Defending The Catholic Church

(This post is also at Catholic Insight catholicinsight.com)

Vatican CityLike many faithful Catholics, the resignation of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI left me feeling uncertain and deeply saddened.  For a few days, I felt a little weepy and the wet, slushy weather fuelled my winter blahs.

With a heavy heart, I went to work each morning as a visiting nurse in the community.  On one of my rounds, a patient struck up an unwelcome conversation.  A non-Catholic, the person weighed in with unsolicited negative opinions about the Papacy, the outgoing Pope and the Catholic Church.

“Oh, Lord,” I silently prayed, “I really don’t want to have this conversation today.”

In the nursing profession, we are taught to put the patients’ needs first.  Our Standards of Practice  instruct us to listen with empathy and to set our own beliefs and values aside so that we don’t make value judgements that might interfere with patient care.  A professor in a mandatory Nursing Ethics course once told me to “leave[my] religion at home,” when I voiced my pro-life opinion in class; Canadian nurses don’t have Freedom of Conscience rights.  It’s very clear that my religious beliefs are to be checked at the door when I leave for work in the morning.

As a conscientious professional, I am expected to do my job and move on, but the person was attacking my Church and making some very unkind and untruthful comments about my Pope.  In defense of Holy Mother Church, I felt compelled to say something.  With a quick, silent prayer to the Holy Spirit and with my heart pounding, I calmly and charitably addressed all the erroneous statements that were made.  The person countered with more incorrect remarks which I addressed as best as I could.  Eventually, the person began to ask questions seeking to clarify mistaken information and then the topic of conversation changed.

Unless we raise our families in completely segregated communities where we don’t engage at all with the rest of society, faithful Catholics, both young and old, will be subjected to negative comments and attitudes regarding our beliefs.  It’s inescapable.  Everything from life issues,  large families, ordination of women, traditional marriage, clergy scandals and celibacy is ammunition for those who want to attack the Church.  Over the next few months we will most likely experience a surge in anti-Catholic sentiment as we adjust to a new Pontiff.  How is a faithful Catholic supposed to respond?

Defending Holy Mother Church begins at home.  It starts with families rooted in and strengthened by family prayer and parents who seek to build up the Domestic Church through well-formed education in the Church’s teachings and modelling a Catholic way of life.  Children look to their parents as the prime example of how to engage in the world and if we openly love and defend the Church we will raise children who will most likely do the same.  Unless we restrict all contact with the rest of the world, we can’t protect our children from anti-Catholic opinion.  We need to give them the tools to defend Her in truth and charity.  We don’t undertake this responsibility by ourselves and so the support and assistance of other faithful, well-formed Catholics is invaluable.  It takes a Catholic village to raise a Catholic child.  When our kids become young, independent adults, there is a greater likelihood they too will be defenders of the Faith if they have learned to do so from an early age.

My 12-year old son stepped into the fray when he spoke out against abortion to a group of Catholic classmates who said they were in favour of it.  He realized that they didn’t really know what they were saying and although he was subjected to ridicule, he felt that their statements needed to be addressed.  In a Gr. 10 religion class, another son corrected a teacher who obviously didn’t know her facts.  In campus lecture halls, my university-aged children have defended the Catholic Church regardless of the response from other students and instructors.  My children are ordinary, fun-loving kids with friends of various or no religious beliefs, but with God’s grace, they have learned that speaking up in a restrained, intelligent manner without condemnation is sometimes necessary.   I’m sure you can add examples from your own experience.

“If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own.  Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world – therefore the world hates you.” (John 15:19)  We all know that we are to live in the world but not be of it and sometimes that involves some risk to reputation and career.  Jesus’ teaching that we “cannot serve God and wealth” (Matthew 6:10) is very evident when it becomes necessary to defend Catholic belief in a workplace setting.  That’s why, with the grace of God, we learn to be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves,” (Matthew 10:16) and we trust that the Holy Spirit “will teach you at that very hour what you ought to say.” (Luke 12:12)

In a world that is pervasively secular, there is increasingly less acceptance of Christ’s Gospels and Catholic teachings.  By His own reasons, the Lord has placed us in this time in the places and situations in which we are living.  We are called to be witnesses where we are planted.  This is not the time to remain silent in the face of insults and false statements.  On the other hand, it is also not the time to be adversarial when faced with hostility.  A composed, well-informed, respectful demeanour works best.  Of course, our actions in society, whether at work or at play, have to reflect our Catholic Christian faith; above all, practice charity.  In this Year of Faith, “it is the love of Christ that fills our hearts and impels us to evangelize.” (Porta Fidei)  “Caritas Christi urget nos.” (2Cor. 5:14)  Evangelization includes defending, with patience and love, Holy Mother Church.

Deo Gratias

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37 Responses to Defending The Catholic Church

  1. drfelixjames says:

    Good post, God bless you

  2. Number 9 says:

    Oh Terry this is such a great post. Thank you and I will reblog it. As a Catholic mother you have touched on so many important issues that affect my children and our decision to love and defend our faith. My children haven’t had to do this yet. They’re in middle school and have always attended Catholic schools—and our Catholic school and parish is authentically Catholic, so I have much comfort sending them to school and Church. But when I grew up in the South, I attended K-8 in public schools and I was often face to face with attacks on my faith or invitations to be saved. I worry now less about attacks from fellow Christians denominations as I do from the vicious secular world. Your post has reminded me that although my children haven’t had to face this yet, they inevitably will and I need to prepare them and set a good, gentle but firm example of defending our Faith. Have a great day and maybe we will have a Pope tomorrow?

    • Thanks, Regina. You and your children are fortunate in that their schools are authentically Catholic since that will help them to be good defenders of the faith. I agree that preparing them to be Catholics in the secular world is one of our most important jobs as parents. You have a great day, too. Like you, I can’t wait for the news from the Vatican.

  3. Number 9 says:

    Reblogged this on Catholic Alcoholic and commented:
    This is one of my favorite bloggers and my first blog “follower.” Terry also writes for CatholicInsight.com which is a publication in Canada, I believe. This is excellent advice for us Catholic mothers who are up against forces that try to influence our children away from our Faith. Enjoy!

  4. juanrbalboa says:

    Thanks for your awesome testimony and your courage, as well your care in raising faithful Catholic apologists.
    I have faced similarly opinionated opposition to the Magisterium–most recently from two people who identify themselves as Catholic. One was from my barber (“the Pope’s resignation is B.S.!”) and a co-worker (“the Church needs to be updated on women ordination, contraception, etc.”). I’m always cautious in these interactions because I’m concerned my past tactics may have actually driven people away from the Church. With each case, rather argue point-by-point, I picked one false statement to gently challenge. With the barber, I explained that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was not a Nazi and was only drafted involuntarily into the youth organization of the party. That conversation rapidly moved to aliens and conspiracy theories, so I’m guessing additional discourse on the Church would have been fruitless.
    As to the colleague, one key objection was the pedophilia scandal. I agreed that it was abhorrent but also explained that other ministers–and other professions–have as high or higher an incidence of pedophilia, pointing out that this does not excuse it among priests but that we shouldn’t convict the Church for this.
    One of my daughters, similarly, finds her faith challenged by a Protestant roommate who does not understand the Mass. My daughter is defending the Faith capably. My other daughter is organizing the Catholic professors in her state university. I point these out as recognition that Blessed JPII was brilliant in his focus on the youth just as you are right to focus on uplifting your kids.
    Thanks again.

  5. dgcree says:

    “Well done thou true and faithful servant ………”

    Here is my reply to an atheist who was using a scatter-gun approach, it may be helpful to others:

    ” Dear Friend,

    Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, proclaimed Himself to be The way, The Truth and the Light. He is also God. He not only made these claims, he proved them by the various miracles that He performed whilst on earth, healing the sick, raising the dead, controlling the elements, controlling evil entities.

    For Him therefore to “probe the mind and the heart” was small fry.

    Your claim for Psychotherapy, Reason or Philosophy however is not borne out by the facts which despite the huge advances in the sciences, realise the amount of depression, suicides, euthanasia pacts, abortion, self-harm, depravity, inhumanity etc. which exist in the world. Humanity has but scratched the surface in these sciences and in a number of cases is chasing its tail.

    Christ instituted Ten Commandments for the governance of mankind and if mankind adhered to these commandments, they would be be free from all inhuman acts and perversions. The fact that *some* members of society choose to disregard these commandments is the reason why such inhuman acts and perversions exist

    Wishing you God’s blessing ”

    As the clouds gather, we need to pray more the last line of the “O Salutaris” – “Thine aid supply, Thy strength bestow ” Amen !

  6. Couldn’t agree more Terry. Do you have any apologetics books that you’ve recommended to your adult children? I need to learn more about defending my faith.

    • Here’s a partial list, Annabelle:
      1)Where Is That in the Bible? by Patrick Madrid, and anything by Patrick Madrid
      2) anything by Scott Hann, including The Catholic Bible Dictionary
      3) any books of the Saints.
      4) Introduction To The Devout Life, St. Francis de Sales
      5) Catechism of the Catholic Church
      6) anything by Pope Benedict/Cardinal Ratzinger. He’s easy to read.
      7) my spiritual director has me reading the books of Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, the preacher to the Papal household. Right now, I’m reading The Mystery of Easter

      I hope that helps. I invite everyone to add their own recommendations.

      • And we’ve always encouraged all our children to establish a good relationship with solid, knowledgeable priests who can answer their questions and provide direction. Even our 10 year old will sometimes ask one of our priests to explain a point in his homily. I think that rapport and personal relationship is more valuable than books.

    • For apologetics for young people, I also recommend Peter Kreeft’s books. They are philosophical dialogs for the modern student. I read Yes or No? when I was homeschooling my brother through high school. The series “Socrates meets…” is also supposed to be very good. These go beyond strictly defending the faith to learning how to reason and how to spot error.
      Thanks for the post, Terry, and keep defending the faith!

  7. my 16 year-old son, kicked was out of Catholic school for skipping, attended an alternate school, to a United minister with a PhD. who told the student group that there was nothing in the bible against homosexuality

    Daniel: I put him in his place.
    Me: I hope you weren’t disrespectful? What did you say?

    Daniel: I just quoted a few scriptures and then I told him that marriage was the foundation of society, meant for the procreation of children Not merely sexual satisfaction and pleasure!

  8. Biltrix says:

    Good for you, Terry! I hope it’s okay to say I’m proud of you (in the best possible Christian way, of course). I’m sure your conversation with the patient could have gotten ugly, possibly, but it didn’t. Thank God. I think that the deeper our faith and understanding of the faith, the more tactfully we can handle these situations when we have to do so. And I have also experienced that when we handle them the right way, we unveil the deeper concerns and questions people have beneath the misunderstanding, angst, and anger. And then we can help them better understand.

    Kids of course will often share their parents passion in this regard, but for lack of experience, sometimes end up holding the short end of the stick. But these experience only seem to reinforce their convictions and they gain some understanding about how to manage these situations better in the future. I could share some of my own experiences defending the faith when I was younger. Suffice it to say, I lost a job because of it once, and a girlfriend on another occasion. Was it worth it?

    Heck yeah!

    • Thanks, James. I just didn’t feel that I had any other acceptable option. I totally agree with you re: kids. There’s been a few times when one of the younger kids will say that they didn’t know how to respond to something that they knew was wrong so we discuss it at home just to clarify and reinforce Church teaching. It helps them learn how to handle the situation effectively.

  9. “That conversation rapidly moved to aliens and conspiracy theories, so I’m guessing additional discourse on the Church would have been fruitless.” Yeah. That’s when I ought to know enough to leave the room. I keep ending up trying to reason with people after they’ve started quoting Dan Brown or whoever, and I should know better.

  10. Me says:

    Well said! Soon as he stepped down we got asked as to what the Church’s stance on gay marriage and women in the priesthood would be. I had to blink a moment and explain that those things will -never- change in the Church. Marriage and the priesthood are rooted deep in our faith. Then, because the Church does not change, it is accused of being archaic. It isn’t, God’s laws are meant to last for eternity. It is society’s warped ways that have changed the thought processes in people.

  11. Great post, Terry!
    I was raised Catholic, but in my rebellious youth I left the Catholic Church. Sadly, out of 10 kids, only one of my brother’s is what I would classify as a practicing Catholic. But, even though we now attend a non-denominational church, I feel an obligation to defend the Catholic Church. The criticisms are over-the-top, mean-spirited and sickening! My great uncle (Bishop Vincent Kennally) was the Bishop overseeing the Pacific Islands during World War 2. He and many of the nuns and priests with him were taken captive by the Japanese and were held as POW’s for over 3 years. Many of the nuns and priests with him were brutally tortured and killed (priests set on fire for sport). I think of these martyrs; men and women that ran orphanages, a leper colony and fed the poor… when I hear people making cruel comments about the Catholic Church.

  12. Beautiful and well said post…I think your conviction is what makes you a strong writer.

  13. genericmum says:

    Terry, the saddest thing for me is to hear practicing Catholics say they can’t wait for a “modern” Pope and other such things…They stand with their feet on both sides of the fence and pull down the Church from within.
    Also, someone just sent me a reminder about Don Bosco’s dream of the Pope guiding the Church, symbolically a great ship. It’s quite famous – you’ve probably heard of it – and gives us much consolation.
    Keep up your good work; I have never felt so united to the other faithful Catholics around the world as during this Lent.

    • Thanks, Kathy. I agree re: “modern” Pope. Like you, I’ve heard that so often in the last couple of weeks and it’s very sad since it’s their opinion that gets most of the attention of the MSM. I’ve heard of Don Bosco’s dream and I find it consoling too.

  14. Hello, Terry,
    I found you at Kate’s. When I read this, I was saddened for you.
    Being raised in a Lutheran family, you can imagine what I was taught I must believe. However, living next door to a Catholic family and watching my mom and my little friend’s mom cheerily trade “religious jokes” and trade soup when sick and trade recipes and other neighborly things, I learned that people are just people. Right or wrong, your beliefs are precious to you, as mine are to me. The joy of freedom, mixed with the wisdom of a measured response, should win every discussion.
    Until we all see God,
    Katharine
    P.S. My little friend once allowed me to “help” her pray her rosary assignments, since she was behind and we wanted to play. I did all the “Our Fathers”, since I knew the words, and she did all the “Hail Marys”. We were only eight. Hope that makes you smile. I chuckle thinking of it every time I pray the Lord’s Prayer. 🙂

  15. Pingback: 10 Ways to keep your kids Catholic | Contemplative Homeschool

  16. Pingback: 10 Ways to keep your kids Catholic

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