Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Evangelizing Family

Many of us want to share our faith with those closest to us, but often those people are the hardest to talk to. Eric Simmons gives a few suggestions on how to evangelize those we love. This is an older post, but I believe still applicable over the Christmas season.
This week most of us will be closely interacting with cafeteria Catholics, fallen-away Catholics and non-Catholics. In other words, we will be visiting family for Thanksgiving. Those of us who are trying to live an authentically Catholic life are pained when we see those we love rejecting the Church and her loving guidelines for a fulfilling life. So what do we do? How do we evangelize those people who are closest to us? I have a few suggestions from my own personal experience.
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Saturday, December 5, 2009

What happens to the pope's ring after he dies?

On our last trip we had a guy ask us about what happens to the pope's ring after he dies. Another person in the group he was with said that it was ground into a powder and buried with the pope, at least according to Angels and Demons. Unfortunately being in a Dan Brown book almost guarantees that the fact is either widely exaggerated or flat out wrong.

However in this case it appears to be true. The pope's ring (otherwise called the Fisherman's Ring) was used in past centuries to seal papal documents. Upon the death of the pope it is destroyed to prevent forgeries. The conclave (or the cardinals who elect the new pope) are given the responsibility of destroying the ring
13. In one of the Congregations immediately following, the Cardinals, on the basis of a prearranged agenda, shall take the more urgent decisions regarding the beginning of the election. In other words:
g) they shall arrange for the destruction of the Fisherman's Ring and of the lead seal with which Apostolic Letters are despatched; (Universi Dominici Gregis)
This document doesn't specifically say how the ring is destroyed, but there are many sites that suggest that it's face is marred by scratching it and then it is crushed with a silver hammer. The pieces are then buried with the pope along with other symbols of his office.

I can't find an online resource to verify this, but this blog details the ceremony surrounding the pope's death based on the book "The Church Visible: The Ceremonial Life and Protocol of the Roman Catholic Church" by James-Charles Noonan, Jr.

Also, Catholic Answers has an Ask an Apologist thread on the topic, unfortunately the link they give is now out of date.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

What happened to Limbo?

Q - I heard in the news that the Pope has changed church teaching and now says that there is no Limbo, is this true?

A - Although several theologians postulated it as a possible explanation for unbaptized infants, Limbo was never officially taught by the Church. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church
As regards children who have died without baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved and Jesus’ tenderness toward children, which caused him to say, "Let the children come to me, do not hinder them," allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without baptism. All the more urgent is the Church’s call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy baptism. (CCC 1261)
For further reading:

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Do Catholics worship the Saints?

In response to a comment that Catholics worship Mary I gave the following answer.

The short answer is no ;-) Catholics only worship the Trinity.

Catholics believe that God is Love and because of that we believe that God is a trinity. The Father pours himself out in love and this outpouring of his love is so real and perfect that it is another person, the Son. The Son gives himself completely back to the Father in love, so real and perfect that the Love between them becomes yet a third person, the Holy Spirit. We believe that this is God and we are called to share in his divine life, to have his life poured out in us and to be images of his love to the world. We believe that this happens in the Church, specifically in the Eucharist, the bread and wine that, when consecrated by a priest, becomes the very life of God. When we partake in the Eucharist we offer worship to God by offering him our lives and receiving his Life in return.

How do the saints and such come in you ask? Well, for that I'll need to explain some of the Catholic thinking...

Since God is complete in his Love he doesn't need creation, yet because God is love He desires to share his love onto others. Much like a man in love desires the whole world to know of it so God desires for us to share in his inner life of Love. Because of this we believe that creation is the first way in which God reveals himself to us, it's a physical sign or thing that makes the invisible God in some way visible, or a sacrament. We believe that we are meant to share in the inner life of God, by giving ourselves totally to God and receiving him totally in return and to participate in his work of creation by bringing His image into the world. We believe that we are meant to be sacraments (making elements of the invisible God visible through our lives).

Now, because we believe that God wants us to love him in return we believe that he gave us free will. You can't force someone to love you, so God loves us so much that he allows us to choose NOT to love him. We stand before the two trees, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (Satan) and the Tree of Life (Jesus) and we are asked to choose. When we choose Satan's tree we don't bring the image of God into the world, but the image of Satan, which brings disorder, disunity/loneliness, darkness and death into the world (instead of God's order, love, light and life).

We believe that our first parents choose to reject God. God knew this would happen, but he allowed it to show the depths of his Love for us. But this was only the beginning of the process, he had a plan and in the fullness of time the Son stepped into creation. Jesus is the ultimate sacrament as The Image revealing the inner heart of God (which is love). We believe that Jesus was fully God and fully Man and because of this we believe that the two *most* important things he did were his crucifixion and resurrection.

We believe that In the crucifixion, because he had a human body, he really did die, and by doing so showed us the kind of love God is (no greater love is there than to lay down your life for a friend). Because He is God the whole trinity is there in the crucifixion. This is the outpouring of the life of God through Jesus back into creation, this is how he has chosen to pour this beautiful Trinitarian life into creation so we can receive in into ourselves. And his resurrection is important because in his Body he took all our brokenness and failures and buried it with him in death, and when he's resurrected all our brokenness is done away with.

We believe that we too, when we are incorporated into him, will be recreated in him without all our brokenness, in the new creation at the end of time. However, creation isn't finished yet; it is still being created. We are meant to, in this life, choose to receive God's life into us and begin the process of re-creation that will be finished at the end of time with the resurrection of our bodies. We believe that this is accomplished through the Church and the Sacraments, particularly in the Eucharist as I mentioned above.

There are those in this life who do an exceptional job of being open to the life of God pouring out into them and thus bring the image of God into the world. We look up to these people as examples of how we can also bring the image of Jesus into the world (since not everyone is called to be a 1st century carpenter). We honor them as roll models and older siblings who have finished the race; although someone might begin to worship a roll model, having a roll model doesn't automatically mean you are worshiping that person. Someone may worship a dog, but having a dog doesn't mean you are worshiping it...now cats, on the other hand are jealous gods...

Furthermore, because we believe that God is life and unity, we believe that those who accept God's life are united to us in a real way as the Body of Christ. Since we believe that our souls do not die; those who fall asleep with Christ are not separated from his Body, but still united with us in a very real way. We believe that love does not end with death (since God is love and he did not create death) and thus they continue to love their brothers and sisters in Christ and continue to support us with their prayers. Because we believe this we believe that we can continue to ask them to pray for us as we would here in this life. This is also not worship, anymore than asking your friend or sister to pray for you is worshiping them.

I'm sorry for the length, but I hope this has cleared some things up; it's an oft misunderstanding that Catholics worship the saints.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Our first expeditions into UVA

I'm going to send a shout-out to James, who's enthusiasm for this project has enabled us to go out TWICE! And my worrisome and perfectionist nature has neglected informing the world of these two events.

The first time was in September and we wandered through the university and ended up at a local strip of restaurants nearby. While wandering through campus we were asked our first question, "How do you get to O-Hill?" and we knew the answer! Ok, so not quite what we were looking for, but we were both estactic about it. Once at our destination we sat for a while and waited and prayed. We had a nice Episcopal couple stop by and encourage us in sharing the faith (but they had no questions). Then we had a young man stop by and ask us about the health care bill and why the bishops were against abortion being included...but he only wanted to pick a fight and after cursing at us walked away before we could give an answer.

After coming back and praying for those who stopped we (meaning I) analyzed what we could do better. It appears that wearing the same color t-shirt helps the group get noticed. Also, being stationary seemed to encourage people to stop by.

The second time we was this past Monday when we went to the dining hall. There we claimed a table and one of us would stand while the other sat. The hardest part about this venture is when no one asks you a question! You have this urge to share the truth and no one is stopping, but it was to teach me a lesson...

So I'm analyzing things and wondering what else we could do/not do and James, as he told me later, started to pray that a young lady walking by would stop. And therein was the missing piece, for I was not praying and trusting God to lead to us those who he wanted. She actually stopped and we had a long and wonderful conversation with her. She didn't really have a question initially, except that she was pointing out that she didn't feel welcome in the church as a liberal.

Pray for her, and pray for us as we continue to venture out onto the grounds to share the Truth.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A common tactic dissolved

I think one of the most common "arguments" we're going to get here is dismissal by relativism. For example:
  • "You can't impose your morals on others"
  • "That is what you believe, but other beliefs are just as valid"
  • "You shouldn't legislate your morality"
  • "We have to be tolerant of other's beliefs"
Patrick Madrid recently gave a talk on this subject and offers some great advice on how to break this apart and help those who hold this self-contradictory view see the truth.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Evangelization Training for Catholics

Via Historical Catholic

The Authentic Gospel Message

In the Fullness of the Catholic Tradition

Developed and Taught by Aimee M. Cooper, M.A.

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and turning to a different gospel. . . . For I did not receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ. (Gal 1:6,12)

An Eight-Week Course Offered Locally and By Distance

Sponsored by the Archdiocese of Denver's

John Paul II Center for the New Evanglization


Distance Course begins the week of Sept. 21, 2009

Web Access with high speed internet connection required

Download a flyer, give it to friends or post in your parish!

Download DE Flyer Fall 09

Local Courses begin:

Mon. Sept. 14 - Nov. 2, 7-9 p.m.
Sacred Heart of Mary Parish
Boulder, Colorado

Weds. Sept. 16 - Nov. 4, 7-9 p.m.
Archdiocese of Denver's
John Paul II Center for the New Evangelization

Registration Fee: $40
To register please contact tess.stone@archden.org

Please indicate which course you're interested in, distance or local
For more information contact Aimee at aimee@historicalchristian.com

About the Course

All Catholics are called to evangelize, share our Faith – but how? What is the gospel message, and how do we explain it to anyone? What are we supposed to say?

The word "gospel" means "good news." What is the good news of the gospel according to the Catholic Church? Did you know that it is not the same as the Protestant gospel message, that there are key – and profound – differences? That the Protestant message is incomplete – and the Catholic message is the real message, based on the fullness of 2000 years of reflection on the meaning of what Christ has actually done, and continues to do, for us? If someone were to ask you, could you explain it to them? Could you explain the differences?

Continue Reading

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Is Getting Drunk a Mortal Sin

At our last meeting we decided to address the most common question asked at A&M and brainstormed some responses. This post is the result.

Define the Question:

The first suggestion was to make sure you understood the question being asked. Although this sounds like a very simple question, it could have several different meanings...

What does the person mean by "mortal sin"?

A lot of people throw out the term "mortal sin" around without any idea what it means. For most people it's a vague notion of something very bad that you should never, ever do, but what is mortal sin exactly?

We are called to be in a relationship with God and when we sin we are choosing a lesser perceived good over that ultimate good. When you flick someone off in traffic, you're choosing a perceived good (letting that jerk know what a horrid driver he is) over the greater good (loving one's neighbor as yourself).

Mortal sin is rejection of that relationship completely; turning your back after spitting in his face. It severs the relationship with God when we commit a sufficiently grave act with full knowledge and consent of the will.

Based on this the question becomes not, "how much can I drink before it's sufficently bad" but, "am I choosing to turn away from doing God's will?"

At this point we asked what was meant by getting drunk.

Were they talking about having one too many drinks or purposefully going out and getting trashed?

Drinking in and of itself is not sinful, Jesus himself made and drank the finest wine. Drinking in excess, however, can be unhealthy and even lead to serious medical problems. Also, it can inhibit your ability to discern right from wrong, are you drinking to not be responsible for the actions you take?

No one can analyze another's heart (which is why we're called not to judge), but we can each look into our own actions and consider whether an act is leading us closer or further from God.

This is as far as we got in the meeting, if you are interested in the ethics behind drinking (with plenty of biblical sources) check out the answer given by A&M.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Evangelization 101

This is an overview of the presentation given at the first meeting.

"God doesn't call the equipped, he equips the called." Evangelization is not about us showing off how smart and knowledgeable we are, but about allowing God to work through our actions and our words to bring Truth to the world.

While researching evangelization I found that the suggestions There are three things too remember when witnessing to the Truth...
  1. What your responsibility is...and is NOT.
  2. What the most important and useful answer is.
What is Your Responsibility?
Lord, grant me the grace to accept the things that I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.
This prayer is receited often, but those who have been through the 12 steps know an interesting truth; there is only one thing you can change. It's not the way your wife sips her soup or husband leaves the seat up, your friends, or those obnoxious neighbors. It's not even yourself, as anyone who's struggled with an addiction can attest to.

You can only change your choice to accept God's grace at this moment or reject it.

How does this relate to evangelizing? Well, it's not about converting your spouse, your friends, or those heretics down the street. You cannot convert them, only God can touch their hearts. And it's not about you having all the right answers and being perfectly articulate and full of charism, because I can assure you, you won't be.

It's about allowing God's grace to work in your life, allowing Him to make you into the best version of yourself you can be. And by allowing this you'll allow His Grace to flow through you and to the whole world.

It's about knowing that you've found Love and wanting to let others know of this Love. Your job isn't to force them to acknowledge the truth, to accept this Love, but only to bear witness to it. It's hard when attacked, but remember when they reject you, that they rejected Him first.

The Most Important and Useful Answer in Evangelization

You've just been asked an impossible question that a seasoned theologian would start at, and Google is no where to be found. What do you do?

The best answer is "I don't know, but I can find out for you..." and then ask for their email address to pass on the answer when you do find it. Why is this not only OK, but an excellent answer?
  • It's honest - you don't actually know (and the truth will set you free...)
  • It teaches you humility (which brings you closer to God)
  • It opens up the opportunity for further communication!
All of these points (and I'm sure many others) make this a great answer. A similar reply is also good if you do know the answer, but don't feel you could reply without disembowling them because they've asked in such a nasty mean-spirited way. If you don't have the patience or meekness to answer, then saying "I'm sorry, but I don't have the ability/resources to answer that question at this time..." would work well.

More on anger management to come...

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Tips for Building a Good Evangelization Group


In my search for information on evangelization I was told to speak to a young man who goes frequently to daily mass. By young, I mean this guy looks to be about 19, and I wondered what ideas he might have, but wasn't about to turn down a source...outright. I figured if God arranged a time when we could talk then I'd ask him about it.

Well, God did arrange things and I had a small lesson in humility. He happens to be one of the leaders of a state-wide pro-life group and was highly involved in taking it from a few people meeting once in a while to an active and growing organization.

He had four (on the spot) suggestions for developing a strong core group that would most effectively reach out to the world.
  1. Make Jesus the Focus
  2. Build up the Community
  3. Speak the Language of the People
  4. Mary & the Saints
Make Jesus the Focus

We have a message to give to the world that Jesus is the Truth and our lives must point to that. If we want to convince others that Jesus is the answer, we must live as if He is the answer, thus adoration and frequent mass (if at all possible daily) are necessary for every team member.

To help with this, he suggested scheduling meetings to coincide with mass or adoration, and encourage people to go beforehand. Further, asking God for His guidance and grace was crucial.

Build up the Community

To build up the community you first need to have leaders who are excited about the mission and are a good example. Next you need to encourage the social aspect of the community. A schedule where you meet every two weeks. The first week you would have your normal meeting and the second week you'd have a social event. With every social event include an aspect of prayer before and/or after, such as adoration, rosary, mass, etc.

Once a core group is established they should meet and schedule things out for the next 2-3 months. This way a consistency is obtained, yet things get mixed up on occasion. Pray about who to ask to be a team member and try to utilize the skills of the diverse group you have. For example, use the business people to help run things, techies to work on the back end, philosophy/religion people to help with training (etc).

Speak the Language of the People

In order to be able to answer questions effectively you have to be able to speak their language. To learn the language of the day you need to hear it. Read newspapers, especially the opinion pieces, watch current movies and listen to the music.

Have a diverse group At the meetings, spend the last 10 minutes brainstorming, making sure to cover what has been asked and effective ways to answer such questions. Make sure that the groups going out benefit as much as possible from the diversity - sending out a mix of science, philosophy and business people to answer in the language of the questioner.

To further learn the language of the community, try networking with other groups either on campus or in the church. Think about cosponsoring a debate with another group (probably easier with pro-life work, but might have applications here).

Mary and the Saints

Prayer cannot be emphasized enough. Encourage frequent praying of the Rosary - praying a rosary before a social event is one way to encourage this. Find a patron saint, some suggested saints are JPII, Michael the Archangel, Philip Niri, or Dominic. Also, a slogan or an image that will be easily identifiable is ideal.

Above all, remember that you are not the savior, you are just his witness. You may never see souls convert or even have the satisfaction of someone agreeing with your answer. Even if you're ridiculed and hated, if you submit in humility and obedience to whatever God's will may be, he can convert hearts through your witness of the Truth.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

What is AACAQ?


While teaching a class while the Director of Campus Ministry at Texas Tech on evangelization, Marcel LeJeune asked his students if they would be willing to go onto campus with t-shirts that said “I am Catholic – ask me a question” and they agreed. He then brought this program to Texas A&M, where it has flourished. It has now spread to the University of Kansas and several other schools are planning on starting it as well.

The AACAQ ministry at UVA, while nascent in the summer of 2009, will be starting the fall of 2009.

Update: see also the complete history of AACAQ.


Teams of three or more commit to at least one hour per week during the semester. For our group here at UVA, there are several individuals who want to take it out into the town as well, visiting the outdoor mall or other popular locations.

These individuals would go through an initial training session where they learn what evangelization is and the basic do's and don't's. There is also a monthly meeting to go over difficult questions from the last month, role play different scenerios, review current issues and topics, and continue to learn and grow in the faith through study.

Once trained they are sent out to bring the Good News to the world with this non-confrontational witness. Through our prayer, words and actions, may the Lord pour out his blessings upon us and the whole world!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Training Book

It was decided in the meeting that we want a specific book that each person should read before becoming a "questionee" (we'll need to come up with terminology for this).

We just need to find that book - the following are some suggestions.
  • Theology for Beginners, by Frank Sheed
  • Beginning Apologetics, published by San Juan Catholic Seminars
  • Handbook of Christian Apologetics, by Peter Kreeft
  • A book by Scott Hahn
Do you have an opinion on these materials or other suggestions?

God is Good!

Yesterday we had our first meeting for the Charlottesville "chapter" of Ask a Catholic a Question.

So with no materials, a presentation mostly plagiarized from Internet sites, little idea of how I was going to teach this stuff, and no training myself I went to mass on Monday evening feeling very depressed. Seriously, what makes me think I can lead this group doing something that I'm not even very good at? Why me - why do I feel so compelled to do this?

So, I get to mass and realize that it's the solemnity of St's Peter and Paul and think to myself, "ack, I prayed the wrong morning prayer!" Then God poured out the most amazing, unexpected and overwhelming grace upon me.

"God doesn't call the equipped; He equips the called," so started father's homily. He went on to tell us about the long list of faults that both these saints had, and how they "bumbled and stumbled their way into salvation." These men were not equipped to send God's message to the world, God worked through them and equipped them when they needed it, and through their preaching the church grew exponentially.

We had pitifully few people show up for the meeting, but all were excited and want to see this succeed. Also, as one guy mentioned later, if this succeeds with such humble beginnings it must be the work of the Spirit.

I felt like God was telling me over and over, "Dude, you're not the one who's going to be doing this! It's not about you!" I can't begin to explain how relieved I am. The success of this venture isn't depended on my "greatness," which is sorely lacking, but on the greatness and power of God!

All praise and glory to God! AMEN - ALLELUIA!