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.
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…
STEP 1: KNOW YOUR FAITH
This is perhaps the greatest problem in the Catholic Church. Catholic parents simply don’t know their 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 15 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.
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 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 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 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 Catholic, there just can’t be any compromise on these things. Not even an inch.
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 communion 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 the 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 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.
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 10) 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 10).
So in addition to relaying what I described above about the Bible, you’ll want to tell them this…
- 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.
- 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 pink Number 1 book is for younger children (12 and younger), and the grey Number 2 book is for older children (over 12). The blue First Communion Catechism booklet is a short condensed catechism that is fantastic for very young children. 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. As for retailers, you can check with your local Catholic book store, or you can order online with many retailers. Just do a web search for: ‘New Saint Joseph Baltimore Catechism‘ and take your pick.
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. Again, check your local Catholic book store, and if they can’t get it, you can pick your retailer online by doing a web search for: ‘Friendly Defenders Catholic Flash Cards‘.
You also really should read the Bible to your children too. I have found a good place to start is with picture Bibles when their 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 Revised Standard Version — Catholic Edition (RSV-CE). 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.
STEP 2: LIVE YOUR FAITH
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.
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