Defending our Faith and Spreading our Knowledge
I have finally settled down to write this 444th Pastor’s Corner, late on May 10th, which is my 11th Anniversary of Ordination to the Priesthood. My goodness how time has literally flown by. In about 10 minutes, the clock will chime, and I will begin my 12th year as a priest and begin a 50-day countdown to my retirement…and the end of an incredible spiritually fulfilling, 11-year term as your pastor and shepherd.
A lot of thoughts have been rushing through my head, and like any parting or ending, they mostly deal with missions or objectives yet to be accomplished. There are obviously some material things like the soon-to-be erected (by Fall), sorely needed, six classroom “Learning Center”, an outdoor Crucifix, Stations of the Cross and Marian statues. But my main concerns are the many Spiritual challenges facing us all. The ongoing confusion and continuing scandals erupting from the well-embedded subculture that has yet to be addressed, or even acknowledged as being the major moral cancer in our Holy Mother Church. I encourage you to stand fast, embrace the Orthodox Faith you know and love, and know for certain that, try as they might these days, the agents of hell shall not prevail against it. It is not a time to leave, or grow apathetic and weak in our Faith, but rather a time to grow it, and deepen our knowledge of it, so we can defend it and not be deceived by the many duplicitous Church leaders that abound.
We have all received… free of charge from the parish…back in Advent, the fabulous Faith-enriching gift of a “FORMED” Membership. It was (and continues to be) the Perfect Gift for all of us to shore-up; to increase our knowledge of our Catholic Faith…and increase in us our courage to profess and defend it boldly.
We have been hearing all through this Easter Season, daily readings from the Acts of the Apostles. These readings relate the Apostle’s courageous overcoming of their fear of persecution as they persevere in the Great Commission given them by Christ, to teach and evangelize…”Therefore, go forth and teach all nations…teaching them all that I have ever commanded you”.(Mt 28:19-20). And all throughout the year that obligation is brought up by me in daily homilies. Evangelization is a requirement that applies also to all of us today as well.
We love our Faith, and I dare say that we dearly wish that we were gifted with apologetic skills, and able to confidently respond to every question or challenge about our Faith that comes our way. Just about everywhere we go…and almost every time we speak religion…some form of this following thought and question enters into our mind: “I do want to share my Faith… but I struggle with being confident enough to share it. I don’t feel confident that I know enough to really do that.” So, how can we overcome this paralyzing fear?”
There are really two parts to this question above. The first has to do with having ‘Enough Knowledge,’ the second has to do with ‘Overcoming Fear.’ Fortuitously, I ran across an article today, on “Casting Net Ministries” website by Chis Stewart, that addresses the challenge of both Defending our Faith and Spreading Knowledge of it.
Let’s look at our worrying about Not Having Enough Knowledge:
1) We as Catholics know our Faith better than we think. If you have been raised Catholic, then you have been going to Mass since before you can remember and thus have heard the majority of the Bible read. You have heard songs and you have heard homilies about the Faith; you know more than you think.
2) Since we are Catholic and the person we are in dialogue with is usually not Catholic or not a practicing Catholic, we can be fairly certain that we know more about Catholicism than they do. We know the sacraments, what to do in Mass, most of the prayers. In other words, there is a good chance that they may just have simple questions that we can certainly answer.
Defending Our Faith and Spreading Our Knowledge3) Really all that is needed is to explain what we do know. Many times people are just looking for the fact that we as Catholic Christians actually have reasons to support our Faith.
4) Keep in mind that our Faith is indeed inexhaustible. There will never be a time that we will know everything about the Faith, but that is true about many things. Consider a married couple who have been married for 20 years – would they say that there is nothing else to know about each other? Doubt it. Keep studying, keep falling in love, keep challenging yourself to know more.
5) Keep studying. Questions that you don’t have the answers to are great opportunities for you to deepen your own understanding of the Faith. So keep reading your Bible and Catechism as well as some other trusted authors. Perhaps God has placed this person into your life for your own intellectual development
6) Be honest. There is nothing wrong with saying, ‘That is a good question, I’m not quite sure, I will find the answer for you.’ If you do say that then you must be sure to follow up. Find the answer and get back to them, otherwise you have jeopardized your own integrity.
Now let’s look at Overcoming Fear – This is really the issue, fear many times keeps us from moving forward or moving back or saying something or not saying something even when we know we ought to. Here are a few thoughts:
1) We must keep in mind what is on the line – eternity, salvation, and true happiness. Why are we so quick to share our opinion of the latest movie, restaurant, or someone’s financial decisions? Many times we offer our opinion on those things even when we are not asked, but all that is on the line in those matters is maybe a few wasted hours, or a bad meal, or some amount of money which in the long run we will not be taking with us anyway. But with sharing our Faith, what is on the line is ETERNAL HAPPINESS!!! Let us not fear anything in order to share that.
2) We always share what we love. How easy is it to talk with others about our favorite sports team or favorite TV show or the latest activity of our children? And here is what is so amazing…people listen to us about these things not because they care about them too, but because they care about us and they know we are passionate about them. If we love our Faith, then share it and people will listen.
3) Love is what conquers every fear. If a loved one was in a burning house would there be any obstacle, any amount of fear that would keep us from entering the house? The more we love Christ and the more we love our neighbor, the more fear will disappear into the background and we will soon find ourselves courageously loving people into the Kingdom.
I hope this is beneficial for you. I feel the “Golden key” to increasing our knowledge, and our confidence, and our peace within our Faith… is your FORMED Library…that is now at your fingertips (and at your family and friend’s fingertips as well). You can legally give them access with your FORMED membership…even the ones you are evangelizing.
Gaining knowledge, strength, and faithful courage through our Risen Christ,
I remain respectfully yours,