Monday, December 31, 2012
End of year reflections...
I'm really not any good at writing journal-type entries or being reflective to any extent, so I think I'll keep this one short and sweet; a sort of summation of thoughts and observations for this year 2012.
What have I learned this year? Well, a great deal. I've been doing this apologetics and blogging thing for over three years now and I've found that no matter how much I read, how much I pray, how much I reference or research, I find myself often not knowing enough and needing to know more. It reminds me of 'Johnny 5' from the Short Circuit movies: "Input. More input!" I've somehow managed to have the answers when I've needed them and I've never been afraid to say, "I don't know, but I'm going to find out for you".
This feeling of intellectual inadequacy was not due to anything I had done wrong nor for any lack of any effort on my behalf, no, but it was inspired by the people I have had the privilege to hear speak and read the wonderful content they've had published over the last 12 months. Three speakers/authors have made a substantial impression on me over the course of the year (in no particular order):
- Jimmy Akin
- Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers
- Dave Armstrong
Late last year Jimmy Akin published Mass Revision, a book looking at the Latin Rite of the Mass in more detail and breaking down the revisions that came to the Novus Ordo Missae also late last year. By my own admission I was a bit lazy with getting through the book, but I finished reading it some time in May this year. Akin's ability to explain in simple and pithy terms for many what is a complex and for others a sensitive issue, reminded me of why I go into apologetics in the first place: to teach in an uncompromising but approachable and Christ-like manner. If you aren't familiar with any of Jimmy Akin's material, then the best first port of entry would be Catholic Answers. Get on iTunes, search for the Catholic Answers Live podcasts and download any segment with Jimmy Akin as guest.
In October this year I had the great privilege of being on a speaker's panel with Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers as part of this year's Society of Catholic Teachers Australia conference here in Perth. Deacon Harold isn't called the "dynamic deacon" for nothing! It wasn't just about what Deacon Harold spoke about, but more so how he delivered it. It was in your face, un-compromised, hard-hitting, impassioned, and of course edifying. Not to sound haughty, but most of what Deacon Harold spoke about I already knew, but I had never considered putting it all forward like the way he did nor had I ever engaged with people the way he did and does and effectively evangelise through apologetics. Deacon Harold has inspired me to be a more bold and knowledgeable defender of the Church.
Dave Armstrong is a hard-working Catholic apologist. He published a book earlier this year entitled 100 Biblical Arguments Against Sola Scriptura and I took great pleasure in both being allowed to review it and publish that review here on the blog. I've long been a fan of Armstrong's work and when I read his blog and through each entry he puts up on Facebook, it reminds of how lazy I can often be as an apologist myself and as a writer; I still have much to learn and I need to give more time to this work. Dave Armstrong is an apologist I aspire to be like and I humbly pray for the opportunity to be granted the time to do this sort of thing more often.
So what have I learned this year? I've learned that I need to dedicate more time to blogging and writing, and this - at least at the start of 2013 - shouldn't be a problem as I've already been invited to speak at a conference in January and write material for a Catholic street evangelisation ministry based the USA. I pray for more opportunities like these to arise so that I may use these talents that God has given me.
What have I done well this year? I believe that I have taught well this year and that I have learned to be a better listener and a more patient debater. I've lost count of the time when I've been engaged in fairly heated discussions but not once have I lost my cool even when my antagoniser(s) have deliberately gone out of their way to make me look stupid or misrepresent what I have said. I have learned that all it takes is a quiet prayer for patience said in my head and a slow and steady repetition of 1 Peter 3:14-17...
"But even if you do suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts reverence Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to make a defence to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence; and keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are abused, those who revile your good behaviour in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing right, if that should be God's will, than for doing wrong."
What have I done poorly this year? I haven't given enough time to writing. My usual goal is to write on blog entry per week and as you can see I've fallen short of that quota this year and it's not for lack of anything to write about, no, it's due to a bit of laziness. Yes, life gets busy, but writing one or two paragraphs per evening shouldn't be a difficult task; I've managed to pump out six paragraphs this evening so far in the space of 25 minutes. I need to be more proactive with my writing and no get side-track. I need to be able to prioritise my work here and better manage the side-projects I'm working on right now; there are a couple I haven't touched for months and I'm hoping that they'll be done by June 2013 (stay tuned!).
What does 2013 hold for me? Opportunities, opportunities, opportunities. I vow to make the most of them and to put everything into God's hands. As Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta once said, “I'm a little pencil in the hand of a writing God, who is sending a love letter to the world.”
I would like to say and send a very sincere and warm thank you to all my readers and supporters this year. Without you and your encouragement, all of this work would not be worth it and I could not go on without your support. I would also like to thank my critics too and the "haters"; you're the other reason I'm doing this and I just want to let you all know that God loves you and that there's nothing you can do about it.
May the peace of the Holy Spirit, the forgiveness of Jesus Christ, and the love of God the Father Almighty be with you all this New Years Eve and may your 2013 be filled with many blessings. If your 2013 is filled with challenges, may the Lord lift you and help rise you up to meet them and overcome them.
Be good to one another and may you never fail to contemplate the face of Jesus Christ in all you encounter in this year of faith.