Thursday, 14 February 2013

Apologetics

It strikes me, as I have suggested before, that a pressing need in the Church in the UK is good apologetics.

That is, a widespread ability, amongst ordinary Catholics, to be able to explain their Faith, accurately and convincingly, to others.

In the first instance, I think to other Catholics who have not been well educated in the Faith; but also to other Christians and people of other faiths, and of course to those who have no faith at all, those who never think about such things, and those who are actively hostile to the Faith.

There is, of course, a lot of good work going on already. Maryvale continues to lead the way, but an MA in apologetics from Maryvale takes a lot of concentrated study, requires a lot of money, and while excellent is likely always to be an option for relatively few people.

Likewise many parishes, particularly in this Year of Faith, are running programmes to look more deeply into the Faith, and many of these are very good.  But understanding alone, while important, is not sufficient to be able to defend and promote the Faith in the public square (or at the workplace, or in the pub).

I suspect that many of us find it hard to defend the Church's teaching on morality, for example, and many more to articulate clearly the broader social teaching of the Church, or to understand and refute the various Protestant errors, in a way which will be heard by those who adhere to them.  I know that last point is unfashionable, and may strike some as against the spirit of ecumenism.  But ecumenism is about working for Our Lord's wish that all may be one; that finally implies that all should be united under the Holy Father in the One True Church.  When one thinks what Protestants are deprived of, (eg the Sacraments and the fullness of Faith), how could one not wish to convert them?

What I would like to see, therefore, is a programme, made widely (and if possible freely) available that would help lay Catholics throughout the UK to develop as apologists.  It seems to me that some of the important elements of this would be:

  • Good spiritual direction and formation;
  • A structured programme of study of the Faith (possibly based largely on resources already freely available), supported by both philosophy and rhetoric;
  • Local support, possibly small groups meeting both to discuss and check their understanding, but also to practice putting it across convincingly and dealing with questions and objections;
  • A wider community of support, where issues can be discussed, and questions raised and answered;
  • A small team to make it happen.
The growth of the Catholic presence on the internet clearly supports some of these well, but others are best done on a local level (subsidiarity and all that!)

This would, of course, be a long term programme; indeed, I think it would need to be a lifelong one, so inexhaustible are the riches of the Faith.  But that is no reason not to start; quite the contrary.

So I would like to ask you to pray about this, as I shall do, throughout Lent.  And at Easter, I will revisit the topic and if others believe it to be a worthwhile project, explore how we can make it happen.  But 40 days of prayer seems to me the best way to start.

I would also be interested in any comments, suggestions, and so forth about any aspect of it.

But prayer above all, for the harvest is great, but the labourers few.

6 comments:

umblepie said...


Seems an excellent idea. As you say the Maryvale course is very good, but I'm afraid unaffordable for me.Look forward to hearing more on this. Thanks.

Mark Lambert said...

I'm right behind any initiative which speaks to a better understanding of the faith. In my own life, I have found a deeper understanding of theology and the philosophical principles so in harmony with Catholic thought invaluable in developing my prayer life and bringing up children to be Catholic.

My initial thought is that there are lots of initiatives out there—Like Anchor Your Faith, Catholic Voices, etc. We would need to consider developing a firm mission statement that would demonstrate why there is a need for this specific mission, what makes it unique in terms of form, outreach and strategy, and how we would intend to see such a plan become reality.

Ben Trovato said...

Mark: that is one of my concerns - am I simply thinking of replicating something that is already there?

Catholic Voices, I think, has a very specific remit: to train (small numbers of selected, youngish) Catholics in media skills. That's not what I am suggesting.

Maryvale's Anchor programme looks great as an introduction to, and initial formation in, the Faith; but again is not the training in Apologetics I envisage.

Likewsie, Parish meetings using Fr Barron's excellent Catholicism programme are fantastic; and serve as useful formation - but again not apologetics training.

On Twitter, Ann O'Hara suggested that this is what the Legion of Mary do. I have to confess to ignorance: there is no Legion of Mary in my parish; but my impression was that they did more visiting the sick etc - but I am ready to be corrected.

I suppose what I am thinking of is closest to the Catholic Evidence Guild training - though I am proposing that we then use it in the workplace, the pub, etc rather than stand on street corners...

Ttony said...

I've ended up commenting here.

Marianne said...

Hi, i have just left the following comments on Ttony's blog. I am a Maryvale graduate and associate member of the staff,running the two year Maryvale Cerificate in Catechesis at two centres in London- we have centres in the USA, Africa, Ireland etc. However, perhaps the course you are looking for, as a doctrinal foundation, is the Certificate In Studies in the Catechism, 6 modules £80 per module or £55 per module to audit i.e no submission of written work and therfore no formal qualification. :http://www.maryvale.ac.uk/index.php?id=208. You could then supplement it with additional lectures, materials, etc which are particularly pertinent to your vision for an apologetics apostolate.
Maryvale provides three residential weekends each year to support those on the course. Local groups can be set up or students may study on their own. I am very familiar with this course- excellent. God Bless.

Jim said...

Reposted from Muniment Room:
Hello
I am a Maryvale BADiv graduate, now in the final year of the Apologetics MA which Marianne posted earlier. My dissertation topic is on the American New Apologetics and the aplicability of American materials to Britain.

In our local area, I have used Fr Barron's Catholicism series as well as Jeff Cavins Great Adventure over the last few years.

This initiative sounds excellent and I'd like to help.
Jim