By Dr. David Anders
I work in Catholic radio. I host a call-in show for non-Catholics. My job is to answer questions, respond to objections, and generally remove barriers to the Catholic Faith. Our tagline is “What’s keeping you from the Catholic Faith?” Often, we hear from people who don’t know any Catholics, have never been to Mass, and know only the most hackneyed stereotypes of Catholicism. For many, we are literally the first Catholics they have ever talked to about the faith.
I heard quite recently from a man in this position. Catholic media had aroused his interest in the Church, but he lived far from a parish and knew no Catholics. He began to pepper us with questions. “I’m sorry to overwhelm you,” he said, “but you are literally the only Catholics I know.”
I used to be in his position. Years ago, I was a Protestant student of theology. I began to study Catholicism out of intellectual curiosity. I had no intention of becoming Catholic. Eventually I realized that the Church had some impressive claims to truth and authority. I investigated those claims over a number of years and found them credible. However, I still knew no Catholics personally. I had almost never been to Mass and I had doubts about how some of the pieces fit together. Moreover, I was embarrassed to go to Mass, and doubtful that real Catholics would be all that helpful anyway. (I knew that many weren’t all that familiar with their faith.) I started listening to Catholic radio.
I was already very familiar with Catholic authors. I had read many of the Church Fathers, for example, and had even looked into the Catechism. But Catholic radio was in real time. I could have a dialogue with knowledgeable Catholics. They could respond specifically to my concerns. Some of the radio personalities were converts themselves, even from my very own Protestant denomination. They knew where I was coming from. That was such a help in my journey to the Catholic Faith.
Every week, I hear from people who have embraced the Church thanks (at least in part) to the ministry of Catholic radio. There are some common patterns to these conversions. People may tune in on the way home from work. Truck drivers listen cross country on satellite radio. Stay-at-home parents have it on in the background. Sometimes they’re itching for a fight. Other times, they are bemused by what seems to them incredible: “How could anyone want to be Catholic?” Many times they are just sure that Catholics are wrong. When there is a challenging question they wonder, “How is this Catholic guy going to get out of this one?” But then they’re shocked to learn – there are actually intelligent answers to these questions.
There are standard objections. Why do Catholics worship Mary? Where is purgatory in the Bible? Aren’t we saved by faith alone? Why can’t I come to Communion as a non-Catholic? Week after week, we answer these and other questions from Scripture, history, and philosophy. But we also try to plant seeds, to push our listeners to dig deeper, to question their own assumptions. “Sure,” I say, “I’ll show you purgatory in the Bible. But let me ask you a question, too. Why do you think all revelation is in Scripture? And how do you know what Scripture is, anyway? Who told you that Esther was part of the Bible? Did you know that the Catholic Church put together the list of Biblical books?”
This procedure works. People who have never questioned themselves before begin to see the logic of the Catholic position. They see that the Church has answers to questions they’ve never considered. “Can I really know that God exists? How do I defend marriage to those who don’t accept the Bible? And how do I know the meaning of Scripture, anyway?”
We cannot make people Catholic. Faith is a gift and the Holy Spirit must get involved. But how can they believe if they have never heard? (Romans 10:14) God condescends to make us instruments. In today’s world, Catholic radio is one of those instruments.
In my own journey, Catholic truth made me uncomfortable before it made me hopeful. I sat on the fence for a long time. Finally, life circumstances and spiritual need converged and I asked myself the question, “Could I really become Catholic?” By God’s grace, I realized I could. I became Catholic. I cannot say that Catholic radio was the only reason I became Catholic, but it played an important role. I never dreamed that one day I would have the privilege of working in this wonderful and effective medium. I truly believe it is one of the most effective tools we have for sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the Catholic Church.
David Anders grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, where he was raised a Presbyterian. He attended Wheaton College (B.A.), Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (M.A.), and the University of Iowa (Ph.D.). Study of Church History (and Catholic media) led him and his family to become Catholic in 2003. He now hosts the EWTN Radio program Called to Communion, an outreach to non-Catholics that airs 2-3pm. Dr. Anders lives with his wife and five children in Birmingham, Alabama. He can be found online at www.calvin2catholic.com.