First, if you really want to become a proficient Catholic Apologist you are going to study a number of areas including Scripture, Patristics (the writings of the Church Fathers), Church history, sacraments... It can be overwhelming. My goal in these posts is to lay out a road map giving you attainable steps to become a proficient apologist. This, the first post, will be recommendations for the person just starting out.
Laying the Foundation
- Read the Bible! A Lot! The Bible will be one of your main sources for apologetics. It will also be the main source that non-Catholic Christians try to use to show the Catholic Church is wrong. If you are not comfortable in the Bible then you won't have a leg to stand on. More on reading the Bible to come in a later post.
- Get familiar with the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Learn it's structure. Make a list of 5 to 10 topics of apologetics that you are interested in (eg. Eucharist, Saints, Mary...) and begin reading the sections pertaining to these topics. A huge part of apologetics is correcting people's misconceptions of Catholic teaching. We need to know what the Church REALLY teaches about topics like Purgatory, "limbo", Mary...
- Get acquainted with Catholic Answers Web Site, Catholic.com.
- If you are an auditory learner, like I am, start listening to the Catholic Answers podcast. You can listen online or subscribe to the podcast feed at http://www.catholic.com/radio One of the best things is that you can search over a decade of past daily radio shows and listen to them online.
- Read. Start with Catholicism vs. Fundamentalism (Keating), The Catholic Response (Stravinskas), and anything by Patrick Madrid.
- Find out if there is an apologetics class, or adult catechetical classes, in your area. Our parish offers a Summer Apologetics Series each year ranging from 6 to 8 weeks. Check with your parish and others in your area.
Once you have spent some time in these sources, you will be able to explain the Catholic Faith to the majority of people who will question you. These are mostly fallen away Catholics who have gone to Evangelical Churches or Christians of various denominations who do not spend a lot of time studying the accusations made against Catholics. (more on "the new Atheism" later)
Always remember that, when we are dealing with Christians of other traditions, the people we are talking with are our brothers and sisters in Christ. They are very sincere and are trying to live as his disciples in the best way they know. Our goal is to lead them to the fullness of truth out of love for them.
I have added a page for "Apologetics" on my Amazon Bookstore (shameless plug) to make it easier to find the books I mention.