You Can Tell They Are Christians by Their Neckties
Several months ago, I finally got permission to put Catholic Answers tracts in the reading rack in the back of St. Mary's Church here in Bismarck. The brochures are nearly all gone now, and therefore I would like to order another batch of ten of each tract.
Some go faster than others. Brochures explaining Catholic doctrines and the sacraments went right away. I don't know if the Herbert Armstrong tract ever went at all, and the Catholic "Inventions" and More "Inventions" sat forlorn for a long time, too. Maybe our parishioners thought they were anti-Catholic.
The Mormon tracts didn't move for a long time, but the word must have got out, because one of my daughters said that two Mormon missionaries were in the back of the church during children's Mass on a Friday, reading the Mormon tracts and taking notes. She knows they were Mormons because they were two young men wearing dark suits and carrying books. All the lawyers and politicians who wear the dark pinstriped uniform had better be sure they always wear power-red ties!
Bismarck, North Dakota
Saved By a Seminar (Whew!)
I have been talking with a Bible Christian and have been searching myself and had almost decided to convert away from the Catholic Church. Your parish seminar helped me learn more and brought me closer to my faith. I will take what I have learned and work with that. Thanks.
San Jose, California
I was very interested in the Quick Question on millennialism. This is an interesting issue and certainly would deserve at least another article. I do believe there is such a thing as a Catholic premillennialism. The approved apparitions of La Sallette and Fatima seem to hint at an age of peace: "Thy kingdom come," as we pray in the Lord's Prayer. All three [millennialist] positions seem to contain a part of the truth. Perhaps that is why the Church never defined any one to be the answer.
To Witness or Not to Witness
I am one more example of the way God is calling his children to grow in knowledge and love of him through your organization. It started about eight months ago, when, though encounters with some Jehovah's Witnesses at my home and later at a friend's home in Maryland, my faith was severely challenged.
I started to doubt the divinity of Christ and the Trinity, as well as other aspects of my Catholic faith. I remember telling my friend that when I returned to California I was going to turn to the Church for answers to these doubts that I was having. I had been home for just a few days when I came across a flier announcing a seminar on how to answer and evangelize Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, and Fundamentalists.
The Catholic Answers seminar was the answer to my doubts. I came out of it rejuvenated, relieved, and rejoicing. Since then I have made an effort to know our faith, including reading your magazine and attending your "Go Forth and Teach" workshop.
My friend in Maryland was also helped through your seminar. At the time that I went to visit her eight months ago, she was involved in a Bible study run by a Jehovah's Witness. Her roommate is a Mormon and had talked my friend into having Mormon missionaries come over once a week and give their presentation.
She was getting double-whammied and was more in doubt than I was. I sent her some reading material that I purchased at your seminar and also spoke to her on the phone about the things that I learned at the seminar. She has since given up these regular meetings with both the JWs and the Mormons and is now much stronger in the Catholic faith.
Recently a couple came to my door and introduced themselves as Jehovah's Witnesses. I knew that eventually I would know enough about the Catholic faith to speak with them and evangelize them, but I didn't feel that I was ready yet. So I told them that I was not interested in talking with them because of differences in our beliefs.
I was expecting them to walk away, but instead one of them asked me what some of these differences might be. Then, to my surprise, I invited them inside to talk about them.
I was trembling with nervousness as they sat down. I started with the topic of the Trinity. I stuttered and stumbled over my words as I began to speak, afraid that I was going to make a fool out of myself.
Then came a second and even greater surprise. I actually did a good job of describing the Trinity as I had read about it in Frank Sheed's Theology for Beginners. I was getting more confident with each word. Then I pulled out my Bible and we talked about some of the Scripture that had been pointed out to me at your seminars and workshop concerning the Trinity. I was able to do the same as we moved to the topic of Christ's divinity.
I was amazed at how much I was able to recall. But they were more amazed than I was, for after we discussed a few other topics, they mentioned that they had never met a Catholic who knew his faith like I did.
When it came time for them to leave, they asked if they could come back again and talk about some of their material. But I sensed that the real reason they wanted to return was to hear some more of the truth. I truly believe that the Holy Spirit guided me through this discussion, and I look forward to talking with them again.
San Jose, California
Was This Joke On the Level?
I have to admit that when I read your "intelligence test" ["Confidential Exam Revealed," April 1990] given to those who are out to convert Catholics, I thought it was considerably exaggerated--that is, until I had the following experience.
My daughter and I go to both the Saturday and Sunday Masses. She pleaded with me that it is the same thing over and over and wants to go where they have "something for kids." I remembered learning verses and Bible stories from when I was a child in Sunday school, so Sunday morning we attended a small Baptist church nearby.
I was greeted warmly, and several people introduced themselves with big smiles. I entered and sat down with the intention of prayer and trying to tune in to God. Well, there is looking around, talking, and an air of expectation, as if we were waiting to be entertained. No one seems to have any intention of prayer, and there was nowhere to kneel and no one kneeled upon entering, as I guess there was no one there to kneel to, as far as anyone seems to be concerned.
Well, I at least hoped for some good hymns. The song leader went up to the front and announced we were going to sing a round and explained ad nauseum what a round is and spent time deliberating whether the adults should sing "Walking with Jesus" and the children sing "Walking in the Sunlight" or vice versa.
I'm sitting there groaning and longing for the house of prayer where the Lord is present and sincere prayers go on. But this continues, the guy makes a joke that he should sing with the young folks and the young man he has asked to lead the children should lead the adults. There is polite laughter.
After we finally got through the round, a "sword drill" was announced. They read a scriptural reference, and the first one to find it was to stand up and read it. There was no rhyme or reason to the verses, and some were fragments of sentences, and none was chosen to be meaningful in any way.
I am sitting there thinking this is something like the worst party I have ever been to, and are there actually people who would call this "church" and raise a building to house it? (Yes, and these are the people who put Chick tracts on our windshields at St. Simon's. What do they want to convert us to?)
I asked Melissa if she had a story or verses at children's church, and she said, "The little kids had a story. We just sat and talked." The kids were dismissed for the sermon, which was about the only thing that was good about the meeting, and they "just sat and talked."
I checked out the Wednesday night prayer meeting. They had me written down on the prayer sheet for "spiritual growth." I had gone to morning Mass and already said three rosaries that day. I wonder if my obvious unhappiness with the round and the hodgepodge of meaningless verses meant I wasn't "spiritual." I really can't take my daughter there with good conscience, and I guess we really don't see eye to eye. But now I see the "intelligence test" wasn't really any joke. I just had to see for myself.
Editor’s reply: The "intelligence test"--billed as a secret entrance examination for an anti-Catholic group--really was a joke, but perhaps Mrs. Visser's experience demonstrates that life imitates artlessness?
Quick Read, Long Wait
The May issue of This Rock was delivered at 10:00. I finished reading it at 6:30. Your magazine is so excellent, I devour it. It enlightens and encourages me. My only disappointment is I must wait another month for the next issue.
The Perils of Scrupulosity
I can deeply and personally empathize with the constant fear of damnation that tortured Glenwood Davis in his youth, as he recounted in "Leaving the Fundamentalist Wilderness" [May and June, 1990]. My tormenting obsession (which not only stole away the joy of my childhood, but has robbed my adult life of peace) took on a distinctively Catholic coloring.
Instead of preoccupation with achieving an inner assurance of salvation through the certitude of possessing adequate faith, I have been suffering agonizing doubt, with exaggeratedly vigilant anxieties, about being in the state of grace through the avoidance of mortal sin (especially, beginning at adolescence, against the dreaded sixth and ninth commandments).
During my years in Catholic grammar and high schools, shortly before and during the period of the Second Vatican Council, I was subjected to a sufficient number of (sometimes graphic) hellfire sermons in religion class and at Mass on Sunday to inspire an awful fright in me about death, judgment, and the mere possibility of everlasting damnation.
I should mention that these intimidating warnings didn't seem to visibly bother and shake up other people in school or church; perhaps I am just over-sensitive and melancholic by temperament and was thus mentally predisposed to being adversely affected by such verbal trauma. Of course, after Vatican II, hell was hardly ever discussed again, at least not in the same vivid manner--the pendulum swung from one extreme to the other (except for one priest I consulted eight years ago, who scared the wits out of me).
But, at any rate, for me the emotional, psychological, and spiritual damage had been wrought: At age 39 I am still prone to severe bouts of scrupulosity, sometimes even to the point of panic attacks.
Name withheld by request
Hey, This Is Actually Fun!
Thank you for providing inspiration to Catholics to share the faith. The materials you provide are excellent training aids for those of us interested in promoting and defending Catholic doctrine.
I accomplished my first formal apologetic venture yesterday. I had lunch with a local Protestant pastor. I was afraid that he would bury me theologically, as he holds the title of "Doctor" as well as the title "Reverend."
I was pleased, however, to find that I was able to hold my own with him, largely as a result of the material learned from some of your instructional tapes and debate tapes. In fact, I think that the strength of my arguments for the visible Catholic Church and against sola scriptura, sola fide, and other Protestant ideas took him by surprise.
He gave me copies of the creeds and the "book of order" of his denomination. I left him with a copy of Scott Hahn's double album tape series. The exchange of ideas has been great fun for me so far.
Incline Village, Nevada