Once more unto the breach; and an apology

Reni, St. Peter Penitent

St. Peter Penitent (c. 1600), by Guido Reni. (WikiPaintings.org)

Hi, everybody. I am about to desperately enter the thesis cave once more, for one last stand. Only one of us (the thesis or me) will emerge alive. But because I have a bit of argumentation backed up from various conversations with folks recently, I thought I would try to make a few brief posts here and there, so as not to entirely let the blog languish. As you well know, brevity is not a strength of mine, so please bear with me.

Also, I want to offer a general apology for my attitude in some recent discussions. It’s so easy for me to let myself become heated in a debate, to lose sight of Christ in the moment, to let my argument become more about me and being right than about Him and sharing His Word and His Truth in charity. The truth and the richness of His Church is marvelous, and I want to share it with everyone I meet; but sometimes, I’m afraid, I go out into the blogosphere seeking critics and opponents of the Church, looking for a fight and finding it. While I do want very much to encourage and engage in dialogue with Protestants, and to defend my Church against unjust charges, misunderstandings, and misinformation, so often I fear I approach people aggressively and obnoxiously, with a spirit of pride and disputatiousness rather than one of brotherhood and love. So, to anyone whom I have offended, please forgive me. Dimitte me, Domine.

May the peace of Christ be with you all.

13 thoughts on “Once more unto the breach; and an apology

  1. Having written a thesis, I completely understand the need for the cave and the problem of stress causing attitude problems. This to shall pass once it is done. Blessings and get that thing done.

  2. disputatiousness….what a curiously catholic sounding word! Ok, so here is a brief response. 1) Finish the thesis. 2) Notice the period at the end of that sentence. It denotes finality. 3) It is so easy to lose sight, or get lost in apologetics sometimes. I think you successfully described a very good goal. I will adopt it as well. Sharing the truth in charity is a big deal. 4) There was a huge online kerfuffle about a quote attributed to St. Francis. Something alon the lines of, “Preach the gospel, use words when necessary.” I don’t know who said it. Quite frankly I don’t really care. It makes sense. My life should proclaim the gospel so loudly that no words are really necessary.

    How long are you going to be in your cave?

    In Christ,

    • Thanks. And yes, that quote is common attributed to St. Francis, but he didn’t really say it. It’s still a good quote that people ought to remember. I recently heard somebody quote it as “a sort-of slogan of the Franciscans,” which may not be a bad way to describe it.

      And I don’t know. Until I’m finished. I had better be done by the end of May, but hopefully I’ll be done before then.

      Peace to you, Roy.

  3. Cheers, Pilgrim. I’m reading Mary and the Fathers of the Church, by the way. You certainly knew what you were doing when you made that recommendation. So thanks, and keep on keepin’ on.

  4. Hi Joseph, I try to stay out of the confrontations. But, I didn’t always. I have been a younger and zealous Christian who walked somewhat self-rightously. As a Protestant, I’ve rapidly carpet bombed, machine gunned verses, and slung with the best of them from behind the wall.
    Many times people do that to get pats on the back from their compadres and to pick up followers after themselves. I’ve believed that I’ve wounded those when I won in battle.
    Then, comes the realization that I’m not as smart as I think I am. And, many times it wasn’t that I won, but they just weren’t going to take any more of their time with me.
    So, I tell stories instead; stories that may or may not mean anything to someone. But, my wife tells me I’m a better storyteller than debater.
    Modern Apologetics does seem to bear fruit for me. It seems testosterone driven and Protestants define every debate leaving Catholics on the defense. They practice the relativistic tool of religious deconstructionism by tearing apart perhaps thousands of pages of documents to find that one verse that they claim esoterically proves a point. It leaves the rest of us scratching our heads with a puzzed look on our faces.
    I watch Prayson. He’s on the way Home to the Church. It seems we come violently, in a spiritual sense.
    I posted the day after Easter on the Eucharist. It was my fledgling blogs biggest day and not one like, I was floored. I was bewildered and have went slower since.
    Keep on keepin on! Pat

    • Thanks, Pat. I was an overzealous Protestant during more than one period of my life years ago, and wounded quite a few people myself. Now I guess I’m a zealous Catholic convert, gloating a little in the fact that I’ve finally found a solid truth I can stand on. It saddens me that so many people out there have mistaken understandings of the Catholic Church, but I know that more often than not I make myself a butthead to butt into somebody else’s blog and start trying to correct them. (“But they started it by attacking my beliefs,” I say; but that still doesn’t give me the right to be a butthead. Jesus said to turn the other cheek.)

      I guess now I sometimes behave as the smug, self-assured, know-it-all Christian (who usually in my past were of the Reformed variety) that I grew to despise. Those people still bother me a lot, and it is they especially who provoke me to lash out angrily or snidely or arrogantly. I do at least respect Reformed doctrine for having a firm intellectual basis, but so often anti-Catholic charges — of the Reformed or of anybody — are based in misunderstandings, that do not mix well with an otherwise well-reasoned theology. If somebody like Ben Palmer wants to reject Catholic doctrine having a good grasp of both sides of the argument, and do so in charity, then that’s a position I can respect and admire.

      I don’t know as much as I think I do, either. And even more, I have no right to treat other people condescendingly or as if they don’t know something or another. As a teacher and an historian, I strive to remember that my education and my knowledge and gifts to be shared in charity to those who desire them, not luxuries to be lorded over other people, or blunt weapons to beat people over the head with. Also as an historian, I’ve always been more interested in stories and people than the social elements modern historians try to break them down into.

      My experience of apologetics has been just the opposite: I see Catholics standing triumphant and assured in the irrefutable, historical evidence of the Early Church and Church Fathers, and Protestants staring helplessly as even their own scriptural arguments are turned against them. I guess it has a lot to do with what turf we hang out in, and what assumptions we make. I became convinced that the Catholic Church held the Truth a long time ago, and she has never let me down, no matter how solid a Protestant argument might briefly seem. I listen to and frequent Catholic Answers, where there is generally a satisfying answer to everything. I have experienced Protestant cherry-picking of Scripture and even of the Church Fathers, but that usually doesn’t get them very far, when the full context of whatever passage is examined.

      I have often wondered where Prayson was going. I am glad to hear he is finding the Church — it has seemed like he has been fighting it for a while. I came rather gently and peacefully by comparison; by the time I realized where God was leading me, I was already there.

      Starting a blog is slow and hard. Don’t lose heart. It’s taken me a year and a half to reach a hundred readers. If what you post is worth reading — and I have no doubt that it is — the people will come in time. There are ways of attracting followers that I can perceive at work in other blogs that I’m just not very good at, by personality. There is a lot of self-promotion involved; going out and commenting on lots of other blogs and “liking” still more (I’m convinced some people “like” blog entries without even reading them or even have bots to do it automatically — I usually don’t check out their blogs). Tag liberally and vigorously, so people can find your posts — but not too much. I think twelve total tags is the limit at which WP stops posting entries in topic threads (penalizing you), so pick the twelve best descriptors — half of them broad, like “Christianity” and “Catholicism” and “theology,” so people browsing will find you, and the rest specific, to help people navigate within your blog. Oh, and if you don’t know her, you should meet JessicaHof. She is the best friend a religion blogger could have, always reading and “liking” and commenting on posts, making everyone feel welcome and appreciated around here, and always being charitable and gracious even to people who disagree with her. She is the model of how to become a popular and well-liked blogger, and she rightly has a ton of followers.

  5. Thanks Joseph,
    I concur with everything you said. Yet, Jesus turned over tables and said “Whoa” alot. I was born and raised a Catholic. My parents divorced when I was a young teenager. It thru me for a loop. My wife was a Methodist, and we walked the worldly route for some time. Then we were Protestants for over a decade.
    I listened to all the anti Catholic inuendos and even the blatant claims. But, even though I began to believe the misperceptions, you can’t take the Catholic out of someone raised in it.
    I watch Protestant tv all the time and the different interpretations began to bother me.I had began to see Catholic verses in my New King James. Then, my wife and I ended up renting a home. The only Christian tv we got was EWTN . Ha Ha
    When I told my wife that I was considering returning to the Catholic Church, so said “don’t expect me to ever go there!” Ha Ha again. The first time she attended Mass, she said that she couldn’t believe how much Scripture was read. She had never experienced that in the Protestant church.
    The first time she went to confession she was quite nervous. But, she came out crying. She had been troubled her whole life with believing she was forgiven and now she actually heard the sweet words of Christ’s forgiveness, outloud. She now believes that confession is one of the most important things in a Christian’s walk.
    Then, the Eucharist and her intimacy with Christ in a way she never imagined. We’ve talked about all her relatives and how, if they really understood, you couldn’t keep them from the altar at Mass.

    Thanks for the insight! Pat

  6. Joseph,

    When you defeat the thesis monster, I expect a detailed description of just how the war was won, if only to encourage me to slay my own.

    I’ll be praying while you’re in the cave, partner.


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