Life, As I Find It
I’ve been grateful to those who wrote with advice about handling my Evangelical Protestant friends and family. The only problem, I think, is that some of the advice assumes two things. First, that I’m talking to a willing or eager non-Catholic who really wants to know about it. Second, the other personal is rational.
If the first case is true then, yes, it’s an entirely different type of conversation. If it’s not true, then I’m up against people who may feel I’m being intrusive or defensive or proselytizing or aggressive or whatever (even if they brought up the subject). So it goes.
It’s the assumption that people are rational I find problematic. When it comes to Catholicism, non-Catholics (and, sadly, a few Catholics) have been so misinformed about what it truly is and what it truly teaches that they can’t be rational. Whatever I might be explaining, no matter how calmly, there is a shrill voice in their ears reminding them of all the misinformed thoughts they know to be true about Catholicism and Catholics. For me personally, they may be thinking:
He’s been brainwashed by the Pope. He worships Mary. He’s part of a cult that crucifies Jesus every Sunday. He dupes himself into believing the wine and bread really are the blood and body of Christ. He’s given up his true Christian faith. He’s only mouthing what he’s been taught to say. It’s just another “phase” he’s going through.
Or, in a less personal way, they may be thinking:
All priests are child-molesters (and it’s because they’re not allowed to marry). The Pope is just a man and can’t be infallible. The Church is all about money. Catholics live like hell all week, then go to Confession and Mass on the weekend and think it’s all right. They’re trying to work their way into heaven. Nothing they believe is in the Bible – it was made up years after Jesus. It’s a cult. It killed Protestants every chance it got. They need to accept Jesus in their hearts.
I have been truly surprised over the past few years by how normally rational people become completely irrational when it comes to the Catholic Church. It’s astonishing, really. Few other topics of conversation I have elicit that kind of response – to the degree that people forget basic civility in how they talk.
Maybe it’s just the environment in which I live and work, but the irrationality of it all seems pervasive. Many people don’t want to know the truth about the Catholic Church. If they have to discuss it at all, it’s only to affirm their misinformation, not correct it.
I don’t mean to sound defeatist. These are challenges, not finalities. I only write about them to demonstrate some of what we, as Catholics, are up against. And it makes me work harder to discern how to communicate my faith in a meaningful way.
It also pushes me to remember the difference between what I am called to do – and what the Holy Spirit is able to do.