PROVIDENCE — Apologetics is often misunderstood because many people think it means basically apologizing for one’s beliefs.
Patrick Madrid, a nationally-known Catholic writer and speaker, explained to an audience at St. Pius V Church that apologetics is actually the art of explaining or defending one’s beliefs.
“Just as we are told by St. Peter in 1 Peter 3:15 to always be prepared to give an account for the hope that is in us, with gentleness and reverence,” Madrid said during his Oct. 23 talk.
A few dozen people attended Madrid’s talk, which was entitled “Where is that in the Bible?”
Madrid, the host of the Patrick Madrid Show on Immaculate Heart Radio — a West Coast network of Roman Catholic faith-oriented radio programs — and author of more than 20 books on Catholic topics, addressed several objections, often raised by fundamentalist Bible-only Christians, to Catholic teachings that they claim contradict scripture.
“It’s important you have some biblical knowledge so you can respond to someone who says Catholics are idolaters,” Madrid said.
Statues of saints, veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary, praying to saints, even the Eucharist are often flashpoints for vehement disagreements between faithful Catholics and non-Catholic Christians. Madrid sought to show that defending the Catholic faith is possible, and can be done in a respectful manner.
“The goal is not to win, to make the other person submit,” Madrid said. “It’s to make the other person start thinking, to plant the idea that maybe will germinate down the road. And if you’ve done that, that’s a great success.”
Growing up in the 1960s, Madrid said his generation did not absorb the Catholic faith as well as that of his parents, whom he said largely learned the faith through “osmosis,” as the faith permeated all aspects of family and parish life.
Madrid said he encountered challenges to the Catholic faith his parents never did, including one episode in the fourth grade where a fellow student, after learning that he was Catholic, told him that the Catholic Church worshiped idols.
Later as a teenager, Madrid recounted a girlfriend’s father, a committed Protestant, who often challenged Madrid by opening the Bible and citing verses that he claimed conflicted with the Catholic faith, such as calling priests “Father,” which some Protestants say violates Jesus’ instruction in Matthew 23:9 to call no man on earth father.
Madrid said he would often relay those objections to his own father, a committed Catholic who was unfazed by the challenges. Madrid said his father would pick out a Catholic book from the family library to help his son research the answers for himself.
“It became like a detective story for me,” said Madrid, adding that the experience solidified his own faith.
“It made me take ownership of my Catholic faith,” Madrid said. “I think I bypassed what could have become a childish faith and entered into a time where I had a committed adult Catholic faith, predicated upon my believing that these things are true because I found out of for myself.”
As he continued studying, Madrid said he noticed that many of the common arguments that cite scripture against the Catholic faith have a “superficial plausibility,” in that taken at face value, they seem possible. But a deeper look into the Bible proves those arguments otherwise.
“I learned how often it is that people who are demanding Biblical proof for Catholic teaching don’t understand what the Church teaches or what the Bible itself is teaching,” Madrid said.
Even the concept of Sola Scriptura — Latin for “By Scripture Alone” — that forms the basis for Protestant objections and even some Catholics’ concerns over the Church’s doctrines and practices, is a flawed argument because, as Madrid noted, that idea is not taught in Scripture.
“The Bible nowhere makes this claim,” said Madrid, who noted that St. Paul, writing in 1 Corinthians and 2 Thessalonians, told his listeners to hold fast to the traditions that he had passed on to them, in oral and written form.
“The Bible itself is tradition, the written form of tradition,” said Madrid, who added that documented history and the writings of the Early Church Fathers prove that the first generations of Christians interpreted the Bible in the same manner that the Catholic Church does today.
“I can show you the belief in the authority of the bishop of Rome, venerations of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints, prayers for the dead, confession to a priest and the Eucharist in the early writings of the Church Fathers. There is a historical basis for these beliefs that go back to the apostles,” Madrid said.
When put on the defensive by aggressive, proselytizing non-Catholic Christians, Madrid advised his listeners to use verbal “jujitsu maneuvers” to change the dynamics of the conversation. He recommended using the Socratic Method and asking the other person a series of questions to make them explain and think through their own positions.
Madrid also said Catholics should use the most simple arguments possible.
“Eschew the more elaborate, intricate arguments. The more simple, the better,” Madrid said.
Ann Jacquez, a parishioner of St. Pius V Church, said after Madrid’s talk that she liked his presentation.
“I enjoyed some of his personal stories,” Jacquez said. “He piqued my interest in some of his books on apologetics.”
Tyler Rowley, a parishioner at St. Pius V Church who leads the parish’s young adults group, said that Madrid articulates the faith very well for both Catholics and non-Catholics alike.
“When people challenge what you believe it forces you to make a decision,” Rowley said. “You can either start agreeing with them, lose your faith all together, or learn the reasons for the hope you have. Just like Patrick Madrid, when I examined the truth claims of the Catholic Church I found that she truly is the Bride of Christ.”
The final point of Madrid’s talk was his advice to present the Catholic faith to someone in a simple, heartfelt way.
Said Madrid, “You can’t underestimate the power that it can have.”