Welcome to another article answering a few of the many questions we receive from our retreats, conferences, or social media.
Question #1: How do you argue for your faith so well? And how do you discuss your faith so well with others?
The answer is: Because I have been doing this a very long time. In the beginning, I was terrible! I would lose most discussions and could not defend or explain my faith well.
To be honest, I almost lost my faith a few times when trying to go toe to toe with Jehovah’s Witnesses, atheists, or members of other religions. They would ask me to show them in the Bible where I was getting my information. The problem was, I didn’t know the Bible well at the time.
Instead of leaving my faith like so many do without first having studied it, I realized that I needed to research my faith. Thus, I began a deep dive into the Catholic the Bible and Catholic teachings, books, audio, and anything i could get my hands on. I also studied the other religions too, so I was able to understand where our beliefs differed and how to answer them.
The second part to this is that I’ve practiced a lot – with friends, other religions, in talks I’ve given, and in answering people’s questions. To be honest, I’ve failed many times. I haven’t used the right approach. I’ve given bad arguments. I haven’t been able to answer certain objections and have felt like a failure. Or, I will think of the things after the fact that I should have said, and so on.
One thing I have learned is that it’s not about winning or losing; it’s about sharing the faith and getting to what it true. Many people don’t ever get to the point of practicing to explain their beliefs because they are afraid of “losing.” Again, let me stress, if we are sharing our faith, there is no losing. We do our best and let God do the rest. Even if it goes badly, it might be an opportunity to see where we need to study, or perhaps something we’ve said will help that person later.
I have 25 years of field experience in talking to different types of people from all different backgrounds, cultures, and levels of faith. So, why do I defend the faith so well? Years of study, practice, and a deep prayer life with God.
Question #2: Did Mohammad really ride a unicorn to Mecca?
Yes, Muslims believe that Muhammad, the founder of Islam, rode a unicorn to Mecca and to heaven. Because of this, from time to time, people ask me if this really happened. Of course, the answer is no.
First, it wasn’t so much a flying unicorn, but a winged animal, like a pony. Second, there is no such animal that can fly to heaven in a few strides. Even if it was miraculous, we have no reason to believe it. We only have Muhammad’s word since nobody else saw it, but Muhammad himself could not work any miracles (admitted by his own words) even when people asked him to.
Nobody saw Moses talk to a burning bush, but Moses performed countless miracles in the site of Pharaoh and countless other people to show that God was with him. Unless there is even a shred of evidence for this occurrence with Muhammad, it is difficult to believe, if not impossible.
Question 3: How can we live as the disciples of Jesus and be better disciples and live earthly lives that are busy at the same time?
How can we live busy lives and still live for Jesus? There are many ways, but let me share two core things. Number one, you can’t be a disciple if you don’t pray every day.
You have to have a prayer life with Jesus in order to have to have a relationship with Him. I’m not just talking about spouting off Our Fathers, Hail Marys, a few Litanies, and these sorts of things before you go to bed at night. These are good, but we can get into the habit of saying them by rote. That’s not how we form a relationship. What I’m talking about is a real conversation with Jesus. If you don’t know what to say, start reading the Bible so you can get to know Jesus, and start thinking about Him. If you pray to Him every single day, before you even leave your house, you will develop a habit that in time will become a friendship.
Plan for prayer time that you will offer to Jesus as a part of your daily schedule. It is praying every day and building a relationship that will allow you to go out into the world knowing He is with you. This is how you can be a disciple even when it feels difficult.
The second thing is, live for Jesus and follow his commandments.
We have a thousand choices to make every single day. Will we gossip, or not gossip? Will we lust after that half-naked woman on the street or look up and say, “God you make beautiful women, thank you!” It is in these seemingly small choices we face each day where we can do good, or not so good. Do we lose our temper or are we patient? Will we cheat on our taxes or be honest? Should we share that off color meme, or scroll past it? We all face different temptations and obstacles, but when we make good choices, we are showing the world that we are disciples of Christ.
The proof is not in what we say about following Jesus but in what we do. Discipleship is faith in action. Develop a prayer life and a habit of following God’s commands. This helps us in making good choices throughout the day and repenting when we fail. Also, going to Church every Sunday is a must, as is going to Confession on a regular basis. We are fully embracing our faith when we are partaking in the sacraments. These things will help anyone who wants to be a better disciple. Especially starting every day with Jesus. I cannot stress this enough! If we forget Him, it makes it very hard to be a disciple.
Question #4: Does the Devil really believe that he can win in the end?
I believe the answer is no. I don’t think he does believe he can ever be victorious, but he doesn’t want us to be, either. Because he was kicked out of Heaven and he is such a sore sport, he wants to drag down as many souls as he can. He knows he’s going to be in Hell for eternity because he rejected and didn’t want to live with God. Now it is his goal to bring as many people with him as possible. He is like a spoiled child having a tantrum. He hates God, and he hates everything that has to do with God, so that includes God’s children: us.
Like I said, I don’t think that he believes this is a fight he could ever win. The Cross has already claimed the victory. It’s more like a person who knows they can’t win a board game so they flip the board over and make a mess. There is chaos, confusion, and all of the joy leaves the room. They make everybody else lose just because they can’t win. That’s kind of like the Devil.
Question #5: If God wanted us to be truly happy wouldn’t he allow us to do whatever we wanted?
The short answer is no, but this is best answered as another two part response. Number one, we don’t always know what will make us truly happy. Have you ever made decisions that you thought were going to make you happy, but you wound up regretting them in the end? Have you ever made plans that blew up in your face? It may have felt like a really big thing, or maybe it was a relationship you got into that you thought would be the best thing in the world. At first you thought it was good, and then the person turned out to be different than you thought. Maybe they were horrible, or a person who abused you.
Most of us can think of plenty of things that we thought were going to make us happy in this life that just didn’t. God is the only one who can see into the future and He is the only one who can see what will truly make us happy long-term. More importantly He knows what is going to make us holy. That is why this is the second part of my answer is: God does not want our happiness as much as he wants our holiness! God wants us to be holy first because God’s greatest desire for us is that we get to Heaven. Did you know that? His main goal is for us to live with Him in an eternal relationship in Heaven.
We can make decisions here on Earth that we think will make us happy but are, in reality, sinful. We can decide to break the commandments, or to go away from Him, but He cannot bless this. In the Bible it says, “If you love me you will follow my commandments”. (John 14:15) Therefore, to show God that we love Him we follow His rules. These rules aren’t in place because He doesn’t want us to enjoy our lives, it is just the opposite! God knows that when we follow Him, He is going to fill us with joy, peace, and fulfillment. In fact, Jesus also said, in the Gospel of John, that he desires our joy. It says, “I came so that you may have life and have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10) God wants us to be filled with joy, but that joy only comes from having a relationship with Him and allowing Him into our entire lives. So, God does want us to be happy, but not at the expense of us being holy. Strive for holiness first, following God’s commandments, and then happiness after that.
Question #6: How do you start a conversation about faith with your older sibling (or anyone for that matter) who isn’t going to church and isn’t close to God anymore?
My answer is always this: just start the conversation. I would recommend that you go up to the person and just be super nice, super gentle, and super loving. Don’t be judgmental at all. Just begin with the truth; that you are very curious as to why they’ve left their faith. If it were me I would say something like: “Hey Nancy, I’ve noticed that you don’t go to church anymore, and you haven’t gone in awhile, I’m just curious about why. I mean, did something happen to you? Have you just lost faith, or are their other circumstances in your life that have happened that kind of made you lose faith in God, or have you just gotten too busy and fallen away? I’m sincerely curious.”
When you put it in a very non-judgmental way when just ask, you are more likely to get an answer. People get offended when you judge them or when they feel like they are judged. Instead of answering they may become defensive, shutting down the conversation. Even if you take the kinder approach, they may be offended anyway, but you have a better chance of opening a dialogue. It is also possible they might yell at you. If so, just go away and pray for them. On the other hand, they might give you the answers you are looking for. If they tell you the reasons why they fell away then you can have a discussion about it. Clearly, you can’t bring anyone back to the truth, back to the faith, or back to church, unless you know the real reasons why they left in the first place, so sometimes it’s good to ask.
Another way is to say, “Hey I’m going to church on Sunday, would you like to come with me? I’d love for you to come and maybe we can get breakfast after”. Extend the invitation to church, a young adult group, or a Bible study. Perhaps if you keep asking in a very nice, non-judgmental way, you might get a yes, so don’t give up! These are just a couple of ways that you can start the conversation and maybe even help to bring them back to the faith.