When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”He said to him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.”
He then said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.”
He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”
(Jesus) said to him, “Feed my sheep.”
I’m pretty sure that anyone reading this understands that Jesus wasn’t talking about woolly quadrupeds. I’m going to look at the angle of “feeding” as it is aimed at our heads: giving our people information.
Yes, my old hobby horse of trying to provide information to people, and avoid inaccurate information. It’s important! How many folks have you spoken to who left the Church because “they were just a bunch of rules for no reason”? Leaving aside my pet project of those rules that don’t actually exist, what that usually means is “it as never explained to me.” That can be because they didn’t ask, but it can also be because the person they asked didn’t know, and didn’t know where to get the information. The eternal “Catholicism is pagan” thing, for example. (I wanted to type “eternal, infernal” just for the sound of it, but given the subject there’s no reason to throw fuel on a fire!)
My own religious education was extremely subpar — short version, my mom thought we were getting one, and each person that was supposed to provide it either thought the next one would, or the prior one had, while we had no idea we weren’t, but we made a lot of banners and collages — so for quite a while I had no way of knowing where to go to verify any information. This was the early days of the internet, mid 90′s on, so there wasn’t the expected reflex, “Well, I’ll check the Vatican’s web site!” (Good place, by the way; I highly suggest adding their document page to your favorites.) I’m not entirely sure when it happened, but I stumbled on to Jimmy Akin’s blog. I still love to point people to his “Theology of the Living Dead,” where he used zombies as a take-off point for explaining morality. (Basically the reason that Vatican scientist’s answer to “Would you baptize an alien?” was “If they asked.”)
EWTN is actually older than I am, but it wasn’t around in our area, even the radio stations. Thanks to online streaming, that’s no longer the case. Indeed, there’s an embarrassment of riches, many available as downloads or podcasts, as well — and you don’t have to take anyone’s word for things. If something sounds wrong, say, “Catholics eat fish on Friday because a pope owned a fishing fleet,” then you get any information they offer to support it, and go looking. (Then you find out it’s a translation artifact.)
If someone argues that, say, you can’t read Dealing with Dragons because in those, dragons are people, but dragons are always quite evil, then you can look around and find counters; if the discussion is big enough, you can sometimes even find someone directly answering their claims.
It really is amazing how many of the to-the-death fights boil down to disagreements on what is prudent, and a little bit of the telephone game as well. Sadly, these give fuel to charges of hypocrisy or internal contradiction, the two are often treated as synonyms, and as cause to dismiss all arguments to the satisfaction of the accuser. One example is the “changing teaching” on the death penalty. Yes, handing that to someone will probably make their eyes glaze, and it won’t change the mind of anyone that’s not open to reason, but whichever side you think is most prudent, being familiar with the information on that page will be a great help.
Two much easier to access sources would be Catholics Come Home and Catholic Answers. Their quick question section for relatively simple answers, the tracts page for much more in-depth stuff, and the magazine for, well, sort of like what you have here, but with fewer links. Speaking of magazines, I link this article about the Spanish Inquisition from Crisis Magazine, and his other two about the Crusades. I think I got my money and then some out of my old subscription. Also, if you’re familiar with the “Jack Chick” tracts, you might be interested by this article from Jimmy Akin. (I know I read about it on his blog a long time ago.)
There is a lot of stuff out there that isn’t good; heaven knows there are enough and more folks that my mom use to call “little Popes.” They know what the rules should be even more than the Church, and by goodness they’ll tell you something if you disagree. Even if you have logic and the Church on your side, try to make sure that you know what you’re talking about. The Vatican website is, of course, a good place to start. EWTN and Catholic Answers aren’t going to lie to you. They’ll tell you what they have to back up their claims, although that may set off another search.
Other than my favorite websites here, does anyone have some they’d like to share?