May 12 – Bl William Tirry, OSA, (1609-1654) – Priest & Martyr


In the centuries after Christianity came to Ireland, Roman Catholicism  thrived there. In the Dark Ages it was monks from Ireland, “the island of saints and scholars,” studying in Ireland and then moving out around Europe that helped preserve European civilization. But from the time that Henry VIII broke with the Church in the 1530s until the present day, all that changed and Ireland became a place of conflict.

Some of the first casualties of that conflict were the leaders of the Catholic Church in Ireland. Between 1534 and 1714, 260 Catholic clergy and laity were martyred in Ireland. One of those was Father William Tirry.  William was born in Cork City in 1608 to a very prominent family. Twenty members of his family had been mayors of Cork through the years and his uncle was Bishop of the Diocese of Cork-Cloyne. The Tirrys were what was known as “old English,” those who had come after the Norman-English, but by the time William was born had been in Ireland for hundreds of years. Though they were loyal to the English crown, they were also staunch Catholics. William was a studious lad and, as was often the case in those days in prominent Catholic families, he was steered toward the priesthood. Though he spoke English and also learned Latin, Irish was his first language, another factor that would have enhanced his identification with Irish culture.

At the age of 18 William was accepted to study in the Augustinian order as a postulant at Cork’s “Red Abbey.” He later went to the continent, where he studied philosophy in the famous Augustinian house of study in Valladolid, Spain (below), where he was also ordained between 1634 and 1636. He then taught theology at the Augustinian College in Paris. He may have been back in Ireland by 1638. It was a fateful time in Irish history, as the Rising of 1641 was to begin shortly. Father Tirry was secretary for his uncle, the bishop, for a time. After the rebellion began, Cork was the headquarters of the Protestants of Munster province and remained relatively calm for a few years. Father Tirry was tutor to the children of two of his cousins during this time, the Sarsfields and Everards. The Everards lived in Fethard, County Tipperary, and would be very important to Father Tirry in the final years of his life.

In 1644, the ongoing conflict in Ireland finally disrupted Father Tirry’s life in Cork City, as the Catholic clergy was forced to flee. Father Tirry took refuge in the Augustinian friary in Fethard. He had several fairly peaceful years there, becoming the assistant to Father Denis O’Driscoll in 1646. They were able to minister to the local Catholics in relative peace for a few years, but the specter of Cromwell was on the horizon.

In June 1649 Father Tirry was appointed the prior of the Augustinian house in Skreen, County Meath. But Cromwell landed August 15th and occupied that area. It’s likely that Father Tirry either never took up that post, or had to flee it shortly afterwards, as he was still in Fethard in 1650. Father Peter Taaffe, who was appointed prior in Drogheda at the same time, died in the massacre by Cromwell’s troops there.

In the spring of 1650, Cromwell’s army arrived in Fethard and all the Augustinians had to scatter to the countryside and go into hiding. Father O’Driscoll and Father Tirry remained on the run in hiding in the area for the next four years, while ministering to the Catholics of the town. Father Tirry was said to have sometimes moved about disguised as a soldier and for much of the time was often hidden in the home or on the property of his former employers, the Everards. Many people in town knew the Everard family was hiding him, but for several years none betrayed him.

On January 6, 1653, the English parliament declared any Roman Catholic priest found to be ministering to a congregation in Ireland to be guilty of treason. Some priests fled to the continent, but many did not, including Father Tirry. Those who stayed had a bounty put on their heads and priest hunters roamed the countryside. It was a time of great suffering in Ireland, when famines were common and many were desperate and starving. Eventually he was betrayed by three local people, who each received 5£s.

On Holy Saturday, March 25, 1654, English soldiers broke into Father Tirry’s hiding place at the Everard property and arrested him. He was in his vestments preparing to celebrate a Mass somewhere and they also found papers in which he defended the Catholic faith. This was irrefutable evidence against him.

Ordinarily this would have resulted in Mrs. Everard (a widow) being arrested and probably executed for aiding a priest, but the family must have been well connected and she was not harmed. Father Tirry was transported to Clonmel Gaol. Not every clergyman who was caught at the time was executed — some were deported. There were several other held in the gaol with Father Tirry then who were banished rather than being executed, including Fathers Walter Conway and Matthew Fogarty, who would provide much of the extant information of Father Tirry’s imprisonment and execution. Fathers Conway and Fogarty reported that Father Tirry immediately improved the morale of the prisoners with his piety and positive attitude.

His efforts ministering to the local population over the preceding decade must have left a strong impression on them, for Conway and Fogarty reported that when the Catholics in the area heard that Father Tirry was in the gaol, crowds of them came there to see him. Marshal Richard Rouse, who ran the gaol, apparently admired Father Tirry as well, as he went out of his way to see to his comforts and allowed some of his many visitors to see him.

As with nearly all trials of Irishmen at that time and for nearly three more centuries to come, the assigned jurors were those the government trusted to return the “correct” verdict. This jury included a Cromwellian commissioner and an army colonel who would no doubt keep the other jurors in line. And in the case of Father Tirry, it’s likely that his high standing with the local Catholic population worked against him with regard to banishment versus execution, as did the writings that found when he was arrested, which were highly critical of the Protestant church of Ireland. If he knew that, it did not cause him to waver in his faith.

At his trial, when pressed to bend to the government’s authority, he replied that, “in temporal matters I acknowledge no higher power in the kingdom of Ireland than yours, but in spiritual affairs wherein my soul is concerned, I acknowledge the Pope of Rome and my own superiors to have greater power over me than you others.” He must have known such a pronouncement would make them believe that even if exiled he would return again, ensuring his death, but his faith was stronger than his fear of death.

Both Fathers Tirry and Fogarty, who were tried together, were sentenced to death, but in Fogarty’s case the sentence was commuted to banishment. Marshal Rouse allowed Father Tirry to be held in a house he owned after his trial, so people could easily came and visit him while awaiting word of when his sentence would be carried out. In a last act of kindness to his flock, Father Tirry had 46 loaves of bread given to the poor to atone for the sins of his 46 years of life. On May 11th, he was informed he would die the following day, and replied in his native Irish, “God Almighty be thanked who chose me for this happy end.”

On the morning of the 12th, Marshal Rouse arrived to take Father Tirry to be hung. After having his hands manacled, he knelt in the door and got a final blessing from his fellow priests, whose affection for him must have created a most poignant scene. The procession to the gallows was guarded by English soldiers, as well it needed to be, as the streets thronged with people coming to see their beloved priest for the last time. Many were said to be weeping and some grabbed the hem of his garment and kissed it, receiving his blessing. He walked holding a set of beads, reciting the rosary as he went to the market square of Clonmel.

Reaching the gallows, Father Tirry was allowed by Rouse to address the crowd, much to the displeasure of a Protestant reverend who implored Rouse to “get on with it” in the middle of the father’s gallows speech. But Rouse’s kindness to Father Tirry would continue. The crowd now was turning angry at what was about to happen and pressing in toward the solders surrounding the gallows, but Father Tirry implored them to stay calm and allow him to “go in peace.”

“I would have life and favor if I defected to you,” Father Tirry told the reverend, “but, I prefer to die for the true religion.” And, in his final comments, he showed how deep his devotion to that religion was, when he forgave the three residents of Fethard who had betrayed his location to the English, and prayed for their salvation. He also asked any priest who might be in disguise in the crowd, as they would have to be, to offer him absolution. His old friend Father O’Driscoll was, indeed, there and surreptitiously gave it. O’Driscoll was still on the run and would never be captured, but his health would be broken by that exhausting life and he would be dead the following year.

Father Tirry then signaled to Rouse, who had assured him he would not give the command to push him from the ladder on which he was standing until he was ready, that he was prepared for the end. The deed was done and the crowded gasped as the good Father’s neck snapped and his lifeless body hung before them. It was said that none who witnessed it, Catholic or Protestant, failed to be admire the strength and courage with which Father Tirry had faced his final moments on earth.

The mayor of Fethard was allowed to bring Father Tirry’s body back there. He was buried in the grounds of the Abbey in Fethard, though its exact location is lost to us. His sacrifice for his faith was not forgotten by the people of Ireland, however. In 1919, Father Tirry was one of 260 Irish martyrs whose names were submitted to Rome for sainthood. On September 27, 1992, 17 Irish martyrs were beatified by Pope John Paul II, and on that list was William Tirry, now one step away from being a saint.

Loving Father, we praise you for the seal of holiness your Church placed on Blessed William Tirry of Fethard, who willingly gave his life for your Gospel truth which he professed and lived. Grant through his intercession an answer to our prayers now in our time of need. We pray especially for………………… May your holy will be done. We trust in your mercy, and pray too that in your blessed providence, the name Blessed William will soon be added to the list of our saints.

We make our prayer through Christ our Lord.


Martyrdom? Want fries with that?


The word “martyr” means witness. While we generally associate it with death for a cause, Christian life has a more general, and beautiful, imho, understanding. In Catholicism, there is an expression, “state-of-life”. What is meant by that is that one is truly a Christian witness in a faithful, and faith-filled holy state-of-life: marriage, holy orders, religious life, single, chastity, etc., never associated with sin intentionally, one is bearing true witness to the Author of Life, to the Risen Lord. None of this is easy. The sinner deceives themselves into thinking some pleasure or distraction will make this life easy. There is none. The Prince of Lies still deceives effectively the many who listen to his lies.

The day-in-day-out fidelity to that state-of-life is not purposeless or meaningless suffering or drudgery, hardly, although it may seem very much like “Groundhog Day”. Living one’s Christian vocation, life, and state-of-life, is and can be and often is a heroic “living martyrdom”, a living prayer of action, of praise of Him Who is Author, Creator, Unmoved First Cause, to be Thomistic, of Life. One’s state-of-life, while not a sentence, and always able to be improved in Christian definition, is to be borne patiently, with strength, determination, maturity, and resolve, made only possible through prayer and that interior, intimate relationship, with Him, Who “allows us to do ALL THINGs”(Phil 4:13), because it is He, Himself, Who strengthens us!!! Praise Him!!! Praise Him!!!

In living this “living martyrdom” we atone for our own sins, or we add to the “treasury of merit”, where we atone for the sins of others, who have not the will nor wisdom nor the resolve, or whose sins are so grievous, they can never atone for all by themselves, infinitely in cooperation with and in praise of the Master’s most supreme salvific act on the Holy Cross, in this life. Catholicism is a community. We pray, we suffer, we love, we rejoice, we atone, together, no matter where in the world we live, or at what time we lived. For all of time is but a single moment to Him, Who is the Author of time, yet outside its bounds and constraints.

-by Fr Robert McTeigue, SJ

“What kind of martyrdom are you preparing for?” That seems an odd question—for two reasons. First, it suggests there’s more than one kind of martyrdom—something other than submitting to being killed for the Faith. Second, in North America at least, it seems alarmist to urge Christians to prepare for martyrdom, as if Christians were being herded for slaughter as they were in ancient Rome. Let’s look at both issues.

Strictly speaking, to be a true martyr, one’s blood must be shed unto death, by those who hate the Faith. More broadly speaking, drawing on some sources of Celtic spirituality, some speak of “red,” “white” or “blue” martyrdom. According to this tradition, red martyrdom is suffering unto death undertaken for Christ; white martyrdom is a renouncing of the goods of the world for the sake of purity and self-control; blue (sometimes translated as “green”) martyrdom is a life of tears, fasting and penance undertaken for the repentance of one’s sins. (Leave it to the Irish to work out a full taxonomy of suffering.) Love of God may afford us the opportunity to lay down our lives all at once (as in red martyrdom), or as a daily offering over many years (as in white or blue martyrdom).

In recent conversations with faithful Catholics, I’ve heard the term “white martyrdom” to refer to those living the duties of their state in life, at great cost, day by day: Parents caring for very sick children; students accepting the severe discipline that academic excellence may require; doctors and nurses who daily confront disease and death with no end in sight.

So understood, I think of a Jesuit who taught chemistry to high school boys for over 40 years—who knows what depths of resolve he had to call upon day by day. And I think of my father, who retired early and spent the last 15 years of his life caring for my sick mother. These men bit by bit, day by day, year by year—for great love, offered themselves in sacrifice. I must believe that God always blesses such offerings.

It’s easy to imagine Christians in the Middle East for example (but not only there) considering the real possibility or even likelihood of red martyrdom. In North America, at least, sectarian violence is still shocking because it is rare. Europe is somewhere between the two. Who has any assurance that anti-Christian hatred, both sporadic and systematic, will not spread and persist?

Meanwhile, cultural and civil animus against Christianity is heating up in North America. Even if Christians here are not subject to systematic violence, they are becoming more and more unwelcome in the post-modern, post-Christian West. It will require heroism, love, duty, honor, and a radical openness to grace to persevere during the storms that are about to break upon us. And how are we as a culture and people of faith preparing?

Apparently, our youth have become so delicate that at least one university is offering 24/7 counseling to students upset by Halloween costumes. The office of “campus ministries” of a self-identified Catholic school is offering a retreat and asking students to dress as their favorite Disney characters. In other words, exaggerated sensitivities and decorated fantasies are being offered our “best and brightest.” Can we expect them to endure times of trial and persecution? Can we honestly describe infantilized adults as the crowning achievement of our culture?

This was my father’s favorite Bible verse: When you come to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for trials. Be sincere of heart and steadfast, undisturbed in times of adversity. Cling to Him, forsake Him not; thus will your future be great. Accept what befalls you; in crushing misfortune be patient. For, in fire gold is tested, and worthy men in the crucible of humiliation. Trust God and He will help you. Make straight your ways and hope in Him. You who fear the Lord, wait for His mercy. Turn not away, lest you fall. (Sirach 2:1-7)

We may well be called to martyrdom in one form or another. We must certainly take up our cross to follow Christ. Those who wish to distinguish themselves in the service of Christ the King can expect burning hatred from the world and purifying fire from Heaven. Saint Ignatius Loyola warned: “Nothing worthy of God can be done without earth being set in uproar and hell’s legions roused.”

Martyrs or not, we are all called to bear witness to Christ and to be faithful to the end. Knowing that, let’s take up what the Church has always offered to those who would be saints: Scripture, Sacraments, prayer, penance and fasting. With these, God has made many saints. With these, God can make saints of you and me.”

Love & blessed martyrdom in the Master’s love & service & praise, and the grace of imitating Him in every way,

Oct 16 – St Jose Sanchez del Rio, age 14 – Martyr, “!!Viva Cristo Rey!!”




-by Fr Robert McTeigue, SJ

“October 16, 2016, the Church will celebrate the canonization of Bl Jose Sanchez del Rio (pictured above), a 14-year old martyr of the Cristero War, when the Church suffered extreme governmental persecution in Mexico in the 1920s. When he refused to renounce Christ, the boy’s captors tortured him and gave him one last chance to blaspheme. He replied, “Viva Cristo Rey, y Santa Maria de Guadalupe!” He was then repeatedly stabbed and finally shot. Eyewitnesses reported that he drew a cross in the dirt, kissed it, and died.

I’ve been haunted by the story of young Jose since I first learned of him via the movie, “For Greater Glory,” which depicted the Cristero War. How did that 14-year old boy acquire at so young an age such heroic fidelity?

“God’s grace” is the obvious and correct answer—but it is only part of the answer. Grace doesn’t ignore or erase what is human and natural. The Church has always taught that “grace builds on nature.” In other words, that young Jose could be both so faithful and so young says a lot about both God and about Jose. What happened to Jose before his martyrdom that enabled him to receive the grace of martyrdom when it was offered to him?

For the last four weeks, I have been writing here about our collective failure to raise our youth to Christian maturity. The many efforts to make the Faith “fun,” “exciting,” “relevant,” etc., over the past 45 year have not resulted in two generations of mature and confident Catholics who live for the Faith, can hand on the Faith, and are ready to die for the Faith. In the United States, the second largest “denomination” of Christians is former Catholics. Clearly, what we have been doing isn’t working. Who would be willing to wager that what we’re doing now will produce the next generation of saints and martyrs?

So we have to ask: How did young Jose become Saint Jose? Through “clown liturgies”? Through dancers at Mass? T-shirts and light sticks at retreats? Homilies celebrating “diversity, tolerance, acceptance and inclusion”? I can’t say for sure—I wasn’t there.

But whatever else he may have received from those responsible for his spiritual formation, I’m willing to bet that more than once he heard, “We proclaim Christ Crucified!” (1 Corinthians 1:23-24) I’m willing to bet that more than once he heard about “The Four Last Things” (Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell.) And I’m willing to bet that he knew how and why to be reverent at Mass, pray the Rosary, make a good Confession, and attend Eucharistic Adoration and Benediction.

In sum, I can assert with confidence that much of what made this young boy into a saint are the same things that for centuries have made saints, namely, precisely those things that we rarely if ever offer to our young people today. Of course, I tremble when I consider whether I or anyone will stand fast when true persecution comes. I tremble more when I look at the last 45 years and the immediate present, and see that we will not have to worry about our youth being driven away from Christ by persecution, when we are already letting them drift away from Christ by the culture and our own fecklessness and wishful thinking.

God will ask us whether we gave to the young entrusted to us what they needed from us to become saints. In particular, He will ask us if we gave them our own good example. My friends, let us repent and pursue sanctity, and teach our children to do the same—for time is running short.


Psalm 130 – De Profundis clamavi ad te Domini

©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. OjŽda
-Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry, Folio 70r – De Profundis, the Musée Condé, Chantilly.

For 800 yrs Dominicans have lined the hallways of their priories, where they have buried their dead, and sung the De Profundis, in remembrance. Very moving to experience. I also have the pleasure of owning and having read Fr. Ciszek’s, SJ, book He Leadeth Me.

Profound sinner though I am, I pray, Lord, if it be Your holy will, allow me the privilege and grace to suffer and die for You!! Better yet, let me despise my many sins, and live instead in faithfulness to You and Your will. Amen.

De profundis clamavi ad te, Domine!
Out of the depths, I cry to You, O Lord!

-by Br Philip Nolan, OP

“After years of interrogation at the hands of the Soviet secret police, the American Jesuit Walter Ciszek reached a breaking point. He had been falsely accused of spying for the Vatican and was subjected to isolation and near starvation. As he records in his autobiographical account He Leadeth Me, under this strain his prayer life and mental stability both collapsed in a moment of despair: “I knew that I had gone beyond all bounds, had crossed over the brink into a fit of blackness I had never known before.” The cause of this crisis? He had always conceived of his “role—man’s role—in the divine economy as an active one,” but now, brought to destitution & desolation, he hadn’t the strength to go on. Thus for “one sickening split second,” he gave up on his life and on his salvation.

He came out of this experience only after being stripped of all trust in his own strength: “I realized I had been trying to do something with my own will and intellect that was at once too much and mostly all wrong.” He discovered that he had to see that every action, every impulse, was a moment for cooperation with the directive love of God.

While Ciszek came to understand what it meant to rely on God’s grace through extraordinary suffering, it’s something we all have to learn. And for all of us, it involves suffering—primarily, the suffering of dying to self. How do we let go of that trust in ourselves that makes us so defensive when challenged, so worried when we’re uncertain about the future, and so frustrated when things don’t go according to our plans? So much of our mental and spiritual energy goes into protecting that center of false self-reliance that its removal seems impossible for us. And, for man, it is impossible.

The psalmist tells God, “It was good for me to be afflicted / to learn Your will.” That’s fairly easy to say in a moment of contentment, but if someone told that to me during the miseries of the stomach flu, let alone in a Soviet prison camp, I’d find it much harder to believe. But notice that the psalmist says it was good—he’s reflecting on the past. He didn’t necessarily see or appreciate the point of afflictions while they happened, but in retrospect he can begin to see why God had allowed the difficulties in his life. His understanding came from a habit of reflecting about what had happened to him, what God had allowed. [PRAISE HIM!!! PRAISE HIM!!!]

I’m reminded of the title character in Marilynne Robinson’s novel Lila. She spends much of the book musing: “I just been wondering lately why things happen the way they do.” It sounds like a simple question, but the very phrasing of it implies a deep insight—things happen. Like the psalmist and Ciszek, Lila, too, had suffered. She had known what it was to be powerless. She had lived a childhood that would have been disorienting and traumatizing to the steadiest disposition. If someone told her she was the maker of her own destiny, it would have sounded a farce to her. As a result, she lives a posture towards her own life that is one of wonder—“I just been wondering”—even if it’s a wonder that is often confused and frightened.

Things happen to us and we don’t know why. We don’t create our lives; we haven’t chosen many of their events. We both participate in the story of our lives and observe them. As we live, and suffer, we have the opportunity again and again to wonder and ponder why things happen the way they do. Over time, we can hope with Ciszek “to see [God’s] will in all things, … to accept every situation and circumstance and let oneself be borne along in perfect confidence and trust.” [PRAISE HIM!!! PRAISE HIM!!!]

Love & trusting in the the Divine Will. Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief!!!

Semper Ecclesia Reformanda: Franciscan vs Lutheran reform


-by Dr. Taylor Marshall

“Essentially, Francis teaches us that we cannot fight heresy by creating new heresies. Francis always submitted to the Church, the popes, and the bishops.

Whenever “reformation” begins to the buck against the institutional Church, more heresy arises. For example, in many regards the Monophysite heresy (i.e. “Christ has one nature”) was an over-reaction to the Nestorian heresy (i.e. “Christ is two persons”). The Catholic Church has always sought to aim directly at the truth, and not merely at the destruction of error. Too often the refutation of error crosses over into further error.

Similarly, Luther and Calvin sought to displace misunderstandings about grace and merit (i.e. the faulty nominalism spawned by William of Ockham) by creating an alternate vision of grace and merit (which ironically embraced Ockham’s nominalism and repackaged it). Luther’s “solution” was in fact heretical. A quick fix is often faulty. Duct tape can “fix” almost anything – but it eventually gives way to other problems.

The annals of Church history are filled with Catholic Reformers: Paul, Athanasius, John Chrysostom, Maximus, John Damascene, Pope Gregory VII, Francis, Dominic, Catherine of Sienna, Ignatius, Teresa of Avila, et al. Each of these Catholic Reformers retained the unity of Christ’s Church, submitted to church leadership, and patiently brought about renewal. In many cases, each experienced active persecution from other Christians and even fell under the suspicion of heresy. However, their humility and silence eventually vindicated their cause as advocates for the evangelical truth of Christ’s doctrine.

Saint Francis of Assisi is perhaps one of the best examples of patience in the cause of reform. When St Francis went to Rome to seek recognition from the Pope, the Pope dismissed him impatiently and told him to go “lie down with the pigs.”

After a little while, Francis returned smeared with swine feces and stinking to high heaven. When the Pope objected, Francis answered, “I obeyed your words and merely did as you said. I lay down with the pigs.” Suddenly the Pope realized that this was a holy man who was willing to obey even in the face of humiliation. The Pope listened to Francis’ vision for renewal and the rest is history.

When rebuffed by the pope, Saint Francis could have appealed to Sacred Scripture, showing this his pattern of life was poor and lowly like that of Christ. He might even have contrasted his own “biblical life” against the extravagance of the Papal court. Francis may even have rightly rebuked the abbots, bishops, and cardinals for lacking evangelical witness. Instead, Francis followed the path of Christ. He allowed himself to be misunderstood and maligned, knowing that God would bring about his vindication…and God always does.

Contrast Saint Francis to Martin Luther. Luther did not visit Rome for confirmation of his cause, nor did he respect the structures of the Church. In fact, Cardinal Cajetan met privately with Luther and explained how Luther might modify his message so that Cajetan could have it approved by the Roman Curia. If Luther had moved more slowly and charitably, he may have become “Saint” Martin Luther.

Unfortunately, Luther was adamant and stiff-necked. He would not attempt compromise. If the Pope would not agree with him, then he would reject the papacy. Period. Luther would not tolerate any authority that failed to support him immediately and without question. Consequently, when the papal bull arrived, Luther burned it publicly and began to curse the pope as Antichrist.

Note the difference between Francis and Luther. The former moved slowly and humbly. The latter acted independently and rashly. Consequently, the history of Protestantism is marked by rash and hasty division – there are now 36,000 Protestant denominations.

As the Apostle James wrote: “the anger of man does not work the righteousness of God” (Jas 1:20). History shows that God does not use “hot-heads” to guide His Church into righteousness. God chooses those who are little, meek, and humble – for such is the kingdom of Heaven.

Herein lies the mystery of Catholic Reform.”

Love & truth,

“Quod scripsi, scripsi.”


“What I have written, I have written. (Quod scripsi, scripsi.)” Those were the words of Pontius Pilate after directing that a sign be affixed to Jesus of Nazareth’s cross. On it was inscribed, “Jesus the Nazorean, the King of the Jews,” written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek. The Jews protested, saying that the sign ought to read, “He said, ‘I am the King of the Jews.’” But Pilate would not be moved.

The sign Pilate authorized didn’t reflect his own beliefs about Jesus. As prefect of the Roman province of Judaea, he certainly didn’t have the authority or the desire to proclaim anyone king. He did, however, wish to send a message: This is what happens to pretended kings. For those who believed that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah King, the placard proclaimed the Truth. For the Jews who didn’t believe, it was an insult and a warning. For Pilate, it was a useful tool to send a message.

If, centuries later, Pilate’s sign were the only record in existence about Jesus, we could still deduce a few things about the One Who hung on a cross at Calvary: His name was Jesus; He was from the town of Nazareth; and His execution was the result of a controversy over His kingship. Despite its intended purpose to ridicule, to warn, and maybe even to incite anger, the sign still says something true about the events that led up to Calvary. Pontius Pilate’s sign, therefore, is a hostile witness.

The Praise of Enemies

The Psalm says, “Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings You have perfected praise, because of Your enemies” (Ps. 8:2 LXX). Not only do the righteous praise Christ because of His enemies, but His enemies offer their own kind of praise. Their praise doesn’t come in the form of a compliment or some other sort of honor; it comes from the simple admission of the truth. Pilate affirmed the truth when his involvement in Jesus’ condemnation unwittingly produced the inscription. And that’s the curious thing about some of the historic enemies of the Church. When they were confronted with something about Christ or his Church that was too obvious to deny, they were forced to do one of two things: either concede the point and repackage it to suit their own purposes, or attempt to explain it away. Regardless of which action they took, the result remains the same: They still attest that they’ve encountered something about Christ or his Church that was real and needed to be dealt with. In other words, they attest to the Truth.

We call these unwitting corroborators of the truth hostile witnesses. They are, as the phrase suggests, witnesses who were hostile to Christ, his Church, or some aspect of his Church. Their testimonies are the best kind of evidence because they can’t be said to reflect bias in favor of the Faith or the Church—quite the opposite, in fact. Yet despite their probative value, these hostile testimonies haven’t been plumbed for all they are worth.

Direct and Indirect Evidence

Christian apologists naturally focus most of their attention on direct evidence in favor of their beliefs drawn from primary source material such as the New Testament, the early Church fathers, and a few extra-biblical sources. But indirect evidence can attest just as powerfully to a given fact or event.

Hostile witnesses sometimes provide direct evidence. They may speak directly about Jesus, where He lived, what He did, how and when He died, and so on. This information is very valuable. Indeed, “historical Jesus” research focuses almost exclusively on such statements. The real value of hostile witnesses, however, is when they provide indirect evidence. When confronted with some brute fact that was contrary to their belief system, they are forced to deal with it, and their evasive actions signal to us some truth about Christ and his Church that they are attempting to avoid.

It is true that direct evidence usually provides more detail about a certain fact or event than indirect evidence. The latter is like the shadows cast by an illumined figure—by themselves, they reveal little more than the figure’s broad outline. But something remarkable occurs when the figure and its shadow are viewed together: a fuller, more three-dimensional figure emerges. Such is the effect of studying direct and indirect evidence about Christ and His Church—including hostile testimony.

Apologetic Value

Studying Christ and His Church through the eyes of their enemies also has a practical benefit. Many of these opponents speak to issues that weren’t raised until centuries after they lived. In such cases, their value is doubled because they can’t be accused of harboring a bias; even if they were hostile to the Faith they had no knowledge of these future issues. Here’s an example: In modern times it became popular to claim that Jesus of Nazareth never existed. The pagan Roman historian Tacitus had no notion of this claim. His concern was to write about the persecutions under Nero. If Jesus was just a mythical figure fabricated by Christians, Tacitus would have had every reason to point it out—but he didn’t. Instead, he speaks about Jesus as someone who actually lived and was executed under Pontius Pilate—confirming that Jesus was no myth. Another example: a pagan graffito found in a building on Rome’s Palatine Hill, estimated to have been made around A.D. 200, depicts a man named Alexamenos worshipping a donkey-headed man crucified on a cross. What the ancient graffitist couldn’t have known is that centuries later a group called the Jehovah’s Witnesses would claim that Jesus was executed on a stake, not a cross. But this pagan’s attempt to mock Christianity provides evidence that they are wrong. Both Tacitus and the pagan graffitist, then, though hostile toward Christ and his Church, inadvertently vindicated certain truths about Christianity.

More to the Story

These historic foes of the Church also make wonderful allies when it comes to combating historic anti-Catholic and anti-Christian myths that have taken root in our time. Many of these myths are so thoroughly ingrained in the popular imagination that it is difficult to debunk them. The reason for this difficulty is that these myths provide simplistic, two-dimensional and easy-to-grasp explanations of complex events.

Here is where hostile testimony can be particularly effective. Hostile witnesses can be called upon in argument to give bite-sized counter-evidence that raises the possibility that the myth isn’t telling the whole story. For example, if someone asserts that the Crusades were genocidal attempts to forcibly convert all Jews and Muslims, they first have to explain the testimonies of the Muslim chronicler Ibn Jubayr and Rabbi Ephraim ben Jacob of Bonn, who speak otherwise. Again, if someone asserts that the Inquisition was a murderous tool of the Church that killed millions of innocent people, you can call to its defense the former inquisitor Llorente, who had an ax to grind against his former employer, or even a hostile letter to the pope written by King Ferdinand of Spain.

Thus, the main purpose of invoking testimony of hostile witnesses is to show that there is more to certain assertions about Church history than what most people have been led to believe. Since their hostility toward the Faith makes it impossible to dismiss their statements as Catholic propaganda, hostile testimony is able to cut through the facade of these anti-Catholic and anti-Christian myths, and opens the door for further investigation.

Laying a Foundation

Hostile Witnesses contains a veritable rogues’ gallery of the historic opponents of the Faith, beginning with those recorded in the New Testament. In many ways, this initial layer of hostile testimonies serves as a baseline for later ones. By reviewing them chronologically, it’s possible to see how certain assertions and accusations evolved over time. Cross-references are included to help the reader see these connections as the book progresses.

After the fourth century, our attention turns from individual witnesses to topics and events such as the rise of Islam, the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Protestant Reformation, the miracles at Lourdes, and events connected with the two world wars. These parts provide counter-evidence to various myths and slanders about the Church, and show how it survives with the same supernatural vigor that it had in its earliest centuries.

Questions Unasked

One oddity that will appear over and over again is the hostile witness’s inability to ask the obvious questions. They will supply all sorts of explanations and excuses to explain some aspect of Christianity that they’ve encountered, but they rarely ask why. Questions like: Why does the name Jesus heal? Why do Christians work miracles? Why are people following a dead leader? As these unasked questions begin to accumulate, an unexpected picture begins to emerge from the murk of their anti-Christian and anti-Catholic vitriol. At first it is difficult to make out, but it is there, lurking between the lines of their discourses, buried under their insults, and hiding behind their obfuscations. We have only to uncover it by asking the questions they chose not to.  (Amen.  Praise Him!!!)

Q. The concept for this book is different than any other Catholic apologetics resource out there. Where did it come from?

A. The idea started years ago while researching Church history. Every now and then I would stumble across a hostile quote or some other item that made me think, “Wow! That person just conceded a very important point,” or “This person doesn’t realize it, but he is inadvertently affirming something that anti-Catholics deny.” As these quotes accumulated, it dawned on me that putting these testimonies together in a book would not only be a fascinating read, it could prove to be an incredibly powerful apologetic tool that—to the best of my knowledge—has never been done on this scale.

Q. What is a “hostile witness” when it comes to talking about apologetics?

A. The term hostile witness is usually used in law courts, but the book uses it in its plain sense—namely, someone or something that is hostile or antagonistic to the Faith and yet bears witness to some truth about Christianity. In this sense, a hostile witness could be someone like the emperor Julian the Apostate, who tried to undermine and destroy Christianity; or King Ferdinand of Spain, who opposed papal interventions during the Spanish Inquisition but generally was a good Catholic. Hostile testimony also comes in other forms, such as a marble table known as the Nazareth Inscription or ancient anti-Christian graffiti or even Egyptian magical incantations. Each of these things reveals some truth about Christ and his Church in their own way. It’s just a matter of asking the right questions.

Q. You go through a pretty significant number of hostile witnesses in the book. Which grouping of witnesses gives the best evidence from an apologetic standpoint?

A. We cover testimonies from the New Testament era all the way through to World War II. What’s beautiful about this book is that its usefulness isn’t restricted to one subject. It has many different applications in several different apologetics fields. If you’re talking to skeptics or atheists, the earliest evidence will be very helpful in establishing things like the bona fides of miracles, Christ as a real historical person, the truth of the Resurrection, and debunking mythicists views, just to name a few. There is material that can be helpful in Christian-Jewish dialogues. Later in the book, chapters are dedicated to periods that are often misunderstood, such as the Crusades, the Inquisition, and even the myth of “Hitler’s pope.”

Q. With the large number of Protestant denominations and world religions out there, would it be fair to say that the number of hostile witnesses continues to grow every day?

A. I think that’s a fair statement. In fact, there were a lot of testimonies that had to be left out because they were too recent. I wanted to provide testimony where people died without recanting their statements so that we know what they wrote was their frank and unadulterated position.

Q. What apologetic points are strengthened most often by the testimony of these “Hostile Witnesses”?

A. It’s common today to reduce Christ to an idea shaped by opinion or view his Church as a mere personal preference. Using Scripture and the early Father fathers are helpful in dispelling these misconceptions, but the testimonies of hostile witnesses do something more. These historic enemies of the Christ and the Church were not dealing with an opinion or a lifestyle preference; they were dealing with what was for them a real concrete problem, a historical reality that they could neither ignore nor avoid. The best they could do was to attempt to dismiss it, paint it in the worst possible light, or explain it away. In this way, Hostile Witnesses strengthens practically every field in Christian and Catholic apologetics.

Q. You mention in the book that Hostile Witnesses surprised even you, the author. How so?

A. My original intent for Hostile Witnesses was to propose a new approach in Catholic and Christian apologetics and I believe the book does that. However, once all the testimonies were gathered and I began to read them through as a whole, I noticed something amazing. In fact, it almost knocked me off my seat. When you view Christ and his Church through the concessions of his enemies, a new and exciting picture emerges, not unlike, I imagine, the first time the Shroud of Turin was viewed as a photo negative. New features that were not very noticeable before (because they had become so commonplace) suddenly come to life. These testimonies show that something explosive and astounding happened in first century Judea surrounding Jesus of Nazareth and that the supernatural character of that event continues with the same vitality and vigor in the Church through the ages up to today. Many of the hostile witnesses tried to dismiss it. Some even tried to eradicate it. But in the end, their opposition only serves to highlight the supernatural character of Christ and his Church.

Q. How would you recommend using this resource when it comes to explaining the Catholic Faith to non-Catholics?

A. There’s an old Jewish saying, “a fool jumps into a well and a hundred wise men are needed to bring him out.” It is so much easier to raise an objection than answer it. Someone could make a remark about “The Inquisition” or the crusades in a sentence or two, but it would take an hour long lecture to explain why they are wrong. Hostile testimony can prove to be a short and effective rejoinder. For example, if someone says that the crusades were a genocidal attack by Christians to wipe out Islam and take over their lands, you could respond like this: “Really? Why did Ibn Jubayr – a devout Muslim with decidedly anti-Christian views – say that Muslims in Christian occupied lands were treated more justly and given more liberty than those in Muslim occupied territories?” Or if someone says that Pope Pius XII was silent against the Nazi regime, you could reply: “Why did Reinhard Heydrich’s office issue a communiqué stating the Pope attacked everything that the National Socialists stood for?” As you can see, hostile testimony won’t give the whole picture or a complete defense of a subject, but it is incredible helpful for exposing the fact that the objector hasn’t been told the whole story and that can be an opening for further discussions.”

Love & truth,

Why God still matters…


-by Karlo Broussard

“Have you noticed how some of the New Atheists don’t even bother trying to disprove God’s existence? Your arguments in favor of God don’t even deserve a reply, they say, because not only does God not exist—He doesn’t even matter.

We don’t need God to explain the universe, they say. We don’t need Him to be moral or happy. And we don’t need Him to guide us or help figure things out—science can take care of that. Take away the need for God, they conclude, and the human urge to believe in Him disappears.

Q. Why do most atheists think that there necessarily has to be a conflict between faith and science?

A. One reason is because they [mistakenly] think science is the only rational form of inquiry, making all theological explanations unworthy of a rational person. Second, they think science is sufficient to explain the universe, thus booting any necessity for God out when it comes to explaining the universe.

Q. What’s the most effective way to show a non-believer that God does still matter?

A. In the DVD, I show that God matters because without Him we wouldn’t exist. That of course requires a proof for God’s existence, which I provide. I also think we can show the absurdity of rejecting God’s existence. If God doesn’t exist, then complete and perfect happiness is impossible, in which case life is absurd. Moreover, if God doesn’t exist, then there can be no moral obligation. By the showing the absurdities that atheistic “logic” leads to, unbelievers may come to reconsider their rejection of God.

Q. How does the rejection of God undermine objective morality?

A. It doesn’t necessarily undermine an objective knowledge of what is good and bad for human beings. This is something we can know given our human nature. Nature directs us to certain ends, the achievement of which is good and the frustration of which is bad. But the rejection of God does undermine the moral obligation to follow the ordering of human nature. If the dictates of human nature do not express the will of the Supreme Being, then there can be no obligation to follow it. How can there be any obligation to follow the natural moral law if there is no lawgiver behind it?

Q. You say that, without God, life falls into absurdity. Can you explain?

A. Why do we do the things we do? For the sake of happiness! [Ed.  this is where the Catholic argument begins.  If you ask anyone, “Aren’t we supposed to be happy?  They would immediately say, ‘Yes!’  Without the ‘Yes!’ to innately desiring and knowing happiness is supposed to be our natural state, and rejecting any state, plainly, which is less than that, is where the Catholic argument begins.  To intentionally, soberly desire less than happiness, is to exhibit unhealthy emotional symptoms.  The desire for happiness is rational, reasonable, possible, real, human, us.]  It [happiness] is the one thing we can’t [directly] choose, but everything else is chosen for the sake of it [happiness; to get to happiness].

Now, there are some desires we have as human beings that can be satisfied without God and thus experience happiness to a certain extent. The unbeliever can experience sensory pleasure, success and achievement, and the joy of loving relationships. [These may give pleasure for a period of time, but their satisfaction illusory; it fades.  We are still left hungry.  They DO NOT satisfy finally, in a complete way, which we deeply, deeply desire, hunger for, and NEED!!]

There are some desires, however, that can’t be satisfied without God—namely, the desire for perfect and unconditional knowledge, love, goodness or justice, and beauty. Only God can satisfy these desires, because only God is infinite knowledge, love, goodness, and beauty itself. So, without God, it is impossible to be completely satisfied as a human being. We would be condemned to a life of perpetual dissatisfaction, which constitutes the absurdity of life.”

Love, faith, hope, truth,

Sola Scriptura? produces bad fruit, namely disunity & division



-by Joel Peters

“If the doctrine of Sola Scriptura were true, then it should be expected that Protestants would all be in agreement in terms of doctrine, as the Bible could not simultaneously teach contradictory beliefs. And yet the reality is that there are literally thousands (35) of Protestant sects and denominations, each of which claims to have the Bible as its only guide, each of which claims to be preaching the truth, yet each of which teaches something different from the others. Protestants claim that they differ only in non-essential or peripheral matters, but the fact is that they cannot even agree on major doctrinal issues such as the Eucharist, salvation, and justification – to name a few.

For instance, most Protestant denominations teach that Jesus Christ is only symbolically present in the Eucharist, while others (such as Lutherans and Episcopalians) believe that He is literally present, at least to some extent. Some denominations teach that once you are “saved” you can never lose your salvation, while others believe it is possible for a true Christian to sin gravely and cease being “saved.” And some denominations teach that justification involves the Christian’s being merely declared righteous, while others teach that the Christian must also grow in holiness and actually become righteous.

Our Lord categorically never intended for His followers to be as fragmented, disunited and chaotic as the history of Protestantism has been since its very inception. (36) Quite the contrary, He prayed for His followers: “That they all may be one, as thou, Father, in me, and I in thee; that they also may be one in us.” (John 17:21). And St. Paul exhorts Christians to doctrinal unity with the words, “One body and one Spirit… One Lord, one faith, one baptism.” (Eph. 4:4-5). How, then, can the thousands of Protestant denominations and sects all claim to be the “true Church” when their very existence refutes this claim? How can such heterodoxy and contradiction in doctrine be the unity for which Our Lord prayed?

In this regard, the reader should be reminded of Christ’s own words: “For by the fruit the tree is known.” (Matt. 12:33). By this standard, the historical testimony afforded by Protestantism demonstrates that the tree of Sola Scriptura is producing bad fruit.”


35. By some estimates there are approximately 25,000 different Protestant denominations and sects. In the approximately 500 years since Protestantism’s origin with Martin Luther (usually dated at 1517), this number translates into an average of one new Protestant denomination or sect every week! Even if you take a conservative estimate of 10,000 denominations and sects, you still have a new one developing every 2 ½ weeks.

36. Even the original “Reformers” – Martin Luther, John Calvin and Ulrich Zwingli – did not agree on doctrinal matters and labeled each other’s teachings heretical.

Aug 2 – St Peter Faber, SJ, Priest, Co-founder of the Society of Jesus, patron saint of business?


-by Chris Lowney

“I want to propose a new patron saint for business people: Peter Faber.

On Dec. 17, 2014, Pope Francis signed the bull of canonization recognizing Faber as a saint, and the relatively low-key elevation — no ornate Mass in St. Peter’s Square for poor Faber — is in keeping with his relative obscurity in the Jesuit pantheon. Faber was among the handful who co-founded the Jesuit order in the mid-1500s, but he never quite attained the renown of St. Ignatius of Loyola and St. Francis Xavier. No Jesuit church is complete without some triumphalistic mural or statuary of Loyola or Xavier. But Faber? He is usually one of an indistinguishable line of black-robed Jesuit extras, looking plastically pious at stage left of the mural.

His ministry was vital but not headline-grabbing. He was an extraordinarily capable spiritual director who reinvigorated clergy and bishops who had grown decadent, and patiently drew wavering Catholics back to the fold at a time when the Protestant Reformation was sweeping Europe. In an interview with La Civiltà Cattolica, Francis praised Faber’s style, his “dialogue with all … even with his opponents … his simple piety … his careful interior discernment … capable of being so gentle and loving.” Faber’s patient but ever-persistent outreach, his “frontier spirit” so to speak, embodies the culture change Francis is trying to engender in our church at large.

But how does Faber become my patron saint of business?

Once, on mission to Mainz in Germany, he was appalled by its widespread poverty. “Having arisen in the quiet of the night to pray,” he wrote, “I felt strongly inspired to do my very utmost to provide for the needy and homeless sick wandering about the city of Mainz.” Faber, estimating that there were some 6,500 beggars in the city, concluded: “Perhaps if we [Jesuits] had a flair for business … and we had not such a [spiritual] harvest to be reaped … we could concern ourselves more with this problem.”

Faber’s vision of the positive role of business is remarkable. He wrote two centuries before Adam Smith lifted a pen, during an era when the Catholic church generally looked askance at business. Yet in a few short phrases, Faber crystallizes a profound and profoundly challenging philosophy of business.

First, business, when done well, plays an unparalleled role in enabling individuals to support themselves and their families with dignity. Faber’s reaction upon seeing so many beggars? Not “We need a soup kitchen” but “We need businesses.” Of course, charity is also essential: Jesus told us we’re going to hell if we don’t cloth the naked and feed the hungry. But Faber also perceives the unique role of business in creating positive, systemic, long-term societal change.

Second, Faber recognizes that great businesspeople have a “flair.” The imagination to identify unmet needs, the willingness to try something new and bear the risk of failure, the scrupulous attention to detailed execution, the ability to inspire team members, and a hundred other things all mark the flair of good business people. These are talents, gifts from God, and ought to be recognized as such. It is not a sin to succeed in business by employing these talents fully.

But Faber implicitly challenges businesspeople that their talents are only being used well when they maintain a proper perspective on life. Business and money-making are not the highest ends: “If there were not such a harvest of souls to reaped,” Faber writes. Our destiny lies beyond this world, and we’re here for purposes beyond what we can sell, trade, build, buy, flaunt or own during this short earthly sojourn. That includes, if we are businesspeople, remaining aware that our every business decision impacts, for better or ill, the lives of employees, customers, shareholders and communities.

Faber’s vision of business is an ennobling, inspiring one. Entrepreneurs with a Faber-style flair for business don’t think only of “enhancing shareholder value” and making themselves hog-whimperingly rich; they hop out of bed each morning feeling blessed to help fellow citizens use their talents, support their families in a highly dignified way, and alleviate poverty in their communities.

Francis’ apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, also has plenty to say about the role of business, launching salvos, for example, at a business culture that sometimes turns money into a modern-day golden calf. Catholics and pundits more generally have rushed to react with predictable party-line tropes. Republican Catholics tsk-tsk that the pope really doesn’t understand how markets work; Democratic Catholics reduce the pope’s agenda to nothing more than an endorsement for more aggressively redistributionist tax policies. But a close read of his exhortation reveals challenges and affirmations for all Catholic parties and tribes in this debate.

In fact, the pope, like Faber, is calling businesspeople and all of us to ponder our human vocation in much more fundamental ways. After all, that’s what great leaders do, whether popes or entrepreneurs with a flair for business. They try to inspire us to transcend our ideologies and differences and coalesce around a higher viewpoint.

Saint was the first Jesuit ordained

St. Peter Faber, who was born in 1506 in what is now France, shared lodgings with Ignatius and Francis Xavier at the College of St. Barbara at the University of Paris. Faber was the first of the Jesuits to be ordained a priest and he celebrated the Mass in 1534 during which St. Ignatius and the others took their vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.

Jesuit Fr. Antonio Spadaro, editor of La Civiltà Cattolica, who conducted the interview with Pope Francis published in Jesuit periodicals in September, asked Francis about his favorite Jesuits.

The pope began “by mentioning Ignatius Loyola and Francis Xavier, but then focuses on a figure that other Jesuits certainly know, but who is of course not as well-known to the general public: Peter Faber (1506-46),” Spadro wrote.”

“Take care, take care, never to close your heart to anyone.”
— St Peter Faber, SJ

Love & success in His service,

Historical Jesus



-Brant Pitre is a professor of Sacred Scripture at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans, Louisiana. He is the author of the bestselling book Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist: Unlocking the Secrets of the Last Supper (2011) and Jesus the Bridegroom: The Greatest Love Story Every Told (2014). Dr. Pitre is an extremely enthusiastic and highly sought after speaker who lectures regularly across the United States. He has produced dozens of Bible studies on both CD and DVD, in which he explores the biblical roots of the Catholic faith. He has also appeared on a number of Catholic radio and television shows, such as Catholic Answers Live and programs on EWTN. He currently lives in Louisiana with his wife, Elizabeth, and their five children.

Are the Gospels historically accurate, and can they be trusted?

Many modern scholars believe that the Gospels are not biographies of Jesus, that they were not authored by disciples of Jesus, and that they were written too late in the first century to be based on reliable eyewitness testimony.

The Case for Jesus JacketIn The Case for Jesus (on sale Feb. 2), Dr. Brant Pitre, bestselling author of Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist, taps into the wells of Christian scripture, history and tradition to ask and answer a number of questions about the origins and validity of the Gospels and one big question: Did Jesus of Nazareth claim to be God?

“Confusion about who Jesus claimed to be is everywhere and it’s spreading,” writes Dr. Pitre. “In fact, the idea that Jesus never claimed to be God may be more widespread today than ever before in history.”

In The Case for Jesus, Dr. Pitre offers compelling reasons for concluding that the four Gospels are first-century biographies of Jesus, written within the lifetime of the apostles, and based directly on eyewitness testimony.

The findings outlined in this book, which includes an afterword by Robert Barron, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and founder of Word on Fire, a global media ministry, have the potential to pull the rug out from under a century of skepticism toward the apostolic authorship and historical truth of the traditional Gospels.

“This book will prove to be a most effective weapon in the arsenal of Christian evangelists in their struggle against the debunking and skeptical attitudes toward the Gospels that are so prevalent, not only in academe, but also on the street, among young people who, sadly, are leaving the Churches in droves,” writes Bishop Barron.

In The Case for Jesus, Dr. Pitre asks and answers a number of questions, including:

-Who wrote the four Gospels? Were they really anonymous?
-What do we make of the so-called “Lost Gospels”?
-Are the Gospels fact or fiction? Folklore or biography?
-Did Jesus really claim to be God?
-Did Jesus fulfill the Jewish prophecies of the Messiah?
-Why was Jesus crucified?
-What is the evidence for the Resurrection?

Advance Praise for The Case for Jesus:

“Thanks to Dr. Pitre’s magnificent book, you will now be equipped to make the case for Jesus and the veracity of the Gospel to even the most ardent skeptics.” —Jennifer Fulwiler, author of Something Other than God

“The Case for Jesus topples the naive skepticism that too often dominates the study of the Gospels…” —Mary Healy, Sacred Heart Major Seminary

“A robust and rock-solid case for Jesus. The sensationalistic claims of super-sceptics are exposed as a sham as Pitre provides a meticulous presentation of the evidence about the reliability of the Gospels, who Jesus thought he was, and what he means today.”—Michael F. Bird, Ridley College, Melbourne, Australia


In the fifteenth year of the rule of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was procurator of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, Philip his brother tetrarch of the region Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene… Luke 3:1

Some people claim that Jesus Christ never existed. Allegedly the life of Jesus and the Gospel are merely myths fabricated by the Church. This claim rests mainly upon their belief that there is no historical record of Jesus.

This lack of secular reports should not be too surprising for modern Christians. First, only a small fraction of the written records survived those twenty centuries. Secondly, there were few, if any, journalists in Palestine during the time of Jesus. Thirdly, the Romans saw the Jewish people as merely one of many ethnic groups that needed to be tolerated. The Romans held the Jewish people in low regard. Finally the Jewish leaders were also eager to forget about Jesus. Secular writers only took notice after Christianity became popular and began to disturb their lifestyle.

Even though early secular reports on Jesus may have been rare, there are still a few surviving references to Him. Not too surprisingly, the earliest non-Christian reports were made by the Jews. Flavius Josephus, who lived until 98 A.D., was a romanized Jewish historian. He wrote books on Jewish history for the Roman people. In his book, Jewish Antiquities, he made references to Jesus. In one reference he wrote:

About this time arose Jesus, a wise man, who did good deeds and whose virtues were recognized. And many Jews and people of other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. However, those who became his disciples preached his doctrine. They related that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion and that he was alive. Perhaps he was the Messiah in connection with whom the prophets foretold wonders. [Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, XVIII 3.2]

Even though several different forms of this particular text have survived through the twenty centuries, they all agree with the above cited version. This version is considered to be the closest to the original – the least suspected of Christian text-tampering. Elsewhere in this book, Josephus also reported the execution of St. John the Baptist [XVIII 5.2] and St. James the Just [XX 9.1], even referring to James as “the brother of Jesus who was called Christ.” It should be noted that the past tense in the clause, “Jesus who was called Christ,” argues against Christian text-tampering since a Christian would prefer to write instead, “Jesus who is called Christ.”

Another Jewish source, the Talmud, makes several historical references to Jesus. According to the American Heritage Dictionary, the Talmud is “the collection of ancient Rabbinic writings consisting of the Mishnah and the Gemara, constituting the basis of religious authority for traditional Judaism.” Although not explicitly referred to by name, later rabbis identify the person as Jesus. These references to Jesus are neither sympathetic to Him or His Church. Also these writings were preserved through the centuries by Jews, so Christians cannot be accused of tampering with the text.

The Talmud makes note of Jesus’ miracles. No attempt is made to deny them, but it ascribes them to magical arts from Egypt. Also His crucifixion is dated as “on the eve of the Feast of the Passover” in agreement with the Gospel (Luke 22:1ff; John 19:31ff). Similar again to the Gospel (Matt. 27:51), the Talmud records the earthquake and the tearing in two of the Temple curtain during the time of Jesus’ death. Josephus in his book, The Jewish War, also confirmed these events.

By the beginning of the 2nd century, Romans were writing about Christians and Jesus. Pliny the Younger, proconsul in Asia Minor, in 111 A.D. wrote to Emperor Trajan in a letter:

…it was their habit on a fixed day to assemble before daylight and recite by turns a form of words to Christ as a god; and that they bound themselves with an oath, not for any crime, but not to commit theft or robbery, or adultery, not to break their word, and not to deny a deposit when demanded. After this was done, their custom was to depart, and meet again to take food… [Pliny, Epistle 97]

Special attention should be made to the phrase, “to Christ as a god,” an early secular witness to the belief in Christ’s divinity (John 20:28; Phil. 2:6). Also it is interesting to compare this passage with Acts 20:7-11, a biblical account of an early Christian Sunday celebration.

Next the Roman historian, Tacitus, who is respected by modern scholars for historical accuracy, wrote in 115 A.D. about Christ and His Church:

The author of the denomination was Christ[us] who had been executed in Tiberius time by the Procurator Pontius Pilate. The pestilent superstition, checked for a while, burst out again, not only throughout Judea…but throughout the city of Rome also… [Tacitus, Annals, XV 44]

Even with disdain for the Christian faith, Tacitus still treated the execution of Christ as historical fact, drawing connections to Roman events and leaders. (cf. Luke 3:1ff)

Other secular witnesses to the historical Jesus include Suetonius in his biography of Claudius, Phlegan recording the eclipse of the sun during Jesus’ death and even Celsus, a pagan philosopher. It must be kept in mind that most of these sources were not only secular but anti-Christian. These secular authors, including the Jewish writers, had no desire or intention to promote Christianity. They had no motivation to distort their reports in favor of Christianity. Pliny actually punished Christians for their faith. If Jesus were a myth or His execution a hoax, Tacitus would have reported it as such. He certainly would not have connected Jesus’ execution to Roman leaders. These writers presented Jesus as a real historical person. Denying the reliability of these sources in connection to Jesus would cast serious suspicion on the rest of ancient history.

Now these ancient secular writings do not prove that Jesus is the Son of God or even the Christ, but that is not the goal of this tract. These reports show that a virtuous person named Jesus did live in the early first century A.D. and authored a religious movement (which still exists today). This Person was at least called Christ – the Messiah. Christians in the first century also appeared to consider Him God. Finally these writings support other facts found in the Bible surrounding His life. The claim that Jesus never existed and His life is a myth compromises the reliability of ancient history.”


Summa Catechetica, "Neque enim quaero intelligere ut credam, sed credo ut intelligam." – St Anselm, "Let your religion be less of a theory, and more of a love affair." -G.K. Chesterton, "I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men and women who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, and who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it."- Bl John Henry Newman, "Encounter, not confrontation; attraction, not promotion; dialogue, not debate." -cf Pope Francis, "To convert someone, go and take them by the hand and guide them." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP