The Pagan Influence Fallacy

facts fbOne objection to the Catholic Faith I’ve been encountering frequently is what’s commonly called the “pagan influence fallacy.” When engaging in doctrinal discussions with Fundamentalists, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, or even atheists, one will most likely be forced to do verbal sword battle with the pagan influence fallacy at one point or another. In short, it claims that the Catholic Church was swallowed up by pagan influences as early as 313 AD (the year Constantine legalized Christianity in the Roman Empire) and lost any shimmer of authentic Christianity under the corruption of paganism. These claims are often asserted with no trace of historical evidence to back them up, no specific dates as to when the corruption occurred, and don’t tend to say anything about the abundant evidence we have of peculiarly Catholic doctrines already existing centuries before Constantine ever assumed the throne (see the writings of Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, and the Didache for descriptions of the Catholic belief in the Eucharist before the year 100 AD). The first thing a Catholic should always do when the pagan influence fallacy rears its all too familiar head is demand evidence. Ask why it is that the person advancing the claim believes paganism overcame the Church established by Christ. Slight similarity among beliefs in no way means the two beliefs are identical, and there is nothing wrong with a custom if it is used in the proper way.

Jim Havens and I encountered just this type of belief a couple of weeks ago while evangelizing on Pensacola Beach. We had a robust hour-long conversation with a Jehovah’s Witness, which was interesting to say the least. While Jim and I were adamant about discussing the issue of authority (is it found in the Catholic Church or in the Watch Tower Society?) the gentleman continuously sidetracked our discussion back to two (what I thought to be irrelevant) topics: Christmas and the Cross.

The man claimed that because both of these items resemble some beliefs and customs of ancient pagans and are supported by the Catholic Church, the Church celebrates pagan feasts and endorses pagan customs.

For two blokes keen on discussing Church history, Apostolic Succession, and the canonicity of the New Testament (all authority-based matters), we were confounded as to why our friend continuously pressed these two “pagan” issues.

After reflecting on our time with our Jehovah’s Witness friend, I believe the pagan influence fallacy is so popular because:

1) It takes little effort to regurgitate an accusation one has heard time and time again from those he trusts (possibly in the Kingdom Hall, the Mormon Temple, or the hallowed halls of the Infallible Interwebs), especially if he has never heard it challenged.

2) The reciter wishes it to be true and believes it at face value, satisfying his minimalistic desire for evidence (an unfortunate byproduct of our intellectually-dying age). This is the case especially if he is comfortable and complacent in his chosen faith and wishes to remain there undisturbed (which Jehovah’s Witnesses certainly do – more on that towards the end).

No matter how deeply the person you’re speaking with is steeped in the misconception that Catholicism is no more than modern paganism with a little holy water sprinkled on top, you can begin showing them the truth of the Church by charitably deconstructing the logic of the fallacy and moving on to more central issues, such as authority.

Breaking Down the Logic

Just because there is a similarity between A and B doesn’t necessarily mean that A is B or that A caused B. In order to prove pagan-influenced Christianity, one needs a positive correlation and conclusive proof that the custom in question was derived only from pagan sources and that it is still used in the same way today with no transformation.

At the root of it, this claim (and others like it) is a combination of several types of fallacies:

· The genetic fallacy, also known as the fallacy of origins. This fallacy is committed when, “An idea is either accepted or rejected because of its source, rather than its merit.”

Examples of the genetic fallacy:

o The current Chancellor of Germany was in the Hitler Youth at age 3. With that sort of background, his so-called ‘reform’ plan must be a fascist program.

o A little girl believes that the moon and stars dance in the sky as she sleeps because her parents told her so and she knows they’re good, trustworthy people.

· The fallacy post hoc ergo proper hoc (“After this, therefore because of this”), which claims, “Since event Y followed event X, event Y must have been caused by event X.”

Example of this post hoc fallacy:

o The rooster crows immediately before sunrise, therefore the rooster causes the sun to rise.

· And the association fallacy, which states that, “qualities of one thing are inherently qualities of another, merely by an irrelevant association.” Examples of the association fallacy:

o Jake is a con artist. Jake has blond hair. Therefore, all people with blond hair are con artists.

o Ana is good at mathematics. Ana is dyslexic. Therefore, all dyslexic people are good at mathematics.

It is easy to see how these different fallacies play into the pagan influence fallacy. In the case of the Christian Cross, the Jehovah’s Witness will assert that: because some pagan cultures used symbols of crosses, all Christians who use crosses today use them the same way the pagans did (the association fallacy); because the first uses of the symbol were in pagan cultures, and paganism is bad, the symbol is intrinsically bad (the genetic fallacy); and because the pagan cultures that used the cross existed before Christianity, the Christians took the sign from the pagans (post hoc ergo proper hoc).

One can see how, logically, this argument cannot hold water. In order to prove causation, there needs to be historical evidence demonstrating that Christians intentionally took the cross from only pagan sources and still use it in the same way today that the pagans did. They would have to show that Christians did not begin using the cross because they believed Jesus was crucified on one. Judging from the fact that the pagan cultures that used the cross as a symbol were located primarily in East Asia and the Americas and did not have any influence on the early Christians, this would be extremely hard to prove.

In order to find out if a symbol is pagan, you must ask what it means. If it is the “ansated cross” and wearers say it represents Egyptian signs of life, then it is pagan. If it represents the atoning, salvific death of Jesus Christ, then it is not pagan, but entirely Christian.

Symbols are subjective, not objective.

The great irony of Jehovah’s Witnesses using this argument against the Catholic Church is that many atheists will use it against Jehovah’s Witnesses. The atheist could claim that a venerated mother and child like Mary and Jesus are only copies of the pagan gods Isis and Osiris, Isa and Iswara, and others. He could say that some pagan gods were pictured with wings like God was in Psalms 91:4 or that Roman poetry and heathen myths held flame-topped heads to be omens before the Apostles ever experienced Pentecost. Some skeptics try to make a connection between Jesus and the ancient Egyptian god Horus, claiming that the Egyptians believed Horus to have been born of a virgin and crucified (both of which are, however, historically inaccurate; I’m merely using them to demonstrate how atheists will use the Witness’s logic against him). Examples could be multiplied showing that even the Jehovah’s Witnesses have beliefs that contain similarities to some pagan religions. The Jehovah’s Witness we spoke with admitted that he wore a wedding ring when he was married (some pagan cultures used wedding rings). He probably drives a car, which is a practice of many modern pagans, does that make driving bad? Pagans who had any scientific knowledge in the 16th century believed that the earth revolves around the sun, does that make heliocentrism false or evil? If pagan antecedents don’t invalidate Jehovah’s Witness beliefs, why do they invalidate Catholic beliefs? When Jehovah’s Witnesses use this claim against Catholics or other Christians, they are ipso facto shooting themselves in the foot.

In regards to holidays, the Church introduced feast days and holidays to celebrate only Christian beliefs. If there were any pagan holidays that coincided with Christian holidays, the substances were entirely distinct, and the Christians would have totally rejected the pagan celebrations (see the writings of early Church Fathers St. Athanasius, St. Justin Martyr, and St. Augustine to see how the early Christians vocally disdained pagan beliefs). There is no dogma that states Jesus was definitively born on December 25th, the Church does not claim to know the exact day Jesus was born. Christmas is just the day that we, as the Body of Christ, celebrate the fact that Jesus was born. It’s as pure and simple as that.

Subconscious Forces at Play

In the case of many Jehovah’s Witnesses, there is an additional psychological factor resting beneath the surface. The last thing they want to do is ask “suspicious” questions or leave the Jehovah’s Witnesses, because, if they do, they will be ignored at their place of worship and isolated from many of their family and friends (in this article, a convert out of the Witnesses talks about the abrupt consequences to asking “dangerous” questions about the organization: The practice of separating a Jehovah’s Witness from the rest of the organization is known as “disfellowshipping.” In short, if one is disfellowshipped, he loses the spiritual home he has been building his whole life. If the consequence of your religion being false is the loss of your family, friends, community, and possibly your livelihood, would you be out looking into the Catholic side of things to see if there is any merit to the Watch Tower Society’s claims? Probably not. Subsequently, because of how culturally ingrained and personal the Jehovah’s Witnesses faith is, they are all the more willing to accept the Catholic Church as pagan without really examining the evidence for themselves.

We must keep these psychological factors in mind as we seek to share the truth, goodness, and love of Jesus Christ and His Church with Jehovah’s Witnesses and all those who are separated from the Truth. Make an effort to try and steer the conversation back from small, trivial topics (such as crosses and Christmas) to the topic that matters most: authority. We must also remember that it is easy to make assertions and invent theories, but it is hard to prove them with facts. Until there is such evidence for the “paganism” of Catholicism, I will be in the only Church that can prove from history that it was founded by Christ Himself, and not in an organization founded 1,830 years after Him by a man. Grace and peace to you.

Written by Zac Johnson

We Were Not Made for Comfort

comfort zoneI have been really blessed to encounter our Father at the end of my Freshman year of high school at a Steubenville Conference. Throughout high school, my faith became an important new journey for me, but it was not the popular road to follow. I did discover myself and my identity in Christ the more I dove deeper into a relationship with Him. I began to experience more of the joy in life and a sense of freedom leaving my life up to God’s will. However, I kept my faith hidden to my friends and others not from my Church afraid of their judgment and possible ridicule. When I arrived at Florida State University, I naturally joined the Catholic Student Union (CSU) gravitating towards people I knew I could be comfortable around. However, I began to discover I was wrong; CSU’s goal is to outreach to all students to bring them home to Christ. Our faith is not meant to be kept in a bottle. I had been so naïve for not wanting to share the joy and new life I was given, and it was all because of comfort. After continually seeing fellow CSU friends evangelize freely and lovingly to new students, my heart wanted to burst with the love God has for me; however, I feared I would not be good enough. I knew God was calling me to get out of my comfort zone and share His love to others.

I was worried leaving this wonderful community to go home for the summer. Not too long into summer, my pastor at my home church mentioned this fairly new St. Paul Street Evangelization ministry. I had constantly heard that big intimidating word, “evangelization,” at CSU, and having someone from my home Church asking me to be a part of this evangelization, I knew it was God telling me that I was ready to spread His joy to others. At first I was reluctant to answer this call, but I knew I would at least have to try it once before judging “street evangelization” as people screaming at you on the side of the road waving their Bibles in the air.

As I walked down Palafox Street during the crowded gallery night looking for the St. Paul ministry, I was losing hope and was about to turn around to walk back to my car. However, in the distance I saw five familiar faces in the crowd. I was shocked because three of them were people from my old high school youth group. I assumed and was nervous the ministry was going to be made up of mainly the older parishioners at St. Paul’s Parish. Once again, God was reminding me He was always with me and was never going to leave.

The night consisted of passing out rosaries and talking to people walking by about Jesus Christ and the Catholic faith. I was surprised by how many people actually wanted to talk to us. Everyone I spoke to was polite and friendly, and many people did not know about the rosary and the significance of our mother Mary. I met one man about my age who was Methodist, and we immediately had a common interest for the love for our Lord. I mainly shared with him the unique relationship one can have with Mary, and how she longs for us to say “yes” to her to enter our lives and bring us closer to her Son at the foot of the cross.

I know that night would not have been possible without the Holy Spirit being present through us. I discovered that we are capable to do anything with Christ working through us like evangelization. So on our journey of running towards heaven, lets grab as many people as we can with us.

Pope Benedict XVI: “The world offers you comfort. But you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.”

Written by Meghan Busch

Another Good Fit

spse_gallery_night_2 fbTalking with others about the Faith has always been a great passion of mine. It’s one of the reasons I love high school ministry. Helping young people navigate this crazy world with the teachings of the Church as their GPS is right up there on my favorite things to do list right alongside being a mother. The two have a lot in common. That’s why my personal information cards say, “Wendy Karczewski, Life Coach AKA Parent AKA Youth Minister.”

Seriously though in the end what am I?  I’m a missionary disciple of Jesus Christ. And recently I discovered yet another dimension of living this calling out when I participated for the first time with St. Paul’s Street Evangelization in Pensacola. Pope John Paul II in Evangelium Vitae specifically addressing women said we helped reconcile people to life. I truly feel this is my purpose in this world, in my personal family, my parish family and now with the privilege of working with St. Paul Street Evangelization, my local community. Now I have something new to add to my list of favorites, I believe it fits very naturally with the others.

Written by Wendy Karczewski

Answering the Call

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I first learned about the St. Paul Street Evangelization national program while listening to a podcast from the Catholic Forum.  When I initially saw the title of the program, I was slightly shocked and had some terrifying mental images of parishioners standing on busy street corners with megaphones pounding on Bibles.  However, after hearing the whole story, I found myself feeling not only relieved that this was NOT the prescribed method but also intrigued at the possibility of sharing the love of Jesus with those who either never knew Him or simply lost Him along the way.  I decided that if such a program should ever come to Pensacola, I would leave my comfort zone and give it a try.

Obviously God did not want me to waste any time, because a few days later I saw an article in our own parish bulletin about the St. Paul Street Ministry.  I almost could not believe it happened so quickly.  I was still a little bit reluctant to follow through, but I contacted the organizer.  My feet grew even colder when I learned that two opportunities were approaching, and to my relief, I was not available for the first one!   However, God had other plans for me, because at the last minute, my schedule changed and I was available.  So, I ventured out with several others who were new to the ministry, under the leadership of Jim Havens.

I loved that our group was diverse.  We had energetic, joyful college students who provided some balance to the typical church lady personas (which would include me!)  I believe that at nearly 50, I was the oldest in our group.  It was a relief that both Jim and Father Kevin were available to do the heavy lifting, should there be a need for deep apologetics.

I initially felt very awkward, yet it pained me to watch throngs of people walk by as I stood paralyzed with silence.  I have never been much of a salesperson, but I finally just forced myself to start making eye contact, smiling, and talking to everyone I could reach.  There were plenty of people who would pass by and look away, or who would simply say “no thanks.”   Yet, I realized that even if they did not stop, something registered in them.  They thought about Him.  When I felt intimidated by people who didn’t “look” receptive, I kept reminding myself that Jesus wants everyone…not just those who I think look like they might listen.   And gradually, it became fairly easy to give away Rosaries.  We also provided some prayer cards and informational brochures.   I met some former Catholics who seemed genuinely touched by receiving a Rosary.   There were also Protestants who expressed gratitude for our desire to share our love of Christ with everyone.

As a cradle Catholic, I admit that I have become quite comfortable not talking to strangers about Christ.   Yet I have been called to “Go and announce the gospel of the Lord.”  Notice there are no qualifiers on that command.  The priest does not say, “Go and announce the gospel of the Lord to your friends and family, as long as it is easy and not too awkward…”  In our increasingly secular world, so many people feel broken and lost.  If a warm, joyful invitation can bring even one soul back to Christ, then it’s time for me to “rock” my own cradle and answer the call.

Written by Anita N.

New Love

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We extended our hospitality once again on 6/13 (Palafox Market) and 6/19 (Gallery Night). Several first-timers came out and hopefully each will offer a post on their experiences in the coming weeks. For me, something amazing is happening.

A profound experience began for me during our last outing to the market, it continued through Gallery Night a week later, and it continues still. God is opening up new areas in my heart that I did not even know were there.

In terms of experiencing love for specific communities, I have long known what it is to experience a deep, authentic love for my own family, and even for a parish family, but a new love has emerged…a love for the greater community here in Pensacola.

“Love” can mean many things, so let me elaborate for a moment. What I first experienced two Saturdays ago was a new love for the community that went beyond will. It was the awakening of an affectionate love that showed me the deep goodness of the other (the greater Pensacola community) and it gave me great joy just for being there in the encounter. Not only did I choose love (which is why I was there in the first place), but I was engulfed in it. I could not manufacture that experience – I could only receive it as a gift, and then rest in it with gratitude and awe. Truly, I did not even know such an experience existed. It followed the trajectory of my will but also went beyond it, and yet as a result, it supplied me with a greater ease in choosing love thereafter. I pray it lasts forever.

I am not sure if any of that makes much sense, but it is the best I can do right now in attempting to explain it. On a more practical level, this is why I go to Jesus in the Mass right before I go to share Him on the street every time. There is no better way to unite our hearts to His than in the Holy Mass. I need to experience His love for me and I need to be refreshed in His love for me over and over again. Likewise, I need to experience His love for others and I need to be refreshed in His love for others over and over again. In this way, He continues to surprise me by changing my heart in new and unexpected ways.

Love is a choice and love is a gift. This is a mystery worth pondering, even more it is worth experiencing.

Written by Jim Havens

The Word was God

Zac Johnson and I hit Pensacola Beach on 6/2, while Brian Brown and I were back at the Palafox Market on 6/6. Both times out were unpredictable Spirit-led adventures all their own, as usual, but I also encountered one odd misconception on both days from very different people.

I have not often conversed with people who claim to be Christians, yet at the same time deny the divinity of Christ and the Holy Trinity. Two in two days caught my attention. On the first outing it was a middle-aged man who self-identified as a long-time member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. On the second outing it was ten-year-old boy who self-identified as a non-demonational Christian that attended a home church (his father is the pastor). Both explained their belief to me that Jesus is not God, and while each had different ideas about who Jesus actually is, they each attempted to use the prologue in John’s Gospel to disprove Christ’s divinity.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be.” John 1:1-3

This passage is actually in favor of both the divinity of Christ and the Holy Trinity. Prior to His Incarnation, Jesus is identified as the Word who was in the beginning (pointing to God in Genesis 1:1), and in relationship with God, and who was God. This is consistent with an understanding of Jesus as the Son of God who is the second person of the Holy Trinity. So how exactly is this passage being used in an attempt to disprove Christ’s divinity?

Their claim is that John 1:1 has been mistranslated and that it should actually read “the Word was a god.” When I questioned them about this, neither had any explanation as to how they knew this to be true. The ten-year-old boy went off to find his parents so they could explain it to me (they unfortunately never came over) and the man from the Jehovah’s Witnesses encouraged me to look it up. I did.

The argument goes like this: look at the Greek and see that the definite article (Gk. Ho, the) is not used before god (Gk. theos), therefore the correct translation is “the Word was a god.” Tim Staples thoroughly dismantles this argument in an article for Catholic Answers entitled “Jesus is God.” Here are the main points:

  • The predicate nominative in Greek does not normally take the definite article.
  • Without the definite article preceding it, theos is translated as the God copious times elsewhere in the New Testament (Matt. 5:9, 6:24; Luke 1:35, 2:40; John 1:6,12,13,18; Rom. 1:7,17,18; and Titus 1:1, just to name a few). Even the bible translation that the Jehovah’s Witnesses personally created translates these other passages where the definite article is absent in the Greek as the God in English.
  • Jesus is referred to as theos with the definite article multiple times elsewhere in Scripture (Heb. 1:8, Titus 2:13, John 20:28).

Elaborating on the second point, according to one scholar who has researched the matter considerably, there are 282 instances in the New Testament where theos is without the definite article and in 94% of these instances the JW’s own bible translation refers to the God. Yet, they translate theos without the definite article as a god in John 1:1.

After looking into it, the conclusion is clear – John 1:1-3 argues in favor of Jesus’ divinity and in favor of the Holy Trinity: “the Word was God.”

Written by Jim Havens

Preparing Missionary Disciples

missionary disciplesA particular insight strikes me: in our work of street evangelization we are encountering our greater Pensacola community in a profound way – hearing the thoughts, learning the values and beliefs, glimpsing the hearts, and entering into the real lives of our neighbors. In the midst of all of this, we are gaining a greater sense of the collective mind and heart of Pensacola. Our findings should be of value to all Pensacola Catholics and this blog is an opportunity for us to share them with you.

We will continue to invite new street evangelists to post personal testimonies and we will begin posting more in-depth on the common ideas, longings, obstacles, and misconceptions that we are finding in our greater Pensacola community.

I pray that this blog may be a good tool to help build us up further as a community of missionary disciples who are prepared to lovingly and effectively share the fullness of Truth with those around us.

Come, Holy Spirit, and make us a Church fully alive!

Written by Jim Havens



Livin’ on a Prayer

spse2Today was my first day evangelizing with St. Paul Street Evangelization (5/30/15), and let me tell you, it was a long time coming. I first heard of SPSE through my mother who discovered the apostolate through Facebook. After she sent me one of their posts, I was immediately drawn to the courageous, yet non-confrontational activities of the group, and instantly felt a profound “click” with their mission. As I told Mr. Steve Dawson (founder of SPSE) the day he called me to confirm the founding of my evangelization team in Charlotte, North Carolina: When it comes to Catholicism, I feel like I’ve talked the ears off of all my family and friends and now need complete strangers to talk to about the Faith. SPSE offers the perfect remedy to my evangelical dilemma.

My Charlotte team is still under construction while I scour its various parishes for willing evangelists (a process which is about a month in the making), so I was exceedingly excited when, while visiting my hometown of Pensacola, Florida, I was introduced to Mr. Jim Havens, Team Director of the also newly-formed St. Paul Street Evangelization Pensacola (the gentleman has a master’s degree in theology – so I was geeking out already). Finally, finally, I was going to be able to hit the streets and tell everyone about the great passion of my life. I was going to be able to talk to anyone willing to listen about Jesus Christ and His Catholic Church; the coolest, most unbelievably brilliant institution that has ever, and will ever, grace this small round planet we call Earth.

And, thanks be to God, my soaring expectations were nowhere near too high. We went to Mass, stocked up on coffee, and picked a corner sidewalk spot in Downtown Pensacola during the middle of “Palafox Market”, a popular Saturday morning community event which features local artists and vendors. Soon enough, I saw Jesus’ prophetic words coming true before my eyes: “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” (John 12:32). The passerbys could not stop gazing at our sandwich board sign or the Rosaries dangling from our hands; some even dared to steal quick glances at our faces in quiet curiosity. After a bit of prodding from us, and a small dose of the Holy Spirit, these quiet walkers were transformed into interested inquirers. Some were disgruntled in the face of Catholicism, some openly dissentient, but many were kind and open to discussion. I spoke with numerous ex Catholics, three Mormons, and even a Lutheran pastor! Below are some of the noteworthy encounters of the day.

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Funny enough, the most heated encounter actually took place within the first 30 minutes or so of us setting up shop. It was with a well-built gentleman in a tight green shirt who was determined to prove that he was, as they say, “more Catholic than the Pope.” Unfortunately, he was so invested in misconceptions and preconceived notions about the Catholic Church and Her doctrine that Jim (who has a master’s degree in theology, remember) was unable to penetrate his misunderstandings simply because the man was not open to learning. They spoke for a good twenty minutes or so without much success. The man’s primary problem was with the Eucharist and the Mass, claiming that Jesus was re-crucified again and again on Catholic altars every day throughout the world (a classic misconception by our separated brethren). Jim tried his best to show the man, from Scripture and from the mouth of the Church, that, at Mass, the one Sacrifice on Calvary is, by the mysterious power of Almighty God, re-presented on the altar, and that Jesus is not still bleeding or still on the cross. Rather, we are transported 2,000 years back in time and become blessed witnesses to Christ’s victorious once-for-all sacrifice. This man was determined to disagree, however, and I am convinced that it is only the Holy Spirit that can change His heart and make it malleable to the Truth. Please pray for the seeds Jim planted in this man’s heart to take root and continuously be watered by the Holy Spirit.

One of the most memorable encounters of the day was with two young men and one young woman who were visiting Pensacola from Niceville. I began by talking with them about an exciting concert series coming up at St. Paul which led to a fun discussion about our favorite music. I asked them what church they went to at home, and, to my surprise, they informed me that they were Mormons! My heart jumped in my chest. I have a special spot in my heart for Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, who are oftentimes so well intentioned and zealous for their faith, but so disillusioned to the Truth. I began by explaining to them how much I admire the Mormon Church for at least making the claim to be the one, true Church founded by Christ; many, if not all, Christian churches that are not the Catholic Church do not even try to make this claim, thus disqualifying them from being so from the start. I then asked them when their church was founded. One of them answered, “I believe 1830 something,” making it around 180 years old. I then informed them that the Catholic Church is 2,000 years old, and watched their eyebrows rise in fascinated surprise. After handing them a SPSE pamphlet giving them more information, my favorite moment of the day happened: I gathered them into a big four-person hug and began praying over them. I asked the Holy Spirit to guide us into His Truth, to help us to ask questions and to be open to His will in our lives. I asked for their safe travels back home and asked for a blessing over our newfound friendship. I didn’t have a plan to pray over them, the Spirit literally made it happen. Please say a prayer for my young new friends; they were incredibly friendly and very open to the Truth!

I’ll write one more quick story. Over the course of the day, I encountered dozens of ex-Catholics, and it broke my heart in two. Probably about one out of every three people I spoke with were raised Catholic and left the Church for one reason or another. One lady, clad in black and sporting expensive looking sunglasses, related quickly in passing that she “Used to be Catholic, but sure isn’t anymore!” I asked why, to which she turned around and exclaimed quite loudly, “Really?! Do you really want to ask me that?” I said, “Of course! Come back and tell me!” She refused my offer, but did yell back, “I’m not Catholic because it’s my right to contracept and have an abortion!” She confidently turned and began walking away. I rejoined, “Is it my right to kill somebody?” To which she responded, very surprisingly, “Yes!” I then said, “Just because I have the freedom to do something, doesn’t make it right.” She kept on walking and didn’t look back. This hurt my heart more than anything else throughout the day. This woman has had to sell out every bit of her morality, even to the point of declaring that I have a “right” to murder someone, just so she can justify her actions and continue to act how she wants to, guilt-free. Anyone who claims that I have a right to kill another human person has something seriously wrong with his or her moral compass. I believe her response is telling of the culture at large. Our relativistic culture is so determined to do away with any notion of objective morality that they are quicker to declare murder ethical than admit that binding moral obligations might exist. This is sad indeed, for at the end of the day, their conscience will not submit to the distortions they try to impose upon it, and it will remain steadfast in the law God wrote inside of it. This moral disparity can only result in sadness and unfulfillment. As St. Augustine so profoundly declared, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”

So, long story short, St. Paul Street Evangelization is a Godsend. This is the PERFECT time for Christ’s Church to rise up and speak the unequivocal Truth of the Gospel to our dying culture. Our society is bleeding, and it’s only the Cross of Christ that can clot its wounds. Pray for us, and join us. God bless you.

Written by Zac Johnson

How Simple It Is

Pensacola EvangelizationI haven’t shared the Good News on the street for over a decade like I did last night, and it was great to get back in the saddle when it comes to public evangelization. That word alone, evangelization, can be so loaded for people due to sour experiences of the past of street preachers who start with words of judgment. That is not what we did, and it was refreshing not only for us but for the people who encountered us. Last night, we simply offered people smiles, greetings, and rosaries or informational handouts. The responses were overwhelmingly positive. We made new friends and reconnected with old ones. I saw families of children I baptized (but had not kept in touch); I saw family members of deceased loved ones whose funeral I celebrated; I reconnected with parishioners from around Pensacola and pleasantly surprised them to be out in public to encounter them outside the parish.  I offered Catholics and non-Catholics alike free copies of Pope Francis’ The Joy of the Gospel and we gave out over a dozen of them.

The most meaningful interaction for me was with a homeless man who had sincere questions about Catholicism. He had visited many churches, none of them Catholic, and had very basic questions about our belief in Jesus and the Scripture.  He was genuinely interested in whatever church could offer him a deeper encounter with the Lord. We talked for about 10-15 minutes before he headed back to his camp for the night, and I trust we’ll run into each other again in God’s timing.

There can be a lot of self-induced hype when we try to bring our faith to others out of our comfort zones, but last night was a confirmation of just how simple it is. We pray beforehand, trust that the Spirit will lead the way and bless our encounters and then we just offer a joyful invitation to share in the encounter with Jesus Christ that has filled us with joy.  We are merely the stewards who scatter the seeds of truth and love. God does the rest.

Written by Fr. Kevin McQuone

Easier Than You Think

I was standing on the corner of West Chase and North Palafox street in the midst of the Palafox Market in downtown Pensacola Florida on the most beautiful Saturday morning in May. I was hanging out with the Holy Spirit and one of His serious minions (favored ones), a true disciple of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. What am I doing you ask? Street Evangelization support, of course. That is the name of the game on this fine morning.

My dear friend, let’s call him “The Minion,” cause it will drive him crazy, asked me to accompany him on this little extravaganza a few weeks back. I’m thinking how is a quiet reserved Catholic guy from Mobile Alabama, like me, going to get out amongst the serious bible bred Baptists in this part of the world. It’s easy apparently, go as the support guy. Stay in the background and if necessary, deny you are with him. There’s the rub. Someone else denied knowing a guy and he ended up the first Pope. No denials here.

We were handing out books by our marvelous and well received, by most people anyway, Pope Francis. We had many takers on the books and on rosary beads too to my pleasant surprise. My job was to get the stuff to and from the site and smile and pray and say “hello” and “good morning” and anything else the Holy Spirit moved me to do. I did all of this, and in the company of a great guy and friend, “The Minion.” What more could you want? I think I can do this. How about you?

Written by Rudy Wilson, Parishioner @ St. Paul Catholic Church