Becoming defenders of the Faith

Not long ago I was a participant in a conversation where the term apologetics was mentioned; several listeners were puzzled by the term and asked for an explanation. Apologetics is derived from the Greek word ἀπολογία or apologia which means to “speak in defense”; it is the discipline of systematically defending a position with reason and knowledge.

Champaigne - Saint Augustine

Champaigne – Saint Augustine

In the ancient Greek legal system the prosecution delivered the kategoria (κατηγορία), and the defendant replied with an apologia. To deliver an apologia meant to make a formal speech or to provide an explanation in response to the charges.

The word apology, of which most of us are familiar, is derived from the same Greek word, but it is commonly used as a plea for forgiveness for a wrong act. Implicit in this is an admission of guilt, thus turning on its head the “speaking in defense” aspect of the original concept.

When it comes to our Catholic faith, apologetics is a branch of theology devoted to a serious and intellectual defense of the whole of Catholic teaching. Apologetics has traditionally been used to support and provide a better understanding of our faith and to counter or remove objections to our beliefs.  As an example, St. Augustine wrote City of God as a response to the criticisms of Christianity following the sack of Rome in 410.

St. Paul uses the term apologia in his trial speech to Festus and Agrippa when he says “I make my defense” (Acts 26:2). Variations of the word appear in St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians as he is “defending the gospel” (Philippians 1:7 & 16), and in 1 Peter 3:15 believers must be ready to give an “answer” for their faith.

John Henry Newman (1801 – 1890) was an English convert to Roman Catholicism, later made a cardinal, and beatified in 2010. His autobiography Apologia Pro Vita Sua, used the word apologia as both a defense and an expression of contrition or regret.

As Catholics, we are called to be Disciples of Christ, to spread the Good News, to evangelize and bring others to the fullness of faith. In order for us to be faithful followers of Christ we must first and foremost be able to “speak in defense” with knowledge and understanding. We must become apologists, defenders of the faith, in the truest sense of the word.

Deacon Chuck

About the author: Deacon Chuck

Deacon Chuck was ordained into the permanent diaconate on September 17, 2011, in the ministry of service to the Diocese of Reno and assigned to St. Albert the Great Catholic Community. He currently serves as the parish bulletin editor and website administrator. Deacon Chuck continues to serve the parish of Saint Albert the Great Catholic Community of the Diocese of Reno, Nevada. He is the Director of Adult Faith Formation and Homebound Ministries for the parish, conducts frequent adult faith formation workshops, and is a regular homilist. He currently serves as the bulletin editor for the parish bulletin. He writes a weekly column intended to encompass a broad landscape of thoughts and ideas on matters of theology, faith, morals, teachings of the magisterium and the Catholic Church; they are meant to illuminate, illustrate, and catechize the readers and now number more than 230 articles. His latest endeavor is "Colloqui: A journal for restless minds", a weekly journal of about 8 pages similar in content to bulletin reflections. All his reflections, homilies, commentaries, and Colloqui are posted and can be found on his website: Comments are always welcome and appreciated. He is the author of two books: "The Voices of God: hearing God in the silence" which offers the reader insights into how to hear God’s voice through all of the noise that surrounds us; and "Echoes of Love: Effervescent Memories" which through a combination of prose and verse provides the reader with a wonderful journey on the way to discovering forever love. He regularly speaks to groups of all ages and size and would welcome the opportunity to speak to your group.

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