GREENVILLE — A famed apologist for the Catholic faith came to St. Mary Church on Aug. 28 and made a bit of a stir with his unapologetic advice. Patrick Madrid told the crowds at two seminars on the theme of “Defending Your Faith” that no one needs evangelizing more than fallen-away Catholics.
“We do not need to focus on what to say to non-Catholics, but how to respond and, more urgently, to reach out to family and friends who have left the church. Many former Catholics tend to be ferociously anti-Catholic,” Madrid said.
The California native spoke about the reasons people leave the church, including boredom with liturgies and disaffection with music, preaching and children’s programs at their parish. They also leave because they have moral issues, Madrid said, especially in sexual matters, and because they receive bad information about Catholicism from friends. Madrid said that contraception is one of the main reasons Catholics abandon their faith.
He then told the large crowd about the 10 common mistakes Catholics make in their evangelization efforts. First, he said, Catholics are reluctant to share their faith and tend to be private about it. And second, they are afraid to broach controversial topics.
“Number three is the problem of evangelizing for the wrong reason, trying to win an argument, for instance,” Madrid said.
Also, Catholics often aren’t prepared through study or prayer for evangelizing.
“Most Catholics are running around on the fumes of an eighth-grade religious education,” he said. “To study your faith, just put the Bible and the new catechism on your night table. Read for 10 minutes in the morning or before you fall asleep. And pray for guidance.”
The sixth problem, according to Madrid, is making a shallow assessment of a situation during a discussion. He recalled talking to a woman who gave him “the verbal equivalent of the sign you would make if confronting a vampire.” She was virulent in her hatred of the Catholic Church, and he was tempted to counter her arguments, but after listening to her he discovered that she had once been a faithful Catholic who was brushed off by a busy priest when she was facing an unwanted pregnancy. She focused her pain and anger after aborting her child on the institutional church.
“Another problem with evangelizing is being more Catholic than the pope. We are called to be united with the Vicar of Christ, not to the right of him or to the left of him, not ahead of him or behind him,” Madrid said.
Not being patient and charitable when discussing religion is Madrid’s mistake number eight; the ninth is worrying that there is a Bible verse somewhere that is going to disprove a Catholic teaching.
“Arguments arise not with scriptural passages,” Madrid said, “only with interpretations of those passages. The final common mistake is forgetting that evangelization is our work, but that conversion is the Holy Spirit’s work.”
Madrid spoke twice, in the afternoon and at an evening session about specific scriptural passages. He drew about 300 at each session and was well received. Chris Stansberry, a parishioner at the host church, said that a dynamic speaker like Patrick Madrid can infuse lay people with encouragement and the confidence to evangelize.
“I like the opportunity to hear other people talk about the faith, so that I’ll be better equipped to talk about it,” Stansberry said.
Madrid was invited to speak at St. Mary as part of the parish discipleship fair. David Tiede Hottinger, assistant to the pastor for discipleship and evangelization, formed a team of parishioners who invited the apologist to speak as part of the fair’s theme, “Inside the Vine: allowing every parishioner to abide in Jesus Christ.”
Father Jay Scott Newman, St. Mary’s pastor, said that learning apologetics – how to defend the faith – is necessary for handing on that faith.
“Apologetics are essential for two main reasons: first, we live in a culture that is increasingly hostile to the church, and second, because here in South Carolina, even among Christians, Catholics are a misunderstood minority,” Father Newman said.
Patrick Madrid was well equipped to teach people to defend their faith. He has written six books on apologetics, as well as a series called “Surprised By the Truth” that has sold over 400,000 copies.
He is host of four EWTN television and radio shows and is the executive producer of the award-winning magazine Envoy and its radio program. Madrid’s weekly apologetics column, “Where is That in the Bible?” is syndicated in diocesan newspapers. He is a regular presenter at many conferences, seminars and universities, including Franciscan University in Steubenville.
Madrid lives with his wife, Nancy, and their 11 children in Columbus, Ohio.