Reason #1: To defend the invisible, mysterious and miraculous in a culture where science is the ultimate authority for truth
Reason #2: To strengthen family ties The groundbreaking Catholic apologist Karl Keating describes this hypothetical situation in his book, The Usual Suspects:
“(A woman) found no intellectual fulfillment at her parish… Then a Protestant friend invited her to a service at the neighborhood (evangelical) church…”I’ll sit through it once”, she thought, “and that will be it”…Well, it certainly was it—it was just what she was looking for. She discovered “good Bible preaching”…(and) after the service her friend introduced her to the minister, and he introduced her to others at the small church. You could attend (her parish) for years and be recognized as a regular, but no one would know your name. Here, at this small church, everybody seemed to know everyone.”
That is how it all started. (Then) she was invited to join a Bible study class. “Why not?” she thought. She was surprised to find she enjoyed reading the Bible…At the Bible study she at first bristled when people said the Bible supported this or that doctrine—doctrines opposed to what the Catholic Church taught…it was pointed out to her that peculiarly Protestant doctrines were true, and by implication peculiarly Catholic ones were not…So it went. Week after week she attended both Mass and the Protestant service, and she joined the Bible study…She realized, after a while, that she was happier attending the Bible study or the Protestant service than attending Mass…
You can probably guess where this story goes. The Protestant church attracted her for two reasons: first, it made her feel better. Second, it made more rational sense to her. How could this have been prevented? If the woman would have possessed a sound understanding of her Catholic faith she would have had a backdrop against which she could contrast the Protestant doctrines she was learning. For example: she likely encountered the question of the actual and substantial presence of Jesus in the Eucharist versus a mere symbolic memorial. Surely—with proper teaching—she would have understood the overwhelming Scriptural evidence for the Real Presence and leaving the “real Jesus” for a symbolic representation would have been next to impossible. But she had no strictly Catholic intellectual formation, and thus, was an easy target for non-Catholics. For an uncatechized and unevangelized Catholic, leaving the Eucharist seems to be “no biggie” after a while.
Apologetics and theological training for the regular Joe (or Josephine) is crucial in Catholic parishes (Apologetics presupposes theology since apologetics is way of using theology). The parish is the center of evangelization and for this reason should provide its parishioners with opportunities for training in effectively explaining and defending the Faith. A well-equipped evangelist always has at least “basic training” in theology and apologetics.
Apologetics training also strengthens the faith of the apologist. I can account for this through my own experience. After returning to the Catholic faith at the age of 25, I had a lot of important questions that I needed answered, and answered well. Every time I received a good answer, I came to understand Christ and the Church a little more. The deeper my knowledge of Christ and His Body became, the deeper my personal relationship with Him became. Every time an objection was crumbled by a good answer, so too was a wall which prevented me from receiving more grace from the Lord. The more we get to know our spouse or significant other, the deeper we fall in love. So too does it works with apologetics and Christ. Learning apologetics requires learning about God, and learning about God is learning theology, and as the popular theologian, Dr. Scott Hahn says, “Theology is therapy.”
So theology and apologetics work hand in hand, as we take what we know about God and propose and uphold it. So we can see that good apologetics and theological training within the parish can only strengthen its parishioners in their love for Christ and the Church. And if parishioners are strengthened in their faith, so too is the sum total of the parishioners—the parish itself. What, then, could be more important for the Catholic evangelization effort than the strengthening of its “center”?