Notes from the National Sursum Corda


At the request of a reader, for those who were unable to attend, and (most especially) so I don’t have to copy my notes anymore… I decided to write about Canon Stein’s talk on Street Apologetics from the National Sursum Corda back in July.

Over the last few months I’ve copied my Sursum Corda notes for a few people (well… a lot of people…). It seems that very few people took notes, yet everybody loved his talk so much they went quite out of their way to find someone who did!

I was so glad to share mine as his talk was indeed wonderful! It gave us very practical advice on different approaches to defending our faith and he also gave us a few select examples for ways to approach certain subjects. Here are some of my notes from his talk.

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As a Catholic living in the world, it is absolutely necessary for us to grow in our faith and learn more about God. However, being able to shine forth and explain our Faith to others in the spirit of evangelisation, is also necessary for our growth. Often times everyday encounters are the easiest to shrug off or avoid because they catch us unprepared to defend our faith. However, these encounters can also be the most important moments one will ever have.

So, how can we take advantage of these everyday opportunities to evangelise?

Firstly, you need to learn to speak well, purposefully, and always with a dose of Divine Charity. Charity is the reason that we desire to know more about God. After all, you can’t love what you don’t know; and since God created us to love him, it is our purpose to know him also, and faith is one way we learn to know him.

Faith is a theological virtue, a seed, which is given and planted in our soul at baptism. However, in order to grow it must be nurtured with knowledge and exercised through practice. Once we start to acquire this knowledge and love of God, we should desire to share with others the salvation we have been given.

The best way to share and defend our faith is

to live the Faith

Many times we don’t know how our everyday actions touch another person. At times we may not even be aware of the person or that they are observing our Faith in action!

It is also important to remember that conversion does not only depend on our words and actions, but also needs Divine Grace. We are just a messenger, a servant bringing the good news, but our attempts will be useless unless God first softens and opens their hearts to us. Pray for those in need of conversion, and remember that we need to be overflowing reservoirs of grave so that some will spill upon their soul.

So how do we go about actively defending our Faith in our everyday lives? Well, there are 3 types of general conversations which we might encounter and each one needs to be approached differently.

1. The other person mocks the Church.

This will never be a fruitful conversation, so you should avoid talking back or initiating them. Sometimes it is very hard not to respond, but we must simply be charitably and humbly silent. Think of Our Lord and how he was silent before his accusers.

2. Someone tries to convert YOU.

This is probably the most common conversation you will encounter. The first thin to remember is to remain calm, always, and humble. Our faith is a gift, and the fact that we acknowledge it – a blessing. Don’t think that we are better than them in any way because of their indifference.

Turn the tables on them, and start asking them questions. Every time they ask you a question, ask them a question back. One of the most common topics which comes up is Mary:

Often we are criticised for praying to and adoring Mary and the Saints instead of Jesus. Firstly, acknowledge that: Yes! Adoring Mary would be idolatry! But that’s not what we do. Why do we ask Mary to pray for us rather than going straight to the source (God)?

-God did. He could have chosen a million other ways to come into this world, yet he chose to come through Mary.

-We ask our friends and neighbours to pray for us in time of need. Why is asking Mary not ok? She is Our Lord’s mother! Who doesn’t heed their mothers requests in a special way?

-In Judaism, the mother revered as a queen.

-John Chapter 2 outlines the story of the wedding at Cana and is a good example of how Mary intercedes for us. First, she sends us to Jesus and tells us to do whatever He says, then she initiates Jesus to perform the miracle of changing the water into wine.

-Hail Mary is a very biblical prayer.

-Often we are referenced as brothers and sisters in Christ. How can you be a brother of Christ without having Mary as your mother?

-Ask them: “Is Our Lord is a perfect example?” (Yes), “Did he keep the commandments?” (Yes), “So we should keep the commandments like Jesus – Great! Now, did he honour his mother?” (Yes), “So, if He honored Mary, shouldn’t we keep his example there too?”

-God is the perfect example heirarchy. We don’t run up to the white house and knock on the president’s door to ask for something. We’d probably get kicked out as soon as we opened our mouth! We don’t do that. Instead we go through the proper channels of asking a more important, or more capable person to deliver our message; someone the President trusts and is more likely to listen to. Mary acts as this messenger and presents our petitions more readily and acceptably than we can. There is a story that goes along with this:

Once there was a poor farmer who loved to serve the king and when his first fruits came in, he was just SO excited that he wished to offer what little he had to the king! So taking his first fruits he ran all the way up to the court and frantically tries to get in, so that he can offer something to his king. But alas, no-one would let him in given his poor, wretched, dirty figure and small dirty fruits. However, the queen moved by compassion for the poor man went down and offered to bring his fruits to the king for him. Taking the offerings, she washed them so that they were shiny clean and arranged them on a gold platter. She then brought the fruits to the king herself and offered them to him.

On the virginity of Mary and her Immaculate Conception: These two topics (especially on the Immaculate Conception) are a bit different. Because they are revealed to us through Tradition and Mary’s apparitions, you don’t teach them… you preach them. There is one helpful tidbit which could help on Mary’s virginity, if not scrutinized. Often protestants refer to the following passages as proof that Jesus had siblings:

Matthew 12:46 “While Jesus was still talking to the crowd his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him.”

Matthew 13:56 “Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Aren’t all his sisters with us?”

and I’m sure there might be a few others. However it is interesting to note that in the Bible and during Jesus’ time, the word “Brethren” was not only used to describe one’s biological brothers, but also extended family and very close friends. St. Paul often is a good example of this in his letters.

3. Someone asks a curious and serious question about The Church.

A true Catholic presence will stir questions by providing a wonder, awe, and desire for the same fruits that we display. So we should always be prepared if someone should open that door in their heart to curiosity about The Church. It is important that we take advantage of that, but at the same time be very cautious to ensure they get an accurate and appropriate answers to their questions. NEVER answer a question you are not 100% sure about. It is ok to say that you don’t know and it would be best to exchange contact information (if this a person you don’t know) or keep in touch with them. This way you can research the answer (or help them research it) and direct them to a priest.

Always remember to pray for the people you encounter, firstly… not as a last resort.

“Word, example, and prayer — the greatest of these is prayer”

It is also important to keep God visible in our life by the actions of our Faith. Take away God from our senses and we will soon forget and despair he even exists. We need to constantly remind ourselves of him so that we become more and fully convinced of His Presence in our lives.

For example, in Gabon the Institute is in the process of building a beautiful church there for the people. This is something they desperately need; a clear safe haven and refuge in God from their everyday lives. They already live in shacks, if their Lord lives in one too, they quickly forget His Divinity. How can we save their souls if they can’t remember they have one?

**At this point, Canon Huberfeld kind of took over and gave us some reading suggestions:

By St. Francis de Sales: “Introduction to a Devout Life”, and “The Catholic Controversy”.

Or if you are looking for a really deep theological book, “Reality” by Garrigou-Lagrange (hopefully I spelled it right)… that is if you can find an English version.

———————————————-And that is the end of my notes! I hope that they were pretty legible and easy to understand… as I tried to take the choppy bullet point style notes I had and put them in sentence format, while still keeping Canon’s exact words and phrases as close as I could.

I also have to add that I love hearing Canon Stein talk about the missionary apostolate in Gabon. You can tell by the way he talks that he loved being there so much. The stories he tells about the Gabonese are always so passionate and moving!

If you have anything to add, comment, or if there was something I missed, please let me know!

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