Q: I have been trying to learn more about my faith in the last few months – reading the Bible and the Catechism and listening to apologetics materials – and I feel that I have been drawn into a better, or even deeper, understanding of my faith, but I still don’t feel like I have what it takes to talk to people about my faith. How do I go from learning and knowing more about my faith, to sharing what I’ve learned with others?
A: (Cont’d from last week…) Last week I talked about how it is usually fear that keeps Catholics from sharing their faith with others – fear of saying something that is wrong or confusing; fear of saying something that will get folks angry or maybe of them saying something that will get you angry; or fear of someone asking you a question that you will not know how to answer.
Last week I covered that first possibility – the possibility that you will say something wrong or confusing when sharing your faith. As I mentioned in that article, when you first start out sharing your faith with others, you probably will say something that is not quite right and you will find that you have to go back and apologize and say that you misspoke or that you were not quite as accurate in what you said as you could have been. Don’t stress over it. Just assume that it is going to happen and, when it does, look at it as a lesson learned and as an opportunity to go back and begin the dialogue again. Also, look at it as further motivation to study and learn about your faith even more so you can hopefully avoid mistakes in the future. But, always remember, that God can use us, even in our imperfections, and that He can bring good even out of our mistakes.
Now, what about the fear that you will get someone angry by telling them about the Catholic Faith, or that they might get you angry when they say things that you know to be untrue about the Catholic Faith? First of all, I’m going to say that if you evangelize…if you go out there and start talking to people about the truths of the Catholic Faith…then you will, with 100% probability, make someone angry. Did Jesus make people angry when He evangelized? You bet He did! The fact of the matter is, folks, the truth makes people angry. They crucified the Truth because He got people angry. If you want better treatment from people than what Jesus got, then please keep your mouth shut and do not share your faith with anyone.
Jesus said that He came to bring fire and division (Luke 12:49-53), because He knew that His Incarnation would force people to make a choice between what is true and what is false. And if people choose what is false, then when they are presented with the truth, they have a tendency to get angry. Now, obviously, you don’t try to deliberately make people angry when you evangelize, but you need to realize that there are times when it cannot be avoided, no matter how lovingly and how respectfully you present the truths of the Catholic Faith.
Regarding the possibility of you getting angry when someone says something to you about the Catholic Faith, the way to avoid that is to simply view any questions, or even attacks, on or about the Catholic Faith, as opportunities to evangelize. There are plenty of misconceptions, misperceptions, half-truths, and outright lies floating around out there about the Catholic Church. So, people are going to say things to you about Catholicism that are flat out wrong, and some of the things they say are going to be so ridiculous and outrageous that your blood pressure might shoot through the roof. Just remember, most folks are not doing this out of malice, but out of simple ignorance. Look at it as an opportunity to share the truth…to share the fullness of Jesus Christ…with someone. Look at it as an opportunity to plant a seed. That will help keep you calm and focused.
Finally, what if someone asks you a question that you don’t know how to answer? Well, if you don’t really have a clue as to the answer, or if you think you might know, but aren’t 100% sure of the answer, there is something you can say that will always keep you from getting put in a bad position: “I don’t know, but I will find out and get back to you.”
It’s just that easy. Do not be afraid to appear ignorant about your faith, especially if you are ignorant about your faith.
By saying that you don’t know, you’ve gotten yourself out of a conversation that probably would not have gone well, you’ve bought yourself some time to go and find the answer to the question, and you now have an excuse to continue this conversation – but only after you are ready to continue to the conversation. It is a very simple thing to do. Whenever I give talks at churches and conferences, I always tell people that if they will remember that one simple line, “I don’t know, but I will find out and get back to you,” then they are Level 1 Catholic apologists. But, you have to make sure you find out the answer and get back to them.
To use the example from last week’s article, let’s say someone asks you about where the word “Purgatory” is in the Bible. You don’t know. In order to avoid saying something that is wrong or confusing, don’t try to “wing it.” Don’t give it your best guess. If you’re not sure about your answer, just say, “I don’t know, but I will find out and get back to you.” If you will keep that one line always in the back of your mind, you should be able to talk to anyone about the Faith.