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Coming Home: Tips for Apologists

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Coming Home:

Tips for Apologists

Important Notice: Information herein is not comprehensive. We are not liable for any occurrence which may result from using this site. Engage in apologetics / defense of the faith at your own risk. We make no guarantee regarding any item herein. By using this site you agree to all terms. For more terms information, click here


 

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Do's & Don'ts: Do's | Don'ts

More Tips

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Do's & Don'ts:

Notice: Items below may not always apply in any given case. (Charity, however, always applies.)

Do's...

* Pray!!!

* Be fair

* Be kind

* Be clear

* Be polite 

* Be gentle

* Be patient

* Follow up

* Persevere

* Be humble

* Be a friend

* Be gracious

* Be available

* Be prepared

* Remain calm

* Be persistent

* Be respectful

* Be courteous

* Be personable

* Be considerate

* Research/study

* Address doubts

* Explain in charity

* Be there for them

* Check your pride

* Be compassionate

* Be honest & truthful

* Put your trust in God

* Know your faith well

* Seek God's guidance

* Love the other person

* Show concern for them

* Talk with a good priest

* Answer their objections

* Have the proper attitude

* Practice your arguments

* Maintain your credibility

* Apologize as appropriate

* Be nice even if they aren't

* Clear up terms being used

* Put your efforts in God's hands

* Desire good for the other person

* Listen well / be a good listener

* Condemn false doctrines, not persons

* Watch for/point out errors in logic

* Express your faith openly as appropriate

* Separate truth from 'wishful thinking'

* Use terms that are understandable

* "Focus on explaining, not opposing"

* Present solid, reasoned arguments

* "Desire rather to be charitable than to win"

* Remember that "example is far better than precept"

* "Entrust your loved ones to the mercy and love of God"

* Appeal to others as friends, not adversaries

* Have as your goal to discuss / explain rather than to argue

* Show them where you agree & try to find common ground

* Try to win them over with truth and reasoned arguments

* Adapt your methods as appropriate to the circumstances

* Make sure your faith is strong before attempting to strengthen others

* Focus on the more important differences rather differences of lesser importance

* Keep in mind the good of the other person, rather than your own good

* Make sure you know the faith before attempting to teach it to others

* Talk to understand the other person, not just to convince them

* Tailor your discussion specifically to the person you are addressing

* Distinguish between the heart of the issues and the manner of expression

* Spend time wisely: Focus on most important issues and be courteous about their time

* Try to find out what their objections are and attempt to overcome them

* Keep in mind that Christ loves the other person so much that the died a painful death for them

* When talking with others who have become Protestants, "strive to be more pro-Christ than anti-Protestant" (this is also applicable to other religions)

* Get terminology straight right from the beginning (while some differences are mere semantics, other seemingly similar terms may have wildly different definitions)

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Don'ts...

* Be rude

* Be unfair

* Be pushy

* Lose hope

* Overreact

* Exaggerate

* Be prideful

* "Browbeat"

* "Overdo it" 

* "Command"

* Be defensive

* Oversimplify

* Show offense

* Be aggressive

* Be inaccurate

* Act frustrated

* Apply pressure

* Focus on blame

* Call them foolish

* Call them names

* Be argumentative

* Lose your temper

* Be confrontational

* Be quick tempered

* "Trounce" upon them

* Commit logical errors

* Use derogatory terms

* Defend the indefensible 

* Make fun of their beliefs

* Characterize their beliefs

* Deny their good intentions

* Gloss over real differences

* Water down Catholic doctrine

* Try to handle too much at once

* Push them further away from God or the Church

* Question the other person's integrity

* Argue just to show how "smart" you are

* Be ignorant of what they actually believe

* Engage in things that are above your abilities

* Try to "crush" or hurt or injure the other person

* Belittle them, their beliefs, or their arguments

* Presume they are ignorant / unintelligent

* Assume they only have weak arguments

* Assume the other person has no reasons for his/her beliefs

* Presume you have more knowledge than they do

* Say things against their faith that aren't true

* Deny their devotion to / love for God

* Dismiss the other person's position or objections (even if it seems unreasonable to you)

* Expect them to covert instantly (if they do, it may take a long time)

* Give up hope! Remember that God is all-good and all powerful. He can do anything! Trust Him and have confidence!

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More Tips

 

* Always be charitable - even if the other party does not act charitably. Be sure all means used are all appropriate and charitable. Charity is indispensable! Remember that one can put forth the most reasoned arguments, the most eloquent defenses, the most logical case for the faith, but "unless they see love, they won't convert".

* Be sure to consider the other person as a unique individual. One's approach should depend on the specific person they are addressing. Each person is different, has a different outlook on things, has different demands on them, etc. One should tailor their discussions specifically to the other person, with different approaches being used for different persons. It is helpful to try to understand the other person's frame of mind as well as their emotional state, past experiences, pressing concerns, misunderstandings, worldview, life goals, etc. Try to see things from their position. Be sure you are not viewing things as you think they are, but as they really are. Be certain to ask questions as appropriate - and always, always be a good listener. Really make an effort to understand them and their position.

* Be sure you a proper motive (love of God and love of neighbor). Your objective should not be to "win", but rather to help the other person. Remember that "converts aren't trophies". You must really care about the people as much as you care about truth. You must really do it for them, and not for you. "Love is patient, love is kind..." (1 Cor. 13:4)

* Recognize that faith is a gift from God. One must not be prideful about being Catholic as if it was a personal achievement. 

* Realize that logic alone won't convince people. Psychology enters the picture (as does grace). No matter how perfect your arguments may be, the other person has to be properly disposed to receive your message. Even if you could prove your point to the other person's satisfaction, it may not be good enough for them to convert. They may not be willing to live as a Catholic, they may have been hurt by a Catholic, they may not care about truth, etc. Unfortunately, many things can get in the way of one's conversion which you can do nothing about.

* There is no guarantee of another's conversion, no matter how great or perfect your efforts. Faith is a gift of God - it is guaranteed to no one. Even if they have received the grace of God, they can choose not to cooperate with it.

* Communication is subject to frequent misunderstanding. Often what one says seems clear, but it may be taken to mean something completely different by the other person. One should try to ensure that the other party correctly receives their message and that it is not misunderstood. As the saying goes "to hear and to understand are completely different". Be sure you speak clearly.

* Remember that the other person's reasons for falling away may be hidden - or they may not be what you think. For example, people sometimes fall away as a means of "striking back" against those who hurt them. In such a case, if you assume they have left the Church because they don't believe in the truths of the faith, you may take the wrong approach when trying to lead them back into the fold. Even though a person seems to have left the Church (or has even stated that they have left the Church) due to a certain reason, the true reason (or reasons) may be hidden and difficult to discover. Obviously, knowing the real reason (or reasons) is important for knowing which approach to take to help lead them back. This poses a great challenge since a person may be very unwilling to disclose hidden reasons (in some cases, persons may even be unconscious of the true reasons).

* People may be prideful, obstinate, indifferent, unreasonable, etc. They may not care about truth. They may be inflated with pride. They may write you off as a "religious person" (or even a "religious fanatic"). They may think there is no objective truth. They may assign no importance to what you say. They may focus on your words rather than your message. They may slander you. They may resent your trying to "convert" them. Etc...

* Remember that you cannot force people to believe. You can present truth, but it is their responsibility to accept or reject it. You cannot make them believe, even if it would be good for them. God gave them free will and he respects their free will. So must you. 

* Be sure you are fully accurate and truthful. Be certain that you are presenting truths of the faith and not your own opinions. When you don't know something, find out - but don't lie or assert something as true when you are not sure. Once you lose your credibility, it may be impossible to ever gain it back! If you have said something that is untrue, admit your error and apologize.

* Be certain that what you are explaining is actual Church teaching and not what you think actual Church teaching is.

* The truth of a position is not necessarily proportional to the amount of zeal expelled in promoting it. People can be very zealous, but still wrong. 

* People may say things in good faith - but despite that, they can still be wrong.

* Even the very learned can err.

* Remember that an 'opponent', even though in error, may be more intelligent and knowledgeable, etc. than you are in many areas. Don't simply assume that they are ignorant because they have fallen away form the true faith. They may have very reasoned arguments backed up by events in history that make their position appear to be correct (at least in their eyes). Give them credit for their knowledge and intelligence, but show them why they are wrong. Don't be surprised if they have been persuaded by those who twist actual historical events or dogmas into unimaginable / unrecognizable conclusions. Remember that the great Doctor St. Augustine was once held fast by errors - and he certainly was "no dummy"!

* No matter what, you must continue to love the other person. Even if they worship a false God, you must love them - hate their error, but love them. Even if they persecute you, you must love them. "[P]ray for those who persecute you" (Mt. 5:44). Even if they are completely unreasonable and obstinate, you must still love them. Even if they act uncharitably towards you, you must have charity towards them. Even if they try to hurt you, you must still love them. "This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." (Jn. 13:35) 

* Remember that religion is often a very passionate topic which requires due care and discretion. Apologetics can be dangerous to your relationships with loved ones. In some cases, the discussion of religion can even become dangerous to one's bodily health. It can also bring about rejection, scorn, ridicule, insults, etc.  [Reminder: Engage in apologetics / defending the faith at your own risk. We are not liable for any occurrence which may result from using this site.]

* Apologetics (especially when not handled right) can actually lead others farther from the faith.

* Recognize that some differences may be larger or smaller than they first seem. Do not attempt to minimize or diminish any these differences. The faith must always be taught in its fullness. As Pope Pius XII has said, "[L]et them not think, indulging in a false irenism, that the dissident and the erring can happily be brought back to the bosom of the Church, if the whole truth found in the Church is not sincerely taught to all without corruption or diminution." (Pope Pius XII, "Humani Generis", 1950 A.D.)

* Learn as much as you can. "Whoever sets before himself his own sanctification and that of other people must be equipped with solid learning." It is important especially to be well-versed in Scripture. As St. Jerome says, "A man who is well grounded in the testimonies of the Scripture is the bulwark of the Church." One must at least know enough of Scripture to defend the main tenets of the faith (including the Trinity, the Sacraments, etc.). One should also be able to use Scripture to counter arguments commonly employed by non-Catholics against the Church (e.g. salvation by faith alone, not calling any man father, one mediator between God and man, etc.). Courses (or books) on beginning apologetics often answer many of these standard questions with biblically based arguments (also try the Non-Catholics section of this site). Especially helpful for apologetics is a knowledge of the New Testament and the Gospels. It may also be helpful to become familiar with the teachings of the early Church Fathers. They learned from the Apostles and their direct successors; and their writings show that the doctrines of the Church were always held by the Church. (However, it should be noted that some doctrinal matters may have been unsettled at the time so some writings may contain some theological errors.)

* Don't make every encounter with a person about religion. Even if you are truly only concerned with the good of their soul, they may feel that all you care about is convincing them that you are "right". They need to be able to come to you even when you do not agree on matters of religion without feeling they will be "pounced on". If you become "obsessed" with their conversion, it may end up doing more harm than good. You must remember that their conversion is not guaranteed. It depends both on God's grace and their free will. You cannot force it, no matter how hard you try. 

* Realize that your 'opponent' may have gotten his false information about the Church from a Catholic - even a Catholic priest or theologian or bishop! These are difficult days and one, unfortunately, cannot be assured of the orthodoxy of each priest and theologian. Even Bishops have given reason for concern. The fact that a priest, theologian, or even bishop states something, does not necessarily guarantee that it is official Church teaching. Even "well respected" clergy may sometimes state things contrary to official Church teaching.

* Understand that the other person may not see things the same way that you do. For example, you provide a biblical "proof text" concerning a certain Catholic doctrine that you feel is obvious and irrefutable. Despite that however, they may see it in a different light or reject it altogether.

* Realize that you might encounter objections, so-called "facts", or other charges that can't answer. This does not mean they are unanswerable, just that you do not personally possess the answer at that moment. You should admit that you don't know (or that you "cannot answer that to their satisfaction") and try to find the answer - or advise them where they may be able to find the answer for themselves. Such an admission doesn't mean you are ignorant, but rather honest. Those who act as if they have the answers may display pride, whereas those who admit they do not know may display humility. As an additional benefit, you may be able to encourage the other person to ask a priest or bishop about questions you cannot answer. If so, you may help open the door that ultimately leads them back into the Church. Or, if you need to get back to them with the answer, it provides you with one more opportunity to discuss the faith. 

* Remember the maxim "if you seem to win, you may really have lost". While engaging in apologetics, if you "win" against your 'opponent' over a particular point, you may actually find that you have lost. For example, while one may concede your point about a truth of the faith on one hand, the person may be repelled by your 'arguing to win' mentality on the other hand.

* Set a good example for the other person. Why would they want to convert if your bad example scandalizes them? How can you correct them while you are guilty of the same or greater sin? Keep in mind that "one is more likely to be convinced by holiness than by reasoned arguments". You may actually do a disservice to the faith by defending it while not living it yourself. It is clear that even a perfect knowledge of the faith doesn't guarantee that one is really living the faith. Further, if one does actually convince people of the truth of the faith while not living up to the faith personally, that person, by his actions, tells the other person that the faith really isn't that important in his life. If you say one thing and act differently, you undermine your own teaching. As St. Francis of Assisi's advises, "Evangelize always - when necessary, use words".

* You must persevere in your prayers for the other person. St. Monica prayed for many years for the conversion of her son, St. Augustine. Assuredly, even when you can do nothing else, you can still pray. In fact, "even if you can do all else, it is no good without prayer." When you do discuss the faith, be sure pray first (e.g. that you will worthily defend the faith and that they may be receptive to your words). You should pray for someone at least as much as you try to convert them (and much more is much better!). [Note: For conversion-related prayers, try the Prayers & Devotions section of this site (click here). To request prayers, try the Prayer Requests section of this site (click here).]

* Excellent saints to pray to for the conversion of sinners include: St. Paul, St. Mary Magdalene, St. Monica, St. Augustine, and St. Rita (try the Saints section for more).

* Consider drawing them back with the Eucharist. Remember that no other religion lawfully has a valid Eucharist. No matter what issues they may have concerning the Church, they can't have this precious Gift anywhere else. You may try asking them if they hunger for the Holy Eucharist. If not, consider asking them to attend Mass with you, read devotional books, read about Eucharistic miracles, etc.

* Do not fear! Even if you have poor speaking skills or lack higher education, God can still use you to help bring back a loved one! Remember that you are only an instrument that the all-powerful Holy Spirit may use. 

* Remember that you can do nothing without God.

* Even if one doesn't engage in any apologetics, one does a disservice to the faith by "being Catholic" and not living as a Catholic. In fact, such a person actually helps to conceal the true Catholic faith from others.

* Acknowledge your own sinfulness and be repentant about your sins. Do not attempt to explain them away, shift blame, or act as if they are inconsequential.

* Do not defend or deny the sinfulness of others in the Church. Remember that "the Church is made of up sinners, for sinners, so that we may do something about our sinfulness." There never will be a time on earth that the Church does not contain sinners. Some "unpleasant occurrences" have occurred in Church history, as they did in Jewish history in the Old Testament. This doesn't mean the Catholic Church is false (as the Jewish religion of the Old Testament was not false), but simply affirms that the Church contains sinners. Remember that even saints have faults. When addressing "unpleasant occurrences", both parties should handle them in a fair and honest manner. One must be careful not to "unfairly justify" actions of others. We can also admit mistakes of the past, while carefully noting that such errors are not of a doctrinal nature. Be very careful, however, about blaming the Church for supposed "mistakes". Oftentimes, the circumstances surrounding events had a great deal of impact on what was done. Often those outside the Church portray things in a completely inaccurate light and confuse the issue. A general "the Church can make mistakes of a non-doctrinal nature" should suffice to cover all objections without naming any specific mistakes.

* Center many, but not all, arguments on truth. Sometimes others simply need to see how the Church can meet their needs. It is not wrong to point out some of the many earthly benefits of being Catholic (e.g. relief felt after Penance/fresh start it affords, the joy of Eucharistic adoration, the comfort of our Blessed Mother and the saints, the pleasure of sharing in the many historical achievements of Catholics, etc.)

* Be on guard for items taken out of context. Often those outside the Church take a single passage of Scripture as a "proof text" which, in reality, is unrelated to their point or doesn't paint a complete picture. It may be helpful to examine what comes both before and after quoted Scripture passages to help put things in context. You also want to be sure that you do not present your proofs out of context. Note that the item which sometimes follows others' "proof texts" may be the very one that "proves" the Catholic position. An additional 'benefit' of asking others what comes before and after a certain passage is finding out that the person may not know as much Scripture as they might appear to know. Often those outside the Church are simply taught standard verses thought to "prove" the Catholic Church wrong. 

* You may find others more receptive to your points if you avoid direct condemnations against them. Instead of condemning them as "wrong", you may find it helpful to show where you agree with them and then simply "explain your position" (and your reasons) on points that you disagree on.

* Don't criticize the Church in front of those you want to convert. 

* Don't think truth alone will make converts. People are complex and are usually more convinced by how we act than what we say. If they see your good example and your love for them and your love for and closeness to God, it may go a long way in convincing them that the Church is the right place to be.

* Watch your language. Be sure to use correct terminology and avoid terms that are easily misunderstood. Note that those outside the Church are sometimes turned off by "Catholic" terminology. If so, try to avoid such terms and stick with biblical terms that you both agree on (as appropriate). Note that an additional benefit of using Bible terms is that 'Bible-only Christians' may be more favorably disposed to your points, and it may also help dispel their belief that Catholics don't know Scripture. Also, try to avoid terms that might put the other person on the defensive (e.g. "objection/misconception" vs. "mistaken/wrong", etc.)

* Focus more on living your faith than making converts. Your faith will not avail you, even if you make a million converts, if you do not save your own soul.

* Give the other person the benefit of the doubt. "Every man must be regarded as acting in good faith until the contrary is proved".

* Try to "convert with love". You may find that it is more effective and pleasing to God.

* Do not flatter the other party. Rather than help convert them, flattery praises them - and may confirm them - in their sinfulness.

* Be ready to explain why we do what we do. It can be very helpful to have good books to show them why we do things. Not only might the books explain things more clearly and comprehensively, it may give you an opportunity to lend them a book that might peak their interest in other Church matters.

* Ask questions. Some good questions might include: Why did they leave the Church? What benefits are they receiving now from their religion? How did their previous religion fail to provide them with these benefits? (You may find that that they took advantage of the benefits in the new religion, but had not taken advantage of them through the Church.) Why did they join that particular religion? What shortcomings does their new religion have? Ask them how they learned of the anti-Catholic beliefs they now maintain. Did they learn them on their own or through others? Ask them questions to gain an understanding of their new faith. Not only will this force them to think about their new faith, but it will help give you an understanding of their situation. It is also helpful to ask questions of people rather than to tell them things - since they are more likely to believe their own words over the words of others. (For example, rather than tell them that there are fixed truths, you can ask them how they know there are fixed truths.) People also tend to prefer hearing themselves talk than listening to others. Ask tough questions carefully, and as appropriate.

* Try to get them to put the blame where it belongs. Sometimes people leave the Church and blame everyone but themselves - They left because of the bad priest, or the mean lady in the second row, or because the "intolerant" Church wasn't "welcoming" of their lifestyle choice, etc. Remind them that no one can have their faith taken from them - they can only give it up. Remind them that one person does not the Church make. Explain to them that the Church cannot be tolerant of sin since sin will make them miserable both now and for all eternity. Show them that the Church does what she does for their benefit, not to their detriment.

* Ask them to tell you their top three issues with the Church (or with religion in general). Once you know these, you may be in a better position to converse with them.

* Practice your discussions in advance. Be certain that you speak intelligently, are clear, and that your pace is appropriate.

* Focus on points where their religion either stands or falls. If they find that they no longer believe in the "truths" of their religion, it will be hard for them to continue there.

* Even if you can't "convert them", perhaps you will provide a new perspective on the Church that might better dispose them to conversion at a later time.

* Don't underestimate the ties they have to their non-Catholic religion and the difficulty they may find in leaving it. If possible, help build the bridges that can lead them back. For example, if they are particularly tied to their non-Catholic religion due to an activity their child participates in, you might help them arrange a similar activity in your own parish.

* Guard your own faith. Remember that it can be dangerous to hear false ideas - once they are heard, they cannot be unheard. Those who hear false ideas may not be able separate those ideas from their own faith and may become confused. Even learned saints prayed hard before engaging in apologetic activities. While it may be helpful to learn about their beliefs in order to help them convert from their errors, you must be sure your own faith is strong enough. Do not learn their faith without correctly knowing your own faith!

* Realize that the other person may be uninformed, under-informed, misinformed, etc. They may have been "brainwashed" by enemies of the Church. Certain words you might use might "set them off" against the Church due to the twisted understanding they have been given. Sometimes the reaction can be surprising. 

* Attempt to take charge of the discussion. If possible, don't permit them to stick with a "prepared narrative". 

* Try to discover and overcome their misconceptions about the Church.

* Don't deny that their new religion may contain some "elements of truth" (if it does). However, do realize that "elements of truth" is not the same as truth. While arsenic-laden apple juice contains elements of apple juice, it is still deadly.

* When dealing with 'Bible-only' Christians, make Biblical arguments. It is good to know that the Catholic Faith can be "proven" even using their deficient/corrupted Bibles. But, be on guard. Those outside the Church often engage in so-called "Bible gymnastics", where the words of Holy Scripture are twisted to mean just about anything. Sometimes the "stretch" can be quite subtle. Remember that "one can make the Bible 'prove' just about anything."

* Don't let them discard history. Both your Church and their religion had to begin at some point. That point is critical! History shows that the 2000 year old Catholic Church has always taught the same faith, whereas their more recently invented religion has undoubtedly been unable to preserve its doctrine even over a period of hundreds of years. The Bible is a wonderful treasure, but the Bible itself says that all is not contained within its pages. Some things claimed to be new inventions of the Church ("things not contained in the Bible") can be clearly demonstrated from the Bible and from history (e.g. the doctrine of the papacy can be shown to be held from the beginning of the Church, and is definitely contained in the Bible, although the actual word "pope" was not in use until later).

* Have good apologetic reading materials on hand. Not only can you leave them out for others to peek though (e.g. in bedrooms, offices, bathrooms, etc.), but you can lend them out as an 'ice breaker'. It is always good to have some on hand to share for those unexpected occasions that might arise. Apologetics materials may also make good gifts. You might also encourage your parish to start a library of good apologetic and other materials. And, consider starting a good Catholic library of your own. Good items to leave out in your home may include: a good, traditional catechism, convert stories, apologetics, writings of the early Church Fathers, etc.

* Don't oppose the person, but their beliefs. It is important to be able to separate the believer from the belief. One should spare the believers as much as possible. 

* Be prepared to be 'thick skinned'. Those outside the Church sometimes employ surprisingly vicious attacks against her. The person may be well intentioned or they may simply be trying to justify their actions, but their arguments are usually based on misinformation, misconceptions, and even deceit (e.g. on the part of those who originally formulated the arguments that they now disseminate to their followers). Sometimes such arguments might even appear strong or "unanswerable" at first glance. Usually a little research will show that they are very weak and easily disproved.

* Be warned that they may try to sway you from your beliefs and use 'proof' to show you that you are 'wrong'. Often their sources will appear credible and scholarly. They may attack things about your faith you've probably never thought of. They may completely discard all 'proof' for your position, even if it is completely credible.

* Remember that our fight is against the "principalities and powers" (cf. Eph 6:12) and that the world is "under the power of the evil one" (1 Jn. 5:19). Satan may have the other person in his grasp, and he wants us there too. We must not be his next victim, either by losing our faith or by failing to love the other person and act appropriately towards him. Satan attacks us individually and we must be very careful not to fall into his traps.

* Let God be in charge of your efforts. God sees the picture and understands the mysterious workings of others' minds. If we try to make everything go our own way, we will probably end up making mistakes. Be sure to pray a great deal and do penance both before and after your apologetic endeavors. Persist in prayer, even if you see no results. Remember that God loves the other person more than you ever could and that He knows the right words that might "unlock their heart" - as well as the right timing for them to hear these words. The other person's conversion also depends on grace, which is entirely in God's hands. Have faith in God - really trust Him. You need also to accept God's role for you. Your role may be merely to "plant the seed" - someone else may "water it" - and someone else may "see it grow". 

* Ask our Blessed Mother for her intercession. Our Lady is often instrumental in the conversion of sinners. You should also consider making use of the Green Scapular, which is especially useful for those seeking conversion of a loved one. [Try the Mary, Our Mother section for more information on the Green Scapular.]

* Realize that some people might just be wanting an invitation. Sometimes all it might take to lead them back is a simple invitation to attend Mass with you or to go to Confession with you (not together of course, but at the same time). Invite them back to their home, the Church. [Note: Be careful that the person doesn't take the invitation to Confession as an insult.]

* Don't expect conversion to occur (if it occurs at all) on your time schedule.

* Don't wait until your loved one has left the faith to discuss the faith with them. Not only will it be harder, but they might be less disposed to listen to you. Help them realize that the Church is their family, their loving Mother, their true home, before someone else reaches out to them. Give good Catholic books (e.g. conversion stories, inspirational books, etc.) as gifts. Remember that people are starving for truth.

* Don't misuse terms. Those outside the Church often refer to their religion or their building for worship as a "church". They often abrogate terms such as "Christian", "Pastor", etc. to their sects. You, however, should use correct terminology - e.g. sect/denomination instead of church. Remember that Christ founded only one Church, the Catholic Church. Those outside the true Church who call themselves Christians are actually joined to heretical / schismatic religions. If you, personally, use incorrect terms to describe their religion, you are, in a way, countenancing their religion (a religion not founded by Christ and one that actually sets itself up in opposition to Christ's Church). You cannot stop them from using such terms, but you do not need to participate.

* It may be wise to let the other person come to the truth by themselves. You may be well advised to act more as a facilitator than an instructor.

* Wherever appropriate, show them how their arguments are not logical. Be sure to do so in charity and without leaving them to feel "stupid" or "ignorant".

* Work first on their most important / strongest objections or biggest stumbling blocks. Of course, this will differ depending on the person. If you don't know what they are, you will need to find out.

* Rather than engaging in long, drawn out apologetics, you may ask a simple, non-threatening question such as "Have you ever considered returning to the Catholic Church?" The answer may give you a good deal of insight to their situation. If they are favorable to the idea, consider inviting them to Mass.

* The steps you take should depend on their behavior. For example: Does the person still call themselves Catholic? Do they still receive Holy Communion? (You should know that it is gravely sinful for them to receive Holy Communion when not in a state of grace.) Do they attend Mass at Easter or Christmas? Do they attend any other functions at the parish? Etc. You should not assume you know the correct answers to the above. If you don't know, you may consider asking them.

* If the person's vision of the Church is colored by a bad experience in the past, consider ways to help them overcome their negative outlook. 

* Some may simply not want to believe. This may especially be the case if they don't want to suffer consequences for sinful actions.  

* Realize that some leave the Church because they reject authority or are intolerant of authority. If that is the case, all the arguments in the world concerning truth and dogma may be of no avail. Note that if one has left the Church because they reject authority, their reason may be hidden under many other "excuses".

* Remember that attempts to help a non-Catholic convert will probably be much different if the person was previously Catholic than if the person has never been Catholic. If the person was previously a good Catholic, there is probably a fair chance that the Church may still have a "tug on their heart". It is believed that most people can't totally leave behind the gifts of the Church - especially the Eucharist. Perhaps those who have gone astray simply need some healing.

* Don't fall into the trap that all "Christian" religions are similar or are sufficient for salvation. Note that Protestants have a very different religion than ours. Even though they may call themselves Christian and use some Catholic terminology - or even make use of some Catholic Sacraments (e.g. baptism), their faith is completely different. They often reject authority, tradition, the Holy Eucharist, sacraments, the saints, and various other dogmas of the faith. They oppose the only true Church established by Christ. Remember that Christ himself let persons leave him when they found the Eucharistic teaching too hard to accept (see Jn. 6:66). Their false views can and do manifest themselves in various ways of life, many of which can be dangerous to salvation (e.g. not baptizing infants, allowing divorce, permitting abortion/birth control, etc.). Keep in mind that the term 'Catholic' was used in the earliest years of the Church to distinguish us from heretics that called themselves Christians. Also note that it has always been the teaching of the Church that Catholics refrain from participating in any worship of non-Catholics, and this teaching is confirmed in Scripture. [Note: Also see "The Importance of Being Catholic: Combating Religious Indifferentism"]

* If you are a "cradle Catholic", you should especially consider reading conversion stories. It may help you counteract the arguments of others and help you to understand what those outside the Church think of Catholics (and the Church). Not only that, but such stories often may make you more grateful for the precious gift of your faith.

* Be sure to find out why the person left the Church. Remember that the reasons given by the other person may not be complete or may not be the most important reasons for their leaving the Church. The real reason or reasons may be unspoken, hidden, or not what they seem. It will be most helpful in your efforts to bring them back if you are able to discover the true reason or reasons they have left the Church.

* Realize that some people may be so troubled by bad examples of other Catholics that they might leave the Church. In such cases, it is important to help them make a distinction between those who live by the Church's teachings (and the fruits thereof - e.g. show them the lives of the Saints) and those who do not follow Church teachings. Remember that Judas was hand-picked by Jesus. Is it right to leave the only Church founded by Christ because it contains some Judases? Isn't it unfair to judge the Church by those who fail to live up to her teachings rather than by those who actually do live up to her teachings? Is it the Church's fault that others who don't practice their faith identify themselves as Catholic?

* Realize that some may have made their decisions without much thought. They may not realize the seriousness of their actions or the potential consequence of their actions. They may not have thought things out or may simply have misunderstood Church teachings (e.g. that Mass attendance is required, that being Catholic is necessary for salvation, etc.). Or, they may have been convinced by an influential person. Obviously your approach would vary depending on the applicability of the above.

* Don't overlook various "proven" ways to bring "lost sheep" back into the fold (e.g. inviting them to church, sharing lives of the saints, encouraging a hunger for the Holy Eucharist, etc.).

* Consider reminding them of certain truths (e.g. martyrs died in horrible agony to keep the faith they are throwing away, right now others are oppressed and can't even learn of Christ, right now others are suffering for being Catholic, no one can take their faith from them - only they can give it up, etc.)

* Consider asking them 'hard to answer'/'thought provoking questions, as appropriate [e.g. Why is it you want to give up the place reserved for you in heaven?, Would you also take a precious gem and throw it away?, If you abandon Christ or his Church, do you expect to find Him there for you when you need Him?, Why is it that you abandon the good God who has given you flesh, assigned you an angel, feeds you, gives you air to breathe, saves you a place in heaven, listens to you all your prayers?, What then is the purpose of your life?, Do you really expect to be found 'invincibly ignorant' - you who have known the true Church since birth?, Why do you think Scripture says it "would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment handed down to them" (2 Pt. 2:21), "Why are you determined to lose your soul when Jesus Christ wishes to save you?" (St. Vincent Ferrer), Do you not think you should love the Church that gave you life and will be there for you at death - and even afterwards?, Why do you devote greater care for your body that will eventually perish than for your soul considering that when "the flesh, which [you] have loved so much, begins to be devoured by worms in the grave, the soul is presented to God by the angels in heaven" either to be "crowned or cast into darkness"?, etc.]

* Remember that we must expect persecution and bear it patiently. "If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you" (Jn. 5:20)

* Remember that all you can do is your best. We can (and should) love others, pray for them, help them, and ask our Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, to intercede for them. We must always love God and our neighbor, pray, and keep practicing our own faith. 

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