Columns

Everyday apologist

Originally Appeared in : 9902-1/17/19
There is a widely-circulated story involving my grandma and a pair of nicely-dressed young men stopping by her house to ask, “Have you heard the good news of the Lord?”
 
Grandma welcomed them in and asked if they’d like something to drink while she fixed a cup of coffee. (They weren’t interested in the coffee.)
 
Once the young men were firmly planted on the sofa, my grandma sat in her rocking chair and said, “So, what would you like to know?” and proceeded to talk about her Catholic faith.
 
This lasted all of five minutes. The young men thanked Grandma for the drinks, then excused themselves and said they had several other stops awaiting them.
 
This was the absolute last thing running through my head as I raked pine straw from one end of our front yard to the other a few days before Christmas.
 
In fact, when I saw the nicely-dressed couple in a white Mercedes Benz pull into the neighbor’s drive across the street, I was genuinely concerned they were creditors coming to call on a debt right before Christmas. (I guess all the extra showings of “It’s a Wonderful Life” had started to work on me.) But they pulled off, and headed away once they realized our neighbors weren’t at home, so I continued to dethatch our yard.
 
About 10 minutes later, though, here came the Mercedes again rolling at a snail’s pace back down the street before slowing just inside the outer edges of our driveway. Out they came—both in matching business attire—with what looked like banker’s planners. “Oh great, I’m going to have to tell them our neighbors aren’t home,” I thought to myself.
 
I turned and walked in their direction, coming within 10 feet of their car, but it was at that point that I saw “Holy Bible” just inside their planners. “Jehovah’s Witnesses,” I thought with a nod, followed by an “Oh great, here we go,” as I proceeded to shake hands with both of them.
 
“Do you know why God created the earth?” the woman asked.
 
“I’m no religious scholar,” I said, “but based on what I’ve read in my New American Bible and heard from our parish priests, God created the earth for us. And since we’re charged to do all things to glorify him, then we should protect the earth and steward it for future generations of his children.”
 
They smiled and agreed, but before I would allow them to continue I started in on how Magan and I believe that married life and parenthood are vocations, and if we treat both as such we can go a long way to helping shape the future of Catholicism in our children and their families: a perpetual outgrowth of the Church and stewardship similar to what they spoke about at the open. I even tossed in a quick remark about Psalm 127:3-5 and pointed to the verse and matching arrows on our passenger van.
 
“Oh, you have seven children?” the woman said.
 
“Yes ma’am,” I replied. “God has blessed us more than we could have ever imagined.”
 
“That is wonderful,” she said.
 
By now, her husband was starting to nod in polite agreement but was starting to get restless. (I have seven children. I know when someone’s attention span is waning.)
 
The kids were starting to get nervous, with different sets and sizes of blue eyes peeking from around the garage door, or from our kitchen window, worried daddy had been cornered by a conversion conversation.
 
The chat went on for about an hour, giving me ample time to talk about why Catholics have a crucifix and not just a cross in our sanctuaries, and how amazing Mary was, to know she was rearing God in human form, and how strong she must have been to accept that her child would suffer so that we could know eternity.
 
Around that time, the couple said they really needed to get going, but they genuinely enjoyed the conversation and asked if I’d mind them stopping by again sometime.
 
“Not at all,” I said. “We’re brothers and sisters in Christ after all. Have a Merry Christmas.”
 
“So, did you go all Olga on them Jason?” Magan said with a smirk from the back door as I walked back to the house.
 
“No, we had a good chat,” I said. “I just wanted them to know I loved my Church as much as they love theirs, and that we should all support each other as brothers and sisters in Christ.”
 
“Daddy’s converting the Jehovah’s Witnesses,” Noah tossed out into the rest of the assembly, which prompted the Littles to all ask, “What’s a Jehovah’s Witness?”
 
I still had a good bit of raking to get done before Baby Jesus was added to our porcelain Nativity inside, but I wanted my munchkins to see that God doesn’t call us to simply hear his word proclaimed in the Bible or at Church, he also calls us to be proclaimers of the Word.
 
“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15) may have been originally preached to the first disciples, but as believers we are also disciples called to do the same.
 
As I told my children, we shouldn’t tease those Jehovah’s Witnesses, we should admire them for striking out into the mission fields around our neighborhood, and we should try to do the same when the opportunities arise.
 
The next day, as I was working out on an elliptical machine Noah had recovered from a neighbor’s roadside trash (“My wife used it twice. Enjoy,”) a black SUV pulled into the exact same spot as the Mercedes had the day prior.
 
“Daddy, it’s more Jehovah’s Witnesses,” Noah said from the door. “They’re back for a rematch.”
 
Thankfully, it was only some dear friends from church stopping by to drop off some surprises for the kids, and a quick hug for Yours Truly. But if they’d wanted to talk about the Second Vatican Council, and how it shaped the modern Church for the better, that would have been fine, too.
 
Jason Halcombe has five sons and two daughters. He and his wife, Magan, are members of Immaculate Conception Church, Dublin.
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