Growing Apologist

Becoming a Defender of Truth

And Its Back!

Pocket Apologetics Kit

It’s been almost a year.  A year of wandering, poking around, searching, brainstorming, trying this, trying that, reading, digging, asking how, how, how… How do I become an apologist?

I know what an apologist does—they defend the faith.  They answer the tough questions, speak up for the Church, and help people determine what is true to the faith and what is not.  They know the theology, the doctrine, the traditions, the history not only of the faith they defend but of other faiths too.

The skills of an apologist is many—ability to debate and reason with love, to remember scripture and writings of other great figures, the desire to learn and understand and the motivation to put their mind to use.

My problem is how do I become an apologist?  Where do I start?  Read the rest of this entry »

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The Angelic Doctor: St. Thomas Aquinas

A Student’s Prayer

By St. Thomas Aquinas

Creator of all things, True source of light and wisdom, Origin of all being, Graciously let a ray of your light penetrate The darkness of my understanding.

Take from me the double darkness In which I have been born, An obscurity of sin and ignorance.

Give me a keen understanding, A retentive memory, and The ability to grasp things Correctly and fundamentally.

Grant me the talent Of being exact in my explanations And the ability to express myself With thoroughness and charm.

Point out the beginning, Direct the progress, And help in the completion.

I ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Taken from the Apple Seeds website, produced by Fr. Brian Cavanaugh of the Third Order Franciscan and is found here: http://www.appleseeds.org/aquinas_stdpryr.htm

What is a Doctor?

From Microsoft Office

The Doctors writings are used to educate

The title ‘Doctor of the Church’ does not refer to a medical practice, but is the title of an authorized teacher and theologian of the Catholic Church. [1] This is a special title given by the pope to people who fulfill three requirements: remarkable holiness even for a saint; depth of doctrinal insight; extensive body of writings that are an expression of authentic and life giving Catholic Tradition. [1]

Often times, these people are also considered fathers of Christianity and whose works are well respected by Catholics and non-Catholics alike. There are thirty-three official Doctors of the Church; each one is considered to not be infallible—meaning there may be errors in their writings and teachings, however their writing impacted and guided the Church none-the-less. [2] St. Ambrose, St. Augustine, St. Francis de Sales and St. Catherine of Siena are a few of the Doctors.

Five Lessons from the Angelic Doctor of the Church

Saint Thomas Aquinas recently had a feast day on January 28th. Here are five key points about his life, a model for all to look up to.

  1. With his parent’s end goal of gaining prestige and power by their son becoming the Abbey of Monte, St. Thomas was submitted to the care of the Benedictines of Monte Casino at the age of five around the year 1231. [3, 4] There St. Thomas excelled in his education, even going beyond his peers in education and virtue. [4]
  2. At the age of 17, his father, the Count of Aquinas, sent St. Thomas to the University of Naples so to further his education. [3] To the distress of his parents, St. Thomas became inspired by the Dominicans and decided to join the order despite his family’s plans. [3, 4]
  3. His parents tried everything to dissuade him of this decision. During his two years of discernment, they went as far as sending St. Thomas an impure woman to tempt him. But St. Thomas remained chaste and for this, God rewarded him the gift of perfect, ‘Angelic’ chastity. [4]
  4. St. Thomas Aquinas’s writings and sermons flowed from his personal prayer life. [3] His greatest writing, Summa Theologiae summarizes and explains the entire body of Catholic teaching and is used even today to educate people. [5]
  5. He died in 1274, canonized as a saint and declared a Doctor of the Church in 1323. [4] St. Thomas Aquinas is the patron saint of Academics, apologists, theologians, chastity, lightning and storms. [5]

References and Additional Reading

On Doctors of the Catholic Church:

[1] Introduction to the Doctors of the Catholic Church; Definition and Complete List, The Crossroads Initiative, Marcellino D’Ambrosio, Ph.D., available online (1/31/12). 

[2] Doctors of the Church, Catholic Online, available online (1/31/12).

On St. Thomas Aquinas:

[3] St. Thomas Aquinas: His Life and Writings, The Crossroads Initiative, available online (1/31/12).

[4] St. Thomas Aquinas, Catholic Online, available online (1/31/12).

[5] January 28th, Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas, priest and doctor, CatholicCulture.org, available online (1/31/12).

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Five Quick Lessons From a Saint

 “Fight all error, but do it with good humor, kindness, and love. Harshness will damage your own soul and spoil the best cause.”  ~St. John of Kanty

St. John of Kanty

Here are five quick facts about St. John of Kanty and the example he sets for all believers.

English: Church of All Saints in Vilnius. &quo...

Who is This Man?

  • St. John of Kanty was born on June 23, 1390 in Kanty, Silesia, Poland. His parents recognized the quick, kind intelligence of their son and sent him to the University of Cracow where he earned a doctorate in philosophy. He was ordained priest and given a position to teach at the university.

  • He was well liked by the students which bothered his superiors at the college. Falsely accused of doing wrong, he was sent to be a parish priest at Olkusz, a diocese of Krakow. Being frightened of the responsibilities of a parish priest, it took some time for him to win the hearts of the town people, but he eventually did through love.

  • A legend says that as some people robbed St. John of Kanty, they asked him if that was everything, and he replied yes. After the robbers left, he remembered some gold that he had sewn into his clothes. He tracked the robbers down and insisted that they took the gold as well. Shocked, the robbers refused and then gave him back all that they took.

  • St. John of Kanty lived on the bare minimum he needed in order to survive, giving everything else to the poor. He would go as far as to give the very dinner he was eating to a passing beggar (only to return to find his plate miraculously re-filled).

  • He died on December 24, 1473 and was canonized in 1676 with his feast day set to December 23. St. John of Kanty is the patron saint of Poland.

Prayer

“Grant, we pray, almighty God, that by the example of the Priest Saint John of Kanty, we may advance in knowledge of holy things, and by showing compassion to all, may gain forgiveness in your sight. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.” [1]

References

[1] Optional Memorial of St. John of Kanty, priest, Catholic Culture 

[2] St. John of Kanty, Catholic Online

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What Keeps You Awake Tonight?

I know what keeps me awake tonight.

Taking pictures, caffeinated coffee, the desire to relax before falling asleep, the horror of 7 plus hours of lectures watched at 1.5x speed, a test only 40% done after working on it for 15 hours in two days, the frustrations of wanting to know but having no clue.  There are other things too, added on top of the test nightmares of this weekend… like the physical state of my house, the financial standing of my family, the desire to be involved in a million things but having to limit myself only to the essentials.

But how do I figure out what the essential things are?  This has been the long-standing question of my life.  Even in middle school, my interests and passions were so wide in variety, and there was never enough time in the day.

I have come to the realization that there are a lot of things in my life that I just need to make time for and then everything else will fall into place.  I remember a presentation at my protestant church years back, where the women’s ministry leader demonstrated how to fit God into a person’s life.  She had this huge jar that she dumped little marbles into it (these represented the everyday things, like responsibilities and entertainment) and then tried to add larger marbles to the jar (these represented time with God).  The large marbles wouldn’t fit.  Instead, she reversed the order, first dropping God into the jar, and then the everyday things.  The little marbles filled in the gaps between the large marbles, and everything fit into the jar.

It’s just like this post I read the other day at the blog called Let’s Go Then, You and I… titled It’s All In The Start.  The author described how she would love to start the day, on her knees spending time with God, but the difficulty of getting out of the warm bed prevented her.  She goes on to describe the difficulty of the day, how everything just becomes so overwhelming, and she came to the conclusion that it is all in how she starts off her day, in idleness or in worship.

Perhaps those things that keep me awake tonight would not be so big if I re-arranged my life a little to be centered first on Christ.  Perhaps if I got up a little earlier, started my day with God, and then moved onto the everyday things, then maybe the stress of life would not be so overwhelming.  Maybe then the peace of God would settle into my soul, and I would have the courage to face whatever life throws at me.

How about you?  What keeps you awake at night?

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Magnifacant, St. Mary’s Newsletter (10/13/11)

For those of you unfamiliar with the Catholic mass, we always have three readings from the bible at the beginning of mass: one from the Old Testament, one from the New Testament, and then one from the Gospel.  Every week, I receive a newsletter from my church in my email usually with an article relating to the Gospel.  This one comes at an interesting time for me and my family, as a relative of mine is struggling with paying taxes on their house.  Here is the article for your enjoyment.

*[10/16/2011 Edit] It occurred to me that it is rather difficult for an article on scripture to mean much without knowing what scripture said article is based on.  This is based primarily on the gospel reading from Mathew 22, 15-21, but also the old testament reading Isaiah 45, 1-6 and the new testament reading 1 Thessalonians 1, 1-5.*

Render Unto Caesar
 Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio
Despite their flattering words, they were trying to trap him, to force him into a no-win situation.
Consider the circumstances.  They are living under the iron boot of a brutal empire which filled the earth with its idolatry.  Patriotic Jews longed to throw off the yoke of the tyrants.  They prayed for an anointed king who would free them from the Romans as David had freed them from the Philistines. Anyone advocating collaboration with the invaders could not possibly be the hoped-for Messiah.  No, he would appear as a traitor.  But on the other hand, anyone preaching resistance to Rome would be branded an enemy of the Empire and would wind up suspended from a cross.
So the Pharisees decided to put Jesus on the spot in front of the crowd.  They asked him a question bound to get him into trouble one way or the other. “Is it lawful to pay taxes to the Emperor or not?”

First of all, Jesus teaches us how to deal with a bogus theological question.  He unmasks it for what it is, an effort to trip him up rather than an inquiry proceeding from a sincere desire to know the truth.  And then, rather than letting himself be controlled and put on the spot, he takes charge of the conversation and puts the Pharisees on the spot.  He answers a question with a question.  “Whose head is on that coin that you have in your pocket, the coin that you are using to pay for the temporal necessities of life?”  “Caesar’s.”  Next Jesus says something that makes them think, much like he did with the men eager to stone the woman caught in adultery (John 8).  “Then give to Caesar what is Caesar, but give to God what is God’s.”  (Mat 22:15-21)

Jesus wins the battle.  He transforms an attempt to make him look bad into a teaching moment recorded for all time, providing all peoples and ages with some very important food for thought

Government is a fact of life.  Rulers, laws, police, taxes.  What should a worshipper of God make of it?

One thing Jesus points out to the Pharisees is that they participate in this societal infrastructure.  They don’t live on a deserted island but are dependent upon the imperial system for everything from the food in the marketplace to protection from thieves.  One rural community in the US recently celebrated their independence after seceding from the nearby township and its taxes.  A few days later, they were unpleasantly surprised when the town trash trucks failed to show up.

Jesus says we can’t have it both ways–if we benefit from secular society, we need to support the infrastructure of society.  This can take the form of taxes, military service, jury duty, and informed, conscientious voting.

On the other hand, Jesus says that we need to give to God what is God’s.  This is the real punch line of the story.  For God has given us everything.  In fact, it is he who raises up kings and nations and through them provides for us.  The Lord used the Babylonians to punish the stubborn disobedience of the kingdom of Judah.  But when the time of exile was completed, God used the pagan Persian king, Cyrus, to break the stranglehold of Babylon and allow the Chosen People to return home.  The prophet Isaiah even calls this unbeliever the messiah or anointed one! (Is 45:1-6)

But there are also times when political rulers overstep their authority.  Sometimes, they demand to be worshiped, like Caesar did.  Other times they attack human dignity, violating natural law which demands that innocent human life be respected and that liberty be protected.  These are times when Christians have a duty boldly to insist that while Caesar is owed his due, we won’t stand by and silently watch him step on God’s toes.

Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio’s Website click here

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Ave Maria!

I am just an itty bitty Catholic.  I went through confirmation three years ago.  And while I had a great eight month class (called Rite for Catholic Initiation for Adults) that gave a high level overview of Christianity and Catholicism, I really had no idea of why I became a Catholic.  It had something to do with the mass and the Eucharist.  I was Protestant and deeply enthralled and in love with Jesus.  Jesus was there, in the mass, in the Eucharist and that’s what I desperately wanted.

But my conversion, the mass and the Eucharist is a totally different matter.  The point is that the reason I didn’t know why I became Catholic is that I did not believe in organized religion (it was corrupt); I did not believe in the papacy (that was just an old man who is hungry for power and control (forgive me, Father, I do not believe this now)); I did not believe in praying to the Saints (that was idolatry worship); I did not believe in the validity of the traditions (Catholics just did what they did because that is what they always have done); and most of all, I did not believe that the Virgin Mary deserved the high honor that Catholics gave her.

I became Catholic anyways, because there was Jesus, my Lord, my Savior, beckoning me to Him, and I will never forget the true joy and peace that enveloped me when I first took communion, every time I take communion.  And that is why I am Catholic.  All of that other stuff, well I’m still learning and Jesus is teaching me, one thing at a time.

All of this just to say– This month is the so-called month of the Rosary, declared by Pope Benedict VXI.  The Rosary, a litany of prayers passed from Mary to the children of Fatima.  And a great starting point for me to learn more about the faith that I follow.  This month I’m going to post on the history, the meaning, a guide and more on the Rosary so that maybe together, Catholics and non-Catholics alike, we can learn God’s intention for the Rosary.

 

The month of October is called the month of the Rosary. This is a “spiritual intonation,” so to speak, provided by the liturgical memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary, which is celebrated on October 7. We are thus invited to let ourselves be guided by Mary in this ancient and ever new prayer, which is especially dear to her because it leads directly to Jesus, contemplated in his mysteries of salvation: joyous, luminous, sorrowful and glorious. In the footsteps of the venerable John Paul II (cf. Apostolic Letter, Rosarium Virginis Mariae), I would like to recall that the Rosary is a biblical prayer, completely interwoven with Sacred Scripture. It is a prayer of the heart in which the repetition of the “Hail Mary” orients one’s thought and affection toward Christ, and thus one confidently supplicates his Mother and ours. It is a prayer that aids meditation on the Word of God and is likened to Eucharistic communion on the model of Mary, who carries in her heart all Jesus did and said and his presence itself.

– from Pope Benedict XVI’s Angelus message, October 10, 2010

-Source-

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Don’t Stop!

I just recently ran in a half marathon road race with Paul, a great friend, running coach and youth Sunday school teacher.  We had been preparing for this race for months as a stepping-stone to a full marathon road race taking place next May in 2012.  I was very nervous for the race, not because I’m new to racing (I have raced long distances for college) but because I was still coming back from two years of being a couch potato.  My longest run in preparation for the race was 10 miles and for those of you unfamiliar with half marathons, the race was 13.1 miles long.  We had a plan though: we were to run for nine minutes and walk for one minute.

At the start of the race, we were towards the back of the 600 runners competing, and our first mile was something like 11:46—SLOW.  There were elbows, and shortening the stride to not step on the people in front of you, weaving in and out of people, trying to find the gaps.  My realistic goal was to run the 13.1 miles in 2:05:00, which is about 9:30 min per mile pace.  My not-so-realistic goal was 1:59:59—9:00 min per mile.  At the start though, it was a major challenge to just to keep jogging with all the people around us.  I shrugged it off, temporarily let go of my goals, and told myself to go with the flow.  As Paul had said repeatedly, “This is supposed to be for fun, right?”

We were able to pick up the pace after about mile 4.  The miles flew by fast.  Before we knew it, we had 2 miles left.  These last two miles were a struggle, more for me then for Paul.  Paul has this incredible base mileage as he has been running for some time now, and three months before, he completed a half marathon.  I was still getting my legs back.  We started talking in short two or three words: come on, we can do it, not much further.  That talk turned into: God’s strength, not mine, run for Christ and I will run and not grow weary.

At a half mile left, my stomach lurched.  Oh no, I thought.  Stay down.  We crossed the bridge and the parking lot.  Right across the street, the finish line loomed.  A couple of dozen spectators were there, cheering for the finishers.  My stomach lurched again, my legs begging to stop.  Stay down, I tell my stomach; just knowing that everything was going to come up right at the end.  We crossed the street, our legs flying beneath us.  Paul glanced down at his watch—I could see the excitement in his face at our time.  The spectators were cheering for us.  Go, go, you can do it!

Well my stomach had other plans.  Not a hundred feet from the finish, with all the people behind the ropes of the course, cheering us on, my stomach finally rebelled and whatever was left in me came up.  The cheering stopped immediately as everyone watched me empty my stomach.  They had no clue what to do.  Paul grabbed my arm and pulled me to my feet.  “Come on,” he said.  “We got to keep going.”  I nodded and forced my legs into motion.  Thirty seconds later, we stumbled through the finish line, staggering, gasping, and sweating.  Our time was 2:01:14.  Incredible.

After we walked around for a little bit, life coming back to us, I started to laugh.  With an elbow, I nudged him.  “Did you hear the crowds?”  I laughed again.  “They totally went silent when I puked.”  It was an awesome run.

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