Fish Eaters: The Whys and Hows of Traditional Catholicism

``Where the Bishop is, there let the multitude of believers be;
even as where Jesus is, there is the Catholic Church'' Ignatius of Antioch, 1st c. A.D

Spread the Gift Around:

Matthew 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 Christianae" (1890) that we laymen, too, can -- and should, as our gifts allow -- spread the Faith:

15. ... 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.

The office, 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."

Let 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, generally speaking, 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!

Above all, it must always be remembered that 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 on its own. 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 when one is divinely illuminated by God. 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 what the Church teaches, the Church's History, and other such things. 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 Him. 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 often falsely 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 good-willed, 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 of holiness: 

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 happiness.

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.

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 not 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 away seekers.1

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?:

Group A

Group B


Yes, in the ideal world, people would ignore such things as image and would just be blinded by our amazing arguments. But we don't live in the ideal world; we live in this one.

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.

Consider that even the most Holy Name of Jesus is heard in many Americans' minds as "Jay-sus" or, even more hideously, "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 problem and mentally shaking people out of their pre-conscious assumptions and complacency by using language in a way that surprises them. For example, use 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 automatically 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. Ours is the religion that gave birth to science, the religion that has no fear whatsoever of reason.

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, know what you're talking about, and make clear what you accept and reject rather than rejecting "evolution" out of hand, with no qualifiers. 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 itself!).

Homosexuality is 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.

Know What 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).

When dealing with Protestants, know their premises and their misunderstandings of the Catholic Faith. Read through the "For Protestants" section of this site to arm yourself with defenses against Protestant errors.  Using a copy of their most beloved version of Sacred Scipture -- the King James Bible -- could go far since many will not trust at all the Catholic version of the Bible which includes Books that Protestant Bibles don't have. Download a copy of a "cheat sheet" that will point you toward Bible verses that support the Truth against Protestant errors. 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.

Evangelizing Offline

Keep that cheat sheet linked just above on you, 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: 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!

Evangelizing Online

First, some general tips:

Always be 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 Sales wrote:
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.

Let the true 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 Information!

You know you've seen some completely ridiculous statement made in response to 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 silly one:


Catholicism in general:
Traditional Catholicism in particular:
When the Church is accused of "anti-semitism":
To fight feminism and defend chastity:
When the Church is accused of being ant-science:

For Protestants:

The Challenge to Protestants page:


Wikipedia is an 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 at Wikipedia.

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!):

Traditional Catholicism
Vatican II
Novus Ordo Missae
Tridentine Mass
Pope Pius XII
The Passion of the Christ
Papal Infallibility
Mary, the Mother of Jesus
Blessed Virgin Mary
Assumption of Mary
Immaculate Conception
Perpetual Virginity of Mary
Persecution of Christians
Christian-Jewish Reconciliation
Sign of the Cross
The Real Presence
Latin (Ecclesiastical)
Middle Ages

Thomas Aquinas
Da Vinci Code
Holy Blood, Holy Grail
Magdalen Asylum
Christian Views of Homosexuality
Christian Views of Women
Church and State
Primacy of the Roman Pontiff

And I repeat: do NOT add links to this site without discussing it first on the relevant Talk Pages and getting consensus from editors! 

Message Boards

We 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

Paltalk is a 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

There are 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 browser windows:

All Experts
Yahoo Answers

Use "Comments" Feature at Popular Blogs, Newspapers, and Magazines

If you don't 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 well!

Write Reviews

Let the Catholic 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:

Internet Movie Database


Come on, guys! We have to get a lot busier!


1 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 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 white shirt.

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 variety of 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 times.

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.)

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