Friday, August 17, 2012

Two evangelical missionaries joined the Bible study at my parish this morning. Both are young, college-aged who describe their recent religious conversions as highly experiential and sensory. One, a double major in math and music, used to cantor and serve at mass. During conversational prayer, he expressed to God his wish that Catholicism use the Bible more.  He asked God to give Catholics everywhere a commitment to the Bible. He crossed himself like the rest at the conclusion but says he hasn't attended mass in months. I did not cross myself and hid my holy cards inside the front cover of my open Bible.

When invited, I led with question 4, recounting, off the top of my head, the story from Acts 10 about Peter's vision and Cornelius. I wanted to mention as much Scripture as possible and keep the focus there, on the text. The other missionary referred us all to Rev. 3:20 which I know by heart; such a non sequitur confirmed their game at the start. Sensing our guests' fundamentalism, the deacon fumbled with his by now cliche assertion that "Catholics don't take the Bible literally." The devout man next to him mentioned the vision of hell at Fatima. I watched math-music major scrawl a note and motion to speak. I invited him to do so.

He quoted 2 Peter 2:1 and Jude 22 which I jotted down and looked up as he continued to speak about false teachers and prophets. Again, these texts are apparent non sequiturs. I've yet to figure out the reason he referenced these two verses. Sometimes non-Catholics quote biblical saints popular with Catholics, like Peter and Jude, hoping these writers exercise a greater influence. (It's good the BVM doesn't have a NT book attributed to her!) But, of course, Catholics respond best to the words of Jesus from the Gospels, and even Rev. 3:20 cited above.

Former altar boy said that the elders at his church help him understand any difficult passages of Scripture and answer his questions. He expressed having great confidence in them. He said that all the answers are in Scripture and we don't need any other source. My friend, Terry, tried to broaden his view by saying that life experience brings so much to our reading of the Bible. I mentioned the four sources for Wesleyan theology that I'd learned of recently in those Sunday evening discussions at the Methodist church: (1) Scripture, (2) tradition, (3) reason and (4) experience. It sounds very Catholic but I don't think Catholics rely on experience as much as the Methodists. Anyway, I wanted our evangelical missionaries to see that Scripture isn't meant to stand alone.

If they return next week, I'd ask them to share their testimony. However, I'm fairly certain these young men will not come back. Such evangelistic efforts are often impatient. They may feel that they tried to reach us Catholics, but we fought them. Rather than toss their pearls before swine any further, they'll regroup and seek out greener pastures. Being the largest church in a town as small as this, we're a target. There's no question. I'm surprised this hasn't happened sooner. Infiltrating a Catholic Bible study is a no-brainer. How quickly they've learned the lingo and acquired all the earmarks of born-again! Jeff says the uniform vocabulary is a sign of brainwashing.