A week or so ago, recalling my first days exploring the Catholic Church, I remembered with amusement how many people showed up out of the woodwork in a spontaneous and competitive effort to inhibit my latest act of extremism. Each sought (with every pure intent) to stabilize my faith upon their particular theologies. Lutheran, Calvinist, Nondenominational, Bible Church Fundamentalists, Sedevacantists, Society of St. Pius X Catholic schismatics, and Roman Catholics loaned me stacks of books, bought me lunch, coffee, invited me to dinner and to church.
Eventually, however, they all lost interest or motivation to continue their evangelical efforts and, out of sight, out of mind, I slipped quietly and inconspicuously into the Catholic Church.
Remembering these early efforts, I posted the following on FaceBook:
If you are exploring the Catholic Church, beware of these words: ‘hey, wanna meet for coffee?’
If you do hear such words from someone, grab a Bible, a
Catechism, and a Rosary and hold on tight.”
I was informed the next day that some Protestants found this statement to be hurtful and offensive, as it seemed to imply conflict and defensiveness. Not that conflict and apologetical discourse between Catholics and Protestants is a new development…
But as they are particularly dear to me, I was finally compelled to expound and clarify.
To anyone who was offended by my “Coffee” comment yesterday, please read on:
Anyone who knows me well knows me to be an advocate of open discussion. You should know that when I use the word “beware,” it in no way suggests that you should avoid such an opportunity to meet with someone who holds a private interpretation of Scripture. To the contrary, it implies an emphasis on preparation to explain the truths of the Catholic Faith in the face of opposing opinions.
St. Peter exhorts the faithful in his first epistle 3:13-17:
“Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is right? But even if you do suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts reverence Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence; and keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are abused, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing right, if that should be God’s will, than for doing wrong.”
Now, let me be open about one thing: if there is one area in which I am constantly being reminded of a serious need for growth, it is humility, and thus, patience, the fruits of which are “gentleness and reverence.” Thus, after many a “discussion,” though I may have the Scripture, the Fathers, and 2000 years of Christian faith as my foundation, I have come away with a darkened conscience, frustrated by rejection, having lost sight of the real motive: the promises of Christ and His life, given to us to share with others. Rather, I vainly imagine that if my brother or sister would just study then the truth would be revealed to them. Thus I neglect the perfect will and plan of God, through which He reveals Truth in His time, not mine.
And so, standing ever corrected and always being turned to face myself, having been exposed by the light of the truth of the Gospel, I must acknowledge again my insufficiency to persuade, and the vast magnanimity of God’s plan. But dust in the wind am I. God grant that I may not be blown into the eyes of others to blind them from truth by my self-absorption.
That being said, with renewed conviction, allow me to restate the “Beware the Coffee” comment:
1. Grab your Bible, for it is the written word of God, and as St. Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:16, “all scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”
2. Grab your Catechism, for in it is fulfilled the promise of Christ to the Church as recorded in John 16:13, “when the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.”
3. And grab your Rosary, in obedience to St. Paul in Philippians 4:8, “finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”
Perhaps if you take particular note of #3, you will be refreshed in your mind and renewed in your heart so that you will not be tempted to stumble into the same hole which I have on so many occasions.
P.S. Oh! And “hold on tight.” Well…
“So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.”
2 Thessalonians 2:15
“There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all…so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men, by their craftiness in deceitful wiles.”
Ephesians 4:4-6 & 14