June 2, 2005 at 5:39 am #1940
I had a very odd experience yesterday. I work part-time at a Community Health Unit (but I’m not a nurse). So we’re a mostly women workplace. In the lunchroom, at a table of about 10, all of a sudden they started talking about the book the Da Vinci Code. I thought, oh, here we go. And within minutes, they were bashing the Church, saying that Catholics are crazy, that it’s run by men for men, that women are suppressed, that women are brainwashed to venerate (they said worship) Mary only because she was virginal (and a few snide comments that that probably wasn’t true), that Jesus certainly was married and had children, that one of the disciples was a woman, etc. etc. etc. I was very quiet. I’ve worked with them for a long while and I’m fairly open about my faith. I mean, I don’t preach at people, but I’ve talked about Mass and the boys – and I wear crucifix a few centimetres long on my nametag string around my neck as well as a medal of Mary on that and another Mary medal on my necklace.
I was stunned. I didn’t want to be rude or start a debate – with my position (they’re union, I’m not, I’m more senior) it can be dicey. But nor did I want to sit silent. I let them rant a bit and when they looked at me for my input I just said, well, as a Roman Catholic I didn’t agree with that point of view. The Da Vinci Code was written as a sensationalist story to sell books and make money. I said that I didn’t believe that our Church treats women as inferior, but I got cut off by a young woman who is very bitter and announced she’s from a large Catholic family in Prince Edward Island. She said, oh, she’s Catholic and women have no rights (but she’s young, likes to act the jaded worldy young woman and not practicing). A couple of the other women were quite embarrassed I guess and started to change the topic.
Anyway, it bothers me that I didn’t have a stronger defense ready. Should it? I didn’t want to get *too* deeply into it because it was at work. But at the same time, wow, they wouldn’t make those comments about other faiths I don’t believe. It’s like it’s okay to bash the Catholic Church.
One of the women, who is normally really sweet, would hardly look at me today. She was so embarrassed, I think. She must have somehow missed that I’m Catholic. I was friendly and I think she was relieved.
Any ideas? Similar uncomfortable situations?June 2, 2005 at 1:58 pm #2613
Wow. That’s a tough situation to be in. I think you handled it beautifully. The fact that you listened and were very gentle in your response shows great Christian love. You stood up for your faith without stooping to their level of attack. You said that the bitter one was young so hopefully she will have her eyes opened to the truth when she is in charge of a family of her own. The others were probably really embarrassed that they were a part of such an offensive discussion. I would just continue to be friendly toward them all and model Christian love. Who knows, maybe the discussion might cause some of them to be interested in learning more about the truth of the Catholic faith! You might be asked questions in the future. The Lord works in mysterious ways. Continue to pray for these ladies and all who don’t understand or see the beauty of the faith. I will pray too!June 2, 2005 at 2:07 pm #2614
I think you handled it very well, also. I agree with Melinda, that you were a great example of Christian love. I know you handled it much better than I would have!!! If I was one of those women, I would probably be embarrassed today, also.
Sorry that you had to go through that!June 2, 2005 at 8:07 pm #2615
I hate being in situations like the one you were it. You feel compelled to defend your faith, but know that logically it could end up in a debate, which would not be beneficial to anyone. I think you did a great job and I couldn’t have handled it better myself.June 2, 2005 at 9:06 pm #2616
Westcoastmum, your answer was perfect! I am sorry you had to go through that, but, I guess we all do at times because it is PC to bash the Catholic Church ( of course you can’t bash most everything else, but the Catholic Church seems to be a free for all ). I will pray for that young women who seems to not understand the Faith of her family. You are right that your work is not the place for a debate. But all of us are called to speak up when we hear others speaking negatively of the Church. I have a book that list sins ( to make Confession easier ) by Comandments and under First Commandment it says – Failure to profess or defend the Catholic Faith when required to do so, Denying that one is Catholic, and Being ashamed of the Faith or failing to give external signs of it out of human respect are all sins. You totally did the right thing. I have been in this situation before and I always say I am a praticing Catholic that follows Rome, and I always say that now isn’t the time to have this discussion, but I could suggest some reading materials and would be happy to discuss whatever in length later. Most of the time this shuts people up because they really don’t care to know – they just want to be negative. You were right and I agree with everyone else just continue to be kind – who knows someone really might be interested into finding out more and your friendly attitude will be welcoming to them.June 2, 2005 at 9:41 pm #2617
I am sorry you were put into that situation. I think you did handle the situation well. Maybe you will spark some interest in them and they will come to you for some answers. Then, you will have the honor of sharing the our wonderful faith with them in a not so defensive manner!!June 4, 2005 at 3:11 pm #2618
I think you handled that delicate situation wonderfully…much better than I would have. That’s one of the faults I am working on…not speaking up enough about the Faith. I have to admit, I haven’t been in a situation quite like that one!! You have also taught me by your wonderful example!!
TheresaJune 6, 2005 at 3:56 am #2619
Being in numerous situations like the one you just described has happened to me recently while participating in another forum that had a mix of religions. Having to listen to insults like the ones you described is what led me here though, so I am thankful that I found this forum. I think you handled the situation quite well.July 24, 2005 at 6:02 am #2620
Hi everyone -
Thank you for your replies. I’ve been offline for ages! I couldn’t remember my password and we have two homestay girls now as well as my three boys and DH to care for – yikes. It’s been busy!!
I really appreciate your replies. Makes me feel better. Tricky, tricky.
Thank you all again.January 25, 2006 at 2:59 pm #2621January 25, 2006 at 2:59 pm #2622February 4, 2006 at 6:30 am #2623
I read your reply. Wow. That is not fun for you, that’s for sure. How awkward.
Has anything happened with your HR department? Where I have worked there’s always been a harassment policy to invoke – which is sounds like you tried to do. Dirty emails and inappropriate sexist materials should just not be tolerated. Our workplace (I work part-time) has a very clear policy that email is for business and not personal use – and further that the harassment policy applies to all correspondence.
I didn’t try to invoke the harassment policy with respect to the anti-Catholic rhetoric I’ve heard (figuring they’ll argue it’s general comment and not personal attack), but I certainly would try with emails.
Actually, last week I was walking through work when two nurses were loudly berating Catholics and the Church as being “a bunch of old men trying to tell women what to do with their bodies.” Sigh. It’s so frustrating. I honestly don’t think they’d speak so loudly about any other religion in such a public way as they will berate our faith.
Well, I’m thinking of you. I liked your response that about being misguided. It sounded pointed, but not nasty. It’s so tricky. I always feel like I’m not defending the faith – but I don’t want to pick fights. Does that make sense? At the same time, I don’t want to be made to feel uncomfortable.
Maybe someone else who has been in this situation will read our posts and have the *perfect* comeback.
KarenFebruary 14, 2006 at 11:04 pm #2624February 28, 2006 at 9:26 pm #2625
I hear this sort of thing all the time. I’m the only Catholic in my whole family and I also help teach RCIA classes at my parish. Needless to say, I get a lot of questions and challenges (some aggressive, some not). Here’s what I have found that works like a charm: first, know your faith! I’m not saying become a theologian, but be able to explain your faith, in general, when someone says “what’s the deal with confession to a priest, anyway?” Second, always ask the Holy Spirit to help you find the right words before you even open your mouth. Lastly, always answer with genuine Christian love and respect. For me, this has worked in almost every occassion. Sometimes, instead of launching into “defense mode”, gently ask them “why do you think that?” or “where did you get that idea?” This usually throws them off-balance because it makes them think about the nonsence they just said. It is sad, but some people will purposely attack the Church in your presence for the sole reason that you are Catholic. And if you just sit by and say nothing, well they have even more fuel for the fire. And never be afraid to say “I don’t know, but I’ll get the answer to you in a few days” if they challenge you and you don’t know the answer.
Remember the song “This Little Light of Mine?” Well, just be that little light of truth for all to see. You’ll be surprised at how many of the people that are attacking the Church are really watching you and wondering why you’re so happy. Truth is contagious. I’ve seen it happen a million times.March 25, 2006 at 4:08 am #2626
I know this thread is a bit old but I was fascinated to read about it. In my college days and soon after, I was always ready to debate, to fight, to hurl accusations back and take offense when someone would not listen to me. It almost never worked, at least, sometimes I could “win” — reduce the other person to admitting that he/she didn’t know or couldn’t respond — but it always left an icky taste in my mouth and didn’t win me friends, that’s for sure.
Since then, I have come to see how true the comments above are. People, no matter how apparently hostile and tough, really do respond to interest, warmth, charitable speech, and gentleness. Often people get into bad habits, and deep down dislike themselves, even as they say nasty things about a whole religion. Westcoastmum did exactly right in behaving kindly throughout, I think.
My approach to defending the faith now is much like the comments above. Instead of immediately contradicting, I try hard to ask questions, taking their opinion more seriously and charitably than they take my faith! Saying, “how do you know Mary wasn’t a virgin? what makes you think Catholicism is a religion of guilt?” Sometimes I will even say this: “Catholicism must seem really odd to someone outside of it. I’d love to talk about (doctrine X) with you some more, but I’m wondering if you’d even be open to that.” I’ve had some great discussions about hard topics just by asking whether the person involved is even really open-minded enough to have a discussion!
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