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St John Almond
Priest and Martyr (entered heaven this day in 1612)
Your vehement consternation is understandable. Once again you have won an argument with a “heretic” (as you persist in calling our non-Catholic brothers and sisters, against my repeated advice), and once again you failed to convince. Why, you ask in utter exacerbation, does winning an argument not necessarily win over the person? The answer is simple: people are not merely rational. We are not walking syllogisms. We have emotions, passions, memories, subconscious associations, psychological complexes, dreams, hopes, and ideals. That’s why St Peter urges us to “speak the truth IN LOVE” – arguments void of the human touch have less chance of being persuasive. In fact, persuading people is a very tough task. Today’s saint provides an extreme example.
He was born to a Catholic family in England when being Catholic was against the law. So he was sent to Ireland for his education. He then moved on to study in France, where he pursued his vocation to the priesthood. He was ordained in 1598. Eager to support the remaining Catholics in his beloved homeland, he went back to England as a missionary priest (equivalent to being an “undercover” priest in those days) in 1602. He traveled from house to house, village to village, city to city, ministering to Catholics, defending the Catholic faith, and trying to win the new Protestants back to the ancient creed. He was arrested for his papist behavior first in 1608, then released and arrested again in 1612. His arrests brought him into discussions with Anglican clergy and authorities, who tried to convince him that Catholicism was erroneous. He quickly gained a reputation for being unbeatable in a debate, and so effectively incurred the wrath of Dr. King, the Anglican bishop of London, that he was condemned to be hanged, drawn, and quartered as a traitor to the State. His grisly martyrdom was executed at Tyburn soon after, his last word being, “Jesus.” And all of this in spite of his example of modesty and respect in discussion.
So you see, my fledgling rhetorician, arguments, though necessary, are not always sufficient to win souls to Christ. Even Christ won his arguments with the Pharisees, without convincing them to follow him. Arguments don’t take away human freedom, so they need to be bolstered by prayer, charity, kindness (and even then, each person still remains free to accept or reject the truth). If you accept this truth humbly now, and adjust your evangelizing style accordingly, you will, I am sure, bear much more apostolic fruit, and experience much more peace of heart.
Your loving uncle, Eddy