Before Your Ears Turn Red

“An argument in apologetics, when actually used in dialogue, is an extension of the arguer. The arguer’s tone, sincerity, care, concern, listening, and respect matter as much as his or her logic—probably more. The world was won for Christ not by arguments but by sanctity: What you are speaks so loud, I can hardly hear what you say.” – Dr. Peter Kreeft, Handbook for Christian Apologetics

Two Men TalkingA couple of weeks ago, I walked up to begin a discussion with a friend of mine, but instead found myself—an hour later—still in the midst of an incredibly heated discussion with the gentleman next to him about my Catholic Faith. I am always grateful for these conversations and thank the Lord for them each time He presents them to me (especially since I ask for them—if you ask, you will receive). But I will also readily admit that these intense religious discussions are not always easy. In fact, this particular discussion was quite far from it.

I spent my entire conversation with “Richie,” as I will call him here, trying to understand how he can be both Catholic and non-Christian.  You see, Richie is a fallen-away Catholic who believes Jesus is a “hoax” (among many other Catholic “hoaxes”) and he proclaims that Heaven and hell do not exist.

Now that you have the context, I would like to get to the heart of this particular situation. Amidst our deep philosophical and theological musings, Richie was persistent in insulting my intelligence, once going so far as to ask me if I have “ever read a book.” Richie presented me with countless opportunities to completely lose my patience and reciprocate his mocking tone. At the climax of our conversation, before my ears turned red in fury, I decided to pause for a second—and I prayed.

In that tremendously brief moment of silent prayer, the Lord reminded me of my only task in this mini-mission of evangelization: to love. It wasn’t my job to convince Richie that he was utterly misguided and his best option was to run home to the Catholic Church (though, to be honest, this would have been a pleasant side effect). It was my job, however, to love him, to love him as Christ loves him.

It is easy for us to forget when people insult our faith that we must love them all the more. We can all think of times when we have felt defensive at the moment someone tries to badmouth Our Lady or to demean Our Lord’s True Presence in the Holy Eucharist. I’ve been there…and many times, I have left these conversations only to release my tears in front of the Blessed Sacrament. No one likes to have someone make fun of her Mom or her Savior.

True, it is our task as followers of the Truth to defend that truth at all times. But we must defend the truth with love. If we forget this, our apologetic efforts will be fruitless. Christ was mocked unceasingly, ridiculed beyond our wildest dreams, crucified. And all the while He loved. Boy did He love.

You may rarely—if ever—change an obstinate heart on the spot. C.S. Lewis reminds us, however, “The very man who argued you down will sometimes be found, years later, to have been influenced by what you said.” But this will only happen if we approach all of these impassioned conversations with love.  Remember, “The world was won for Christ not by arguments but by sanctity.”

Before your ears turn red, pause. Pray. Love. Then spread the truth.

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About the Author

Katie Warner is a Catholic wife, stay-at-home mother, speaker, writer, and evangelist who is passionate about taking small steps toward a more meaningful and spiritual life, and helping others do the same.

She is the author of Head & Heart: Becoming Spiritual Leaders for Your Family (Emmaus Road Publishing, Fall 2015), a book that offers practical strategies and inspiring stories to help men and women better lead and love their families toward heaven.

Katie writes and speaks about a variety of spiritual and practical topics, and has presented in venues like the National Catholic Bible Conference and numerous Legatus chapters, the Eucharistic Congress of Atlanta, EWTN radio, and on EWTN television. She is also a presenter for the Symbolon RCIA and Opening the Word programs produced by the Augustine Institute. Katie is one of the original contributing writers for The Integrated Catholic Life and a correspondent for the National Catholic Register.

Katie works very part-time (usually during toddler naps and late at night) as the Manager of Communication and Evangelization for Catholics Come Home, a national Catholic evangelism apostolate working to invite fallen-away Catholics and non-Catholics home to the Catholic Church. She holds a graduate degree in Catholic Theology, specializing in Evangelization and Catechesis, from the Augustine Institute in Denver, Colorado. Her favorite ministry work—and day-job—is family life, and she enjoys homemaking and mothering in sunny Southern California, where she lives with her husband and son.

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4 Comments

  1. Katie-I love this post. You have made a great point here: “True, it is our task as followers of the Truth to defend that truth at all times. But we must defend the truth with love.” It is easy in the heat of an argument, especially one where we are being attacked, to sink to the other person’s level. I commend you for having self-control and turning to prayer for help.

    Good lesson here for all of us!

    God bless-

    Randy

  2. Thank you for your feedback, Randy. Prayerful surrender when engaging in apologetics is something I know I’ll continue to work on for the rest of my life!

    May the Holy Spirit always guide our conversations so they glorify the Lord.

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