28:18-20 "And Jesus coming, spoke to them, saying: All power
is given to me in heaven and in earth. Going therefore, teach ye
all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son,
and of the Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe all things
whatsoever I have commanded you: and behold I am with you all days,
even to the consummation of the world."
Those words, the final words of St. Matthew's Gospel and known as "The
Great Commission," reveal very clearly
what the Church is to do. While teaching is one of the three munera, or
duties, of our pastors, Pope Leo XIII tells us in paragraphs 15
and 16 of his "Sapientiae
(1890) that we laymen, too, can -- and should, as our gifts allow --
spread the Faith:
... Now, faith, as a virtue, is a great boon of divine grace and
goodness; nevertheless, the objects themselves to which faith is to be
applied are scarcely known in any other way than through the hearing.
"How shall they believe Him of whom they have not heard? and how shall
they hear without a preacher? Faith then cometh by hearing, and hearing
by the word of Christ." Since, then, faith is necessary for salvation,
it follows that the word of Christ must be preached.
indeed, of preaching, that is, of teaching, lies by divine right in the
province of the pastors, namely, of the bishops whom "the Holy Spirit
has placed to rule the Church of God." It belongs, above all, to the
Roman Pontiff, vicar of Jesus Christ, established as head of the
universal Church, teacher of all that pertains to morals and faith.
16. No one, however, must entertain the notion that private individuals
are prevented from taking some active part in this duty of teaching,
especially those on whom God has bestowed gifts of mind with the strong
wish of rendering themselves useful. These, so often as circumstances
demand, may take upon themselves, not, indeed, the office of the
pastor, but the task of communicating to others what they have
themselves received, becoming, as it were, living echoes of their
masters in the faith. Such co-operation on the part of the laity has
seemed to the Fathers of the Vatican Council so opportune and fruitful
of good that they thought well to invite it. "All faithful Christians,
but those chiefly who are in a prominent position, or engaged in
teaching, we entreat, by the compassion of Jesus Christ, and enjoin by
the authority of the same God and Saviour, that they bring aid to ward
off and eliminate these errors from holy Church, and contribute their
zealous help in spreading abroad the light of undefiled faith."
each one, therefore, bear in mind that he both can and should, so far
as may be, preach the Catholic faith by the authority of his example,
and by open and constant profession of the obligations it imposes. In
respect, consequently, to the duties that bind us to God and the
Church, it should be borne earnestly in mind that in propagating
Christian truth and warding off errors the zeal of the laity should, as
far as possible, be brought actively into play.
But note the
words "as far as they may" and "as far as possible" in the above
passage. We're all called to spread the Gospel by the witness of our
lives -- that is, by being virtuous,
avoiding sin, etc. But in order to evangelize more formally, we have to
have the right attitude, and we have to know what we're talking about.
The Good News
So many treat the Gospel not as the "Good News," which is the very definition of the word "Gospel,"
but as "the scary news." I imagine we're all familiar with the
stereotypical street preacher who, in essence, tells his audience,
"believe as I do or burn in Hellfire forever!!!". But such an approach,
is bound to antagonize more than attract. Pope St. Pius X's words,
given in his Encyclical E Supremi,
should be taken to heart:
But in order
that the desired fruit may be derived from this apostolate and this
zeal for teaching, and that Christ may be formed in all, be it
remembered, Venerable Brethren, that no means is more efficacious than
charity. "For the Lord is not in the earthquake" -- it is vain to hope
to attract souls to God by a bitter zeal.
On the contrary, harm is done more often than good by taunting men
harshly with their faults, and reproving their vices with asperity.
True the Apostle exhorted Timothy: "Accuse, beseech, rebuke," but he
took care to add: "with all patience". Jesus has certainly left us
examples of this. "Come to me," we find Him saying, "come to me all ye
that labor and are burdened and I will refresh you". And by those that
labor and are burdened he meant only those who are slaves of sin and
error. What gentleness was that shown by the Divine Master! What
tenderness, what compassion towards all kinds of misery!
Isaias has marvelously described His heart in the words: "I will set my
spirit upon him; he shall not contend, nor cry out; the bruised reed he
will not break, he will not extinguish the smoking flax". This charity,
"patient and kind", will extend itself also to those who are hostile to
us and persecute us.
"We are reviled," thus did St. Paul protest, "and we bless; we are
persecuted and we suffer it; we are blasphemed and we entreat". They
perhaps seem to be worse than they really are. Their associations with
others, prejudice, the counsel, advice and example of others, and
finally an ill-advised shame have dragged them to the side of the
impious; but their wills are not so depraved as they themselves would
seek to make people believe. Who will prevent us from hoping that the
flame of Christian charity may dispel the darkness from their minds and
bring to them light and the peace of God?
It may be that the fruit of our labors may be slow in coming, but
charity wearies not with waiting, knowing that God prepares His rewards
not for the results of toil but for the good will shown in it.
Besides, such an
approach is based on a lie. You have no idea who is going to Hell and
whom God is going to save. God is
supreme and can save whom He wants, even outside of the normative means
He's given to us through His Church.
Approaching others with an attitude of panic or fear typically doesn't
work -- and it doesn't reflect that we are sharing the Good News It must always be
kept in mind that while we are
bound by His Sacraments; He
isn't. He knows who is inculpably ignorant and who isn't, who is
good-willed and who isn't. He can read hearts and souls; we can't,
barring extraordinary, supernatural gifts. Those sorts of judgments are
for Him alone to make. "Love
'em all; let God sort 'em out!" is a good "meme" to have in mind in
order to keep one's attitude in check.
When the idea that we're bound by the Sacraments, but God isn't has
been brought up at this
site's discussion forum before, some have asked, "Well then, why
spread the Gospel at all? Wouldn't it be better to leave people in
their ignorance so they won't have to worry about failing to uphold the
precepts of the Church and stuff like that?" The answer to that last is
a resounding no! By receiving
the Sacraments, they are given the normative means of receiving
sanctifying grace! By accepting the Faith, people are able to live
lives that are filled with beauty and meaning! And when people convert
to the Faith and affect how their societies are run, it results in more
just and fair social orders. Besides which, we must spread the Gospel
because we are commanded to,
which should be enough reason for any Catholic!
It must always be remembered, too, that, ultimately, faith is a
supernatural gift -- that is, a gift that is infused into us by God
Himself. The intellect most definitely has its place, but it can only
go so far. We can use reason alone to accept that there is a God, but
knowing that He is Triune, that He took on flesh and became man, that
He rose again, etc. -- these things are matters of divine revelation
which are accepted by faith. And faith is a gift, a matter of divine
illumination. It is God Who gives us this sort of knowledge! This is
why our goal in evangelizing isn't to "convince," but to invite others
to invite God!
We must defend the
Faith when lies are told about it. We must
set the record straight when it comes to nonsense told about the
Church's History. But, in the end, it isn't we who bring people to God;
it is God Himself. We can only set an example, defend the Faith, and
spread the Gospel; after that, we have to leave it up to God. After
making any needed defenses against lies or errors, the best and most
effective thing you can do is to challenge any interlocutor to do one simple thing: ask God -- even
if he perceives Him only as the "If-You-Are-There-God" -- to reveal to
him what is true. I can't emphasize this enough!
Now, a more zealous approach might sometimes be necessary when dealing
with the utterly recalcitrant. If we can't help people attain a state
of contrition (sorrow for offending God, born of a love of God),
attrition (fear of Hell) is
better than nothing. But knowing one's audience is absolutely imperative in determining the
approach to take, and it is undoubtedly very rare that a "fire and
brimstome" sort of approach is prudent. We must meet people "where they
are," knowing how
they understand the words we use and see the world, having a sense of
what their lives
are like, etc. Some people are simply better at having that sort of
intuition than others. Know your limits. Know what gifts you have, and
what gifts you haven't been given, and proceed accordingly.
Example, Rather Than
Words, is Supreme
There's a saying attributed to St. Francis: "Spread the Gospel; use
words if necessary." This illustrates the importance of witness by
example, by leading a life that others will look at and wonder "Hmm,
what's his secret? Why is he so content, so filled with hope?"
But many treat the Faith merely as the object of intellectual exercise,
a matter of
philosophy, rather than as God's gift to us, a gift we should want to
share because it is good and beautiful.
Picture a big jerk arrogantly pontificating about how wrong a
virtuous Protestant is, using words he bets the Protestant isn't
familiar with just to show off, coming off as if he has the authority
to judge that Protestant's soul, and so forth.
The jerk may well be correct in his assertions, but he's not doing
anyone any good. Pope St. Pius X, again in E Supremi, intimates at how much
more effective the jerk would be if he'd shut his yap and live a life
For truly it is
of little avail to discuss questions with nice subtlety, or to
discourse eloquently of rights and duties, when all this is unconnected
with practice. The times we live in demand action -- but action which
consists entirely in observing with fidelity and zeal the divine laws
and the precepts of the Church, in the frank and open profession of
religion, in the exercise of every kind of charitable works, without
regard to selfinterest or worldly advantage.
Such luminous examples given by the great army of soldiers of Christ
will be of much greater avail in moving and drawing men than words and
sublime dissertations; and it will easily come about that when human
respect has been driven out, and prejudices and doubting laid aside,
large numbers will be won to Christ, becoming in their turn promoters
of His knowledge and love which are the road to true and solid
Oh! when in every city and village the law of the Lord is faithfully
observed, when respect is shown for sacred things, when the Sacraments
are frequented, and the ordinances of Christian life fulfilled, there
will certainly be no more need for us to labor further to see all
things restored in Christ. Nor is it for the attainment of eternal
welfare alone that this will be of service -- it will also contribute
largely to temporal welfare and the advantage of human society.
"being right," in se, isn't
the goal, and "being seen as
being right" most certainly isn't; saving souls is. And because it is
God Himself Who illumines and saves us, your proximate goal is to get
the person you're talking to on their knees, asking the "If
-You-Are-There-God" to reveal Himself to them.
I very much
encourage those who are wanting to more formally spread the Gospel to
read the page on "Conversion of the
Heart" before even thinking
about going into the world and
preaching in a way that goes beyond witnessing by example. Until your
heart is aligned with His, you can do a lot more
evil than good when trying to teach others about the beauty of the
Faith. You can do a lot of damage as well by setting a bad example.
I've seen or heard about manifestations of this many, many times --
people who've encountered
"evangelists" such as "the jerk" I've just described, or who've
witnessed the sorts of lives lived by those who haven't had a true
conversion of the heart, and, who because of their experiences, became
just uninterested or a little "put off," but disgusted and totally
turned off. I hate to have to
say it, but a certain sub-set of traditional Catholics --
those I call "toxic trads," who are, thankfully, a very, very small
sub-set of traditional Catholics -- can be very strange and quite
effective in turning
Of course, there are those will be turned off from the Gospel message
because there are pet sins they refuse to give up. That is their
problem, an issue between them and God. It's an issue that can be
raised with them, but no whiff of judgmentalism should accompany such a
discussion. And no matter what, no one should be turned away from
Christ and His Church
simply by how the Gospel is
revealed to him.
Finally, consider your image, how you come off to others. All I'll say
is this: Which group of these modestly-dressed women would your typical
Millennial, New Age believer, Wiccan, or atheist be more likely to
actually listen to and take
seriously: group A or group B?:
some general tips:
When Using Words
Thanks to the media and popular culture, Christianity, at least in the
United States, has gotten a bad reputation. It's associated with
"hicks" and the uneducated. Because evangelical Protestantism or bland
"Novus Ordoism" is the only form of Christianity most people know of,
they think that the sort of "Christianity" related by televangelists or
the altar-girl employing "Father Bob" is what actual Christianity is
like. They're wrong, of course, but we have to understand this about
how they think, and then work around it.
Even the most Holy Name of Jesus is heard in many Americans' minds as
"Jay-sus" or "Cheez-uz." His beautiful Name is typically heard as a
swear word or a joke. How many times have you heard something like
"Well, sweet Baby Jesus, I didn't know that!" His image is now even
used on sex toys!
I propose getting around this and mentally
shaking people out of their pre-conscious assumptions by using
enchanting titles such as "the Ancient of Days," "the Master of Love,"
"Lord Christ," etc., when referring to the Second Person of the
Trinity. Or use the Latin form of His Name: Iesus. Use "Holy Ghost"
instead of "Holy Spirit." Use "Messias" instead of "Messiah." In other
words, use language that evokes the ancient History of the Church, that
evokes poetry and Mystery and
gets people's attention, waking them up and preventing them from making
associations derived from popular culture.
We must present Christianity as what it actually is: a religion that is
filled with beauty, rich with folk traditions and seasonal customs, and shaped by profoundly
deep thinkers. It is the religion that gave birth to science, the
religion that has no fear whatsoever
of reason (a word not to be confused with "scientism"!).
Controversial words must be
defined for any conversation to be fruitful. For example, "evolution"
is a loaded word. Does it refer to the idea that all of the creatures
on earth evolved from a single primordial organism or a few different
such organisms that each arose spontaneously and ultimately from
nothing, an idea which Catholicism rejects (and real science does as
well) -- or does it simply refer to the mechanisms of evolution which
no educated Christian disagrees with (e.g., genetic drift, genetic
draft, random mutations, natural selection, sexual selection, gene
flow)? If you are arguing about "evolution," know these terms and make
clear what you accept and reject rather than rejecting "evolution" out
of hand, with no qualifiers, full stop. Failure to do this sort of
thing is why some people think Christians are "stupid" or that
"Christians hate science" (even though we, with the Greeks, invented
it! It was a Franciscan friar who came up with the scientific method
another matter that must be spoken of while being very careful with
language. Please read the
just linked to page to get very clear
about Church teaching on this subject.
You're Talking About
One must first know the Faith in order to spread it. Know what you're
talking about. Arm yourself
with Catechisms, especially those written before Vatican II,
recommended because of their clarity and succinctness. I also highly
recommend "This is the Faith" by Francis J. Ripley (link to
Amazon; will open in a new browser window).
Read through the "For Protestants" section
of this site to arm yourself with defenses against Protestant
errors. When trying to teach Protestants, using a copy of their
most beloved version of Sacred Scipture -- the King James Bible --
could go far. Have a copy on you, and download a copy of a "cheat sheet" (PDF format) that will point
you toward Bible verses that support the Truth. Send
to your Protestant friends the FishEaters's "Challenge
to All Non-Catholic Christians" and ask them to go through it while
using their own copy of the King James Bible.
Keep that cheat sheet linked just above on you (maybe in the trunk of
your car), along with a King James Version of the Bible. Be ready!
You can incite conversation by little things -- such as through bumper
stickers, wearing a T-shirt of piece of jewelry that invites questions
or comments -- and by big things, such as praying in restaurants,
complete with the Sign of the Cross, bowing the head when passing a church, etc.
You can make up business cards with URLs to websites that defend the
Faith or encourage Catholics to embrace Tradition.
If your knowledge of Scripture is solid, host a Bible Study,
trad-style, and invite Protesants.
Meet your neighbors through these websites: NextDoor.com and MeetUp (both will
open in new browser windows).
Use whatever gifts you've been given to spread the word! If you're a
playwright, write a play! If you're a painter, use your art to bring
people to Christ! Make Youtube videos, write blogs, engage in street
theater and flash mobs!
charitable, and try to be pleasant, too. As my Mamma used to say, you
catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. And as St. Francis de
If you wish to
labor with fruit in the conversion of souls, you must pour the balsam
of sweetness upon the wine of your zeal, that it may not be too fiery,
but mild, soothing, patient, and full of compassion. For the human soul
is so constituted that by rigor it becomes harder, but mildness
completely softens it. Besides, we ought to remember that Jesus Christ
came to bless good intentions, and if we leave them to His control,
little by little He will make them fruitful.
peace of Christ be reflected in you.
If you don't know something, say you don't know and don't pretend you
do. Keep your ego chained up in the basement, and just tell the person
you will do your best to find an answer for them.
Define terms that are "iffy" before trying to come to an understanding.
Words and phrases like "born again," "Bible-believing," Tradition,"
"anti-semitic," etc., have to be defined before anything good can come
from using them with various groups.
Define their premises before trying to build your argument.
What do they accept as true? Is that premise true or false? If it's
false, disavow them of it; if it's true, build on it.
Finally, keep a sense of humor!
Fight Back With
You know you've seen some completely ridiculous statement made in
response to a Youtube video or at some comment section somewhere.
Well, when this happens, don't do nothing! Fight back!
Below are URLs to FishEaters's pages that take on some of the most
commonly hurled accusations. The names of most of the URLs speak for
themselves as to
their pages' content. Copy-paste these into a Notepad or Wordpad text
file (or right-click and "save as" to download
it here), keep it on your desktop, and the next time you see some
silliness, open the file up, grab the relevant URL, and post it to the
Catholicism in general: http://www.fisheaters.com/101.html
Traditional Catholicism in particular:
the Church is accused of "anti-semitism":
fight feminism and defend chastity:
When the Church is accused of being ant-science:
The Challenge to
Protestants page: http://www.fisheaters.com/challengepage.html
encyclopedia that is, theoretically, at least, written by visitors to
the Wikipedia website,
and is a much-used source of information, especially for
students, because of its very high-ranking returns at places like
Google. For ex., as of this writing, if you type "Catholicism" into
Google's search engine, Wikipedia's entry on the topic is the seventh return.
This means that if someone goes to Google to do a little research about
"Catholicism," chances are good that what he will learn is what appears
What this means is that we have an opportunity here to try
to ensure that the accurate information about traditional
Catholic practices are available. When all these high school students
and college kids cramming to get papers done use Google to learn about
"Catholicism" or "Vatican II" or "Traditional Catholics," we can possibly
have some input into what they learn to ensure a semblance of balance.
If you have the time and patience to deal with Wiki (and you will need
a lot of it), make sure any
writing you do there is fair, reasonable, balanced, organized,
well-written, and that it reflects well on the honesty, integrity and
intelligence of Catholics. Read Wikipedia's Policy and Guidelines, and their basic
instructions -- how to actually add or edit articles. Or click here for my quick, one-minute guide to Wiki
that will turn you into an editor very quickly.
Some existing entries you might be interested in (do NOT
add links to this site without discussing it first on the relevant Talk
Pages and getting consensus from editors!):
And I repeat: do
NOT add links to this site without discussing
it first on the relevant Talk Pages and getting consensus from
all know what
message boards are, no explanation needed. But focus on popular,
high-traffic ones that center on religion, especially ones set up for
Catholics, or for Catholic-Protestant dialogue. I beg all to remain
charitable above all, to lose the ego, and avoid name-calling and flame
wars. If you're prone to that sort of thing, sometimes you just might
want to post information, leave, and let others hash it all out.
Use URLs to great traditional Catholic websites in your sig
lines, and remember that for every person you might "talk" to
one-on-one, there might be hundreds
reading your posts.
Paltalk and Other Chat Software
free program that allows you talk in voice and/or text to others in
chat rooms that are organized by topic (e.g., Social Issues, Religion,
Judaism, Christianity, etc.). You can make your own room in any given
category and then keep it public or lock it with a password that you
give out only to those you want to enter. If you open your own room,
you have the power to silence people if they are disruptive, or to ban
them entirely. If you don't want to open your own room, you can go into
the public rooms of others and talk or debate. All you need is a
microphone and the Paltalk program, which you can download
here after registering.
Now, get a few Catholics together, have them download the program, open
up a room, and wait for people to wander in with their questions about
Catholicism. Have the answers for them! Be prepared for the evangelical
fundamentalists who might throw verses at you; have the verses to throw
back. I have an apologist's "cheat sheet" (13 pages, Microsoft Word
document) you can download that has
quickie Scripture references so that when they yell out "Ephesians
2:8-9!" you'll know to yell "James 2:24!" I made it for personal use,
and then added a few explanatory notes for a friend, so it's nothing
fancy, but you're welcome to it.
Become an Expert
various websites out there which invite those with expertise in various
areas to answer questions from the general public. Sign up and become
one of those experts! Some relevant websites, which will open in new
Use "Comments" Feature at Popular Blogs, Newspapers, and Magazines
want to start your own blog, visit high-traffic blogs that allow
visitors to post comments, and speak your mind. When you do, include
URLs to traditional Catholic sites, if and only if applicable
to your comments and truly helfpul to readers, so people can find more
information about Catholicism.
Don't just "preach to the choir" (that's not "evangelizing")! Visit the
comments section of sites the publish articles you disagree with as
voice be heard over the din of the culturally Marxist critics paid by
the owners of the media conglomerates. Traditional Catholics go to
movies, we read books, we hear music -- what do we have to say
about what's coming through the channels of culture? Make yourself
heard, especially at websites like these:
Come on, guys!
We have to get a lot busier!
This is an actual post from a
"toxic trad" forum. The behaviors
described are so very much not
Catholic, and are despicable and
disgusting. This person attends some sort of chapel (e.g., perhaps an
SSPX chapel, or a chapel run by an independent priest) rather than a
parish church that operates with ordinary jurisdiction granted by the
diocese it's situated in (e.g., a parish church that is run by the
FSSP, ICK, etc.):
My husband and I
simply can't stand it anymore, and it is
seriously damaging our faith. I've mentioned a few of the things on
here before (the "Victorian Men" proposing marriage to my infant
daughter and women castigating me for laying my daughter on her back to
sleep), but it just keeps getting worse.
For instance, recently a married couple was basically driven
from the chapel by some members because they were midgets (dwarfism).
Some of the people in the chapel said that such ailments were evidence
of "satanic blood" or other such nonsense, and said they should not be
allowed at Mass.
My husband was rebuked after Mass a few of weeks ago because
he was wearing a blue shirt (he had a suit and tie on, the shirt was
light blue). He was told that it was insulting to the Lord to wear
anything less than "very formal" at Mass, which apparently means a
The straw that broke the camel's back however, was this past
Sunday. My husband and I had a few people over for dinner, after Mass.
We cooked Mexican food. One woman asked whether we routinely cook the
food of "other nationalities." We said yes, and that [we] enjoy a
foods. She said that we were in danger of become "liberal blood
traitors," (whatever that means) and that our daughter will likely have
a "poor upbringing" because of it. She then left without eating.
I simply can't stand all the superstitious and un-Catholic
behavior that is going on. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the
Faith, and in my opinion, a lot of it is contrary to the Faith. I dread
the loss of the Sacraments, however, and the next-nearest traditional
chapel is some 5 hours away (one-way). I worry about my daughter. I
worry about her not having access to the Sacraments, but I also worry
about the influence some of these people may have on her.
To be clear, there is nothing wrong with the essentials of
the Faith that are preached and taught by Father; the problem is the
congregation. And, only a minority of the congregation, but a very
vocal minority. Father seems to be either unwilling or unable to do
anything about it, because these issues have been brought to him many
Again, none of
the above is rooted in Catholic thinking or reflects virtuous Catholic
behavior. None of it -- the
racism, the idea that those who have genetic defects have some sort of
unholy "bloodline," the borderline if not outright pedophilia, the
nosiness, etc.! Thankfully, the writer was able to differentiate
between Catholicism and how some of her fellow chapel-goers act, but many people might not be able to
make that sort of distinction and would walk away from such a scene
thinking, "Wow, those trads are weird
and nasty! Traditional
Catholicism sucks!" It breaks my
heart! And may God bless and keep close to Himself those two
Little People who were turned away... (As an aside, the term "midget"
is considered offensive. "Dwarfism" is the term for the condition
suffered by adults who've failed to reach a height of 4 feet 10 inches,
and their bodies may or may not be normally proportioned.)