Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Prayer Is the Source of Strength

In this week’s gospel reading, Jesus spent time at Simon Peter’s house. When the local villagers heard that Jesus was in town, they brought sick people to Him to be healed. It was non-stop work for Jesus, as a sizable crowd pushed and shoved around Him all day long.

If anyone deserved to sleep-in the next morning, it was Jesus. But instead of hitting the snooze button on His alarm clock, the gospel reading tells us: “Rising very early before dawn, [Jesus] left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.”

For Jesus, prayer was how He recharged His batteries. It was the source of His strength and power. Throughout Scripture Jesus often went off to pray—sometimes for the entire night—before important events in His life. It’s how He communicated with His Heavenly Father.

For many of us, however, prayer is more like a chore that saps our strength. I’m reminded of dinnertime a number of years ago, when my two daughters were growing up. We would all sit down at the table and my wife would ask, “Whose turn is it to say grace?”

Immediately a chorus rang out: “Not mine!” “It’s her turn.” “I did it last night.” (Then, when I was finished whining, my two daughters also would insist that it was someone else’s turn.) It was as if reciting a ten-second blessing was the same as shoveling a foot of snow off the driveway with a teaspoon.

After dinner my dear wife occasionally would suggest we gather in the living room to read a Scripture passage and then pray for a few minutes. Suddenly, my daughters developed a keen desire to finish their homework early. Suddenly, I developed a keen desire not to miss a second of “Jeopardy!” (“But honey, it’s Celebrity Championship Week!”)

Cultivating a strong and vibrant prayer life can be tough. It can be hard work, especially when we view it as a chore we have to do.

However, we have to understand: prayer is not a speech we are forced to recite. Prayer is a two-way communication with God. It’s a conversation. At the very least, we should be listening as much as we are talking.

The best thing about prayer is that God helps us even when we’re not sure of how to do it or what to say. The key is that oft-forgotten member of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, who dwells within the heart of each baptized believer.

Some verses that explain this concept:

  • “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells within you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16).
  • “…the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ” (Romans 8:9).
  • “The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express” (Romans 8:26).
So, if you think praying is a tedious chore, you’ve got it all wrong. It really can be a special source of power and strength.

If your prayer life is kind of dry and dusty and in need of a jump start, don’t think of it as “praying.” Instead, set aside a few minutes each day to have an informal conversation with God. No ritual, no rote recitation, just tell Him what’s on your mind, and then listen patiently to hear what He says in reply. 

If you do this each day, before you know it you’ll be looking forward to this special quiet time with the Lord. (And if you time it right, you can be finished before “Jeopardy!” comes on.)

Friday, January 26, 2018

A Mysterious Bedtime Story

Sleep fascinates me. One of the most enjoyable moments of my day is when I crawl under the covers, fluff up the pillow, grab a good book off my nightstand, and then read approximately seven words before I lapse into a deep unconsciousness and start snoring like Fred Flintstone, complete with window curtains being sucked one way and blown back the other way.

If this is one of the most enjoyable moments of my day, it means either I really love sleeping, or I have an incredibly boring life. Now, of course, it’s not that my life is boring. My life is jam-packed with excitement and fun. For example, I often, uh, let’s see, I regularly, umm….OK, fine. My life is boring. But I still love to sleep.

The thing I find most fascinating about sleep is the fact that despite decades of high-tech scientific research, we still have no clue as to WHY we sleep. Researchers have uncovered many amazing details about the sleep process. When we are asleep, our brains are busy little beehives of chemical and electrical activity. For example, while asleep, my brain often shows movies, starring me, which is very cool, except for the one where I’m about to give a presentation but I can’t find my notes, and then I realize I forgot to wear pants.

However, when those brilliant researchers and scientists are asked a simple question — Why do we sleep? — they shrug their shoulders and say, “I dunno.”

It’s not that sleep is a minor aspect of our lives. Human beings spend approximately one third of our existence asleep. This means that I have spent a full 20 years of my life totally incapacitated and oblivious to my surroundings. (Go ahead, say it: “And don’t forget to add in all the time you were asleep, too, Bill!”)

Although sleeping is one of my most enjoyable hobbies, I actually only enjoy the first few minutes, when I snuggle under the warm covers and then drift off. After drifting off, I don’t particularly enjoy all the other hours of sleep because, well, because I’m unconscious. If I could enjoy the cozy drifting off aspect of sleep and then immediately wake up refreshed and ready to go, I’d still enjoy the fun parts of sleeping without wasting so much time.

Occasionally I meet people who insist they can get along fine with only three or four hours of sleep each night. Can you imagine that? If you need only four hours of sleep per night, it’s like having an extra two months of consciousness squeezed into each and every year, but without having to make two additional mortgage payments! Nice.

If I had that much extra time each day, I could do so many special things with it. I could take on more assignments at work, or at least finish the ones I have on time. No, wait. I already work too much as it is. I don’t want any more assignments.

I could spend more time watching television. No, wait. I already watch too much television as it is. There’s nothing good on anyway. I could do more traveling and sight-seeing. No, wait. Those are expensive activities, so I’d have to work more to get extra money, and then I’d no longer have the extra time to travel.

I could do more projects around my house and yard. No, wait. I hate doing that stuff. I’d rather take on more assignments at work. 

Well, now that I think about it, if I had an extra four hours of free time each day, I probably would spend that time doing one of the most fascinating things there is: sleeping.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Catholic Evangelization: Listen to an Atheist

There’s been a big emphasis lately on Catholic evangelization. However, telling other people about our faith in Christ is not something most American Catholics feel comfortable doing. So, despite the recent emphasis, the vast majority of us choose to keep silent and leave that job to the professionals: priests, deacons, nuns, etc.

One of the best reasons to evangelize comes surprisingly from a confirmed atheist. Penn Jillette is one-half of the humorous magic act, Penn and Teller. He is loud, outspoken, intelligent, and very certain that God does not exist. But unlike many atheists, who become livid at the mere thought of Christians discussing their faith in public, Jillette thinks Christian evangelization is a good thing—and quite logical, given what Christians claim to believe.

Jillette puts it this way: “How much to you have to hate someone to not proselytize? How much would you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?”

Jillette does not believe in God, nor life after death, nor any basic Christian doctrines. But he’s smart enough to understand that Christians who refuse to share their faith with others are not being polite, they are instead showing great disrespect toward those people; maybe even hatred.

Think of it this way: imagine that a terrible, infectious disease is sweeping the nation. Millions of people are dying. The latest reports indicate this plague will reach your town within a couple days. Fortunately, a local doctor has developed a vaccine that makes people immune to the illness. You quickly get vaccinated, and now you’re safe; you will not get sick and die. But then, at this point, you choose to do nothing to help spread the news to your fellow citizens that a vaccine is available, and you don’t offer any assistance to the doctor as he desperately tries to vaccinate as many people as possible. When the disease hits your town, the vaccinated people are spared, but thousands of others die. And here is your justification for doing nothing to help: “Well, I didn’t want to impose my beliefs on others. Everyone should decide for themselves what’s best.”

Um, yeah. That sounds pretty awful, doesn’t it? If that actually happened, and if you really behaved that way, no one would ever call you polite. They instead would call you callous and heartless. They could make a strong case that your inaction showed downright hatred toward other citizens.

The basic message of the Gospel is similar to this scenario, except for two major differences. First, the Good News of Christ addresses a spiritual sickness—sin, and the resulting separation from God—rather than a physical sickness. Second, the “vaccination” offered by Jesus provides eternal life, rather than a medical vaccination, which only delays a person’s inevitable death. In that regard, you can make the case the Good News of the Gospel is far more valuable than a life-saving vaccine, since eternity is a whole lot longer period of time than even 80 or 90 years.

After all, don’t forget, that is exactly what Catholicism teaches us: whoever repents and puts his or her faith in Christ will receive the gift of eternal life in Heaven. Atheists do not believe this, of course, and most atheists may bristle when the Gospel message is discussed in public. But at least one atheist has looked at this situation logically. And this might be the first time I’ve ever said this: follow the advice of an atheist. 

Penn Jillette’s comment is right on the money. If we truly believe everlasting life is possible, and yet we don’t tell people about it, we are not being charitable at all. You could even say we’re being hateful.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Health Insurance Ordeal Made Me Sick

In last week’s column, I described the most interesting thing that happened to me during the entire year of 2017. Back in August, I thought I was having a heart attack, and after calling 9-1-1, I took a five-minute ambulance ride to the Emergency Room. It turned out not to be life-threatening, although having your heartbeat go from the normal 75 beats per minute to a jackhammer-like 200 beats per minute was almost as uncomfortable as listening to those panel discussions on the cable news channels (or as I call them, “shout-a-thons”).

A few months after this frantic episode (I mean the ambulance ride, not the TV “shout-a-thon”), we received an invoice from the ambulance company for $1,155.97, and a note explaining that my health insurance provider declined to pay because the ambulance company is “not in the network.”

During my ordeal, I learned a lot about the intricate workings of the human heart. However, I did not realize the human heart is a pile of crude Tinker Toys when compared to the baffling complexity of the health insurance system.

First, I should backtrack for a moment. The health insurance coverage where I work has experienced skyrocketing premiums in recent years. In typical federal government fashion, when they used the word “affordable” to describe the health insurance reform law, we should’ve know it really meant “the exact opposite of affordable.”

Anyway, to make sure our premiums only doubled (they otherwise would have increased four-fold), we selected a plan with a $5000 deductible rather than our old $500 deductible. With the exquisite timing that I’m known for, as soon as this new health plan went into effect, my heart started doing weird things, and I became intimately acquainted with the following procedures: stress test, nuclear stress test, ultrasound, MRI, cat scan, and I forgot the name of the test where they attached electrodes to my chest and wired them to a small monitor in my pocket. The electrodes and wires had to stay attached 24/7 for two full weeks. This made bathing somewhat awkward, but not nearly as awkward as being in a business meeting and having someone say, “Hey Bill, there are wires sticking out of your shirt. Are you a terrorist?”

By the time my ambulance ride in August occurred, I had already met the 5 Grand deductible easy. (Well, easy, except for the part about where the money was going to come from.) So, I knew that no matter what the ambulance ride and ER visit cost, it wouldn’t be coming out of my pocket.

And then we got that invoice for almost 1200 bucks, and the notice that the ambulance company is not in the insurance provider’s network. I only want two simple questions answered: 1) Which ambulance company IS in the network? And 2) am I really expected to search for in-network ambulance services when I think I’m dying?

Ten phone calls and 15 emails later, I was told I needed to file an appeal (three pages, single-spaced, and took me four hours to research and compose). I also was told the appeal would be promptly rejected, but then I could file a second appeal, which had a 50/50 chance of being approved. When I asked, “Why don’t we just skip to the second appeal stage?” I was told, “Oh, we can’t do that. You don’t understand how the system works.”

You have that right. I do not understand how the system works. At all.

I think MSNBC, CNN, or Fox should have a panel discussion about health insurance appeals. I’d like to be on that panel, as I’m in a shouting mood. I just hope my heart can handle it. 

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Paul’s Surprising Teaching About Marriage

The second reading at Mass this weekend, from St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, contains a very odd verse. Paul wrote, “Let those having wives act as not having them.”

Um, wait a minute. What does that mean? We all know when a married man starts acting as if he does not have a wife, he is well on his way to not having a wife. And in the process, the divorce lawyers will suck him dry of every last nickel he owns—and rightfully so.

Many studies have shown that married men live longer and healthier lives than bachelors. This is because unmarried men are more likely to spend their time hanging out with other unmarried men, drinking and carousing, eating poorly, getting into barroom brawls, and crashing their cars into telephone poles at 3 a.m.

Also, unmarried men, without that feminine influence around the house, often get into the habit of wearing the same socks and underwear for four or five days in a row. Just the smell alone can take years off a guy’s life.

So, why did St. Paul tell married men that they should act as if they were unmarried? Did Paul want fellas to go out carousing until 3 a.m. and wear the same socks five days in a row? (Although I don’t think socks were all that popular in first century Palestine. Socks with sandals didn’t become popular until German tourists started visiting the U.S.)

I looked up this verse in three different Bible commentaries, and each one completely glossed over this specific statement. The focus instead was on the other things Paul said about married life throughout chapter 7.

If I had to guess (which, apparently, I have to), I’d say the last line of this week’s reading is key. Paul said, “For this world in its present form is passing away.”

During his ministry, Paul repeatedly emphasized the fact that in the Christian understanding of reality, our life on earth is fleeting. Believers should be, as the old expression goes, “in this world, but not of this world,” because our existence here on earth is transitory. We are only renters not owners. Our true home is in Heaven with the Lord for all eternity.

All the wonderful things we experience in life, including the joys of marriage, are gifts from God. But they all are mere glimpses of the joys we will embrace in Heaven. As Paul explained earlier in this epistle, “Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, what God has prepared for those who love him.” In other words, Heaven is going to be so wonderfully amazing, it’s going to blow our socks off. (Well, at least for those of us who lived in a time and place where socks were popular.)

A good word to describe Paul’s attitude about our world is detachment. We are called to be detached from the things of this earthly, natural life. Now, of course, this world is important. We also are called to be good stewards of the earth and to help as many people as we can who lack material necessities.

However, we cannot be so obsessed about the things of this world, that it takes away our focus on the world to come, the world of Jesus’ heavenly kingdom.

So, I think Paul was simply encouraging us never to lose sight of the ultimate prize: eternal life in Heaven. I’m fairly confident Paul was not suggesting that married men should ignore their wives, act as if they were bachelors, and go out carousing all night. Paul just doesn’t strike me as a carousing kind of guy. 

But to be honest, if Paul had asked me to edit his epistle before mailing it to the folks at Corinth, I would’ve deleted that part about men acting as if they were not married. You know how guys are. If it takes a week for us to remember to change our socks, then there’s a really good chance we’re going to misunderstand Paul’s message.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Ambulance Bill Causes Heart Palpitations

Back in mid-December, I said to my wife, “So what are we going to get each other for Christmas, individual gifts or one big gift for the both of us?”

She replied, “Let’s go with one big gift for the both of us. And it will cost $1,200.”

“Whoa, that’s a lot,” I said. “We usually don’t spend that much, even if we can afford it, which I’m pretty sure is not the case this year.”

My wife then said, “Well, it’s not actually $1,200. The correct amount is $1,155.97.”

I said, “Oh, in that case, no prob — Wait, what?! How do you know the exact amount down to the penny?”

She held up a piece of paper and said, “Because this came in the mail today. It’s an invoice from the ambulance company, and it says your health insurance denied the claim. They’re looking for $1,155.97 from us by the end of the month.”

“Oh, I forgot all about that,” I said. “So, that five-minute ambulance ride cost 1200 bucks? Man, I’m in the wrong business.”

It’s funny how we can completely forget certain events, especially when they turn out to be false alarms. Back in the summer I thought I was having a heart attack. Wanting to be sure I could not afford a Christmas present for my wife in four months, I said, “Let’s take a five-minute van ride that costs more than round-trip airfare to Paris!” No, actually what I said was, in a barely audible voice, “This is not good, hon. I feel horrible.”

My darling bride, also wanting to make sure she could not afford a Christmas present for her spouse in four months, quickly called 9-1-1. In a matter of minutes, an ambulance raced up the street, and stopped in front of our neighbor’s house. My wife ran out and waved them over to our house, and then made a mental note to go to Home Depot and get larger numbers to affix to the wall next to our front door.

It turns out I did not have a heart attack, although my ticker definitely skipped a beat when I looked at that ambulance company invoice. What I had was an episode of something known as S.V.T., or as they call it down at the bowling alley, “Supra-ventricular Tachycardia.”

What this means is, my heart decided to go from 75 beats per minute to 200 beats per minute, and then just stay there, pounding like a jackhammer. Even though my heart was beating almost three times faster than normal, not a whole lot of blood was getting to my head. I only had enough blood flow to think about who I hoped would attend my funeral Mass, and which songs I wanted played. (On further review, I don’t think Fr. Michael will approve the recessional hymn being Springsteen’s “Born to Run.”)

The doctors told me S.V.T. is not a life-threatening condition, although it might be a “life-STYLE threatening condition.” To which I replied, “No kidding, doc. If I suddenly get so little blood to my head that I’m about to pass out, it probably will be a threat to my lifestyle if I happen to be cruising down I-84 at 70 mph or climbing a ladder at work.”

Anyway, after a battery of tests, my heart is in surprisingly good shape, especially for someone who should be attending Donut-aholic Anonymous meetings. 

Next week I will relate the saga of trying to get an explanation from the insurance company as to why the main ambulance service in my town happens to be “out of network” and therefore not covered. It’s a story that will make your heart skip a beat.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

A Chat with Tim Staples, Part 2

At the recent Connecticut Catholic Men’s Conference, I had the opportunity to sit down and chat with the keynote speaker, Tim Staples, who has been a Catholic evangelist and apologist for the past 23 years. I asked Tim if it’s difficult to defend the truth in a culture that doesn’t even acknowledge anymore that truth is a real thing.

He replied, “Absolutely. We’re back to Pontius Pilate’s question, ‘What is truth?’ You’re exactly right. And so, apologetics is really, really crucial in our culture. In fact, one of my newest hires at Catholic Answers is a fellow by the name of Trent Horn, who wrote, I think it’s the best popular-level book on answering why we believe in God. It’s called Answering Atheism by Trent Horn. Great book. But we really do, we need more apologetics works like that.”

Tim then went on to describe how the emphasis of his ministry has changed over the years:

“When we first started at Catholic Answers, we were really focused on the Catholic-Protestant matter. And not just Catholic-Protestant, but Fundamentalists in particular, and the Pentecostals that tend to be a bit more anti-Catholic. That’s where we started. But the culture has moved to a place now where we have a growing agnostic and atheist population. And we also have what we call ‘nones,’ N-O-N-E, that are basically nothing. Lots more of those today. So, we do need to answer those basic, fundamental questions: Why do we believe in God? Why do we believe in truth? Can you prove that to me? Yes, we can!”

In the early years of Catholic apologetics, the primary mission was to counter the false claims made by Fundamentalists about Catholic doctrine. Many of the most successful Catholic apologists were former Protestant preachers, like Scott Hahn and Tim Staples, who had been raised in very anti-Catholic environments. When they came to understand what the Church really teaches and converted to Catholicism, they understood exactly how their debate opponents thought—because they once thought the same way.

However, these days there is a popular concept called “relativism.” This means that all declarations of fact are really nothing more than personal opinion. If you haven’t noticed, we now live in the age of relativism. There is no such thing as absolute truth anymore. According to a lot of prominent folks, everyone now is allowed to define for him or herself what’s right and what’s wrong.

But the basic claims of relativism are ridiculous. Here are things a relativist will say with a straight face: “The only absolute truth is that there is no absolute truth. The only idea which is definitely wrong is the idea that something can be definitely wrong. The only opinion which is strictly forbidden is the opinion that certain things are strictly forbidden.”

The average 6th grader will understand the blatant contradictions contained in these statements, while the average college professor will wholeheartedly agree. (Which reminds of a line Dr. Peter Kreeft said: “Some things are so foolish only a PhD can believe them.”)

Tim Staples acknowledged it’s more difficult to debate a relativist, someone who doesn’t believe in absolute truth, than to debate a Bible-thumping anti-Catholic Fundamentalist. His organization has evolved over the years to meet the challenge.

Tim explained, “Chris Stefanick wrote a little booklet that we sell at Catholic Answers called ‘Absolute Relativism,’ It’s a great title. But that title alone says a lot: ‘I’m a relativist, and I’m ABSOLUTELY RIGHT about it!’ The logical inconsistency!”

As I mentioned last week, go to YouTube and search “Tim Staples” for hours of fascinating video. Also, consider purchasing the publications Tim mentioned, Answering Atheism and “Absolute Relativism.” 

The Lord calls all believers to be able to explain our faith. Our present-day culture, steeped in doubt and despair, needs to hear the Gospel message more than ever.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Fun Day Doing Nothing

Recently I spent an entire Saturday doing nothing. Well, I didn’t do NOTHING. I watched TV. I surfed the Internet on my iPad. I took a nap. And, of course, I ate three full meals (or possibly four), plus the requisite snacks in between.

When I say I did nothing for an entire day, I mean I didn’t do any of the typical things that consume my life nowadays. I didn’t attend a meeting. I didn’t work on a project. I didn’t scramble to meet a deadline. I didn’t do any chores. I just hung around the house all day. I think it was the first time in at least five years that my daily to-do list was completely blank.

Typically, when the weekend arrives and I don’t have to go to work, I still do a lot of stuff. There’s a never-ending list of chores around the house and yard, and the weekend is when our frenetic social life kicks into gear. (Yeah, you’re right. I’m kidding.)

Even when we’re away on vacation, we plan various events and activities. Vacationing is fun, but it’s not doing nothing. To get the most out of our limited vacation opportunities, we cram a lot of things into each trip. Maybe this is why when we get home from vacation, I always feel like I need a vacation.

The reason I was able to spend an entire Saturday doing nothing is because I was sick. Well, I wasn’t sick sick. I wouldn’t have been able to eat those three full meals (or possibly four), plus the requisite snacks in between, if I was flat on my back with the flu. What I had was a nasty cold, with a stuffy head and scratchy throat, and I sneezed and blew my nose every two minutes like clockwork.

So, I felt fairly lousy, although if I had a particular obligation that day I would’ve been able to attend to it, most likely sneezing on other people the whole time. (That’s exactly what folks want this time of year, to get sneezed on, right?) But I didn’t have any pressing obligations that day, just a half-dozen items in the “you should get these things done soon” category. Therefore, when I woke up that Saturday morning, after first blowing my nose for 20 minutes, I said, “I am doing nothing today. I mean: NO. THING.”

Then, just for emphasis, I pretended to press a button on an imaginary 1960s-style desk intercom, and I yelled at it, “Shirley, cancel all my appointments for the rest of the day!” (Which prompted my wife to roll her eyes and mutter, “You really are sick. And I don’t mean your cold.”)

What I did that entire day was exactly nothing. And it was awesome!

I had forgotten how much fun it is to have no responsibilities and do nothing all day. It was like living in a fraternity house at college once again — minus a Springsteen album on the turntable, column speakers that shook the walls, and an assortment of “head shop” paraphernalia. (It’s not what you think. We were just ahead of our time getting on the medical marijuana bandwagon. Really.)

Many of my friends and business associates are beginning to retire. I’ve always worried that I’d be bored to tears if I retire. But now I’m thinking that doing nothing every day might be pretty good after all. Maybe I’ll try it for a month, to see if I like it. (I wonder if they’ll notice at the office that I’ve disappeared for four weeks?) It should be fun, as long as I have three full meals each day (or possibly four), plus the requisite snacks in between.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

A Chat with Tim Staples

At the recent Connecticut Catholic Men’s Conference, I had the opportunity to sit down for a chat with the keynote speaker, Tim Staples, who has been a Catholic evangelist and apologist for the past 23 years. I asked Tim to discuss the term “apologetics.”

He laughed and then replied, “I set people up all the time. I ask what they do for a living, and after they’re done, they naturally say, ‘And what do you do?’ and I say, ‘I’m [a Catholic] apologist.’ They say, ‘Really? What’s that? Do you apologize for being Catholic? Are you that sorry?’ But actually, apologetics comes from a Greek word, apologia, which we find in Scripture in 1 Peter 3:15. Our first pope said, ‘Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts always and be ready to give everyone a reason for the hope that lives within you, with meekness and with respect.’ So, apologia is a reason or a response, an answer why we believe what we believe. And apologetics is the science of giving those answers.”    
Tim went on to tell me about the beginnings of the organization where he works, Catholic Answers, based in San Diego. In those early days, there were very few people engaged in Catholic apologetics. He explained, “When I first started, there were very few of us. Scott Hahn and me, and there [weren’t] a whole lot of folks out there. And now there are organizations and apologetic apostolates all over the United States and growing around the world. It’s exciting. People are catching hold of the truth that we as Catholics are called to evangelize this world. And if you’re going to evangelize the world, you’ve got to know what you’re talking about.”

This is one of our biggest problems: most Catholics in the U.S. have never been properly trained about the basic doctrines of the Church. Since it’s impossible to clearly explain what you don’t know, ignorance of our faith has always been a glaring weakness among Catholics.

Before converting to Catholicism and becoming an apologist, Mr. Staples was a fire-breathing fundamentalist preacher. His passion for Jesus Christ and the Bible, combined with his speaking skills and high-energy personality, made him a very successful evangelist. He freely admits that back in those days, the easiest people to evangelize were Roman Catholics, who invariably did not understand the basics tenets of the Church. Whenever Tim and his fellow fundamentalists engaged Catholics in conversation, a few carefully phrased theological questions—along with Bible verses to back them up—would have the Catholics reeling, and in many cases, within 15 minutes, they’d be convinced the Church was a non-Christian cult and they’d be ready to join a fundamentalist congregation.

Nowadays Tim kind of cringes when he thinks about the multitude of people he led out of the Catholic Church, and he hopes all the hard work he’s done as a Catholic apologist during the past 23 years has helped to even the score.

Having a dynamic keynote speaker was a great experience for the approximately 600 men who attended the Men’s Conference. But I asked Tim what can be done to promote apologetics at the parish level, where bringing in a gifted speaker from California is not practical.

He told me, “We’ve got to start as Catholics doing what our Protestant friends have been doing for a hundred years—and that is these local Bible studies where folks get fired up. And then they have a vehicle, they have an instrument, where they can bring their friends.” 

If you’re curious, go to YouTube and search for “Tim Staples.” You’ll find hours of amazing video of Tim hard at work. And hopefully you’ll be inspired to ask your pastor about forming an apologetics Bible study in your parish.