantial number of Faith defenders from all over the country who are now each contributing to the apologetics cause in a positive way.
In a way, these budding defenders of the Faith are responding to the desire expressed in paragraph 222 of PCP II, calling for A Renewed Evangelization. The paragraph reads,
…We need not apologize for apologetic catechesis. Since its birth, Christianity has been subjected to attacks from which it has had to defend itself. Jesus had to answer early Christian errors, and charged his disciples to protect the faithful from them while keeping pure the Deposit of Faith. Apologetics has always been part of the pastoral and theological tradition of the Church. We must today be willing and able to defend our teachings in public fora, and we need to equip the faithful so that they can defend their Faith. Parish priests must encourage and support the training of lay Catholic Faith Defenders.
Steve Ray describes his journey through the desert of Protestantism – having tried the spectrum of sects from Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Fundamentalist, Evangelical, etc – and finding true meaning and happiness only after reading book upon book, especially those of the early Apostolic and Church Fathers, and ending up in the embrace of Holy Mother Church.
When I mentioned to Steve that practically every conversion is the work of Mary, he and his wife Janet thought about it for a while, and realized that the day of their decision to enter the Church was on a January 1st, the great Solemnity of the Most Holy Mary, Mother of God.
While I am sure he already knew this, I could not help but reinforce a point he brings up in his Marian talks about Mary as Mediatrix: Mary has been chosen by her Spouse, the Holy Spirit, to be the channel for all Grace. And that is why Catholics from the early days of the Church have referred to her as the Mother of All Grace.
The visit of Steve Ray, his fifth to the country, is one he has come to relish very much, if only for the huge outpouring of faith that he finds over here. On occasion, he asks why a foreigner like himself, one who converted to the Faith only in 1994, has to come over to give talks to local groups when so many other competent local Catholic Apologists are already present in the country.
When he does ask this question, I am reminded about Christ’s own admission about a prophet not being welcome in his own country. But one other reason would be the phenomenon that has recently become a norm in the Church: the increasing number of quality converts the Church has been getting not only from the ranks of the Protestant sects, but even from other non-Christian faiths. (By definition, a non-Christian is one who does not believe in the Trinity and that Christ is perfect God and perfect Man, the Second Person in the Trinity with both a Divine and a Human nature.)
The Catholic TV station EWTN has quite a few Catholic Apologists who spend time explaining the Faith, defending aspects of it from attacks by both Protestants and others who simply do not give a hoot for what we believe in. Most of these Apologists are people like Steve Ray, converts who have embraced the Faith with gusto and who continue to study the Faith, write books or tracts about their observations, give talks to groups, or appear on broadcast or use new media to further their evangelization efforts.
The amazing thing is that many Catholic Apologists are aware of the need to be faithful to the Magisterium of the Church, and to submit to the authority of the Chair of Peter, even as they wade through the many difficult situations the Church finds itself in today. For example, when Steve was asked about his views on the recent news on clerical abuse, he noted that most of these cases actually dated from a dark period not only in the Church, but in society as a whole, the 60s and 70s. He stated that one rarely finds news of such abuse occurring in recent years.
One admits that these instances of abuse are always wrong, but it seems that the Catholic Church is bearing the brunt of news of such wrongdoing, even if statistics show that other churches or faiths have much more abuse in their ranks. It is obvious, too, that the Catholic Church attracts attention from legal eagles – who have previously brought the medical profession to its knees with malpractice suits – who look at the resources of the Church (properties, buildings, institutes, etc.) with moist and covetous eyes.
The success of this and past visits of Steve Ray to the country reveals a deep longing for a different approach to the teaching of the Faith. Instead of hearing a plain bible story, for example, Steve tells a scintillating tale of Salvation History – in only three days! – that brings to life the images and symbols of the holy book, and supplements these with the teachings of the early Church Fathers. The use of imagery, typology, symbols and the weaving of all these into a cohesive tapestry has kept the nightly audience of the 3-day series glued to their seats. His talks to students on different aspects of the Faith that touches also on the delicate matter of Chastity has made him an instant hit with young kids.
Steve is tech-savvy, and his Facebook and Twitter accounts immediately drew a storm of requests for “friend confirmations” and followers. When he went about talking about this subject, this thought came to mind: He taught the delicate aspects of Chastity and Sex in exactly the way the Church wants, in language that the kids could understand, in the context of a family environment, stressing the moral aspects behind the strictures of Church teachings on the matter.
In thirty minutes, he achieved and properly conveyed the message, something that no amount of antiseptic and misleading sex education modules of the Department of Education could ever achieve!
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