Dear Father | What to do when a Jehovah’s Witness comes a knockin’
Q: I was recently approached by a Jehovah’s Witness, who gave me a pamphlet with information on her community. As a Catholic, how can I respond in love but with the truth of our Catholic Church?
I first want to applaud you for your zeal for sharing the faith with others. Sadly in recent times, Catholics have generally been somewhat tepid in their desire to share the faith with others. Your desire, along with so many others to spread our faith, is truly what the New Evangelization is all about.
To speak with a Jehovah's Witness as a Catholic, one must first be firm and grounded in one's faith. In their literature and training, Jehovah's Witnesses spend a considerable amount of time learning about our faith and ways to bring doubt to followers of it. They may be ready to debate a number of topics scripturally, including apostolic succession, the sacraments, purgatory and the role of Mary.
Some Catholics may feel very at home in Scripture and feel ready to call upon the scriptural passages behind these teachings of the Church. If you try to use the Bible they have in hand, you will find these passages somewhat different from your recollection. This is because the Jehovah's Witnesses use a translation called the New World Translation, which translates these sections more obscurely, thus casting doubt upon our beliefs.
After casting doubt, they will begin to introduce their views of religion. They see this world, as we do, as passing away. They believe, however, that one must begin to believe with them to be saved after Armageddon. If not, there is no hell; rather, one will be annihilated by Jehovah, God. They will thus begin to speak about our joint desire to enter a world where there is no war, famine or pain: paradise. They will claim to have the way to get there.
Their plan at this point is to use pre-planned discussion to get you more excited and yearning to join them and enter this paradise after Armageddon. Instead of entering the conversation here, invite them instead to tell their personal stories and get to know them as individuals. The main thing then is to listen. Many of these witnesses are fallen-away Catholics and may tell painful stories of how they felt the Church somehow either wronged them or was not there for them. Hear them, empathize with them and invite them to know your positive experience of the Catholic Church and invite them home.
Second, introduce them to the Revised Standard Version or New American Bible. Before they arrive, read the introduction to the Bible. You will find how scholarly and carefully the Bible was translated. Share your translation with them when they come calling.
Third, there are many good websites and books that delve into various teachings and how to counter them. Consider investing in one or two and take time to read it. Perhaps make a cheat sheet and keep it with your Bible. In this way, the witnesses will see that not only are we a compassionate people but also a faith that is grounded in the truth.
Father Mayo is associate pastor of St. Francis Borgia Parish in Washington. Send questions for a priest to: St. Louis Review, 20 Archbishop May Drive, St. Louis, MO 63119 or email email@example.com.
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