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Nicholas Hardesty Seize the Moment for February: How to explain and defend the faith

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Over many years of speaking and writing about religion, I have developed a few guidelines for explaining and defending the Catholic faith. Stick to these principles and you will grow as a catechist (a teacher of the faith) and an apologist (a defender of the faith).

Be informed: You can’t seize the moment if you don’t know your faith well. The Bible and the “Catechism of the Catholic Church” are the two best sources for what we believe and why we believe it. It’s time to get reacquainted.

First, find some dependable websites, such as Catholic.com or BibleChristianSociety.com, and see how they explain and defend the faith. You don’t have to have all the answers yourself if you know where to look.

Next, whenever these sites reference a Bible passage or a paragraph from the Catechism, look it up. Then, read the surrounding passages. That’s how I started to familiarize myself with these works. You can learn a lot that way.

When you’re ready to dive in a little deeper, there are reading plans online that you can use to read the Bible and the Catechism in a year. Or, you can read the Bible one year and the Catechism the next year. This may sound like a lot, but it’s only a few paragraphs a day and it will build a confidence that will last you a lifetime.

There are also books that provide helpful introductions to the Bible and the Catechism. For the Bible, see “Bible Basics for Catholics” and “New Testament Basics for Catholics” by Dr. John Bergsma. For the Catechism, see “Catholic Update Guide to the Catechism” by Mary Carol Kendzia.

Be prudent: You can’t engage every person who has a question or comment about the church. There aren’t enough hours in the day for that. Instead, concentrate your efforts on what will be the most effective: private conversations with one or two people you already know. Sometimes an honest conversation with a stranger can be fruitful, too. It’s something you have to discern. But, trying to be a one-man army never works.

Stay on topic: Being prudent also means staying on topic. If you try to tackle too many issues at once, you won’t do any of them justice. Choose one topic and focus on it. That way you can give it your full attention, and you can keep yourself from getting too overwhelmed.

Stay calm: Stay as poised and composed as possible. Let the truth speak for itself. A calm and reasoned approach is always more effective than getting angry, raising your voice, and calling people names – even when what they say is very offensive.

Practice: You’re only going to get good at this by practicing. Look for opportunities to explain and defend what you believe. Seize the moment, whenever and wherever it occurs. It’s scary, I know, but I promise you: every question and encounter will make you a more confident Catholic.

Pray hard: Prayer should be a central component of sharing your faith with others. Pray that God will grant you the wisdom and courage to be an effective witness. Pray that the Spirit will open the minds and hearts of those you encounter. Pray with people, right then and there! God has promised He will give us the words when we don’t know what to say (Luke 12:11-12; John 16:13). But, we must pray.

Nicholas Hardesty develops new digital courses for Vocare, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati’s online catechist certification process. Contact him with new course ideas at nhardesty@catholiccincinnati.org.

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