“Quod scripsi, scripsi.”

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“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,
Matthew

Why God still matters…

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-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 intentional, 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,
Matthew

Sola Scriptura? produces bad fruit, namely disunity & division

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-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.”

Love,
Matthew

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?

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-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,
Matthew

Historical Jesus

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-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

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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.”

Love,
Matthew

St Thomas Aquinas on Islam

Taj Mahal Agra India

“[Muhammad] seduced the people by promises of carnal pleasure to which the concupiscence of the flesh goads us. His teaching also contained precepts that were in conformity with his promises, and he gave free rein to carnal pleasure. In all this, as is not unexpected, he was obeyed by carnal men.

As for proofs of the truth of his doctrine, he brought forward only such as could be grasped by the natural ability of anyone with a very modest wisdom. Indeed, the truths that he taught he mingled with many fables and with doctrines of the greatest falsity.

He did not bring forth any signs produced in a supernatural way, which alone fittingly gives witness to divine inspiration; for a visible action that can be only divine reveals an invisibly inspired teacher of truth. On the contrary, Muhammad said that he was sent in the power of his arms—which are signs not lacking even to robbers and tyrants.

What is more, no wise men, men trained in things divine and human, believed in him from the beginning. Those who believed in him were brutal men and desert wanderers, utterly ignorant of all divine teaching, through whose numbers Muhammad forced others to become his followers by the violence of his arms.

Nor do divine pronouncements on the part of preceding prophets offer him any witness. On the contrary, he perverts almost all the testimonies of the Old and New Testaments by making them into fabrications of his own, as can be seen by anyone who examines his law.

It was, therefore, a shrewd decision on his part to forbid his followers to read the Old and New Testaments, lest these books convict him of falsity. It is thus clear that those who place any faith in his words believe foolishly.” –Summa Contra Gentiles (SCG) 1, 6, 4.

Love,
Matthew

Pope to scientists: faith does not hurt science, it leads to greater truth

pope_cardiology
Pope Francis receives a stethoscope from the President of the European Society of Cardiology, Fausto Pinto, as he attends the World Congress of the European Society of Cardiology Aug. 31 in Rome.

-by CAROL GLATZ, CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE
August 31, 2016

“VATICAN CITY – Because scientists can never be neutral in their research, they must not be tempted to suppress the truth and ignore the divine, Pope Francis told health care professionals.

“Openness to God’s grace, which comes through faith, does not weaken human reason, but rather leads it toward knowledge of a truth which is wider and of greater benefit to humanity,” he said Aug. 31 in an address to experts taking part in a world congress on cardiovascular research.

More than 32,000 professionals, including cardiologists, from 120 countries attended the weeklong gathering in Rome. Organized by the European Society of Cardiology, the annual congress seeks to exchange the latest and best practices in research and patient care.

Pope Francis, who traveled to the congress venue on the outskirts of the city, insisted that no one be denied proper medical attention and care.

By recognizing the full dignity of the human person, one can see that the poor, those in need and the marginalized should benefit from the care and assistance offered by public and private health sectors, he said.

“We must make great efforts to ensure that they are not ‘discarded’ in this culture, which promotes a ‘throwaway’ mentality,” he said.

Church teachings have always supported and underlined the importance of scientific research for human health and life, he said. “The church understands that efforts directed to the authentic good of the person are actions always inspired by God,” he said, and caring for the weak and infirm is part of God’s plan.

However, “we know that the scientist, in his or her research, is never neutral, inasmuch as each one has his or her own history, way of being and of thinking.

“Every scientist requires, in a sense, a purification; through this process, the toxins which poison the mind’s pursuit of truth and certainty are removed” in order to gain a greater understanding of reality, the pope said.

By being involved in healing physical illness, health care professionals have the opportunity to see “there are laws engraved within human nature that no one can tamper with, but rather must be ‘discovered, respected and cooperated with’ so that life may correspond ever more to the designs of the creator.”

That is why people of science should not let themselves succumb to “the temptation to suppress the truth.”

The pope told his audience that he appreciated their work, adding that “I, too, have been in the hands of some of you.”

At the end of his speech, the pope was presented with a stethoscope and a cross made from laminated marble heart-shapes.”

Job 38

Love & truth, praise Him! All you creatures of the Earth, praise Him! You stars of the sky, you heavenly bodies, praise Him, Who made you!!
Matthew

I have a PASSION for the virtue of HOPE!!!!: Grace & Hope

Hope

It burns.

hyacinth_grubb
-by Br Hyacinth Grubb, OP

“What do you do when those you trust let you down, when you’re confronted with human failure and frailty and faults?

Often when we think of hope, our thoughts rise to the great mysteries of the faith, as they rightly should. We hope in Christ, in His resurrection, and even in our own. But sometimes our thoughts skim too lightly through these mysteries and reduce them to abstractions which are beautiful but remote from life. We can know in some vague way that grace is active, making “all things work for the good of those who love God,” and at the same moment fail to see grace when it works in front of our eyes.

Yet grace is not an abstraction: it is a living, breathing reality that is present in the messiness of real life. Do you see it?  (I DO!!! I DO!!! CONSTANTLY!!!!) 🙂

Do you see it at work in your brother or sister, friend or coworker? (YES!!!YAAASSSS!!! PRAISE HIM CHURCH!!!  PRAISE HIM!!!) Because God is there in those moments when life hits us hardest, when people act unimaginably terribly. God is there in those thousands of moments when life grinds us down, when people live selfishly and carelessly in monstrous little ways. God is there, and He is working to transform their hearts, and ours, in ways that we can’t always know and on a schedule slower than we desire. Do you hope in Him, and in them?  (YAAAASSS!!  YAAASSS!!!)

It’s easy to give up on another person, to say, “he is who he is, and he won’t change,” to avoid him or to grit our teeth and muscle through—but this is much more than giving up on his own ability to live well. (I HAVE SEEN!!!!  I HAVE WITNESSED RESURRECTION IN THIS LIFE!!! I have.) This is giving up on God’s work in our fallible neighbors, it is despair in their potential for goodness and in God’s power to redeem. It says to Christ, hanging on the cross, “This neighbor of mine, this brother or friend, he is not worth saving, and Your sacrifice has not the power to do so.” We might never say it aloud, but each one of us has said it in our hearts. And so it is no little matter to assert that hoping in God is not merely trusting in His action in our lives, but also in His work in others.  (The last thing Satan desires is our despair.  1 Peter 5:8.  Amen.  Praise Jesus!!  Praise Him, Church!!!  Amen!!!)

This hope is not abstract but real, and because it is real, it isn’t always easy; it requires patience and fortitude. This hope is given to us by God; prayer helps us to receive it; and an intentional and active love for our neighbor keeps it alive. Sometimes it may demand, only out of love for another, a little instruction or admonishment on our part. Most of all it requires—and enables—a transformation of perspective, as we learn to see ignorant and selfish and sinful men as not only ignorant and selfish and sinful, but at the same time as subjects of the divine action that redeems them and that makes them deserving of our love and hope.”  (AMEN, BROTHER!!!  PUHREACH!!! SING IT, BROTHER!!!  SING OUT LOUD!!!!  AMEN!!!)  🙂

His love, hope, grace, and victory,
Matthew

Jul 9 – Bl Adrian Fortescue, OP, (1476-1539) – Soldier, Patriot, Husband, Father, Martyr, Lay Dominican – like me!!

AdrianF
-please note the collar brooch Bl Adrian wears in this image. It’s design is of the Dominican shield, in black & white. It is a classic design, widely recognized by those familiar. I have similar lapel pins, worn on appropriate occasions!! Can I hope, too, for the blessing of martyrdom? Bl Adrian pray to our Father it may be so!!! Ultimately, His will be done!!! Viva Cristo Rey!!!!!

samuel-burke

-by Br Samuel Clarke, OP, English Province

“After a remarkable life, Bl. Adrian Fortescue died a martyr at the strike of an executioner’s blade at Tower Hill in 1539. A husband and father, a Justice of the Peace, a Knight of the Realm, a Knight of Malta, and a Dominican Tertiary (Lay Dominican); he was at once a loyal servant of the Crown so far as he could be, but still more, he was a man of unshakeable faith.

The House of Fortescue into which Adrian was born is said to date from the Battle of Hastings where Richard le Fort saved William the Conqueror’s Life by the shelter of his “strong shield”, and thereafter was called “Fort – Escu”. His family had a history of service to the Crown although this was later complicated by the dynastic battles of The Wars of the Roses. Vicissitudes notwithstanding, his great uncle, Sir John Fortescue (d.1479) became Chief Justice of the King’s Bench (1442-61). Sir John’s writings on the law and politics of England were arguably the most significant contribution of the fifteenth century, and are still studied by lawyers and political theorists today. Adrian’s father, also named Sir John, fought for the victorious Lancastrians at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485 when Adrian was but a young boy. And later in his life, Adrian’s first cousin, Anne Boleyn, became King Henry VIII’s second wife (before her eventual beheading in 1536). We can say with some justification then that the Fortescues occupied a privileged position at the Rroyal court.

The first mention of Adrian Fortescue is in 1499, by which time, aged about 23, he was already married to Anne Stonor. He lived at his wife’s family seat at Stonor Park in Oxfordshire. This estate would later become the subject of an acrimonious legal dispute between him and his relative. In 1503, on Prince Henry becoming Prince of Wales (after Prince Arthur’s death) Adrian was made a Knight of the Order of Bath. Sir Adrian took the motto Loyalle Pensée; his loyalty was indeed to be tested.  By his first wife, Fortescue had two daughters: Margaret and Frances. By his second wife, Anne Rede, he had three sons and two daughters: John, Thomas, Anthony, Elizabeth, and Mary.

Like his forebears, Adrian served King Henry VIII in his ambitious military campaigns. He helped to rout the French the Battle of Spurs in 1513, and fought again in 1523. King Henry rewarded his support and in 1520 invited him to the splendorous Field of the Cloth of Gold where Henry famously wrestled with the King of France. Closer to home, Sir Adrian was made a Justice of the Peace of the county of Oxfordshire. In this period of history, royal favour could also take more peculiar forms. Sir Adrian had the dubious honour of being made a Gentleman of the King’s Privy Chamber, forerunner to the august body now known as the Privy Council.

In addition to being an assiduous servant of the Crown, Sir Adrian was evidently also a man of strong religious conviction and charity. His accounts reveal a number of benefactions to clergy and religious foundations. In 1532, he became a Knight of Devotion in the Order of Malta. The following year in July of 1533, he was admitted as a Dominican Tertiary at Blackfriars, Oxford, which he would visit from Stonor. But he also had a strong association with the Dominican Priory in London. His lodgings in the capital were in the precincts of the Blackfriars, close to the present eponymous tube station.

Sir_Adrian_Fortescue
-Collegio di San Paolo in Rabato in Malta

Not long after becoming a Lay Dominican began what Adrian called his “trobilles”. At the start of Summer 1533, he assisted in the Coronation of his cousin, Anne Boleyn – then six months pregnant – as Queen of England. He must have realised that the marriage was not valid but perhaps thought, at that stage at least, that in the words of Sir Thomas More, it was not his business “to murmur at it or dispute upon it”. This narrow compromise was to prove short-lived.

The King’s infidelity and presumption were rebuked when the Pope refused to grant an annulment declaring Henry’s marriage to Catherine as valid on 23rd March 1534. The following month on 13th April, Bishop Fisher and Sir Thomas More refused to take the Oath of Succession. Sir Adrian was similarly arrested that same year but he was released without explanation, probably in the Spring of 1535. Fisher and More were afforded no such clemency, and the two Saints were executed in Summer 1535.

The Act of Supremacy was also passed in 1535, making Henry supreme Head of the Church “immediately under God”. As a matter of law, Henry expressly denied the Pope’s authority. A writ affirming this and dated the following year can be found in Sir Adrian’s extant Missal. Tellingly, perhaps, it has with a line struck through it: apparent evidence of his disapproval. The die, it seems, was cast.

In February 1539, Sir Adrian was again arrested and imprisoned in the Tower of London. In the sitting of Parliament that Spring, a number of laws were passed in what has been described as the most servile Parliamentary session in history. Among the draconian laws enacted was a novel provision whereby a sentence of death might be passed without any trial of the accused. Under this procedure, no evidence was needed, neither could a defence be heard. Ironically, the architect of the law, Thomas Cromwell (then Lord Chancellor) was himself condemned by the same measure a year later leading to his own execution. This device was put to use on 11th May 1535 when a Bill of Attainder was passed condemning fifty people of High Treason who opposed Henry’s ecclesiastical policies. The names included Sir Adrian, Reginald Cardinal Pole, and the Countess of Salisbury.

Sir Adrian’s Book of Hours contains a Rule of Life written in his own hand, and giving an insight into the interior life of a man who exemplified holiness and virtue in his conduct. He led a life of asceticism and honour, trying to follow God’s will in all things and daily seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit. His pursuit of God’s truth brought him to a martyr’s death on 8th July 1539 (but possibly 9th or 10th) when he was beheaded at Tower Hill. His servants were also killed for treason on the same day but were hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn. As one later account neatly puts it, “Sir Adrian Fortescue died for his faith in Him whose acts Parliament was not competent to repeal”.

Pope Leo XII declared Adrian Fortescue blessed on 13th May 1895 and as a layman, he ranks among the great Dominicans as an outstanding example to all Christians.”

Prayer:

O God, since all things are within your power, grant through the prayers of blessed Adrian, your martyr, that we who keep his feast today may become stronger in the love of your name and hold to your holy Church even at the cost of our lives. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.(-from: The Missal with readings of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes, & of Malta, London 1997) The Order of St. John of Jerusalem, aka Knights Hospitaller, has advocated devotion to Blessed Adrian as a martyr since the 17th century.

Star_-_Venerable_Order_of_St_John
-Breast star of Knight of Grace of the Order of St John

Love,
Matthew, OP

Sexual orientation & gender identity: what does the science say?

real-love

“Washington D.C., Aug 27, 2016 / 07:09 am (CNA/EWTN News).- For most young people who experience feelings of gender dysphoria, the experience is in fact temporary, and a non-heterosexual orientation is not as fixed as sometimes claimed, a new overview of the relevant research says.

“Only a minority of children who experience cross-gender identification will continue to do so into adolescence or adulthood,” said the report, published in The New Atlantis Journal.

As many as 80 percent of men who reported same-sex attraction as adolescents no longer do so as adults. There were “similar but less striking” results for women. The idea of innate sexual orientation is “not supported by scientific evidence,” the report said.

Titled “Sexuality and Gender: Findings from the Biological, Psychological, and Social Sciences,” the report reviews various research studies to examine claims about sexuality and gender.

It was authored by Dr. Lawrence S. Mayer, Ph.D., a biostatistician and epidemiologist now a scholar in residence at Johns Hopkins University; and by Dr. Paul R. McHugh, M.D., a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins University.
The report considers various claims like the basis and permanence of gender identity and sexual orientation.

It found there is a lack of scientific evidence for claims that gender identity is an innate property “independent of biological sex.” Scientific evidence also does not support claims that a person might be “a man trapped in a woman’s body.”

Gender identity problems can arise for someone with Intersex conditions, where a person has ambiguous biological sex due to genetic abnormalities.

However, brain structure comparison of transgender and non-transgender individuals show only “weak correlations” between brain structure and cross-gender identification. These correlations are not evidence that this identity has a basis in the biology of the brain.

Similarly, sexual orientation’s neurological basis can be overstated. Against the “born that way” claim, the report authors write: “While there is evidence that biological factors such as genes and hormones are associated with sexual behaviors and attractions, there are no compelling causal biological explanations for human sexual orientation.”

The report also considered sexuality, mental health, and social factors.

Non-heterosexuals are two to three times as likely to have experienced childhood sexual abuse.

The authors weighed the evidence that non-heterosexual attractions, desires and behaviors may increase the risk of suffering sex abuse, or that sexual abuse may cause non-heterosexual attractions, desires and behaviors. They said that more research is needed before claiming a link between sex abuse and non-heterosexual attractions.

Non-heterosexuals do face elevated risk of adverse health and mental health outcomes. They are estimated to have a 1.5 times higher risk of anxiety and substance abuse than the heterosexual population. They face double the risk of depression and 2.5 times higher risk of suicide.

The transgender population, recently estimated to make up 0.6 percent of the total population, suffers a lifetime suicide attempt rate of 41 percent, compared to 5 percent of the overall population.
There is “limited, inconsistent and incomplete” evidence that social stressors like discrimination and stigma “contribute to the elevated risk of poor mental health outcomes for non-heterosexual and transgender populations.”

The report said clinicians and policymakers should not assume that models focused on social stressors offer a complete explanation for these health differences.

“Just as it does a disservice to non-heterosexual subpopulations to ignore or downplay the statistically higher risks of negative mental health outcomes they face, so it does them a disservice to misattribute the causes of these elevated risks, or to ignore other potential factors that may be at work.”

Adults who undergo sex reassignment surgeries continue to show a high risk in mental health, being about 5 times more likely to attempt suicide and 19 times more likely to die by suicide compared to a control group.

Regarding therapies for children that delay puberty or modify sex characteristics of adolescents, there is “little scientific evidence” for their therapeutic value, the report said.

At the same time, “some children may have improved psychological well-being if they are encouraged and supported in their cross-gender identification.”

“There is no evidence that all children who express gender-atypical thoughts or behavior should be encouraged to become transgender,” the report added.”

Love & truth,
Matthew

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