Culture

Dear Edith: How do I find confidence in being Catholic?

April 17, 2017

Dear Edith,

How do you find the courage to stand up when people make snide comments about being Catholic? My online presence in social media is VERY Catholic and I am super proud of that and how much it is a part of my identity. But when someone scoffs at me in public or makes a comment about how Catholicism is a lie/corrupt/worthless/etc. I somehow manage to lose my voice and I don't have the courage to stand up for Christ and the truth. I keep asking Mary to pray for me that I find this confidence, but I don't know what else I can do.-- Ashleigh

Ashleigh is a graduate student and works with special needs kiddos by helping them use technology to access their curriculum. Her identity is deeply rooted in Christ and she prays that every day her life can be used to glorify God. Ashleigh creatively illustrates her prayer through hand lettering and bible journaling. Find her at ash.colleen on Instagram and Daughter of the Star Breather page on Facebook. Her website is www.ashcolleen.com.

Dear Edith Response #1 - Alessia

Dear Ashleigh,

First of all don't beat yourself up for a lack of courage. While it is a good thing to be ready to stand up for the Lord at all times, the truth is these people, who are so readily attacking you, would often not be receptive to anything you'd say. I'm someone who is always ready for an argument (and often makes it worse that way), and I've found that a lot of people won't even listen or let you speak. If it's on social media, you can bring out any article or proof that they're wrong, but they'll only read what they want to read.

It's all up to the Holy Spirit to open their hearts to be receptive to the truth. St Paul in his first letter to the Thessalonian church wrote that "our message of the gospel came to you not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction" (1 Thess 1:2-5 NRSVCE).

Instead of feeling bad for not finding your voice in front of the challenges, you should switch your perspective to see where your power lies: prayer.

Instead of feeling bad for not finding your voice in front of the challenges, you should switch your perspective to see where your power lies: prayer. Pray for them. They'll need it, and we know we have a duty to pray for those who persecute us, as Jesus prayed for the Jewish elite on the Cross.

You are so powerful, dear sister. Sometimes, though, we have to choose our battles. Start by engaging those who seem less intent on just reinforcing their prejudices - some may have past hurt they are dealing with (again, I was one of those too) and some may be just trolls. The trolls are off limit even for me (most of the time, when pride doesn't take over). Everyone else, what they need may not be apologetics, but a show of Christian love. Rely on the Holy Spirit to know what to do, and if it's walking away, it doesn't make you any less good than you are.

Lots of love and prayers your way.

Alessia

Alessia is a cradle Catholic revert, and Christian-unity-obsessed, blogger who writes about the intersection between faith and politics, history (she aspires to be awarded a PhD in the near future!) and life as a Carrie Bradshaw in mantilla veil in the big and exciting city of London. You can read her thoughts on her blog www.theblondpond.com or find here on Twitter and Instagram under the same nom de plume. Also passionate about intentional living and interior design, she founded Laurel and Yew (www.laurelandyew.com), a social enterprise to tackle youth unemployment in her local area.

Dear Edith Response #2 - Amy

Hi Ashleigh,

What a great question. I know you are not alone in this struggle. I myself still struggle with this same issue.

The seeming anonymity of social media can make people more likely to say things they wouldn’t normally say to someone face to face, and lead to mean comments that cut to the core. This can be difficult to deal with but I wanted to share a couple things I have learned working for a parish with an active social media presence.

The first thing I have learned is to take a moment and pray when I read a comment. Defense is our natural reaction. But often, comments degrading our faith are coming from a place of pain or mistrust. So, we should pray for that person, that their hearts be open to the Gospel message. We must also pray for ourselves, that we be vessels of love as we share the truth of our faith. (It also helps me calm down, as sometimes that Irish temper can rear its ugly head.)

often, comments degrading our faith are coming from a place of pain or mistrust.

Once I have taken time to pray, I discern whether the subject is something that should really be discussed over social media. Some topics are best left to in-person conversations and its ok to say that. Suggest that a Facebook comment feed might not be the best place to have this conversation but give another option. Offer to get together and discuss the topic further perhaps over coffee if that’s an option, or open a private message if an in-person conversation is not feasible.

If the topic is one that you feel you can have a productive conversation over social media, then ask Mary for courage like you have been doing, and speak truth. Sometimes people are just looking to pick a fight. If this is the case, then speak your peace and let it go. If the conversation goes into a tail spin of petty fighting, just walk away. Let the person know that you would be happy to speak more but the conversation is no longer going anywhere, and if they continue to make disparaging remarks you will not be engaging in the conversation. Often though, people ask questions because they want to know answers.

Rather than being scared of being judged, remember you can be a light in someone’s darkness.

We are made for the truth, and when many comments are made, answers are sought. Remember the love of Christ and speak from that place. Recently Pope Francis gave a TED talk in which he said, “Through the darkness of today’s conflicts, each and every one of us can become a bright candle, a reminder that light will overcome darkness, and never the other way around.” Rather than being scared of being judged, remember you can be a light in someone’s darkness. The world is screaming for the love of Christ. Through our witness to the Gospel on social media we can show them the way to life and joy.

I know it can be scary but remember that at Pentecost Christ sent us the Holy Spirit as our advocate. We are not alone in our work of preaching the Gospel. Trust in Him and speak with love. If you do that you will do all the Lord asks of you.Know of my prayers for you.

-- Amy

Raised Catholic, Amy Deibert's faith really came alive when she served as a missionary with NET Ministries after high school. She has a heart for youth ministry, Momma Mary and traveling. She blogs at www.morethanexisting.org where she shares stories of women living faithful lives to the Gospel and the Faith around the world.

Dear Edith Response #3 - Kate

Hi Ashleigh!

Thank you for asking this question! I know I’ve found myself asking the same question at times.

Before I share what has helped me, I want to add a disclaimer: we are not required to address every attack on the Catholic Church. Obviously, we should when we are able, but when it comes to social media, it is impractical both due to the sheer quantity of attacks and the communication mode. Sometimes, it is better to recognize that responding is like talking to a brick wall, or continuing to respond is just adding fuel towards their hatred. In these situations, it is better to stay silent on social media and pray for them, or if you know them in real life, ask if they’d like to meet up in person to discuss it over coffee or beer.

As for having confidence, I have found three things that have helped me.

Pray that the Holy Spirit will guide you.This is the most important advice I can give. One of the jobs of the Holy Spirit is to give us the wisdom to share our faith. By asking the Holy Spirit to work through me when I am responding to critics, it takes the pressure off my shoulders and rightly places the burden in God’s hands. We are only tools, and allowing God to work through us results in better responses because it is God’s answer rather than our own. Prayer also has the added benefit of helping us calm down.

allowing God to work through us results in better responses because it is God’s answer rather than our own.

Beef up your apologetics knowledge.While ultimately our defenses should come from God, building up my apologetics knowledge has helped me a lot. There are an abundance of resources out there that help us better understand our faith and know how to properly articulate the teachings of the Church. I don’t want to take up too much space by listing resources here, but please feel free to reach out to me for recommendations.

Rejoice in the persecution.Jesus warned us that we would receive unpleasant attacks for sharing the truth, but chances are, we are doing the right thing (unless we’re being Grade A jerks and are getting attacked for our attitudes rather than our words). Luke 6: 22 tells us “Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man." Though we know that it is coming, that doesn’t make it less challenging. We just remind ourselves that we will be blessed for it. I’ve been working my way through reading the Bible, and a verse that stood out to me was Acts 5:41. “So they left the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name.”How blessed are we to be able to defend Christ?

we are not alone as we defend the truth. The entire Church is with us, fighting the same battle.

I know can be hard to defend the faith. I have gotten called some horrible names and accused of some terrible things, but we are not alone as we defend the truth. The entire Church is with us, fighting the same battle. Though we may feel that we are losing, Christ will triumph and we will be rewarded for the difficulties we faced on earth in His name.

Kate Hendrick is a cradle Catholic, but she really started taking her faith seriously about two years ago. She blogs at stumblingtowardsainthood.com where she writes about the struggles of being a faithful Catholic as a young adult in American culture. You can also find here on Facebook and Instagram. Kate’s husband Ben is a Catholic convert and she enjoys growing in the faith with him.

Dear Edith Response #4 - Amanda

Dear Ashleigh,

I am so glad that you asked this question. I would guess that the situation you described is one that more than a few Catholics experience from time to time. Above all, keep asking our loving Mother for help and for her prayers! She does not disappoint.

When I hear a negative comment about the Church or about being Catholic, I find it helpful to begin by asking the person what they mean by their comment and how they arrived at their understanding of the Church, of life as a Catholic, etc. Listening to the person explain their perspective can be helpful in starting a conversation off on the right foot and ensuring that we fully understand what they are saying. It could be that this person was misinformed about the Church and what she teaches; knowing this provides an opportunity to correct that misinformation so that, at the very least, the person knows what the Church truly teaches. I find that an honest, civil conversation prevents me from becoming defensive and allows me to have confidence during a discussion.

Turning towards other sources of confidence, I try to remind myself of the heritage of faith entrusted to the Church. The Catechism of the Catholic Church tell us that “[t]he apostles entrusted the ‘Sacred deposit’ of the faith . . ., contained in Sacred Scripture and Tradition, to the whole of the Church” (84). We also know that Jesus promised us that He would send the Holy Spirit to guide His Church. Even when I am not confident in myself, I can be confident in the promise of our Lord, the guidance of the Spirit, and the Church’s authority based on Scripture and Tradition.

Even when I am not confident in myself, I can be confident in the promise of our Lord, the guidance of the Spirit, and the Church’s authority based on Scripture and Tradition.

Finally, it helps to reflect on my own experience of being Catholic and learning about the Church and her teachings. There are some Catholic teachings that I have struggled to understand. Arriving at a fuller understanding of these teachings, by the grace of God, leads to a deep joy and peace. Nothing has given me more joy, more peace, or more consolation in times of suffering than the Catholic Church and her guidance in developing a better personal relationship with my Father (which happens by His grace alone; we all know who causes the problems in our relationship). This makes me want to share the Church with others in the hopes that they may also experience this joy and peace. When a conversation could be an opportunity to introduce someone to the Church and the beauty that comes from living a life of faith, it is easier for me to forget any lack of confidence I feel and focus on the person in front of me.

-- Amanda

Amanda is a Coloradan who recently relocated to the south. She works at a Catholic college and could talk for days about her love of Catholic education. She can usually be found at a local coffee shop or getting lost while exploring her new city.

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