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December 13, 2000

The final in a series of columns from Archbishop Chaput's address on "Dei Verbum" during the archdiocesan Scripture Conference, Oct. 20-21, in Denver.

Apologetics, some of you will recall, is that branch of theology devoted to the explanation and defense of our faith. Far too many Catholics have fallen prey to all sorts of fundamentalist sects, because somebody used the "hook" of Sacred Scripture to convince the poorly catechized that biblical faith and Catholic doctrine are mutually exclusive. This is nonsense. So it's really important to familiarize yourself with the writings of some of the best Catholic apologists in the field today — women like Rhonda Chervin, Janet Smith and Joyce Little, men like Peter Kreeft, Patrick Madrid, Karl Keating and Father Peter Stravinskas.

St. Peter challenges his flock always "to be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in them" (1 Pt 3:15). Apologetics is essential to our "faith-sharing." It is certianly not "anti-ecumenical" to explain what we believe and why we believe it, and to defend our beliefs when attacked. In fact, I see two wonderful results from apologetics, especially when it's biblically based. The first is evangelization: When we really know our faith, we tend to share it. The second is growth in Christian unity: When we explain our faith to other sincere Christians, misconceptions are replaced by truth. On the other hand, when the Catholic faith is misrepresented out of ignorance or malice, it's Christian charity and also our Christian duty to point out the errors and to call the erring person to a change of mind, heart and behavior.

So that's my list of "things to do," biblically speaking — at least for starters. It may sound challenging, but it is not daunting — not if we agree with the Epistle to the Hebrews that God's Word is "living and effective;" not if we really understand the gift God gave us in this remarkable document Dei Verbum.

Over the past 35 years, the biblical revival sparked by Vatican II has been a source of blessing and vitality for the whole Church — and it will continue to renew the hearts of believers for many years to come. After all, if it "pleased God . . . to reveal Himself" to us, shouldn't it equally please Him when we search the depths of that Revelation found in His Word and celebrated in His Church? Let me close this reflection with the words the Council Fathers used to conclude Dei Verbum 35 years ago:

So may it come that, by the reading and study of the sacred books "the Word of God may speed on and triumph" (2 Th 3:1) and the treasure of Revelation entrusted to the Church may more and more fill the hearts of men. Just as from constant attendance at the Eucharistic mystery the life of the Church draws increase, so a new impulse of spiritual life may be expected from increased veneration of the Word of God, which "stands forever" (Is 40:8; cf. 1 Pt 1:23-25).

To which, I hope all of us throughout the Church in northern Colorado, will always be able to give a heartfelt "Amen."




Copyright 2004 Victor Claveau. All Rights Reserved