Apologetics: Definition. Apologetics is the science concerned with the defense of Christianity, the Church, the Universal Church, the Catholic Church. The word catholic (with lowercase c; derived via Late Latin catholicus, from the Greek adjective καθολικός (katholikos), meaning “universal”) comes from the Greek phrase καθόλου (katholou), meaning “on the whole”, “according to the whole” or “in general”, and is a combination of the Greek words κατά meaning “about” and όλος meaning “whole”. The aim of Apologetics is to prove from reason the divine authority of the Universal (Catholic) Church. Advancing through a series of connected truths, it concludes that the one and only guide of faith on earth, with regards to faith and morals, is the Catholic Church. A bold claim indeed but one that can be proven to be true beyond any reasonable doubt for those who are willing to examine the evidence and the facts. It leads unbelievers and even those separated brothers and sisters outside the Church to the portals of the House of God, and bids them enter. Within, they hear and examine the Catholic Doctrine, which is Christ’s message to them interpreted by His living representative.
Apologetics denotes a scientific proof or defense of religious truth. “Catholic Apologetics”, therefore, is not a mere appeal for acceptance of Catholicism or a plea for its toleration but a solid demonstration that it is the one and only true religion on earth.
Some may already possess in simple form an appreciation that faith in the Church and Her teaching is a reasonable faith. Perhaps we have heard it defended by convincing arguments put before us in some brief form, such as the following:
(1) “Christ the Son of God founded a Church to teach all mankind for all generations. He promised to be with this Church all days even to the end of the world. Because of this perpetual help, His Church must claim to teach all people in every generation as He taught them: She must claim to be infallible in Her teaching with regards to faith and morals. The Catholic Church is the only religious body of earth that makes such a claim. This one fact alone could make the case for this Church to be the one Jesus speaks of in the Scriptures”.
(2) “The great antiquity of the Catholic Church, Her marvelous growth, Her unconquerable endurance, Her wondrous holiness, Her inexhaustible fruitfulness in all charitable works, Her power of holding Her vast following together – despite every assault upon Her unity – so that,in spite of all manner of differences in race and culture and ambitions, they ever one in faith, in worship, in obedience. It is the combination of all these characteristics that sets the Church quite apart from merely human institutions, every denomination, and marks Her plainly as the work of God.”
The age in which we live is hostile to God, to Christ, and to His Church. It is our duty, therefore, to master the proofs set forth in Apologetics, so that we may have a fuller vision of the reasonableness of our faith, of the enormous strength of its defenses, and of the weakness of obligations alleged against it. It is our duty as followers of Jesus Christ to remove temptation from out path, and to fortify ourselves against the spirit of infidelity that infects the very air we breathe. It is our duty to acquire sufficient enlightenment to enable us to answer the questions that may be addressed to us by the honest inquirer. The exhortation of Peter to the early Christians is as applicable today as it was then: “be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you” (1st Peter 3:15). Besides bringing the reward of a duty fulfilled, the study of Apologetics is in itself a valuable mental discipline: it stimulates and develops our reasoning powers by setting them to work at problems of profound importance and of unfailing interest.