There, I’ve said it. I’ve admitted it. And now you can go back to your regularly scheduled last-Saturday-of-summer barbeque or your back-to-school shopping and forget all about it.
I, however, cannot.
I don’t intend to show up at a family get-together and witness through words to my Catholic faith. I’d much rather blend in, discuss the weather and whatever book my nose is in and how the kids are growing, changing, and cracking me up. I prefer for my witness to happen by how I’m acting and how I’m living (though there’s arguably more pressure there, huh?).
My conversion to Catholicism has been ongoing. It was never one moment or even one series of moments. I wasn’t completely sold on Catholicism when I walked into the church for the Easter vigil when I was baptized and confirmed. I had an attitude, in fact, about the whole thing.
“Yeah, I’m here,” I muttered in my head to God, “but I don’t have to be. I could walk out at any time. So THERE.” And mentally I stuck out my tongue at him and wiggled my fingers in my ears.
During the year that I went through the RCIA process, I refused to do any extra reading, to research anything on my own. “If this is such a great thing,” I told God, “then it’s gotta just come to me. So THERE.”
(It still amazes me that I have made it this far, as big as my mental attitude has been. Why haven’t I been slapped upside the head by a lightening bolt or something?)
To me, therefore, it makes perfect sense that I have a natural DISinclination toward apologetics. Apologetics is for the experts, for the people with degrees, for the people who can remain calm in the face of a tempestuous discussion. I cannot remain calm, cool, or unruffled: I get bothered and I stay up at night and I speak too quickly. I forget all about charity in my need to be (and conviction that I am) right.
The most convincing witness to me, at all stages of my conversion, is the example of others, the way people live their faith, as opposed to how they talk about it. As a person with a gift for gab, actions are still the screaming proof I need.
When I say I hate being an apologist, I mean I hate defending my faith to people who are just looking to pick a fight. In fact, I have a whole repertoire of ways to get out of these situations. I don’t like these “heated discussions” (because they’re not “fights,” after all, at least not to the people starting them, though they always feel that way to me). I squirm, in part because I’m pretty sure I can’t win. I fidget, because I know that I can only plant seeds, not win hearts. I feel embarrassed, because I know they won’t change their mind and I won’t change mine. (So what’s the point of hashing it out, especially if we’re not going to be nice about it?)
Last night, though, during a long discussion with someone I love very dearly, who was asking me how I would have responded to just such a situation as the ones I most try to avoid, I couldn’t help but realize that we are all apologists, just as we are all catechists. We pass on our faith, whether we want to or not. We are living witnesses, no matter what life we’re living. We are teaching and testifying to who we are and what we stand for, and people are watching and listening.
So…am I going to be accidental about it or pay attention? And when the situation arises, can I turn myself over to the Holy Spirit to use me as He needs to?