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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Thinking about Christmas and a Book to Help Catholics "Get It!"

Jesus teaching his disciples
Book Review:
The Language of Dissent: Answering Those Who Distort the Catholic Faith
by Kevin Lents
Published by Litteral's Christian Library Publications, 2014

How many Catholics really know their faith? Most young parents today grew up with marshmallow-style catechetics. I remember one of the elementary books in my own parish that had mirrored foil in the front of the book to focus the child on self and pictures of Jesus that were downright scary. I sometimes wonder whether there was a deliberate attempt to make materials that would destroy the faith of children. Whether or not it was deliberate, it certainly did the job judging from those falling away from the faith, especially the millennials. It isn't just Catholic millennials, of course; Sadly, the younger generation across the board is bailing on the Church.

Addressing our specific Catholic problem with retaining the young, is it really very surprising? We live in a time of mass confusion where even the Pope muddies issues with statements like, "Who am I to judge?" and criticizes the young who are still believers if they happen to prefer the "extraordinary" rite instead of praising them for their fidelity. Catholics see bishops in public disagreement and laity all over the place with regard to doctrine. How does that chaos impact the average Catholics in the pew (millennial and otherwise) who probably have a Kindergarten level of understanding and often reject what's true in favor of what they erroneously believe to be true (or want to be true)?

And think about the situation of young Catholic college students off on their own for the first time. Meeting zealous Protestants who challenge them, can they defend their faith or are they fair game for the friendly fellowship that preaches error? It is a serious problem!

But problems have solutions and ignorance is one that can always be repaired. One excellent tool that would particularly help Catholics recognize error and defend the truth is Kevin Lents' excellent book, The Language of Dissent. Whether a Catholic is debating a dissenter next to him in the pew or a Jehovah's Witness at the door, Lents' book will arm him for battle. He addresses many common issues that are misunderstood by Protestants and distorted by "progressive" Catholics. Some of the questions include:

  • Did Jesus know He was God?
  • Were Adam and Eve real people or just literary figures?
  • Do we have too much devotion to Mary?
  • Did Jesus perform any miracles? Did he really multiply the loaves or did he just inspire the people to share the food they brought?
  • Did the four evangelists write the gospels?
  • Are we really instructed not to judge and what does that mean?
  • How can Jesus be really present in the Eucharist?
  • Aren't "We (the laity) the Church"?
  • Do Catholics need to obey all the "rules" of the Church?
  • If the Bible doesn't teach anything (e.g., about contraception), why should we believe what the Church says?
  • Why should we listen to the pope; what authority does he really have?
Using the Catechism of the Catholic Church, documents from the Church Fathers, encyclicals and other Church documents, writings of saints and holy men and women, and brief anecdotes, Lents illustrates in a simple and clear voice what the Church teaches and why. His style is engaging and entertaining. 

Here's just one example where he quotes Fulton Sheen to make a point about our proper devotion to Mary which he believes "is not enough":
The crux of the controvertible statement [There is too much devotion to Mary] seems to be that the attention given to Mary somehow takes away from her Son's unique role of salvific action completed upon the cross at Calvary for mankind. Indeed, in some circles of the Church, there are those who claim that the devotion to Mary is a hindrance to true ecumenism and fellowship with our separated brethren, the Protestants...Archbishop Fulton Sheen gave an analogy to the charge that the devotion to Mary in the Church somehow takes attention away from her Son: 
 "imagine that an internationally known artist is having a display of his most famous      works in one of his well-known art galleries. Many fans and critics who love this          artist's work show up to his art gallery to view the display of his work especially his most famous piece that is rarely on display. Could you imagine his fans' reaction if suddenly he told them to stop looking at his works of art, yet tells them to look at him instead because he is the one who created them? It can be used in a parallel view with Jesus and His Bless Mother. He allows us to honor and venerate her because in the long run it glorifies Him! This is the way it is in the Mystical Body."
...Mary's role in salvation history is a participatory role. In other words, by her fiat (yes!) to the archangel Gabriel, she participates in her Son's role of untying what Eve had tied in the Garden of Eden.
That clear explanation is typical of  Lents' approach of stating a truth and then backing it up with enlightening quotes that are all well foot-noted.

Parents and grandparents with college age youth would do well to wrap this book up and put it under the tree for young adults. Catholic study groups and campus Neman clubs could go through the book chapter by chapter using the content and references to increase understanding and appreciation of the faith.

In the forward of the book, Donna Steichen, author of Ungodly Rage about feminism in the Church made this poignant observation:
During the era of the Baltimore Catechism, the faithful were so tightly linked in a cohesive and vigorous Catholic culture that one could ask an audience of hundreds of adult believers a catechism question -- "Who made you? Why did God make you? How many Persons are there in God? What must I do to gain eternal life? Why must I be baptized? How many kinds of sin are there?" -- confident that it would elicit a unison reply. As it did.
While it is true that most of those who shared that common faith could not explain all the concepts involved with theological precision, neither could most children who memorized the multiplication tables explain the roots of the mathematical theory. But they had assimilated the tools they needed to proceed with their educations and their lives. 
We need to provide those tools again and Lents book is an important item to include in the Catholic tool box. I recommend it and will, in fact, be giving it this Christmas to at least one teacher of the faith who prepares young people for confirmation. In fact, I can also think of a recent confirmandi who I think would enjoy the book. There is more than one way to evangelize and sharing the authentic faith through good books is one of them.


  1. The past 2 years I have been examining (ad nauseum) the need to send my son to an all boys Catholic high school as he craves authentic fraternity. While my diocese has many schools, I could only honestly consider two. I have MANY stories from our visits to these schools' open houses & daytime tours, but I will share this one.

    My husband and I went to look at the religion dept table. A young man who was a senior representing the dept told me to ask him ANYTHING! I jokingly asked, "Who made you?" He put his head down and said nothing. So I waited and he replied, "My momma made me!" I gulped, waited a few minutes looking at the PITIFUL textbooks, and said, "No, really, WHO made you?"
    He smiled and said, "My momma!" I gulped again. My husband began shaking a bit, thinking, "Uh oh! This kid has NO idea what kinda broad my wife is. This is not going to be pretty."
    As we began to walk away from the table, I looked at the kid, and said, "Come on. Last chance. Who made you?" He replied, "Jesus made me!"
    And then I said, quite directly, "Young man, GOD made you to know Him, to love Him, to serve Him in this world and to be happy with Him in the next for all eternity. Baltimore Catechism #1. Look it up."

    My husband pulled me away before I could tell the lad that his parents really should request their $50K tuition over 5 years be refunded.

    And after several such incidents my husband has asked, "Are you ready to accept that you can give our son better books and a better faith formation than these schools? And do we really care how fabulous their material resources & science labs are at this point?"

    Poorly formed modernists are completely running the show in this diocese. I have to admit I am tired after 17 years & 2 gifted kids & running a home school group. How EASY it would be to have a paycheck and a lunch hour & drop him off & let someone else do this exhausting job!!! But I know I will be held accountable to Almighty God for every book he reads, and Flowers for Algernon is NOWHERE on MY list!

    Yeah-- we are homeschooling for the long haul. May God grant us ABUNDANT grace for the journey! Our Lady of Good Success, ora pro nobis! Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust and my children in Thee!

  2. Amen, amen, amen! Good for you. As Fr. Hardon often said home schooling families are the modern monasteries preserving the faith. I know God will abundantly bless your family and the Blessed Mother will be standing over your children with her club to beat away any devils that drop by.

  3. How did you guess THAT is the image of Our Lady to which I most closely relate?!? ;-)

  4. I am so humbled by this, Mary Ann. :*)

    Thank you sooooo much.

    You mention Fr. Hardon, towards the end of his ministry he would exhort solid, orthodox Catholics to write, write, write so that the faithful could actually *see* what the Church actually teaches on issues of faith and morals.

    You and many solidly Catholic bloggers have been doing just that (Thanks be to God).

    Thank you again, dear.
    Catechist Kev

  5. Stabat Mater, we are kindred spirits I think. So it's no wonder I picked your favorite image of Our Lady. It's one of mine too. We all need a holy mother to beat off the devils!

  6. Kevin, the thanks go to you for publishing a book that is easy to read and is packed with ammunition for fighting those in error and those who dissent either out of ignorance or malice.

  7. I know this is late to the thread Mary Ann, but I wanted to expound on what Sabat Mater said in the first post above.

    I am friends with a young Catholic couple who teach CCD in our parish. I taught the husband in 8th grade "religious ed" many moons ago. This couple met on a TEC weekend and which I was part of the team for the weekend (it was great to see them fall in love from this point on).

    The wife of this couple was attending a secular university during their courtship. This school is located in the same city as our diocesan see. She was really active in trying to spread the faith to other Catholics during her time there. She was trying to promote a program that centered around the Catechism of the Catholic Church. This was met with disapproval by our diocesan "youth minister" at the time.

    This person told her that she could only use "approved" diocesan material for any Catholic "groups" that met on campus. She met with this diocesan youth minister one-on-one to see what exactly the problem was (long story which I won't get completely into).

    The youth minister asked her, "Why did God make you?" She replied, "To know Him, love Him, serve Him and be with Him forever in heaven."

    He replied, "That's pre-Vatican II" - then he went on as to why this approach did not "work" when teaching the faith.

    Yet, if one looks into the Catechism it self, you will find the very same answer this young lady gave to this... "minister" in paragraph 1721!

    "God put us in the world to know, to love, and to serve him, and so to come to paradise. Beatitude makes us "partakers of the divine nature" and of eternal life. With beatitude, man enters into the glory of Christ and into the joy of the Trinitarian life."

    Thanks be to God for this young lady who was actually taught the truths of the faith by her parents. (and shame on the former "youth minister" who was nothing more than a chancery bully who had his own agenda)

    Sorry for the rant, Mary Ann.

    Catechist Kev