This is for the broken hearted, those men and women who have risked sharing the faith only to be psychoanalyzed, slighted, even shamed. God knows sometimes you just need a box of Kleenex and a few hours before the Blessed Sacrament. Or a cup of coffee with your parish priest. Or a big bear hug from a friend. Or a word of encouragement like this one. This is a tiny thank you card to all the Catholics who risk telling the story of Jesus and his Church.
[Note: This essay was first published by Catholic Exchange, and is reprinted here and in the Catholic Gentleman and Aleteia with permission.]
Your tears are watering God’s garden. Jesus wants you to share the Catholic faith with everybody, even Christians who are not yet Catholic, even though it’s testing friendships, tearing your family apart, and making you feel like a Grinch. Do not lose heart (2 Cor. 4:16). The Holy Spirit works best through tears.
Catholicism is ultimately not about you. It’s about the supreme glory of the most adorable Trinity. When the going gets rough, here are three things to remember when you share the Catholic faith.
Do not mistake indecision for humility. These days, to believe something to be true is to be arrogant, and to share the truth is to be unkind. If your experience has been anything like mine, sharing the joy of Catholicism with non-Catholics has been met with an almost unanimous: “Stop being so arrogant and unkind!” What begins as an inquiry into truth claims quickly turns into ad hominem speculation about your tone, your motives, your subconscious fear of being wrong.
Do not defend yourself. Be insulted, be diagnosed, and be grateful that you have been slandered for the sake of Christ. This is much easier said than done. But how will God paint something beautiful if you will not let him press you against the canvas of others? God is the artist; we are the paintbrushes. It’s our job to get dirty, to be spread thin, flattened, crunched, and pressed against the world. You are going to be broken—but the truth remains unbroken.
G.K. Chesterton noticed that today people are considered humble not when they are doubtful about themselves but when they are doubtful about the truth. They are too humble to believe something to be true. “Scoffers of old were too proud to be convinced; but people today are too humble to be convinced.”
Do not be humble about the truth. God’s revealed truth is not your truth; it’s the Church’s truth. Be humble about yourself, but do not be humble about the “faith delivered once for all” (Jude 1:3).
No one will think you are being nice for sharing the Catholic faith. But love and niceness are not the same thing. Besides, the niceness of a doctrine is not a measure of its truth.
The Bible is your best tool for sharing the Catholic faith with non-Catholics. Your shared love, your mutual recognition of its inspiration and submission to its authority, make the Bible a great starting point.
But read the Bible with the Church. Do not share your interpretation or yourperspective with non-Catholics. Share the interpretation of the Catholic Church. The Bible is, after all, her book. Because of the Catholic Church we know that Paul’s second letter to Timothy is a legitimate part of the Bible, and in that letter Paul says that Scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16). By “useful” Paul means that Scripture is to be used.
Non-Catholics would contend that the Bible is sufficient on its own apart from the Magisterium. But of what use is an unsinkable ship if the crew cannot agree about the helm, the sails, the captain, the means of navigation, and where they are going? Of what use is an infallible text without an infallible interpretation?
If sola scriptura were true, why were the apostles and evangelists and church fathers unaware of this supposed doctrine? Jesus did not promise his followers that someday—hundreds of years after his ascension—a collection of texts would be faithfully (infallibly?) canonized and accurately (infallibly?) copied and translated so that after the invention of the printing press this book could lay open on any literate (infallible?) person’s lap as the pillar and foundation of the truth. No, Jesus established the apostolic Church to finish his mission of proclaiming the truth (Matt. 16:17-19; Luke 10:16; John 16:13; 17:20; 20:21-23; Acts 1:20). According to the Bible, the Church is the pillar and foundation of the truth (1 Tim. 3:15). Written by Catholics for Catholics, canonized by Catholics, translated and preserved by Catholics, the Bible is the Catholic Church’s book.
The Ethiopian eunuch could not understand the Bible on his own. So Philip the evangelist explained the Scriptures to him and exhorted him—not to say the believer’s prayer, but to be baptized (Acts 8:26-39). Philip was one of the seven appointed by the twelve apostles to take care of the fledgling Church (Acts 6:1-6; 21:8). He traveled to Samaria to preach and perform miracles (Acts 8:4-6). He converted Simon the magician (Acts 8:9-13) and eventually lived in Caesarea (Acts 21:8). His four unmarried daughters—yes, the first Christians valued celibacy—had the gift of prophecy (Acts 21:9).
Be a Philip. Run out to the non-Catholics and open up the Scriptures with them. Teach them, but also be willing to learn from them. Non-Catholics know and love the Bible. Assume they are smarter than you, more devout than you, and they probably know the Bible better than you do. But they’re reading it from different presuppositions and wearing different doctrinal glasses. Like the Ethiopian eunuch, they have not yet had the Catholic Church explain what they are reading. They have not yet known the joy of righteous submission to the authority of Christ’s one holy catholic and apostolic Church. Like Philip, your job is to share the truth of the Church’s teaching in humility.
Prayer does more than persuasion can. In an effort to share the truth of transubstantiation, for example, you can explore Revelation, 1 Corinthians 10, and John 6 and it might not be enough. You can appeal to the Old Testament parallels and the witness of the church fathers and it might not be enough. Apart from the Holy Spirit, reason and rhetoric are never enough. That’s okay, because truth is not your gift to give.
Truth is God’s gift to give. Wisdom is God’s gift (Eph. 1:17), faith is God’s gift (1 Tim. 1:14), love is God’s gift (1 Thess. 3:12), salvation is God’s gift (Eph. 2:8), and the bishops of the Catholic Church are merely stewards of God’s gifts (2 Tim. 2:2). You must pray that God would work mightily through his Church. Every good and perfect gift comes from above (James 1:17).
You must pray. Get into apologetics, hermeneutics, and church history, but not until you get on your knees. “Rejoice in hope, patient in tribulation, constant in prayer” (Rom. 12:12). Seek opportunities to share the Catholic faith in word and deed. But most of all, seek opportunities to pray. “Devote yourselves to prayer, watchful and thankful” (Col. 4:2). More often than not, you are not battling ignorance and indifference but the giants of pride and passion.
Only prayer can contend against the giants. As Cardinal John Henry Newman says: “Quarry the granite rock with razors, or moor the vessel with a thread of silk; then may you hope with such keen and delicate instruments as human knowledge and human reason to contend against those giants, the passion and pride of man.” Apart from Christ you really can do nothing (John 15:5). So why aren’t you praying?
To be Catholic is to be in love. Your love for the Trinity and the Church will overflow into a more vulnerable love for everyone. A Catholic in love cannot help but to share the faith.
Point everything to God. “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Cor. 4:7). God is the jewelry; you are just the box. He is the living water; you are just the woman at the well. The Trinity is the fountain of lasting joy, the top and bottom, the beginning and the end, the whole point; you are just a finger pointing.
If you love non-Catholics, you will share the Catholic faith with them. Most of the time it will not go well. It will seem like you’re doing more harm than good. But God works through us best when we remember that he is the one doing the ultimate work. God is an artist and he is dipping paintbrushes into colors, stirring and mixing, and pressing them against the canvas in order to paint something beautiful.
The Catholic Church exists to bring glory to the triune God through joining Christ in his mission of salvation. We are called not only to share the good news of Jesus with every single person in the world, but also to invite them to believe, and not only to believe but also to be baptized, and not only to be baptized but also to grow into the full stature of Christ through works and God’s sacramental graces. It’s a whole new Genesis, a new beginning. As the Bride and Body of Christ, we are called to finish the mission of our Husband and Head. God is re-creating every single person from the inside out for their maximum joy and God’s ultimate glory.
Be humble and confident. Be Biblical and Catholic. Be brokenhearted and tenderhearted. Above all, be in love (John 13:35).