Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Rise of English Catholicism

Our Lady of Walsingham
A Popular English Catholic Devotion Commemorating an Apparition of the Virgin Mary in England

In the April 12, 2017 edition of the National Catholic Register (EWTN's official newspaper), Peter Jesserer Smith published an outstanding article outlining the inside story on the creation of the Personal Ordinariates for former Anglicans. He writes...
Benedict XVI gave a tremendous gift to the English-speaking world in 2009, when he finally realized a dream centuries in the making, and established a permanent canonical home for groups from the Anglican tradition seeking to enter the Catholic Church with the apostolic constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus
Today, the Catholic Church has three Personal Ordinariates — informally known as the “Anglican Ordinariates” — that preserve the Anglican patrimony in their Catholic parishes, communities, and religious orders. These Personal Ordinariates have the only English form of the Roman Missal, promulgated by Pope Francis, called Divine Worship — an actual English form, not an English translation of the Latin Mass — written in traditional, poetic “Prayer Book” English. Each Personal Ordinariate covers a region of the globe (Oceania, the United Kingdom, and North America) and is headed by a bishop or ordinary who falls directly under the jurisdiction of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. 
Read the full article here.
Smith makes a very important observation. What we effectively have here is a whole new form of the Roman Rite, that really isn't that new at all. In fact, it's very old, and when I say old, I mean ancient. You see, much of Divine Worship is based on the old Sarum Use, used in England prior to the Reformation. Yes, that's right, I'm talking about a Use or Form of the Roman Rite which is actually older than the Tridentine mass. Now granted, the old Sarum Use was said in Latin not English, and Divine Worship is not an exact replica. It is different, but it has many common points of reference, just as it has common points of reference with the Trindentine mass. It is its own thing. Those looking for an exact English translation of the Latin Tridentine mass will be disappointed. Those looking for another modern vernacular of the Novus Ordo mass will be disappointed. It is none of these things. It is rather something entirely different, and it's based on many elements from the old Sarum Use as preserved through the centuries in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer.

What's it like? Well, let me tell you. It's very traditional by contemporary Catholic standards. Mass is commonly celebrated with the priest facing the altar together with the congregation (ad orientem). Communion is typically served on the tongue while kneeling. Sometimes the method of intinction is used, where the priest dips the host into the precious blood before placing it on the communicant's tongue. The gospel reading is done in the centre aisle amongst the congregation. The prayers are a little different. The responses are a little different. Most importantly, all of it (prayers and responses) are done in Sacred English (thee, thou, thy, etc.)

Divine Worship Mass - Celebrated by Bishop Lopes - Oct. 23rd, 2016

This is now an official form of the Roman Rite, on par with other forms, such as the Tridentine and Novus Ordo, commonly called the Extraordinary and Ordinary forms of the Roman Rite. Thus Divine Worship is a third form, which is distinctively English. Whereas the vernacular translation of the Novus Ordo mass is just that -- a translation of a Latin text -- in contrast Divine Worship is a Vatican approved English text in and of itself. Smith continues...
The CDF’s guarantee means the faithful of the Church, from now until Christ returns in glory, understand that the Anglican patrimony (and what in the Ordinariate is a truly restored English Catholic heritage that runs through the Anglican tradition all the way back to St. Augustine at Kent) is not just a treasure for the Personal Ordinariate, but is a treasure that belongs to “the whole Church.” 
Read the full article here.
As is pointed out here, what we have embodied in the Ordinariates and Divine Worship is the authentic Anglican Patrimony as restored English Catholicism, as it has developed from the time of St. Augustine of Canterbury until now. It is, in a very real sense, the heritage of every English-speaking Catholic in the world. This may sound strange to some, but its not so foreign when we consider how much the Anglican Patrimony already plays into Catholicism in the English-speaking world, even outside the Ordinariates. For example; when we pray the Lord's Prayer during the vernacular English Novus Ordo mass, this is how it's commonly said or chanted...

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come,
thy will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil. 

Take note of the Sacred English words "art" and "thy." It's exactly the same in Divine Worship. How very interesting that Rome saw fit to translate the Lord's Prayer into Sacred English, even in the 1970s vernacular translation that uses Common English (or "modern" English). I mean, think about it. The words "art" and "thy" appear nowhere else in the English vernacular Novus Ordo mass. They only appear in this prayer, and that's because it's an appeal to our linguistic history and heritage -- our Anglican Patrimony. English-speaking Catholics have been using Sacred English for this prayer, straight out of the Anglican prayerbooks, officially in the mass, ever since the vernacular English translation was commissioned in the 1970s.

However, it's been going on a lot longer than that -- unofficially. Pick up just about any copy of the Daily Roman Missal 1962 and what you'll find is the old Tridentine mass officially in Latin on one side of the page, translated unofficially into Sacred English (not Common English) on the other side of the page. For decades prior to the Novus Ordo mass, English-speaking (Anglophone) Catholics learnt the "Our Father," "Hail Mary," and "Glory Be," and scores of other prayers in Sacred English. The same is true of the first English translations of the Catholic Bible. I'm speaking specifically of the Douay-Rheims Bible, which is entirely in Sacred English, just like the Anglican King James Version. In fact all English Bibles, produced in previous centuries, used some variation of Sacred English, commonly found in Anglican prayer books, because that was THE standard for all English religious text. Every English-speaker knows this deep down inside. Sacred English is the language of poetry, music and theatre. It always has been. It is our most treasured vernacular, because it represents the highest and most precise diction the language has to offer. We offer God only our best, and that is why it's called Sacred English, or as the Anglicans sometimes say "Prayerbook English." (Read more about Sacred English Here.) We can see, however, by the abundance of Sacred English used in unofficial liturgical translations, Scripture and prayers, prior to 1970, that the Catholic Church has already been in the business of preserving some aspects of the Anglican Patrimony for a very long time. Perhaps there has always been a recognition by Rome that there is something there. There is something about Sacred English, as exemplified by the Anglican Patrimony, that is worth preserving, and so Anglophone Catholics have been preserving some aspect of it all along.

With the creation of the Novus Ordo liturgy in 1970, it was only natural for Rome to translate it into the most common and popular vernacular. That is, after all, the primary purpose of the Novus Ordo translations, to bring the liturgy of the mass into the common tongue. Thus it was translated into Common English (or what many mistakenly refer to as "modern English"). Yet even then, a nod to the Anglican Patrimony was given with the Sacred English translation of the "Our Father." Every single English-speaking Catholic gives that same nod when the "Our Father" is recited (or chanted) during mass. And this is where Smith's article hits a home run...
But rather importantly, as the bishop pointed out, the CDF stands as the guarantee that the liturgical traditions of the Personal Ordinariates are fully Catholic in every sense of the word. No one can say otherwise, or tell lifelong Catholics that the spiritual patrimony of the Personal Ordinariates is not for them, because the CDF stands behind it. Any Catholic who wishes to adopt this spiritual patrimony knows its Catholicity comes guaranteed by Rome. 
Read the full article here.
Did you catch that? "Any Catholic who wishes to adopt this spiritual patrimony knows its Catholicity comes guaranteed by Rome." Pause and let that sink in.

Any Catholic may adopt this spiritual patrimony -- ANY Catholic. Stop. Let that sink in.

"No one can say otherwise, or tell lifelong Catholics that the spiritual patrimony of the Personal Ordinariates is not for them."

ANY Catholic may adopt the spirituality of the Anglican Patrimony as guaranteed by Rome. Presumably, it would be mostly English-speaking (Anglophone) Catholics who would be most drawn to it, but by no means is it just limited to them. ANY CATHOLIC may adopt the spirituality of the Anglican Patrimony -- any Catholic.

Are you Catholic? If yes, you may adopt the spirituality of the Anglican Patrimony as guaranteed by Rome. That's the only prerequisite. Are you Catholic? If the answer is yes, you qualify to adopt the Anglican Patrimony as your own personal spirituality.

Now, to be clear, that does not mean any Catholic qualifies to become a member of the Ordinariates. Membership in the ordinariates is a different matter of episcopal jurisdiction, governed by specific rules set down in Anglicanorum Coetibus, decrees from the pope, and the oversight of the Vatican CDF. So membership in the Ordinariate is a different matter. One must qualify, and to learn what those qualifications are, one must take a look at the rules here.

Still, one does not need to be a member of a certain episcopal jurisdiction (the Ordinariate) in order to personally adopt the authentic Catholic spirituality of the Anglican Patrimony. ANY Catholic may adopt the spirituality of the Anglican Patrimony, and do the following, regardless of Ordinariate membership...
  1. Pray using Sacred English (thee, thou, thy, etc.)
  2. Use prayer books and devotionals derived from the Anglican Patrimony.
  3. Pray the Daily Office (see here).
  4. Fellowship with Ordinariate Catholics.
  5. Join the Anglicanorum Coetibus Society.
  6. Join an Ordinariate parish (find one here, here or here)
Yes, Ordinariate parish membership is open even to non-Ordinariate members. In other words, it is possible (even fairly common in some places) for Roman Catholics, who do not qualify for Ordinariate membership, to nevertheless adopt the total spirituality of the Anglican Patrimony, even to the point of joining an Ordinariate parish. It happens all the time.

Regardless of whatever continent you're on, membership in the Anglicanorum Coetibus Society (ACS) is open to EVERYONE, and this makes a very suitable alternative for Roman Catholics who love the Anglican Patrimony, but for whatever reason, do not qualify to be part of an Ordinariate jurisdiction. It connects Catholics to the life of the Anglican Patrimony on all three continents by way of a public blog, an ongoing journal, as well as access to occasional events and special materials. The ACS has more exciting things on the way. So whether you're a member of one of the three ordinariates, or even if you don't qualify to be a member, consider membership in the Anglicanorum Coetibus Society (ACS),

You see, up until now, the type of Catholicism we have seen in North America is heavily influenced by Irish, Italian and Latino immigrants. There is a small French influence as well, but that's mostly limited to Canada. In the U.K., Catholicism has been heavily influence by the Irish. All this is well and good, and I would never dream to knock any of these fine traditions. They are lovely in themselves. In fact, I have a particular fondness toward Latino Catholicism, having been surrounded by it as a child in Southern California. However, there has been something big missing in the English-speaking (Anglophone) world for a long time. It's sort of like a great big hole in the Anglophone world. It's something that once was, but has been gone for a very long time.

What we have now in the restored Anglican Patrimony, guaranteed by Rome, is the rebirth of something very old -- English Catholicism. It seems new because we haven't seen it in a very long time. In fact, it hasn't existed in a unified state since the 16th century. It has, up until now, existed only in a fractured state, between High Church Anglicanism and Recusant English Roman Catholicism. So there is nobody alive today who remembers it in a singular unified state, as exists now in the restored Anglican Patrimony embodied in Divine Worship. Nevertheless, Rome has guaranteed it, and former Anglicans (now Catholics) attest to it as well. What we have here is a form of Catholic spirituality that is specifically geared toward English-speaking (Anglophone) people, which should be especially appealing to those living in North America, the U.K., and Oceania. Obviously, this form of spirituality is not for everyone, but if you're an English-speaking Catholic, at least take some time to learn your spiritual history and heritage. Rediscover English Catholicism!

*** Edits in grey, made for clarity. Hat tip to Mark C. in comment below.

Shane Schaetzel is an author of Catholic books, and columnist for Christian print magazines and online publications. He is a freelance writer and the creator of ' -- Apologetics and random musings from a Catholic in the Bible Belt.'

A Catholic Guide
to the Last Days
for Protestants

Monday, April 17, 2017

The Benedict Option for Catholics -- Part I

Mont Saint-Michel, French Atlantic Coast

There has been a lot of talk about the best-selling book: The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation. Catholic Answers Focus recently did an interview with the author, Rod Dreher, which you can listen to the podcast here. It's really quite good, and it's really NOT what a lot of people think it is.

Admittedly, when I first head of the Benedict Option, I was a sceptic. I still am a sceptic of the popular interpretation of it. However, after listening to Dreher on Catholic Answers, my opinion has changed a bit.

What if I were to tell you the following...
  1. Contrary to popular opinion, we are NOT living through the Last Days of humanity. The coming of Antichrist is still likely centuries away. Everyone reading this will likely live to a ripe, old age (Lord willing), as will their children and grandchildren. So we need to start dealing with that reality again. Radical apocalypticism has only contributed to the problems of our Western civilisation, by causing Christians to mentally retreat from everything, in order to prepare for "The End."  
  2. The current spiritual/moral malaise the West is going through right now is NOT a passing storm. It's here to stay.
  3. We have entered a post-Christian world, and this is our new reality.
  4. We are NEVER going back to 1950s Catholicism, nor are we going back to 1940s Catholicism, nor 1930s, nor 1900, nor 1870, nor 1850, etc. We're not going back to any of that -- ever -- those days are over. It is done.
  5. Mainstream Protestantism is dying in the West, and will continue to die.
  6. Evangelical Protestantism is not far behind, and is in fact heading toward a total implosion that will eventually see its demise even quicker than Mainstream Protestantism.
  7. Eastern Orthodoxy is struggling, experiencing only short bursts of growth for brief periods of time, followed by periods of stagnation and biological attrition. 
  8. The mainstream Catholic Church is sinking as well, but at a slower rate. It is only now just beginning to experience the vocation and financial crisis that lay ahead. In the decades to come, dioceses all across Europe and the Americas will be downsizing! Catholic parishes and schools will gradually be sold off, as will diocesan-owned properties and assets. Parishes will be merged, downsized, and merged again. The main strategy of this current generation of bishops is now "managed decline."
  9. The mainstream religious orientation of tomorrow's generation in the West will be Secular and Islamic: more Islamic in Europe, and more Secular in the Americas. Christianity will gradually become a minority religion in these areas.
  10. This reality will manifest over the next generation. It cannot be stopped, and will not be reversed outside of a miraculous intervention from God himself.
  11. That intervention will likely come, eventually, because God is faithful, but when it does, the world is NOT going to automatically become Catholic again. That's not how it works. It's never worked that way in the past, and it won't work that way in the future. Rather, it will need to be re-evangelised, and this will take generations of solid faith and sacrificial commitment.
  12. The Western Catholic Church of today is unprepared to accept this challenge.
  13. The Western Catholic Church of today can't even stop its own haemorrhaging of youth leaving the Church, let alone reach out to the heathen youth of today or tomorrow.
Still, the decline of the Catholic Church in the West is not universal. There are places were it is growing. We have small, isolated, pockets in North America, as well as rapidly expanding dioceses in Africa and Asia. Looking at these communities may serve to help us. But first, we must understand the problem.

What is the problem?

The problem is modern Western culture -- Modernism -- and this is what is discussed in the book The Benedict Option. Our Modernist culture is just too overwhelming for parents to be able to do their jobs anymore. It is virtually impossible for parents to raise godly children, in the self-sacrificial Catholic faith, when the message of the world (even the message of consumer Christianity) is that of self-gratification. Like ancient Rome, the culture is destined for collapse. It's hard to say if or when such a collapse would be political, but it most certainly is cultural.

On a personal side note, living here in the Bible Belt of the United States, I am constantly hearing local Protestants refer to the November 2016 election of Donald Trump as some kind of "turning point" for the culture, and they fully expect things to get better now. I'm sorry to report to you that our Evangelical brethren are sorely mistaken on this, and will be in for a rude awakening sometime in the not-too-distant future. Politicians cannot solve this problem. Those who believe the election of Trump marks some kind of cultural turning point are sadly deceiving themselves.

So with a culture that is overwhelmingly Modernist, wherein Catholic parents have no choice, what is this Benedict Option in modern terms? No, it's not what you think. It's not about going out into the wilderness to live as the Amish do. I suppose that might be a viable choice for some, but certainly not for most. For the average Catholic, the Benedict Option heavily involves your local Catholic parish.

The Catholic parish must be revived, or rebuilt, to become a truly communal place, as it was originally meant to be. Catholics can no longer look at Catholicism as just one aspect of their lives. Rather, they must now look at it as their entire lives. Catholicism can no longer influence us. It must define us, and yes, the local Catholic parish is the key to making this whole thing work. Without it, any attempt at a Benedict Option will fail miserably. So with that said, what are some things Catholic families can do to bring the Benedict Option to your local Catholic parish...
  1. Abandon radical apocalypticism. That is not our calling folks. We are commanded to LIVE our lives, and LIVE THEM JOYFULLY, without fear. I have a book coming out this year which will help in this area. It's called A Catholic Guide to the Last Days. Yes, some bad things are coming our way, just as they did in previous generations, but it's NOT the end of the world.
  2. Home school your children. Remember, your goal here is to raise them to be good Christians, not little Einsteins. Just as parents who send their children to schools can get overly focused on academics, so can home schooling parents. Granted, we need to teach our kids to read and write, as well as math, history, science and other things. BUT, that should never be the focus of the homeschooling Catholic parent. FAITH is the focus, and it must be a FAITH OF JOY without fear. If you don't have this. Get it! Because you can't give your children that which you don't have.
  3. Set up a home school support group at your local parish. You don't need the parish to organise this for you. You can organise this yourself. Simply bring your priest into the loop and ask for his prayers. Naming him as your official chaplain will go a long way toward this. Some priests just don't get it yet, and a lot of them want you to send your children to Catholic schools instead. They need to be educated that Catholic schools simply don't work for all families. Home school support groups are not the same as cooperatives or academies. The latter focus more on academics. A support group is just that. It's a place where parents support one another, and children have time to fellowship and play. Occasionally some activities might be involved.
  4. Turn off the television, or at the very least, severely limit it. If you choose to have a television in your home, families should be very selective about what they watch. Spending hours on end, in front of the television, will corrupt any child's mind, and even some adult minds too. This didn't used to be the case, in the 1950s through 70s, but in recent decades, the culture has gone so overwhelmingly Modernist, that it cannot be redeemed. It can only be turned off.
  5. The same discretion must apply to movies, radio, Internet and video games.
  6. There should be no televisions or screens in bedrooms at all. This separates the family.
  7. If you have the Internet in your home, you MUST apply filters to internet accessible devices that children handle. Children must not be allowed to access the Internet in their rooms, or away from parental view. Parents must be in the habit of looking at their devices frequently and randomly, without warning. This will teach the children that they can never escape your supervision. In addition, ask the children to show you any material they think might be inappropriate. While doing this, teach them the skills they need to discern for themselves what is appropriate viewing material and what is not. Sheltering children from information will not last into adulthood. Like the Amish, sheltered children will simply go on worldly binges when they reach maturity and only some will come back to the fold. Rather, children must be taught to form good information searching habits instead, being taught the difference between right and wrong and why, which they can carry with them into adulthood. 
  8. Start working on community activities with your local parish. Bible studies and prayer groups are great, but I'm talking about something more here. For example; a community garden might be one option for men, women and children. Knitting, sewing and cooking groups might be some other options as well. Are there any hunters or fishermen in your parish? How about organising some group outings and bring back some meat for the parish as well. These can all be shared with the community, and even given to those in need. I know this sounds somewhat "Amish" in a way, but remember, I'm talking about parishes in the middle of urban cities too. Even people who live there sometimes go out on hunting and fishing trips outside the city. A donation of a deep freezer to the Church basement can supply a source of protein for parish members struggling with grocery bills, and the outings that made that protein possible can supply men (or women) with the fellowship they need to build each other up in Christ. Who knows? Maybe even your priest likes to fish or hunt!
  9. NETWORK with other parishioners, and start supporting their local businesses and trades.
  10. In addition to mass, plan a weekly Evening Prayer (Vespers) meeting, followed by a potluck or snacks. The same could be done with Sunday mass in smaller parishes. 
The point here is to make your local parish more than just a weekly stop for an hour-long mass, then back to the rest of your life. The point here is to make your parish your life entirely. That is the Benedict Option for Catholics. Alongside Dreher's book, another volume by Archbishop Charles Chaput should be consulted. It's called Strangers in a Strange Land: Living the Catholic Faith in a Post-Christian World. I would recommend them side by side...


Shane Schaetzel is an author of Catholic books, and columnist for Christian print magazines and online publications. He is a freelance writer and the creator of ' -- Apologetics and random musings from a Catholic in the Bible Belt.'

A Catholic Guide
to the Last Days
for Protestants
Regnum Dei Press

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Is Easter a Pagan Celebration?

Easter Bunny and Coloured Eggs

There is a thread of radical Protestant Fundamentalism that likes to attack traditional Christian celebrations -- particularly Christmas and Easter. We see this primarily among the Jehovah's Witnesses (which aren't technically Protestant or Fundamentalist but rather a separate religion entirely more akin to Arianism). The Protestants include, but are not limited to: Quakers, Churches of Christ, Anabaptists, Congregationalists and some Presbyterians. Other Fundamentalist groups come in too. In addition, a growing number of Judaic Evangelicals (Messianic and Sabbath-keeping groups) do not celebrate Christmas and Easter, and often attack them as "Pagan in origin." While I'm not going to criticise these groups for their own religious practises, I will say their criticism of traditional Easter celebrations is out of line and poppycock. Most of the time, whenever they attempt to "reveal the true origins of Easter" the only thing they really reveal is their lack of education in the areas of history and religion.

The Goddess Ishtar
Babylonian Relief in British Museum
Here's the gist of their argument. It's really very simple, but there are subtle variations of it depending on the particular denomination attacking Easter. The main idea is that Easter is really a super-secret worship of the ancient Babylonian goddess Ishtar. Because you see, the Church of Rome (that is The Roman Catholic Church) has secretly and deviously concocted a plan to make us all unwittingly worship a Pagan goddess. You know, because that's what Rome does I guess. So according to these conspiracy theorists, the name "Easter" is how you actually pronounce the Babylonian name Ishtar, and the celebration of Easter is really (secretly) all about sex, and just uses the Resurrection of Jesus Christ as a cover. So look out! These rascally popes have actually got you worshipping a naked fertility goddess with wings and bird claws, instead of Jesus Christ, every Easter celebration, and your kids are participating in it! The conspiracy continues to point out that the symbols of Ishtar were eggs and rabbits. So once again, Easter is all about Pagan sex. Those chocolate Easter bunnies and coloured eggs are actually sex symbols, and you're kids are eating them!

Easter/Ishtar Meme
Often Circulated on Social Media
I know, it sounds so ridiculous, right? Well, that's because it is ridiculous. But you would be surprised to discover just how many Protestants (and modern Arians like the Jehovah's Witnesses for example) actually believe this stuff. They usually get quite militant about it too, using it as some kind of justification for their own religious practises, while condemning the culture around them as "Pagan." They publish long articles, with elaborate "archaeological findings" that supposedly prove their point. They've been doing it for decades. Then of course, with the advent of social media, came the Easter/Ishtar memes, consisting of a single picture of the Babylonian goddess Ishtar and a brief synopsis of their hysterical conspiracy-theory typed over it. Again, I'm not going to criticise their Sabbath-keeping here, nor their Passover-keeping, nor their avoidance of Christmas and Easter in their own homes, nor any of their other religious practises. If they want to do those things, that's their business, but when they attack our Catholic practises, I'm pleased to call out rubbish for what it is.

First of all, the ancient Babylonians did not pronounce Ishtar as "Easter." That's just bunk. The name Ishtar is likely Semitic in origin, and was identified in ancient times with the Canaanite goddess Ashtoreth or Astarte. All of these names were pronounced exactly as they're spelt. In fact, the English spelling of those names is based on a phonetic interpretation of the actual Semitic words. None of them were pronounced as "Easter" -- not a single one. Secondly, even if they sounded similar (which they don't) that does not mean they have the same etymological origin. For example; the English words "here" and "hear" are two completely different words that mean two completely different things. They sound the same, but their origins are completely different. The same would be true for Ishtar and Easter, if indeed they sounded the same (or similar), but in fact they don't.

The origin of the word Easter is a linguistic fluke actually. In most languages, the word for Easter is derived from the Hebrew word for Passover...

  • Bulgarian – Paskha
  • Danish – Paaske
  • Dutch – Pasen
  • Finnish – Pääsiäinen
  • French – Pâques
  • Indonesian – Paskah
  • Italian – Pasqua
  • Lower Rhine German – Paisken
  • Norwegian – Påske
  • Portuguese – Páscoa
  • Romanian – Pasti
  • Russian – Paskha
  • Scottish Gaelic – Càisg
  • Spanish – Pascua
  • Swedish – Påsk
  • Welsh – Pasg

In other languages it's referred to as follows...

  • Bulgarian - Velikden (Grand Day)
  • Polish - Wielkanoc (Grand Night)
  • Czech - Velikonoce (Grand Nights)
  • Slovak - Velká Noc (the Grand Night)
  • Serbian - Uskrs or Vaskrs (resurrection)
  • Japanese - Fukkatsu-sai (resurrection festival)

It is only in English and German that the name "Easter" is found in reference to the feast...

  • English - Easter
  • German - Ostern

There are two possibilities for this. The first, and in my opinion more likely, explanation is that the old Germanic word for the eastward direction is "eostarun" which is a reference to the rising dawn. Thus Eostarun/Ostern/Easter is likely a reference to the resurrection of Jesus Christ as like the rising dawn. It also could be a reference to it as an eastern feast, since Christianity is a Middle Eastern religion. To this date, the German word for east is "osten."

To play devil's advocate, I'll cite a source that almost seems to back the Pagan origin of the word "Easter." St. Bede wrote in the 8th century that he believed there was a connection between the English word "Easter" and the German word "Ostara," which was the name of a Teutonic goddess of the rising sun (no direct connection to fertility here). He surmised that because the Paschal Feast of the Resurrection happened in the same month named for this goddess, the month we call April today, Christians simply stole the name and applied it to the Feast of the Resurrection. I love St. Bede, but I think he's oversimplifying things here. As I established above, the German word for east is "osten," and the German word for Easter is "Ostern." It only stands to reason that a Teutonic goddess, named after the rising sun (which always comes from the east) would be named "Ostara." However, after playing devil's advocate, I still believe the etymological connection to the German word for east (osten) is stronger. We have to remember that English was originally called Anglish, and it was the language of the German tribes (Angles, Saxons and Jutes) that invaded Britain in the 5th century from northern Germany. These Germans spoke Old German, a language now extinct, which evolved into Old English (Anglish), Middle English, and finally Modern English. It's extremely likely that the Old German word "eostarun" simply became the English word "eastern," which eventually led to the English word "Easter" for the Feast of the Paschal Resurrection, which came from the east, just like "Ostern" is now the German word for the same religious feast. We must remember that in ancient times, any land east of Greece was considered "the east" or "the orient." Palestine, from which Christianity originally came, was considered an eastern religion to the ancient people of western Europe.

English and German are unique, in that they both have their own common word for the Paschal Feast of the Resurrection, but that word is more likely tied to a direction than to Paganism, and it most certainly has no connection to the Semitic goddess of fertility, war, and fate -- Ishtar.

In the Easter/Ishtar meme, that frequently circulates social media, there is a reference to Constantine. Many Fundamentalist conspiracy theories centre around this particular Caesar, who legalised Christianity in AD 312 with the Edict of Milan. The conspiracy goes on to theorise that Constantine actually changed Christianity after this to make it more Pagan. Again, this shows a total lack of historical scholarship. Constantine originally sided with the Arians, not the Christians, but was eventually forced to assent to Christian Trinitarian theology after the Council of Nicea in AD 325. He himself remained religiously aloof in his personal life, until he was baptised on his deathbed. He had virtually no influence on Christian theology, but eventually found himself influence by it. Many of the so-called "doctrinal inventions" of Constantine (such as the papacy, prayer to the Saints, Purgatory, Marian devotion, etc.) can be well documented in the writings of the early Church, decades to centuries before his arrival. So no, Constantine did not introduce "Easter" to the Roman Empire. In fact, he likely never heard the word in his entire life. Constantine did not reinvent Christianity. Rather, Christianity reinvented him.

Like all good conspiracy theories, they're usually crafted with the skin of the truth, stuffed with a lie. It is true that Ishtar was a Babylonian goddess of sex and fertility. However, she was also the goddess of war, power, protection, fate, childbirth, marriage and storms. Her western counterpart was the Greek goddess Aphrodite and the Roman goddess Venus. However, her symbols were not eggs and bunnies. They were rather; lions, owls, gates, and the eight-pointed star. The connection between Ishtar, eggs and bunnies, is in fact a fabrication. It's a complete myth with no basis in the archaeological record.

Now Christians have always used symbols in nature to make obvious parallels to theological truths. Eggs have always been a symbol of new life. That is of course what they literally are. Likewise rabbits, particularly little bunnies, are symbolic of spring. I live in the Ozarks of the southern Midwest United States, and every spring this place is just hopping with bunnies of all types. I mean they're everywhere, especially the little baby bunnies. Springtime has always been associated with new life in many cultures and religions. Anywhere there is lush vegetation, you're going to have a lot of rabbits in the springtime. Likewise, Christians celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ are celebrating new life as well. So it only stands to reason that the symbols of eggs and bunnies would play into that. Eggs represent new life. Rabbits (bunnies) represent springtime, which also represents new life. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is all about new life. So there you go. These are symbolic parallels in nature that point to the supernatural resurrection. So long as Christians view these things only as symbols, there is certainly no harm in them, and there is most certainly no connection at all with Pagan fertility goddesses.

So as you can see, this whole "Easter is Pagan" conspiracy is just rubbish, put together with amateur scholarship, by people who have an anti-Catholic prejudice to begin with. So enjoy those Easter bunnies and coloured eggs, but just make sure your kids know they are merely symbols of the new life that comes from the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Shane Schaetzel is an author of Catholic books, and columnist for Christian print magazines and online publications. He is a freelance writer and the creator of ' -- Apologetics and random musings from a Catholic in the Bible Belt.'

A Catholic Guide
to the Last Days
for Protestants
Regnum Dei Press

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Help for Mothers of Young Children During Mass

A patient mother tends to her baby and mantilla during liturgy.

So last week I had to go to confession. Yes, in case you were wondering, I am a big fat sinner. I usually go a minimum of once per month anyway, but I was intentionally trying to avoid the weeks leading up to Easter, because I knew the lines to the confessional would be especially crowded. Then, it happened. I sinned, and it was a sin big enough to need confession. So like a good and faithful Catholic, that's what I did.

I remember walking into the church after work, thinking to myself: "it's the Saturday before Holy Week, I'm going to be waiting a while." I walked into the chapel and there it was. A confessional line stretching around half the chapel. This wasn't the prayer chapel mind you. This was the main chapel. Dear Lord! It was the longest line I had ever sin. "Why? Oh why did I have to sin just before Holy Week?" I took my place at the back of the line, figuring this is my penance. The priest must have thought the same, because my official penance was especially simple. I was in line for literally one full hour!

I remember trying to remind myself how lucky I was. I need only spend an hour in a confessional line. The early Christians would spend months to years doing penance outside of chapels before they were even admitted back in. My sin wasn't that serious, but still, the Lord knows my weakness. I hate waiting.

However, divine providence must have been at work there, because I met a friend I hadn't seen for a long time. She was a nurse I used to work with in the hospital a while back. She was right in front of me in the confession line and we got to talking. I ended up sharing some parental wisdom that I'm going to share with you now.

If you are the Catholic mother of young children, then this essay is for you. I'll try to keep it short, sweet and to the point, because I know you're busy, and you don't have much time to read this.

The nurse I was talking with was a young mother. She had a couple of toddlers, and she was having the worst time dealing with them at mass. Every young mother knows exactly what I'm talking about. Anyway, the long story short is that she was nearly in tears talking about it with me. She needed help, and she was struggling going to mass when she can never follow along with the homily or the liturgy, because she's too busy with these toddlers. So this is what I told her...

  1. Your children need to be at mass because while there they are forming early memories. You need to make sure the earliest memories they have are at mass. That way when they get older, whether they are faithful or fall away, their childhood comfort memories will be of the mass, in a Catholic chapel. You want them to remember the sights, sounds and smells of the mass.
  2. When I was the father of young children, I would always make sure we were seated at the end of a pew. It didn't matter where in the chapel, just so long as it was at the end. This allowed me to get up quickly if needed. 
  3. Allowing young children to move around in the pew is natural and normal, just so long as their not rowdy or bothering people. So give them some room to move around within reason.
  4. When you know they're about to get fussy, pick them up and carry them to the back of the chapel. Gently walk around and move about the back of the chapel with the child on your shoulder or hip. Movement helps to calm them. The embrace of their mother (or father) always does the same. 
  5. The "cry room" in such churches that have them, is reserved for crying, or sometimes nursing too. To a toddler, this is a constricting and boring space. Most toddlers would rather be in the chapel, where the activity is, away from the cry room. So moving to the cry room should be reserved for crying or rowdiness. This lets the child know that if they can't behave themselves, they end up in this constricting and boring little room. Moving back and forth between the cry room and the chapel, sends a clear message to the child. When she is loud and rowdy, she goes to this little constricting and boring cry room. When she is quiet and cooperative, she gets to be in the big chapel where all the interesting activity is.
  6. Never underestimate the power of statues, icons and candles to interest a child. While safely in your arms, walk over to those areas in the back of the chapel, or the sides, where they can look at these things.
  7. When it's time for communion, carry the child up with you. Open your mouth and allow the priest to place the host on your tongue directly. This nearly eliminates all problems receiving the host. Don't even attempt partaking of the chalice. (Are you kidding me?) Just reverently bow your head as you walk by it and move on. Trust me, Jesus understands. Besides, official Church teaching states that so long as you have partaken in just one of the Eucharistic species (host or chalice), you have effectively partaken in both. There is no difference.
  8. Finally, remember why you are there. You are there to worship God. This means either you are going to receive communion, or else you're going to make an act of spiritual communion. It's going to be one or the other, but that is why you are there. That is the PRIMARY reason why you are there.
  9. Participation in the liturgy is important, as is listening to the homily, but that is NOT the primary reason why you are there. These reasons are secondary. So if you're missing out on some of this, or it's hit and miss, that's okay. You are forgiven and excused. You have a very important job to do, and both Jesus and his Church understand that. If you feel like you're missing too much of the homily, ask your pastor to record it. Then you can listen to it later, when you're able. If you're pastor won't do that, then get online and go to YouTube or EWTN, and watch a Sunday homily there. You have to understand, you're PRIMARY reason for being there is to worship God, which culminates in receiving communion, or making an act of spiritual communion. Listening to the homily, and fully participating in liturgy, comes SECONDARY when you're a mother (or a father) of toddlers and young children. You just do the best you can and then don't worry about it.
  10. If we were Protestants, then yes, missing the homily would be like missing the meat and potatoes of the whole service. But we're not Protestants. We're Catholics, and better yet, we're Catholics in the 21st century. That means our focus of worship is a little different, and we have luxuries not available to Catholics in previous centuries. Worst case scenario; we can get our weekly homily from EWTN if we have to. If you've missed the homily at mass, that is unfortunate but understandable, considering the circumstances, but you're going to be okay. What's more important is that you're there, and that you worship God through the adoration of the Eucharist, and its reception, either physical or spiritual. You see, the handling of a toddler (or toddlers) at mass, is in itself a form of sacrifice. You're giving yourself to God in the service of his children. Don't you know that Jesus watches your struggles from the altar? Don't you know that he completely understands? Don't you know that he sees your efforts as a sacrifice for him? Because he does! Every Catholic mother of young children needs to know this.
  11. Fathers need to be involved too. If you have just one toddler, there needs to be a trade off as you alternate Sunday duties, giving the other a break. If there are two toddlers, then you'll both have your hands full at the same time. That's how it should be.
  12. This last point is mainly for pastors, but it may take enough mothers to deliver it to him. Pastors, one of the best things you can do is assure mothers of young children that you are sympathetic to them, and please do defend them when they're doing their best. Granted, nobody likes a screaming child in the chapel, and granted, screaming children do need to be taken to the cry room, but if they're not making a whole lot of noise, they really should be with their parents in the chapel. That message needs to be relayed to your congregation on a regular basis. Lastly, if you really want to help young mothers, put a video camera inside the ambo, facing you in such a way that it cannot be seen by the congregation. You can click it on when you deliver your homily, and click it off at the conclusion. Then you, or a staff member, can upload the video to YouTube for the benefit of these mothers of young children, and others who have similar needs, including the sick and elderly who could not make it to mass.
This particular mother I spoke with in the confession line was very happy to hear this insight from my own experience with my own toddlers. I'll never forget just how exasperated my poor wife was with them, and how she dreaded going to mass because of it. Together, we learnt how to do it using the methods above. It worked through a process of trial and error. So I imagine it is the same for all parents. My advice is don't give up. Yes, they will outgrow this stage, though it may seem to take forever. Whether you realise it or not, their presence there is forming memories that will bless them for a lifetime, both consciously and subconsciously. What you're going through is normal, and every Catholic parent has dealt with it at least once. Their presence there is a blessing to them, even though they don't know it yet, and a personal sacrifice on your part that will not go unnoticed by our Lord. As for you, you're primarily there to worship our Lord, and that is all. If you miss the homily, and can't fully participate in the liturgy, that is okay. Adoration and communion are the real reasons why you're there. You can get the Sunday homily from other sources if you have to. 

Shane Schaetzel is an author of Catholic books, and columnist for Christian print magazines and online publications. He is a freelance writer and the creator of ' -- Apologetics and random musings from a Catholic in the Bible Belt.'

A Catholic Guide
to the Last Days
for Protestants
Regnum Dei Press

Monday, April 10, 2017

So You're No Longer Christian?

Anti-Catholic Protesters

"You're no longer a Christian!" These were the words I heard multiple times in the fall of 1999 through the Spring and Summer of 2000. This was the time just before, during and after my conversion to the Catholic Church. I heard words like this from most of my friends, and yes, even some of my family.

You see, I was an Evangelical Christian, and for many years I had been a member of an Evangelical-Fundamental Protestant affiliation called Calvary Chapel. Now I had left that affiliation in 1997 and began attending a local Episcopal Church. I remember the disapproval I received from friends and family just switching from Evangelical to Episcopalian (Anglican). I remember how confused they seemed, and how they looked down at our local Episcopal Church. Still, it was technically Protestant, and I suppose tolerable. I have one sister who joined us for Christmas Eve mass, and she seemed to enjoy it. For the most part, however, most of the people I knew were displeased.

Then it happened. In the summer of 1999 my wife, Penny, and I decided to enrol in a Catholic RCIA class, with the intent of joining the Catholic Church. We waited a little while to inform our friends and family. It was probably a good thing we did, because we discovered it was best to break the news slowly, to a few people at a time. Oh my! You would have thought we just decided to join the Church of Satan!

First came the disapproval from our parents. Penny's mother told her she would go to hell for sure. My father told me I was making an enormous mistake and I would regret it. My mother told me this decision would lead me away from Christ. My sisters were careful and didn't say a whole lot. Then the letters and emails started to roll in. Some of these came from old friends from our former Evangelical church. Some from Baptist and Pentecostal friends we knew from various circles. We were told to reconsider, that the Catholic Church is the "Whore of Babylon" where members engage in idolatry. We were told that we would surely lose our salvation, and that we would no longer be Christian. Even some of my coworkers laid into me on a regular basis, as well as Penny's coworkers. It was really quite intense, and somewhat unexpected. We did expect a little bit of push back, but nothing close to the level we got.

You see, Penny and I were native Californians. We grew up in neighbourhoods that were mostly Catholic. Most of our childhood friends were Catholic. My aunt was Catholic, and so was my grandmother. So while we expected a little push back when we announced that we would soon become Catholic, we never expected it to rise to the level that it did. You see, several years prior, we moved to the Springfield area in Southwest Missouri. This area is highly Evangelical (mostly Baptist and Pentecostal). Consequently, most of the friends we made in this area were Evangelicals. Almost every contact we made in this whole region was either Baptist or Pentecostal, and many of them at the time had a strong anti-Catholic streak. I have to say, it was pretty shocking. For the course of a whole year our entire circle of friends had been reduced to just one couple -- two fellow coworkers. They just happened to be Catholic, and one of them was converting the same year we were, and we happened to be attending the same RCIA class. (Clearly this was a case of divine providence.) Had it not been for them, we would have been friendless between the years of 1999 to 2001.

Yes, that's how bad it was. Everyone we knew thought we were nuts. We were told that we were joining a "cult." We were told that we'll be engaging in "idolatry." We were told we were joining the "Whore of Babylon" (a negative reference from the Book of Revelation). We were told that Satan had deceived us, that we were losing our salvation, and that our children would never know Christ. Some of our friends cut off all communication with us. Some sent us nasty letters. Some called us "Mary worshippers." Some came to our door, and tried to reason with us. A couple of friends would spend hours with us, trying to talk us out of it. All of this was to no avail. Penny and I had made up our minds.

Then the weird letters and emails started to come. These were from people we didn't know, but who had obviously been contacted about us. Most of these were from older men, who apparently dealt with this sort of thing from time to time. Some of them were 5 pages in length, citing Scripture, along with erroneous historical quotes, and paragraph after paragraph of made-up history. It was like reading a personal letter from Jack T. Chick, or some other anti-Catholic apologist. I surmise that some of our friends contacted these people when they realised they couldn't get through to us, and asked for their help.

The culmination came in 2000, when my father gave me a cassette tape from an anti-Catholic apologist that had come to their Church. It was nearly and hour long. I made my own tape in response, re-recording what the apologist said, and then recording my own response to each point he made. I gave the tape back to my father, along with my response tape, and never heard of it again.

The irony of all this is that with each negative conversation, phone call, letter and email, the exact opposite effect was produced than what was intended. These people had intended to pull us away from the Catholic Church, but each time they interacted with us, they only drove us further into it. This was because we saw the anti-Catholic hysteria for what it really was -- hysteria! It would be one thing if they cited legitimate cases in Scripture or history, but instead they only cited Scriptures that were out of context, and historical events that were either fabricated, or else horribly twisted in ways that defy all academic standards. Thankfully, I had done my homework. I knew how to refute this stuff. My wife, on the other hand, just got angry. "We are 30 year-old adults!" She would say: "And yet they're treating us like children!" Every effort they made backfired. Here in the Bible Belt I see this sort of thing happen all the time. The same pattern is repeated over and over again with converts. Each time they only end up sealing the deal, and driving potential converts straight into the Catholic Church. The hysteria actually ends up helping the conversion process.

I think the only time the hysteria is effective is in keeping Christians from investigating the Church in the first place. So long as you can convince them that it's evil, they're less likely to look into it. But for those few who venture to look into it anyway, the results are almost always the same. They become Catholic, sooner or later. It may take six months, or it may take six years, but the result is almost always the same. They become Catholic.

What Evangelical-Fundamentalists don't realise is that the party's over. A growing number of Evangelicals (including Baptists and Pentecostals) are looking for something deeper. They're wanting to connect to the historical Church, and they're looking for deeper meaning in the sacraments, liturgy and deep spirituality that comes with 2,000 years of Christian experience. They just can't find any of that in Evangelical churches. Evangelical-Fundamentalists are making themselves increasingly irrelevant with all this "You're not Christian" rhetoric they direct toward Catholics, Orthodox and some Anglicans. It's old, it's tiresome and it's not in the least bit true. I think a lot of younger people are more sophisticated now than they were in previous generations. They're simply not buying into it anymore. So as Evangelical-Fundamentalists continue to go down the anti-Catholic road, I believe they will continue to find themselves more irrelevant in the decades ahead.

The best advice I can give to converts, experiencing some degree of this sort of hysteria from friends and family, is to stay the course and wait them out. You see, becoming Catholic will teach you who your friends really are. Some will come to their senses eventually, and realise what they said about your faith was wrong. The same is true with family. Other friends won't come back. These were not really your friends. They were just your religious associates. Once you changed churches, you no longer had anything in common. They moved on, and so will you.

The good news in our own case is this. Penny's mother eventually came to accept our Catholic faith, and enjoys coming to mass with us now and then. My own parents don't care for mass so much, but they have come to accept our Catholic faith as Christian and a legitimate expression of Christianity. They have faithfully attended ALL of the sacraments of initiation for our children (baptisms, first communions, and confirmations). The same goes for my sisters. The good news I have for you is that there's hope. It may take several months or several years, but eventually, most parents and family members come to accept our Catholic Christian faith, and just ignore what their Evangelical-Fundamentalist churches say about it. When faced with the harsh reality of having to choose between the radical teachings of their Fundamentalist church, or continuing a relationship with their children, siblings or close friends, most people eventually choose the relationship over the religious hysteria. Like I said, sometimes it takes a while -- even years! -- but eventually it happens. The sacraments of initiation for children often play a big role in breaking the ice. Time is another factor that heals wounds.

What's important to remember is this. The Catholic Church teaches us to love our family and friends. We are not to abandon them, disown them, or estrange ourselves from them. When there is a religious conflict over our conversion, we are called to draw close to them, as best we can. If they push us away, that's their problem. We just keep trying, knowing that eventually the ice will break. Most of the time, friends and family who attack our decision to join the Church, do so only because they are misinformed. In most cases, that's not even their fault! We need to remember that. We also need to remember, often times, their negative actions toward us are motivated entirely by love. Their acting this way only because they've been given bad information, and they can't help the way they're acting, because they've been misinformed. So in a sense, their actions are often loving, just misguided. On the one hand, we should be flattered by the lengths they will go to try to change our minds. It is but a testimony of their love for us. On the other hand, we need to gently remind them that we are informed adults, and we can make our own decisions. Sometimes this may involve some study in Catholic apologetics to help explain things to them. Catholicism for Protestants may help in this area. Don't be surprised if this doesn't work right away. There is often an emotional barrier that needs to be overcome too. No amount of apologetics can do that. Only time and love will.

We also need to remember that the Catholic Church specifically teaches that anyone who has been baptised in the name of the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) is a Christian, and deserves to be called that, even if they will not extend the same courtesy to us. Most Protestants don't even know this, and I have found that sometimes it's helpful to inform them of this. As far as we Catholics are concerned; most Baptists, Pentecostals and Evangelicals are our Christian brethren, even if they don't believe the same about us. I think it's beneficial to let your Evangelical family and friends know that even as a Catholic, you will still regard them as Christian brethren, and that the Catholic Church teaches you to do so. If you were already baptised in a Trinitarian Christian tradition, you probably ought to let them know that you will not be "re-baptised" as the Catholic Church recognises only one baptism for us all. These little bits of information usually don't have the effect of calming the waters right away. As I said, there are usually a lot of emotional barriers involved here, but over time, they do help.

Remember, most of all, to be patient. With my own family, my parents refused to attend our reception into the Catholic Church in 2000. I didn't expect them to, so it wasn't hurtful to me. They didn't really darken the door of our Catholic Church until almost 2004, when our son was baptised. It was hard for them, I could tell, but they did it. Then in 2006 our daughter was baptised, and they attended that as well. By the time we reached first communions, both of our parents were on board. Of course, they never converted to Catholicism, but that was not the point. They were now fully accepting of our Catholic Christian faith. So what I'm saying is it took time. For our families, it happened slowly, over the course of a decade. For other families it may take longer, and for others, not so long at all. Your family will be different of course, but if you apply what I've told you above, the odds are very high that you'll eventually prevail.

Shane Schaetzel is an author of Catholic books, and columnist for Christian print magazines and online publications. He is a freelance writer and the creator of ' -- Apologetics and random musings from a Catholic in the Bible Belt.'

A Catholic Guide
to the Last Days
for Protestants
Regnum Dei Press

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Keeping Your Children Catholic

"Let the Little Children Come Unto Me"
Painting by Carl Bloch, date unknown

It's the nightmare every Catholic parent dreads. The thought of their adult child, coming home from college, and telling his/her parents that he's left the Catholic Church, has been 'born again', and that the Catholic Church is a 'false religious system' that is taking his/her parents to Hell. It's happened millions of times in the United States, and in other nations with a heavy Evangelical presence. Actually, it's been going on for a long time -- five centuries to be exact.

Even worse, suppose your child comes from from college and tells you he's left the Church to become a Wiccan, a Muslim, or an Atheist! Or how about the ever popular "I've become spiritual but not religious" manta. All of these are what every good Catholic parent fears and dreads.

The purpose of this essay is to help Catholic parents keep their kids Catholic. I have a little experience in this area, not only because I'm a Catholic father, but because I am a convert from Evangelicalism. In fact, during my days as an Evangelical, I converted no less than a handful of Catholics to Evangelicalism. Yes, I drug young people out of the Catholic Church, and I was fairly good at it. I've spent the last 15 years trying to make atonement for that behaviour, by helping Catholics understand their faith and defend it. Now I want to help Catholic parents save their kids from Evangelicalism, and this essay will do so by outlining some of the tactics this former Evangelical used, and how to counter them in a proactive way. I had thought of making a more detailed version of this information in the form of a booklet for purchase, but I've since decided this information is just too important to put a price tag on. So I give it to you now -- free of charge. Please don't just gloss over this. Take it seriously.

The following is straight talk. I'm going to be blunt and direct, because this is serious stuff, from one Catholic parent to another. We don't have time for flowery language. I need to get this point across to you. It really is that important. So expect a little street vernacular here. I'm trying to drive a point home!

Please share this essay using social media (social media icons below), and by email, with whomever you like. Use this essay as a springboard to save you children and rescue their Catholic faith before its too late...


This is perhaps the greatest problem in the Catholic Church. Catholic parents simply don't know their own faith well enough to pass it on to their children. Or, even worse, they have a lopsided understanding of the Catholic faith, putting too much emphasis on the details of Catholicism, and not enough emphasis on the core Gospel. This is how Evangelicals get your kids. That's how I did it, and they're still doing the same thing today. Nothing has changed since I joined the Catholic Church over 18 years ago. If anything it's only gotten worse.

Evangelicals approach your children with a basic proposition. What they give them is the core of the Gospel. It's basically the same stuff the Catholic Church officially teaches, but the Evangelical has its presentation down to a science. Then they ask your child; "Now, have you ever heard it said that way in a Catholic Church before?" Most of the time, your child will answer "no" and for the most part, he's usually right. Catholic churches in America have done an absolutely HORRIBLE job presenting the core Gospel in a clear and succinct way in recent decades. I'm not going to go into the reason for this. It doesn't matter. What matters is that what is passed off as a homily in most parishes these days actually sucks! Sorry to be so bold with common street vernacular, but it's the truth and it needs to be said. Catholic priests and deacons need to do a better job at this. The core gospel needs to be repeated regularly and succinctly from the pulpit. If it's not, than pastors should be prepared for an ageing and shrinking congregation. Again, sorry to be so bold, but it must be said. As an Evangelical I relied heavily on Catholic priests and deacons to give long-winded homilies that focused on feel-good messages that spent a lot of time on details, without going into the core of the Gospel too deeply. I couldn't have done what I did, if they hadn't done what they did. In fact, my ability to pull teenagers and young adults out of the Catholic Church was 100% dependent on bad teaching from the Catholic pulpit. Couple that with Catholic parents who were basically clueless, and presto! I had a new Evangelical in the making. It was easy! I mean super easy. If I were still at it today, which by the grace of God I am not, I have no doubt I could have easily pulled hundreds of people out of the Catholic Church by now. With the advent of the Internet, I could rake them in by the dozens. Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I was better at it than the average Evangelical street preacher, and a lot more likeable too. I converted Catholics away from the Church primarily through the personal relationships I made with them. Yes, my friendship was sincere. I wasn't faking it or anything like that. But at the same time, I understood that making friends was a big part at getting them to eventually follow my Evangelical beliefs. I was sincere in everything I did. I didn't use people, or manipulate them, and most Evangelicals are the same. Yes, I was sincere in my faith, my intentions, and even my tactics. Sadly, I was also sincerely wrong. I know that now, and that's why I'm revealing all.

Here's the deal. You can't give your children what you yourself don't have. If you want to pass the faith on to them, you must have it yourself, and if you don't, then it was already lost, long before it ever was passed to them. Too many Catholic parents pawn their kids off to Catholic schools or Catechism (CCD, PSR) classes, expecting the Church to do the job for them. That is their first and last mistake. It's over before it even began. YOU CAN'T RELY ON THE CATHOLIC CHURCH TO TEACH YOUR KIDS CATHOLICISM !!!  Good grief parents! How could you possibly expect your parish to teach your kids in one hour a week, a message that contradicts what they're getting in the home, their schools, and in the media (television, internet and video games)? That poor parish never stood a chance! The message they're getting in the home, in school, and in media is much more powerful. And they're getting a lot more of it too. Here's the cold, hard truth for you parents. If you don't know your own Catholic faith, your children will NEVER learn it. If you don't practise your own Catholic faith, your children will NEVER bother. Why should they? They learned how important it was form you!

Your child's number one, PRIMARY, teacher of the Catholic Christian faith is YOU. They will get more from you than from any parish catechism class. The job of the local parish is to BACK YOU UP parents, not do your job for you. They can't do your job for you. It's impossible. Then of course you never know what kind of religious instruction you're going to get from a parish these day anyway. Sometimes it's quite good. Other times it's quite awful. Regardless however, even if it's good, it's still just supplementary. It's designed to supplement what is being taught in the home, not replace it. If you're not teaching it in the home, your kids won't stand a chance.

So where to we begin? We begin with the core gospel. Start here, and work out from that...

The Core Gospel

So what is the core Gospel? Parents, this is essential. If you don't know this, and know it by heart, and convey this to your kids, than it's over. It's over before it ever began. You might as well hang up that rosary now, because your Catholic faith ends with you. Your kids will not pass it on. So here is the core of the Gospel...
God is real, and God hates sin. The 'wages of sin is death' (Romans 6:23), that is eternal separation from God in Hell. This is God's absolute justice, and since we are all sinners, this is exactly what we all deserve -- ALL OF US! (Romans 3:23) However, God loves us, and he doesn't want this to happen to us. 'For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.' (John 3:16) Therefore, God sent his Only Begotten Son, the Word, or Second Person of the Trinity, to take on human flesh and become fully man. (John 1:1-5 & 14) This God-Man, Jesus Christ, representing the whole human race, took on all of our sins, and died for us on the cross, paying our penalty in our place. (Romans 5:8; 2 Corinthians 5:14; 1 Peter 3:18) 
So now, anyone who places his/her trust in him and follows him, may be saved and brought into Heaven at the end of this life (Psalm 13:5; Psalm 20:7; Psalm 84:12; Proverbs 3:5-6; John 11:25; John 14:1; Romans 15:13), and then be resurrected at the end of the world, to live with God forever in glory (Luke 14:4; John 6:40, 54;  Romans 6:4; 1 Corinthians 6:14; 1 Thessalonians 4:14). We each must make a personal commitment to Jesus Christ. It begins with our baptism and confirmation, but it doesn't stop there. The commitment must be daily, to trust in Jesus as King, Lord and Saviour, to have a relationship with him as such. We must communicate with God daily (prayer), share our lives with him, and obey him, as would be required in any other relationship we had with a king.
That's the gist of it folks. That's the core Gospel. Surely you've heard most of this before. We recite almost all of it weekly in the Nicene Creed said at mass. The trick is to make this personal. It needs to be integrated into our lives as a daily thing. There are many other Catholic teachings which are very important, but this is the CORE of our Catholic Christian faith. If we don't have this down, we've got nothing.

I want to make this crystal clear, because you cannot give to your children that which you do not have yourself. Now the state of catechises, liturgy and homilies in many of our parishes may be poor, but that doesn't mean that the state of catechises and prayer in our homes has to be poor. We can have watered-down Catholicism in our parishes, but that doesn't mean we need to have watered-down Catholicism in our homes too. While the state of catechises, liturgy and homilies is gradually improving in some of our parishes, thanks to the arrival of younger (and better trained) priests, the progress is slow, and we can't wait for that to happen while our children are growing up. If we were to wait until our parishes change, our kids would be grown, married and living in their own as Evangelicals, Wiccans or Atheists before the necessary changes are FINALLY in place. We, as parents, just don't have that kind of time. Our children are growing fast, and we can't wait for the Church to catch up. We, as parents, need to act in a preventive way.

You'll need to begin teaching your kids this stuff immediately, starting at about the age they can coherently speak, in words they can understand. Then you'll want to continue teaching them this throughout the rest of their childhood, teen years, until they become adults. There can be no compromise on this, and there can be no laxity. Repetition is essential! Adjusting the message, in age-appropriate words is important too. Give them more information as their little brains are able to handle it. Keep elaborating as they get older.

So it begins with the core Gospel, which I outlined above, and it continues with solid teaching on the Eucharist and Apostolic authority. I'm sorry, but if you want to keep your kids to stay Catholic, there just can't be any compromise on these things. Not even an inch.

The Eucharist

The next teaching you'll need to reinforce regularly is the Eucharist. Now the Eucharist is the literal body and blood of Christ. It's not figurative. It's not representational. It's not symbolic. It's real. That is the primary reason why we go to mass, so that we may physically commune with God in the Eucharist. If you need more information on that, read my essay on the Eucharist here. If you want to keep your kids going to mass, you need to tell them this, with no compromises and without apology. If they want to commune with God physically, there is only one place they can do that -- the Catholic Church.

All other 'communion services' in Protestant churches are not legitimate offerings of the Eucharist. When a Protestant minister offers bread and wine, it remains just that, bread and wine. In most cases, especially among Evangelicals, there is no attempt to hide this. They will freely admit that everything they're doing in regards to Holy Communion is just symbolic, and they make no pretence about this. If you ask them if it remains bread and wine, they will tell you it remains bread and wine. They'll tell you everything they do is just symbolic. They're very honest about this. So when you ask them; what is meant by 'Holy Communion'? They will tell you they are really communing with each other, and the act of taking bread and wine is just to symbolically 'remember' Jesus together. That is all.

However, when a Catholic priest offers bread and wine, we know it becomes the literal body and blood of Christ. So when Catholics partake of Holy Communion, we really are having actual COMMUNION with God! For us, it's not just about gathering together to remember something or Someone. No! For us it's about all of us having direct physical contact with God in a very physical way. We are communing with HIM, not just each other. Though admittedly, by communion with HIM, we are additionally coming into greater communion with each other too, but this happens through HIM, because we share his body and blood. In effect, we become what we eat -- the Body of Christ. As parents we cannot compromise on this. If we fail by compromising here, like the core Gospel, you can plan on visiting your grandchildren in an Evangelical church. That is, if you're lucky! They may not be going to church at all.

Apostolic Succession 

This last issue of Apostolic Succession, is related to the first two, and is intimately connected to the second especially -- the Eucharist. Apostolic succession is about the authority of Jesus Christ. You see while he was on earth, both before and after his resurrection, Jesus vested full authority in his apostles to not only preach and safeguard his teachings, but also administer his sacraments. Only the apostles had this authority from Jesus. However, one of their authorities was the ability to pass on this authority to others through ordination. So the apostles passed on their full authority to their successors, hence the name Apostolic Succession. These successors we call the Catholic bishops. If you need more information on this, read my essay on Authority In Focus.

Apostolic Succession is related to the core Gospel because we wouldn't have the core Gospel today without Apostolic Succession. You see, over the centuries, lots of different groups preached lots of different gospels that were very different from the core Gospel I outlined above. Some of these groups even had their own version of the Scriptures -- their own version of the New Testament.

Now the New Testament that all Christians use today, including all Protestants, is the same as the Catholic New Testament. It consisted of exactly 27 books from Matthew to Revelation. It was first published, in a single volume, in AD 367 by a Catholic bishop in northern Africa named Athanasius. It was later canonised after multiple synods and a papal decree in AD 405. Yes, the writings of the New Testament date back to the first century, but they were not compiled into a single volume that everyone could read until the late fourth century. So how do Christians, even Protestants, know that the New Testament we have today is accurate? Simple. The bishops and pope who canonised them (made them official), were legitimate bishops who had Apostolic Succession, and by their authority, they said it is accurate. That's it! That's the only thing we really have! That means you could trace their ordinations back to the original apostles. The other New Testaments that various people compiled gradually went extinct, because their compilers didn't have Apostolic Succession, so nobody trusted them.

Today, Protestant and Evangelical ministers can't canonise Scripture, and they usually make no pretence about it. Ask almost any Evangelical pastor if he has Apostolic Succession, and he'll freely tell you 'No!' That is, if he even knows what it means. So the long and short of it is this. Protestant pastors cannot trace their ordination back to the original apostles, and they know it, and they make no attempt to hide it. Furthermore, in order for them to preach on Sundays, they need to use a Bible, particularly a New Testament, which was compiled by Catholic bishops 1,600 years ago who did have Apostolic Succession. So Protestants rely on the New Testament, which is a Catholic book, in order to preach their Protestant message. Go figure!

That's how Apostolic Succession relates to the preaching of the core Gospel, even in non-Catholic churches. Protestants needed Catholic bishops to get the Bible they so heavily rely on. Without those Catholic bishops, 1,600 years ago, they wouldn't even have a Bible today.

Now getting Protestants to understand this is difficult. Most of the time it just goes right over their heads. There have been a few times I've actually been successful at getting some Protestants to understand this, and in almost every case when I did, they immediate replied with something to the extent of: 'Well, that may be true, but I believe that the Holy Spirit was capable of inspiring those bishops to pick the right books for the New Testament, in spite of them being Catholic.' So they acknowledge the Holy Spirit operating through the Catholic bishops, to give us the New Testament, but then immediately dismiss any inspiration from the Holy Spirit before or after that event. I'm not sure how anyone is able to make this illogical leap, but they do it all the time.

However, as Catholic parents, it's not our job to convince Protestants of this. That's their problem, not ours. Our job is to keep our kids Catholic, and that means when they're old enough to understand these things (about age 8) you're going to have to tell them about it, and you should not only tell them once, but repeatedly. It should be drilled into their heads so they remember it. That is, when they're old enough to understand this concept (about age 8).

So in addition to relaying what I described above about the Bible, you'll want to tell them this...
  1. The Bible is a Catholic Book. It was compiled by Catholics in the 4th century to counter the errors of non-Catholics, and that even Protestant ministers have to use a Catholic book to be able to preach their messages every Sunday morning.
  2. The Bible nowhere tells us that we must only use the Bible Alone. In fact it says the opposite, telling us to listen to our bishops and obey their Traditions too. So saying we only need the Bible, and nothing else, actually goes against the Bible.
The second point is a strong one to make with you kids, when their old enough to understand, because most Protestants approach every religious conversation with the presupposition that we should only use the Bible and nothing else. They broach the topic of religion with the idea that it is wrong to use anything but the Bible. That concept actually contradicts the Bible. If you want more information about this, read my essay about how the Bible is not Alone.

I can't stress this enough. There is not a single verse in the Bible that tells us to follow the Bible ALONE -- not a single verse. However, there are plenty of verses telling us to follow tradition and the bishops. This is the Achilles Heel of Evangelical Protestantism. They have no Bible passage they can use to support their most important Evangelical tenet -- their Bible Alone teaching. They're literally helpless on this, and most of them don't even know it. Make sure your kids do!!!

Additional Catholic Teaching

Additional Catholic teaching is very important too, and we should not neglect that for the sake of (1) the Core Gospel, (2) the Eucharist and (3) Apostolic Succession. However, when it comes to dealing with Evangelicals, additional Catholic teachings are distractions. If you want to keep your kids Catholic, you've got to focus in on these above three things like a laser beam.

Having good answers for accusations of Mary worship, Saint worship, papal worship, Pagan practises, etc., these are good to have, but they're not always necessary. Remember, while converting Protestants would be nice, that is not our initial goal here as Catholic parents. Our goal as Catholic parents is to keep our kids Catholic, and that means giving them the tools they need to resist attacks on their faith. If they can effectively do that, than converting some of their friends will happen naturally and organically. A knowledgeable Catholic is an attractive Catholic, and some Protestants will take notice of that. Some Protestants will even want to become Catholic as a result. It's inevitable. Now that doesn't mean turning our kids into little Catholic apologists, but it does mean helping them know their own faith. And that in turn will help them recognise Protestant baloney when its presented to them.

If you're looking for good age-appropriate catechisms, I recommend these...

The New Saint Joseph Baltimore Catechism is one of the best out there for children, and adults like it too. The blue Saint Joseph First Communion Catechism (No. 0) booklet is a short condensed catechism that is fantastic for very young children (ages 5-9). The pink Saint Joseph Baltimore Catechism (No. 1) book is for younger children (ages 10-13), and the grey Saint Joseph Baltimore Catechism (No. 2) book is for older children (over 13). Any parent can go through these catechisms with their children easily. They're copiously illustrated, and filled with useful information that any Catholic, young or old, will appreciate.

If you really want to go that extra mile, there is but one more thing you could do, and it's completely optional. It's called the Friendly Defenders Catholic Flash Cards...

These are great, because they're designed to get kids mentally prepared for the kind of questions Protestant children often ask. They not only give the appropriate responses, but also back it with Scripture passages and citations from the Catechism and Church history. You can make a game out of this with your children, but I think the appropriate age category is about 10 and up.

You also really should read the Bible to your children too. I have found a good place to start is with picture Bibles when they're young. There is one Bible I will highly recommend. It's not a Catholic Bible, unfortunately, but I haven't yet found anything in it that is harmful to Catholicism, and I've actually been impressed with the catholicity of some aspects of it. It's called The Action Bible, and it's laid out in a comic book format. It's a good place to start with children ages 5 to 12, but when they get to be teenagers, you really need to switch to an adult Bible. When you're ready to make the switch, I recommend the Catholic Scripture Study Bible: RSV-CE Large Print Edition. As for letting your older children get involved in Bible study groups, don't do it, unless you know they're Catholic. I mean you need to be 100% sure they are Catholic. They should be put on by your local Catholic parish or some kind of Catholic youth group. Do not, under any circumstances, allow your children or teens to attend Protestant Bible studies. Historically speaking, this is where Protestants apply the most pressure on our Catholic kids.

Look, back when I was an Evangelical, whenever I encountered a Catholic who understood these things, even just partly, his/her ability to resist my Evangelical approach was solid. I couldn't get him/her to budge. It seemed they had an answer to most of my questions and accusations against the Catholic Church. They seemed to genuinely have a relationship with Jesus Christ that I couldn't deny. And even when I thought I had them with a real zinger, the fact that they didn't have an answer didn't seem to bother them much. They were confident in their Catholic faith, and to be quite honest with you. As an Evangelical, I really didn't know what to do with that. Their spiritual defences were ironclad. To be quite honest with you, that didn't happen very often. Most young Catholics were not so well prepared.

As parents there is one more way you can prepare yourself for the tough questions that are sure to come your way. Get a copy of my book Catholicism for Protestants. This will prepare you for almost every question an Evangelical can throw at you, and it will give you a solid working knowledge of the faith. Catechists from all over the country are using my book, or sections of my book, to teach their RCIA classes. This book has an imprimatur from a Catholic bishop, has been reviewed by a Catholic diocese, and given many "thumbs up" from Catholics priests. In fact, I know more than a few Catholic priests who keep several copies of my book in their offices and cars, to hand out to both Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Even Church Militant likes it! And that's saying a lot, because they are very selective about what they approve.


Children can smell a hypocrite. If you're not living your faith, they'll know it. If you're not taking your Catholic Christian faith seriously, than neither will they. It's like I said above, you can't give your children what you yourself don't have. If your Catholicism sucks, theirs will too. It's as simple as that. So what if your Catholicism does suck. Now what?

They have a saying in the U.S. military. It's called "fake it until you make it." I know, it sounds silly, but actually it's pretty good advice. Soldiers use it all the time. They fake being good soldiers, until the figure out how to be good soldiers, and finally get used to it. They literally fake it, until they make it.

Sometimes we have to pretend to be good Catholics for a while, at least while we're trying to learn how to be good Catholics. It's not hard really. For example; let's say you haven't been to confession since your first communion. You don't even remember how to do it! No problem. This is what you do. You say to your child you're going to confession, then you go. You have your child wait in the pew outside the confessional. You go inside, close the door, and then spill the beans to Father. Tell him everything. Tell him you haven't been to confession in decades, you have no freaking clue what you're doing, and you need his help to get through this. Trust me, he'll help you. Then, you casually exit the confessional, go do you penance (pretending like its second nature!) while your child is watching, then take him/her by the hand and go do the rest of your errands for the day. Your child never need be the wiser. You just fake it until you make it. Repeat this approach for every sacrament until finally you're back into the routine of being a good Catholic. You see; you faked it, until you made it! It really does work.

The same goes for standard practise in your home. Kids need prayer, both ritual prayer at meals and bedtime, as well as spontaneous prayer when the need arises. Pray with your kids regularly, so that they know God is a regular part of their lives.

On that note, think about how you're living, acting and speaking around your children. You don't need me to tell you the difference between right and wrong. You know what to do, and what not to do. So if you're not living, acting and speaking like a Catholic should, work on changing that. Ask God for help, and don't be afraid to chat with a priest about it, especially in confession.

Beyond that you should really consider what kind of Catholicism your exposing your children to at your local parish. You should seek out more traditional forms of Catholic worship. Here is why. Some decades back, many Catholic leaders got it in their heads that the best way to keep kids from leaving the Church for Protestantism, was to redesign Catholic worship and make it look more Protestant. Did it work? Look around. It was a miserable failure. The best way to keep kids Catholic is to provide for them a style of worship that is the opposite of Protestant worship. It should be something they CAN'T get in a Protestant church. So the more traditionally Catholic your parish is, the better. The old traditional Latin mass stands as the STANDARD of traditional Catholicism. I'm not saying you need to go Latin though. What I am saying is that you should try to seek out a Catholic parish that tries to emulate this standard as much as possible in their regular vernacular worship. If you can't find such a parish nearby, then talk to your priest about it. Just ask him to bring in a few traditional elements to the mass; like bells, incense, some more chant, and maybe even an altar rail for people who want to kneel. Some priests may not be receptive to this. Others will be, especially younger ones. But you'll never know what side your priest falls on until you politely ask. On that note, I will tell you this. There is no more powerful way to convey to your children the divinity of Christ in the Eucharist, than to kneel for communion.


If you decide to get the Friendly Defenders Catholic Flash Cards, this section will be covered there. We just can't keep our kids in the dark about this stuff. They need to understand what is going on around them, and why their friends go to other churches, and most of all, why they are so intent on getting your kid to join them. It's all very tempting for a Catholic child, and especially a teenager. It's all about peer pressure. Their Protestant friends will undoubtedly try to get them to go to Protestant Bible studies, youth groups, and even Bible camps. All their friends may be going. So this is something you need to prepare them for ahead of time. You need to explain what is wrong with Protestantism, and why there is so much confusion. It will help your child understand when you say 'no' to their requests to join their Protestant friends in Protestant activities.

The following is a graph that explains the origins of some of the more popular Protestant groups...

click image to enlarge

As you can see, they all resulted from two major schisms with the Catholic Church about 500 years ago. Probably the best advice I can give you is to avoid spending a lot of time studying Protestant beliefs. The variations are endless! Study your own Catholic faith instead.

You only need to know just a few things. The most aggressive Protestants tend to follow the Evangelical belief system. Biblically speaking, they're fundamentalists, but that doesn't mean they're all mean and judgemental. Protestants are just like Catholics, in the sense that there are all types, and everyone has their own personality and disposition. That being said, there are a few things to look out for...

Are you saved? Are you born again? Are you a Christian? Is Jesus Christ your personal Lord and Saviour? Basically all of these questions mean the same thing. What they're asking is 'Are you an Evangelical?' But the trick is, they're asking it in such a way that if you answer wrong, or dismiss their question, it makes it appear as if you don't love Jesus. Here is how you answer all of these questions in a way that will stump them...
Yes, I am a Catholic Christian, and I was born again at baptism. I am being saved because Jesus is my personal Lord and Saviour, and I trust in him alone for my salvation. Praise the Lord!
I guarantee you, most Evangelicals won't know what to do with that. You see, they're not used to hearing that from Catholics. It will stump them. Some will just accept you as a brother/sister Christian, and that will be that. Others, still won't accept that answer coming from a Catholic, but they won't know what to do with it either.

Evangelical Protestants see salvation as a one-time magical event, that happens when you stand in front of a church, or a group of Evangelical believers, and profess your faith in a format called the 'Sinner's Prayer'. Then once that is done -- POOF! -- you're 'saved' and your entry into Heaven is guaranteed! So that's what they're trying to get your Catholic kid to do. Actually, the 'Sinner's Prayer' in and of itself is harmless. They just ask Jesus Christ to come into their lives as their Personal Lord and Saviour, and then they ask the Holy Spirit to help them live good Christians lives. Again, this is harmless. What follows is what's problematic. Often, after saying the prayer, they want you to attend their Evangelical church, and they'll often say just about anything to get you to do it. That's when they pour on the anti-Catholic rhetoric. By using the above answer, you demonstrate that Jesus is already your personal Lord and Saviour, thus the 'Sinner's Prayer' is unnecessary, because you've already professed your faith. This leaves Evangelicals confused, not knowing what to do next.

The statement I suggested above is also doctrinal accurate from a Catholic perspective, because it acknowledges the Catholic truth that salvation is not a one time magical event. It happens gradually, over a lifetime. It begins with baptism, and is strengthened through confirmation and the Eucharist. Then it is completed upon our death, assuming we have been faithful to Christ, and trusted him in everything.

Remember, as Catholic parents it's not our job to get our kids to convert their Protestant friends, but it is our job to make sure our kids understand where the problems are with Protestantism, and why we shouldn't fall into those same errors ourselves. The biggest errors of Protestantism centre around Apostolic Succession and the Eucharist. There are many other errors too -- lots of them -- but these are the two biggest.


It's our job as Catholic parents to keep our kids Catholic, and that means explaining our own faith well, living it well, and making sure our kids understand the problems with Protestantism. At the same time however, we don't want to come across to them as unfairly prejudiced toward Protestants either. Remember, Protestants are NOT a bogeyman! Those that have been baptised in the name of the Trinity are actually our separated brothers and sisters in Christ, and we need to make sure our kids understand that.

At the same time, our kids need to understand that Protestantism is not equal to Catholicism. They're not the same thing, and yes the differences do matter. Many Catholics who leave Catholicism for Protestantism end up leaving Protestantism eventually to, and move on to... well, nothing. For many Catholics, not all but many, Protestantism is the last stop on the train ride to atheism or agnosticism, or 'spiritual but not religious' nothing-ism. Our kids need to understand this, when they're old enough to emotionally deal with it, we have to tell them. Not all Catholics who convert to Protestantism go this way, but a large number of them do.

On the flip side, I have experienced that some Catholics, who turn Evangelical Protestant, don't end up losing their Christian faith (thank God), but sadly they turn into the most rabid anti-Catholics I've ever seen. They end up with an axe to grind against the Catholic Church, like a disgruntled fired employee hates his former employer. They attack it at any chance they get, and feel it is their mission to get their friends and family out of the Catholic Church. In my experience, whether it be an eventual slide into atheism, or a disgruntled former Catholic that's turned anti-Catholic, conversion of Catholics to Protestantism almost never goes well. It's like poison to the Catholic soul.

We need to love our separated brethren in Protestant communities, show them charity, and work with them whenever we can. Those who were born into such communities can never be held responsible for the sin of schism. It wasn't their fault. They were born into it. They didn't have a choice. Catholics, however, who left Catholicism to join Protestant communities are probably victims too. They are usually victims of poor catechises, parents who didn't care to show them how to be good Catholics, and Catholic parishes that gave them the impression that Protestantism is 'okay' because of their Protestantised masses.

So we have to level with our kids, and be brutally honest with them, showing no sentimentality toward Protestantism, but at the same time showing them charity toward Protestants. It's a fine line, but one that we as Catholic parents have to walk. We have no choice. It's the job we signed up for, whether we realised it or not.

(If this essay had helped you, please share it with other Catholic parents.)

Shane Schaetzel is an author of Catholic books, and columnist for Christian print magazines and online publications. He is a freelance writer and the creator of ' -- Apologetics and random musings from a Catholic in the Bible Belt.'

A Catholic Guide
to the Last Days
for Protestants
Regnum Dei Press