As a traditionally-minded sort of chap, I am interested in learning from the past; indeed it strikes me as the height of folly not do so. A mind that declares 'History is bunk' is only revealing its own paucity of understanding.
With regard to my recurring theme of the need for Apologetics, (and here) that means, as Ttony has pointed out, considering the example of the Catholic Evidence Guild. I have been doing this mainly in the introduction to the CEG Training Outlines, but also reports such as this.
I am not quite clear if the CEG is still active anywhere: recent links seem harder to find. Further, I am not sure that their particular approach to the apostolate is now the best one: outdoor talks seem to me less and less likely to attract listeners.
However, I do think that their approach to training apologists is something from which we can learn a great deal.
To give some idea of that, here is a quick sketch of how volunteers were expected to prepare to talk about just one aspect of the Faith: The Visible Church.
First, they were given a reading list:
Tixeront: Apologetical studies (most important)
Sheehan: Apologetics (Ch ix)
Knox: Essentials of Spiritual Unity
Sertillanges: The Church (Chapters l, ll and V)
Adam: Spirit of Catholicism
Hughes: History of the Church (Vol l, Ch ii)
Rousselot: Life of the Church
(For the Mystical Body)
Sheed: Map of Life (Ch vi)
Benson: Christ in the Church.
They were also expected to be thoroughly familiar with relevant passages of Scripture, such as:
Matthew: xvi, xxviii; Mark iv 11; John, xvii 11, 20 -23; xxi; Acts: viii 17-19; xiii; xv etc 1 Timothy, iii 5 and 15, iv 14; Titus i 5, iii 10 etc; Ephesians iv 11-3; 1 Corinthians xi 34; and Galatians i 9.
They would then attend a talk by an experienced speaker and trainer on the topic, and ask questions. They would also present on the topic themselves and be asked questions. Sample questions that might be thrown at them included:
1) If visibility is an outstanding feature of the Church, why is the Church so difficult to find among all the conflicting sects? and how is it that so few find the Church?
2) The Kingdom of God is within you.
3) Why do we need an organisation to teach us Christ's Gospel?
4) Where two or three are gathered in My Name - nothing about a Church there.
5) The visibility of the Church is a mere political development
6) Visibility is but an ideal to be worked and prayed for
7) The Salvation Army is as much a visible body as your Church
8) I have the voice of God within telling me that I am right. What more do I need?
9) St John says: 'You need not that any man should teach you.'
10) Churches are only a means to an end: why do you worry so much about the means, when it is the end that matters?
11) Christ said: 'I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life." Why the Church?
(and so on - another six are listed, and speakers in training were encouraged to think up the hardest, most realistic questions they could think of - so in our times that would doubtless include issues of abuse, cover-up, corruption, dissent and so on).
Only when they were able to answer all questions quickly, succinctly and accurately were they put forward to be tested by a priest, and only then allowed to speak for the CEG.
Moreover, they were also offered spiritual formation, and instructed that for every hour they intended to practice their apostolate, they should spend an hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament.
They were expected to attend two training sessions every week, as well as the actual commitment to speak...
As I said above, I am not seeking to recreate this, but to learn from it.
I suspect that I am not alone in recognising that faced with the questions listed above in the pub or the workplace, I might not have good answers to offer on the tip of my tongue (backed up by appropriate quotations from Scripture, and examples from the lives of the saints of the lived reality...). And I feel that I should. The CEG were clear that their task was not to convert people: that is God's responsibility; but rather to be able and willing to give a clear, comprehensive, accurate, positive and compelling account of the Faith. To plough the soil, as it were, and scatter the seed: the miracle of germination is God's to work...
So the question I keep returning to, is how do we accomplish that, given (on the one hand) the difficulties of modern life (eg as highlighted by Joseph Shaw here) and (on the other) the opportunity presented by the social media?
Keep praying about this throughout Lent, please, and contribute any ideas.
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