Catholics, Please Say Something about Jesus!


I find quite troubling an account of a recent funeral. Although many details are not known to me, enough of what transpired is known to be distressing.

The funeral was of an aged life-long Catholic. As the man was ill for some time with cancer, there may be many mitigating circumstances, including dependency of age, that contributed to how he ended up in this situation: for the past several years, though still identifying as a Catholic and a Knight of Columbus, he was accompanying his adult son to the son’s Protestant fellowship. What his regularity with the sacraments was, I do not know, but I do know that this man was having regular contact with some members of his Catholic parish. I don’t know what conversations they had with him as he went into his final decline, but I do know some of the content of the conversations the Protestants were having with him, because those conversations were made known at the funeral.

Notice I said funeral, not funeral Mass. It was a Protestant funeral. Let me just pause at this point to let that sink in: Catholic for about 80 years and no funeral Mass. Some of you reading this might be faithful Catholics who have suffered seeing your children leave the faith. If so, you have not merely a personal and family tragedy on your hands, but you have a personal spiritual emergency. Have you considered what steps you need to take to make sure you will have access to the sacraments in your final days and hours and to a Catholic funeral when you pass on?

But back to the story of the Protestant funeral for our old coreligionist. From the time he started attending the Protestant services, one Protestant man in particular befriended him and this man spoke at the funeral of his great concern for his Catholic friend’s salvation. “I finally asked him one day, ‘If you died and stood before the Lord and He asked you why He should let you into heaven, what would you say?’”

Okay, yes, is it a ludicrous question.  It is silly to think that Jesus is going to ask us anything when we die.  But if you think the question is bad, you should know how our Catholic answered it: “I just ask the Virgin Mary to pray for me.”

Now of course, the Protestant found this answer alarming. Fellow Catholics, we should find this answer alarming! The Protestant took it upon himself to begin to regularly share the Gospel, as he understood it, with the Catholic man. “I explained to him, ‘Jesus died for your sins. You have to trust in Him. The Virgin Mary did not die for your sins. The pope did not die for your sins. No priest can save you. Only Jesus can save you. Finally a week before he died, he accepted Jesus as his Savior.’”

This was very comforting to all the gathered Protestants.  This was very annoying, not to mention embarrassing, to the several Catholics in attendance. It was a scandal, certainly. But it is a little hard to figure out exactly what the scandal is.

Some will want to blame this on poor catechesis and sorry preaching and homiletics. I ponder really whether the man’s mind had failed him or whether it was possible to be Catholic for a lifetime and not figure out that Jesus saves. I think about all the Masses he assisted at where he heard, not to mention spoke: “For us men and for our salvation, he came down from heaven…” and “Dying you destroyed our death. Rising your restored our life” and well, we could multiply this for pages, couldn’t we? I don’t want to be unkind here, but don’t you have to be about as dumb as a box of rocks to sit in Mass for any time and not figure out that your salvation has something to do with Jesus? Or maybe the man knew he was near the end and that his son would be comforted if he “accepted Jesus” so he went along for that reason. Then again, if the man had actually managed to be Catholic for all those years and just not get it about Jesus, maybe we really have to thank the Protestant for finally delivering the message.

Whatever the case, how can Protestants be faulted for their ignorance that Catholics are Christians when Catholics have trouble bringing the name of Christ to their lips when asked to give a reason for their hope?

I just don’t get why it is that when a Protestant asks a Catholic if he is saved, it is so hard to spit out the simple words: “My hope is in Christ who shed His blood for me.” If your hope is not in Christ, you are a not a Catholic Christian. If you want to honor the Blessed Virgin, then open your mouth to praise your Savior as she did: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” Taking nothing away from her central role in Salvation history and from her Motherhood of the Church and of each one of us, Mary does not want you to magnify her to unbelievers or to non-Catholics; she wants you to magnify her Divine Son. Why do I suspect that if many congregations of Catholics were polled as to whether Mary needed a Savior, a lot would answer “No, because she was perfect”? A loud buzzer and huge banner that unfurls the words: “WRONG ANSWER!” would come in handy.

Mary needed a Savior and so do you. Mary shared her Savior with the world—and still does! — and so should you. Our separated brethren have a lot wrong, but they are not wrong to desire to know if their friends have a relationship with Jesus. Yes, there is more to it than their simplistic “sinner’s prayer” model of evangelization, but that really is the foundation. The gospel message at it simplest is really that Jesus died for our sins and we can have life in His name. If you can’t bring yourself to say His name and give Him credit for your salvation – a salvation which has been, is being, and yet will be accomplished – then is it any wonder that Protestants fear you are not a Christian?

The Protestant Henry H. Halley wrote in the introduction to his Bible handbook:

Christ, the center and heart of the Bible, the center and heart of history, is also the center and heart of our lives. Our eternal destiny is in His hand. Our acceptance or rejection of Him as our Lord and Savior determines for each of us eternal glory or eternal ruin — heaven or hell, one or the other. 

The most important decision anyone is ever called on to make is to settle in one’s heart, once and for all, the matter of one’s attitude toward Christ. On that depends everything.

It is a glorious thing to be a Christian, the most exalted privilege of mankind. The Creator of all things wants to have a personal relationship with each and every one of us! To accept Christ as Savior, Lord, and Master, and to strive sincerely and devotedly to follow in the way of life He taught, is certainly by far the most reasonable and most satisfactory way to live. It means peace, peace of mind, contentment of heart, forgiveness, happiness, hope, life abundant, life that shall never end.

St. Paul put it like this: “I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me.

Friends, read this again; read it aloud and this time emphasize the personal pronoun: “I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me.

Please, to the Protestant who asks, say something about Jesus! Nothing could go further in helping to dispel misunderstandings about the Catholic Church. And to the lost and hurting who have not heard the Gospel, please say something about Jesus!


About Author

Mary Kochan, former Senior Editor of CatholicExchange, is one of the founders and Editor-at-large of Raised as a third-generation Jehovah's Witness, Mary worked her way backwards through the Protestant Reformation to enter the Catholic Church on Trinity Sunday, 1996. Mary has spoken in many settings, to groups large and small, on the topic of destructive cultism and has been a guest on both local and national radio programs. To arrange for Mary to speak at your event, you may contact her at

  • In many parishes we could start by hearing about Jesus in the homilies. Family conversation? Chatting among friends? If you bring up the subject of Bible, Jesus, or if you see the world though a Christian conscience then you are “heavy,” “dense,” etc. That is the norm.

    Even the phrase “it’s the Christian thing to do” raises eyebrows in certain circles.

    The spawn of the Devil seeks to neutralizes us from withing. His minions are among us and many are in charge in the Church: secretaries, secretaries, deacons, priests, secretaries, parish council, and secretaries.

  • I meant to write “from within”.

  • noelfitz


    this is a most brilliant, sound and encouraging article.

    Often we read too much and hence skim over what we read. But this article is excellent and deserves to be read carefully, studied deeply and acted on. It is full of optimism and hope, emphasizing that Jesus is our Savior.


    For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

    The Holy Bible : New Revised Standard Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989), Ro 5:10–11.

    • Mary,
      You got me thinking. Here is my response:
      I hope you will come check it out. 🙂

    • Mary,

      I thought it was a very good article. But I think the argument should not be over what you think about the centrality of Christ in our salvation and in evangelization, but what the Church teaches – which is very clear. Below, are some quotes from Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II. Are those that disagree with your article willing to disagree with what these two Catholic men of God have taught in their writings and teachings.

      Paul VI, Evangelization in the Modern World, Evangelii, Nuntiando

      •”Evangelism will always contain – as the foundation, center, and at the same time the summit of its dynamism – a clear proclamation that, in Jesus Christ…salvation is offered to all men, as a gift of God’s grace and mercy.”

      •”We wish to confirm once more that the task of evangelizing all people constitutes the essential mission of the Church. It is a task and mission which the vast and profound changes of present day society make all the more urgent. Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize…”

      John Paul II, “The Mission of Christ the Redeemer, Redemtoris Missio

      · “The Kingdom of God is not a concept, a doctrine, or program subject to free interpretation, but is before all else a person with the face of Jesus of Nazareth, the image of the invisible God. If the Kingdom is separated from Jesus, it is no longer the kingdom of God which he revealed…”

      · “No believer in Christ, no institution of the Church can avoid this supreme duty: to proclaim Christ to all peoples.”

      · “An essential characteristic of this missionary spirituality is intimate communion with Christ.”

      · “It is not possible to bear witness to Christ without reflecting his image, which is made alive in us by grace and the power of the Holy Spirit.”

      · “The new evangelism is not a matter of merely passing on doctrine, but rather of a personal and profound meeting with the Savior.”

      · “The moment has come to commit all of the Church’s energies to a new evangelism [a reevangelization of Christian communities that have lost their original vigor] and to the mission ad gentes (the Church’s mission “to the nations,” regions not yet touched by Christianity).”

      Other Quotes of John Paul II on the Centrality of Christ
      · “Sometimes even Catholics have lost or never had the chance to experience Christ personally; not Christ as a mere ‘paradigm’, but the Living Lord: ‘the way, the truth, and the life’ (John 14:6).” John Paul II’s address to American Bishops

      · “Evangelism cannot be new in its content since its very theme is always the one Gospel given in Jesus Christ.” John Paul II, “The Task of the Latin American Bishops,” Origins 12, March 24, 1983.

  • “distressing……This was very comforting to all the gathered Protestants. This was very annoying, not to mention embarrassing, to the several Catholics in attendance. It was a scandal, certainly. But it is a little hard to figure out exactly what the scandal is.”

    That pretty much sums it up. Makes me want to vomit.

    There is a scandal here and it’s not all about the Catholics. There is a lot of Protestant presumption going on too.

    • grottoflower

      in 2009 i had a mass offered for all magdalene laundry girls who were buried in catholic institutions in ireland and othetr cpountries. they were in mass graves, no names, as far as anyone knows deaths never reported and it came to me no funerals for them so in my city they had a funeral mass of dignity finally. a joy flowed over me at this funeral mass and i knew their souls were grateful to finally have a catholic funeral mass because some one cared.

      • grottoflower

        i would think joann u would be distressed as i was 100″s of girls were dead and buried and no report of death ever sent to authorities. the girls deserved a catholic mass thwey were buried by catholic nuns but no one knew they were dead so why are u saYING THOSE THINGS TO ME. WHY NOT QUJESTION THE NUNS WHO BURIED 100″SA OF LITTLE GIRLS AND NEVER REPORTED THE WHY ORNAMES SO DO NOT BLAME ME FOR CHOOSING TO OFFER A MASS 4 THEM IT WAS LONG OVERDO.

        • grottoflower


  • PaddyOH

    This essay has relevance to those of us who are Catholics living among large numbers of other Christians.

    I do think poor catechesis is partly to blame for what happened at this funeral, but things might also have happened differently if the man about whom Mary Kochan wrote had had even a smidge of training in argumentation or rhetoric. To ask prayers from the Mother of God is not to deny the saving work or unique role of Jesus Christ.

    Were a well-meaning Protestant to tell remind me that Mary did not die for my sins, I would say “Of course not. But she did get Jesus to perform his first public miracle, and Jesus himself honors her” or something to that effect.

  • Nice job as always, Mary. An important topic for Catholics to understand and live by. This is just one of many issues I don’t understand how Protestants interpret differently than Catholics. So arrogant to believe they are saved. Makes no sense for them to believe that. When the man asked Jesus what he must do to be saved, Jesus did not tell the man to believe in Me as your personal Lord and Savior.”

    Philippians 2:12
    Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,

  • Thanks, Mary. As a convert, I’ve lived in both worlds and spoken both languages. If as Catholics we wish to share the truth, we must mention Jesus just as we do Mary – for the sorrowful and immaculate heart of Mary and the eucharistic heart of Jesus. If we leave Jesus out of our verbal answer, we perpetuate misconceptions.
    Of course one goes with the other. What is the harm of saying so? If we were evangelizing to natives on a desert island, we would strive to use language they understood. Doesn’t it make sense we should do the same with our Protestant neighbors?

  • Kathleen Woodman

    I tend to think the man’s mind failed him. Jesus is the whole reason we are here.

    I’ve come across some highly opinionated protestants. It can be impossible to get them to believe that you could be saved, simply because you’re Catholic. They firmly believe and are taught that Catholicism is not christian.

    On the other hand, there are many other protestants who would have believed this Catholic man was a christian.

  • Pingback: So an article got me thinking | Catholic Home Schooling Mom()

  • Katherine Andes

    Mary, I think I have to side with the cradles. I don’t think his answer about asking the Virgin to pray for him is so bad. We grow up asking Mary to pray for us at “the hour of our death,” so in a way it’s quite appropriate and beautiful.

    Confronted with that stupid question … no Catholic would have the audacity to say anything to Jesus directly, i.e. “You have to let me in, I said the sinner’s prayer …”

    I also think cradle Catholics don’t like to be seen as Bible thumpers … or bragging about their relationship with Christ. It’s a modesty thing. Humility isn’t so bad.

    But your article may demonstrate that maybe we’re a little too shy and need to speak up more.

  • Mary Kochan

    Let me illustrate it like this: Suppose you go with a friend to an ice cream store and you ask your friend, “Do you like vanilla ice cream?”

    Your friend responds by saying nothing about vanilla ice cream; instead, your friend says, “I like chocolate chip ice cream.”

    So you logically start to think that your friend doesn’t really have all that much affinity for vanilla. But that is not what your friend meant. What your friend meant was: “I love vanilla. It is my favorite. It is the first flavor of ice cream. It is the basis of chocolate chip ice cream, because the chocolate chips are put into vanilla. In fact, I love vanilla because if it weren’t for vanilla, there wouldn’t even be any chocolate chip ice cream.”

    I think you could be forgiven for not reading all that into your friend’s confession about chocolate chip. Just like I think any Protestant can be forgiven for not getting that when he asks a Catholic about faith in Jesus and the Catholic says nothing at all about Jesus, but instead starts talking about the Virgin Mary, that the Catholic doesn’t have much of relationship with Jesus.

    I am not saying that the Protestant’s assumption is correct, merely that it is understandable. If we claim, and we do claim, to have the fullness of faith, and we do have it — then we are the people with the greater responsibility in every encounter with a Protestant. From him to whom much is given much will be required.

    • Mary, I’m with you here. It is clear that the Church, in recent magisterial teaching, wants us to be able to “give reason for our hope” as I Peter says, in words as well as in action. This man’s mind may have failed him, but you and I are not the only ones who have noticed that the Gospel of salvation by grace through faith in what Jesus did for us, is often still missed in everyday preaching and catechesis and therefore is not clear in the minds of many Catholics. Peter Kreeft often asks new Catholic students in his classes at Boston College “If tonight you were to appear before the pearly gates and St. Pete asked you “why should I let you in?”, how would you respond. Peter reports that the vast majority answer something like “because I was a good person”. This is definitely worse than depending upon Mary’s prayers! But it underlines the confusion (and functional Pelagianism) that still characterizes many Catholics. We have work to do!

  • HomeschoolNfpDad

    There was a time when English Catholics in particular had a vivid memory of Protestants playing with a supposed host as a dog with a bone. Such scenes were normal street scenes in London when Elizabeth’s (and Cecil’s) secret police led a tyrannical and anti-Catholic State. Just as normal were the scenes of good Catholic men and women being imprisoned and murdered by the apostate – which is to say, the Protestant – state. But at least two things have happened between then and now. First, the apostate state also began to persecute non-Catholic Christians – such as Baptists – who did not share an affiliation with the State church. Second, the generations passed, and the sons and daughters of Protestants received false teaching as if it were true. In the first case, we must necessarily conclude that those who died for their Baptist faith (for example) died for Christ, no matter how poorly informed their consciences might have been. In the second case, we must accept the fact that the wisdom received from fathers and mothers – however poorly informed it might also have been – is not easily dismissed by the children. Deprived of the light emanating from Rome in a way not unlike that of Catholics who lived under bad Popes, they have simply done the best they can. “The best they can” has in modern times been translated into an oversimplified understanding of the Faith. However, this oversimplified version of the Faith is exactly the sort of simplification that the Catholic Church has always offered to those members of her flock who have lacked time and resources to delve into all of the deepest mysteries of the Faith. It is certainly of a different order than most of the simplifications offered to unschooled (or just plain busy, as in nine-children-and-no-money-busy) Catholics throughout the millennia, but it is not of a different kind. Indeed, the focus on Mary as the person best able to lead us to Christ is exactly one of these simplifications. Ad Iesum per Mariam is a slogan offered by the Church over and over again as an effective means to find one’s way to salvation, especially if one lacks the time for deep theological study. And it is effective if followed, as many faithful Catholics have done so.

    But it is important to observe that the Church might just as easily have offered as a simplification of her teachings something on the order of Accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior. For even an unschooled Catholic, to know Mary is to know Christ, because the two are inseparable. It is simply impossible in the minds of a great many Catholics – whether deeply schooled or not – to even conceive that Mary could be thought of without considering Christ in the same thought. The fact that Protestants do not understand this is not necessarily the fault of the individual Protestant (whose faith has been poorly informed from childhood) – but it reflects more on the stereotypical understanding that many Protestants have of Catholics than anything else. On the one hand, we certainly should prepare ourselves to evangelize each individual based on where that individual stands at a particular moment. With a Protestant person, this means understanding the simplification of their rhetorical emphasis on Jesus to the exclusion of all else (as if there were not also a Father and Holy Spirit, for example). But in times of crisis – such as illness or death – I can think of no good reason why a Catholic should have to cope both with the crisis and with the possibly bigoted responses from the Protestants he might encounter.

    Yes, I would say, “I’d ask Mary to pray for me.” I hope I’d also have the wherewithal to say, “Yes Jesus is my Lord and Savior.” But if my wife just died and some Protestant went about tsk-tsking my focus on Mary – and my inability to delve any deeper than that for the time being – well that is his problem and not mine.

    • I agree with your analysis, and I have a family story to back it up. A few years before my Grandmother’s death, she made an agreement with a close friend of hers. The two agreed that whoever died first, would find a way to get a message to the other about whether Heaven was real.

      The other fellow died, and shortly afterward Grandma had a dream. He appeared to her in an apple orchard (this had some significance to Grandma that I’ve never uncovered), and told her, “Heaven is real, God is real, pray to the Blessed Mother.”

      If Grandma got a message from Heaven to pray to the Virgin for her salvation in Christ, I say there’s nothing wrong with an elderly man declaring to his Protestant friends the same message. The man’s answer, in context, was simple, humble, and unassuming. If his Protestant friends didn’t like it, in HomeSchoolNfpDad’s words, that’s their problem.

  • Mary Kochan

    I think we should pray to the Blessed Virgin. We need the intecession of the saints — they are even invoked in Mass so that their prayers and incessions may gain us [God’s] constant help and protection.

    However, if I am friends with someone, especially in an environment like a Christian fellowship, where such topics as faith and Jesus are common subjects of conversation (as opposed to some work environment where it might never come up) and over a period of years, my conversations have been such as to leave my closest friend there and my own children under the impression that I do not have faith in Jesus, the problem is with me. And by that I don’t mean the problem is that I don’t have faith in Jesus. I did not know this man but my presumption would be he did and what was going on in him is none of my business nor do I have any way of knowing, nor is it my place to judge. That is why really, I am trying to make the larger point that we Catholics should not be reticent about letting people know about Jesus.

    • jflare29

      If the Protestant community only wishes to hear about what a great and cool guy Jesus is, I frankly don’t think we have anything to discuss.

      I can’t make someone understand me more thoroughly by saying “Jesus” 50 times; I can only make myself more comprehensible by sharing the whole of what I know of faith.

      In my experience, the second you begin talking about anything besides the concepts the Protestant has learned, the conversation pretty much dies. Most people I’ve met have no interest in learning more about my faith; I can’t help them consider their ideas differently.

  • Mary Kochan

    Dave Armstrong has done some great analysis of this (and I’m taking his corrections to heart). Read here:

    BTW, CL carries ads from Dave Armstrong’s publisher. We are running an ad right now for 15% off on Dave’s Biblical Defense of Catholicism, so BUY IT ALREADY!

  • repcodan

    Mary, you’re right. Catholics certainly should pray to the Blessed Virgin and there’s nothing wrong with a Devotion to Mary that is rightly grounded. However, you’re point wasn’t to question that Devotion as much as it was to point out that WHEN confronted by or talking to Protestants, it’s important to speak in a language Protestants will understand.

    Great Post!

  • Is no one else struck my the son’s disrespect for his father and the father’s lifelong faith by denying him a Catholice funeral Mass and having a Protestant funeral service at which the father’s Catholic faith was belittled?

  • Mary Kochan

    Well, let’s see, the son was concerned about his father’s salvation. The father started attending the Protestant church with him where he made friends. When the father died, the faith community of which he was a part provided his funeral and the children honored him with a viewing, mourning, and the best funeral they knew how to give. People in that community reached out to befriend him and evangelize him and to be there to comfort his family when he passed. I don’t think that any disrespect was intended, neither by the son, nor by the Protestant congregation.

  • Mary Kochan

    Let me add here that whether or not the man was Catholic has very little to do with it from the perspective of those Protestants. Let’s say the man had been Baptist and when his friends asked him about the state of his soul the man just said, “I’ve been a good Baptst all my life and always tried to be good to people, so I know I will go to heaven.”

    The Protestant would have answered, “Being a Baptist will not save you. Doing good works will not save you. Only a personal relationship with Jesus will save you.”

    Now if Baptists attended that man’s funeral and heard that conversation repeated and then heard that the man had accepted Jesus a week before he died, it wouldn’t upset them in the least, they would be all “Praise the Lord” about it.

    Conversely, if our Catholic friend had told the Protestant that he trusted Jesus for salvation and had asked Jesus to forgive his sins, all that would have been said at the funeral was that it was known he had a relationship with Jesus and that everyone should take comfort in knowing he was “with his Savior now.” The name of the Catholic Church would probably not have even come up.

  • noelfitz

    I am very grateful to Mary for this article.

    It really touched very many and got a huge response.

    I do hope the Lord will have mercy on this elderly man who recently died.

    But sometimes I think there is excessive emphasis on Jesus, and the Father and the Holy Spirit are relatively ignored.

    The neo-Arians are among us and they see Jesus as a man like us in all things, save sin. The focus is on the man Jesus.

    Our prayers should be to the Father, through Jesus, in the Holy Spirit, as in
    “All praise be yours,
    Almighty Father,
    through Jesus Christ your Son,
    in the Holy Spirit, now and forever.”

    The prayer
    “Almighty Father we give you thanks and ask that you continue to protect us. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen”, while being to the Father through the Son, ignores the Holy Spirit. This is not untypical.

    In Roman 1:8 Paul mentions the Father and the Son, but not the Spirit.
    “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed throughout the world.”

    This post may be a “red-herring”, and I do not want to suggest I am denying that Jesus is our Savior.

    “But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” Phil 3:20.

    It is no answer to say since Jesus is God, the problem does not exist, since the three persons of the Trinity are distinct.

  • joanandtherese

    Mary, your answer distresses me. If I were at one of your talks and I heard this, I would raise a voice of protest.

    As a Catholic I have a Kingdom that includes the King, the Queen, and the glorious saints. Our treasure is to be given to Protestants, not hidden away. I have found one thing to be very true about witnessing to Protestants. When one takes your approach, it only amounts to all of us merely being Protestant. (We all agree that Jesus is the ONLY Savior, great, then why should I become Catholic?)I find it is more helpful to emphasize that which we do not share, as opposed to that which we do share. Then Protestants can understand the glory of the Catholic faith.

    This man’s answer was beautiful and the Protestant would do well to stop preaching and to ponder it. All of the graces the Protestant has comes through the Catholic Church anyway. That is the teaching of our Church.

    Mary is the Mediatrix of all grace. That is the teaching of the Church. Throw that out to your Protestant friends. Jesus wants you to.

    • I have to agree with this lady, Mary. This man’s Catholic identity was under attack by his family who had left the Church. In addition, what makes you think that this Protestant minister was accurately reporting what the gentleman said. I know when I give directions to students at the college that they only retain a fraction of what I say. In the case of this gentleman, what reason is there to believe that the one statement was ALL he had to say? He could have told the Protestant gentleman many things about this Catholic faith and belief, and this was all that was reported.

      The man demonstrated a child-like faith and trust. Is that not what Jesus Himself told us was necessary?

      I feel very sorry for this gentleman who had been Christian all this life and was surrounded by people who told him he was not a Christian.

      I would not have been embarassed at hearing the gentleman’s comment at the funeral. I would have been angry that people who claimed to love him had treated his faith with such disrespect.

      I don’t care how big a funeral they threw for him, doesn’t carry any weight with me. For all we know they did that so they could brag about how their father “finally” became a Christian.


      Another Catholic convert, an XJW

  • noelfitz


    Q: then why should I become Catholic?
    A: the Mass and the sacraments.

    • True the Mass and the Sacraments. But ultimately it is the authority of the Catholic Church, unequal with any other faith, institution, or spirituality. It is because of the glories of the Kingdom as represented through the divine order of the dulia worship of the saints and the hyper-dulia worship of the Holy Virgin in order to most appropriately give the adoration of latria to Christ Jesus and to worship Him as He desires (which is Catholic worship, not Protestant worship).

      We have it all. Why do we try to cater to Protestant understandings of the faith? That does not convert anyone. What converts people is being confronted by the Truth.

      We need to testify to them the glories of the full revelation of God in the Catholic Church. If that Protestant in this story is blessed, he will think about the wisdom of the old man’s answer about Mary and come into the fullness of the faith!

  • Robert J. Gieb

    I found the article very interesting and timely, especially since similar situations seem to happen with some regularity, and I assume will continue in the near future given the steady stream of baptized Catholics leaving the Church. I have lost track of the number of funeral services held for devout Catholic parents at funeral homes by their lapsed Catholic children. Even having the funeral doesn’t always avoid the problem.

    Some years ago I have had to endure the hijacking of a funeral Mass of an old family friend whose son had left the Church and had joined a Protestant denomination. The son’s preacher, who was seated in the sanctuary for the entire Mass, gave the Prayer of the Faithful. The priest’s homily consisted of one short sentence asking us to pray for the deceased, and a second short sentence telling us the the preacher would address the congregation after the Communion prayer. The preacher preached for about fifteen minutes on (yes, you guessed it) the importance of being saved by accepting Jesus. No taking up the cross or other response was necessary. Just believe and you’re in for good, said the preacher from the Catholic pulpit.

    The committal service at the cemetery was conducted by the preacher. The priest did not even go to the cemetery.

    I have a few comments on the article.

    I am a cradle Catholic who grew up in a very Protestant area. Less than 20 years before I was born in 1947 the KKK burned a cross and broke out windows in my grandparents’ home. In 1961 a sales lady at the local Montgomery Wards store would not wait on a priest and a brother from the local Catholic HS simply because they were Catholic. My four siblings and I were the only Catholic kids in our neighborhood. We were miniature agents of the whore of Babylon itself!

    I don’t disagree that a Catholic should be as clear as possible that the absolute center of his or her life is, and must be, Jesus Christ. By divine plan the way we recognize and keep Him as our center is through our membership in His Church, and our participaton in its Sacred Liturgy and acceptance of its teachings. To cut to the chase, the Eucharist, Mary (the first tabernacle, said JPII), and the Communion of Saints are necessary elements in keeping Jesus the absolute center of our lives. My point: We must tell Protestants that yes, Jesus is our Savior, and that yes we have accepted His invitation to take up our cross and follow Him. But we must say also believe Jeus when He said “Son this is your mother,” and understand that while He could have become man in ways other than being born of Mary, He came to us through her. If we don’t have time to tell them about all of the glorious dimensions of the divine plan, then by all means tell them that you agree that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. But if you can, try to tell them the whole story, so much which they are missing out on.

    Also, I am 63 years old. I have lived in a Protestant culture for much of my life. I have taught in Catholic schools. I have taught CCD. I have been an attorney for 36 years, representing Catholics, lapsed Catholcis, non-Catholics, Jews, atheists, agnostics, and others. I concluded a long time ago that generally, with exceptions, those most ignorant about Catholicism are cradle Catholics. The old man, if he still had his wits, maybe didn’t know what to tell the Protestant man because he never bothered to enter into the rich teachings and Liturgy of the Catholic Church, and nobody took time to lead him into the search. I see this too many times. They wander off the path that can take them directly home and that can give them sustenance along the way.

    Finally, we cannot judge the souls of the old man and his son, but it is good to recall that Lumen Gentium is not ambiguous, one who knowingly and with full consent leaves the communion of the Catholic Church cannot be saved (Lumen Gentium 14).

    So what to do? We must continue to pray and work for the conversion of those who do not yet know Jeus in the fullness of His Eucharistic Church, whether they have never entered or have entered and then left. We must read and meditate. We must work to know and understand our rich Faith, and then share our treasure. We must teach our children by example and word. We must demand that our priests teach the Truth, in season and out of season.

    Robert J. Gieb

  • sammy

    There is way too much theological talk here. The article is simple. At least let people understand that you know Jesus and tell them about Him. Then tell them everything else. If you can’t tell them that you know Jesus and that he died for your sins so you can go to heaven, then everything else is ignored. All the man’s kids left the Church because of this and then they didn’t give him a Catholic funeral.

    • jflare29

      Actually, Sammy, I have no intention of telling someone that “I know Jesus” in the sense that usually implies. Christ Jesus didn’t die on the cross to free me from my sins as though He were a lawyer in a courtroom. He did something far more compelling than that. His death aims to transform me from the mortal, fallen being that I am into holding a share of His divine life.

      I know the average Protestant will probably ignore that part. But honestly, that’s the only part that’s worth anything. If a Protestant doesn’t wish to discuss the majesty of the fullness of Christian faith, I can’t help him outside of wishing him a good day.

      BTW, most Catholics have, I think, left the Church primarily because they hadn’t been taught properly, therefore they didn’t comprehend what they wished to leave.
      It’s happened altogether too much these last decades.

  • jflare29

    “Fellow Catholics, we should find this answer alarming!”

    Oh? I think the gentleman’s response was likely one of the BEST he could’ve offered!

    I truly do not understand why we, as Catholics, so often feel the need to cater to Protestant vocabulary and ideas. I’m not surprised to hear that the Protestant and his church suffered scandal from it; most Protestants have stumbled over Marian theology for a few centuries. I don’t think WE, Catholics, should be scandalized by his response. If anything, we ought to be thanking heaven that the gentleman had the presence of mind to think of the deeper, more involved teachings of the Church. I’m not sure I could’ve come up with that one to be honest.

    I agree that we need to be willing or able to discuss faith with Protestants. I do NOT agree that we should concede much..intellectual doing so. What do I mean? Well, I recall various conversations with Protestants over the years; I’ve ultimately been shocked by how little they truthfully know of Christian faith. How can Catholics and Protestants discuss anything of real substance when the Protestants don’t understand what scripture truthfully states?

    I keep thinking of John Paul II’s exhortation: Do not be afraid!
    I see no reason why we should adjust what we say to Protestants, if the only reason happens to be because they’ll be scandalized by our beliefs. THEIR beliefs are scandalous to ME!

    If we have the fullness of the faith, we should celebrate that and be willing to defend our own teachings. We should NOT avoid the subject of Mary–or other teachings–merely because they do not wish to hear.

    BTW, I would wonder if the older gent had really lost his mind at all. I recall a Protestant once praying with me for a moment, during which she asked me to “take Jesus as my savior”. Mostly to avoid being rude, I decided to avoid the whole mess about Catholic faith being crammed with Christ. She didn’t know I was Catholic–and her English wasn’t the best–so I decided to let her do as she wished for a moment, then carry on with what I needed to do at that point.

    I think we’ll have much better luck bringing about true Christian unity if we quit trying to “make it easier”. In my 37 years, I’ve never seen a legitimate teaching of the Church that didn’t have pretty profound consequences.

    I think it’s high time we expected ourselves to be proud promoters of our faith, not politicians trying to win a few converts by making believe life has less difficulty than it does.

  • Mary Kochan

    jflare29: “Most people I’ve met have no interest in learning more about my faith….”

    I can’t argue with your experience, of course. My experience has been quite different, with people often asking me questions, listening to answers, and the privilege of helping some enter the fullness of the faith.

  • Mary Kochan

    I thank all of you who commented. I got a very deserved lambasting from some of you over my response to the statement of the man that he would ask Mary to pray for him. One Facebook respondent said that in such a response a person is exhibiting faith in the Gospel, faith in Christ, and faith in everything the Church teaches. I agree with that.

    I also happen to know in this particular instance that that is very unlikely to be the case and that is all I will say anymore on that, but I set myself up for misimpression by including the conversation in the article. If I had simply written that the man attended a Protestant fellowship for 5 years and according to a Protestant friend, “accepted Jesus as a Savior” a week before his death, I think that the main point I was trying to get at – which was not for this to be a referendum on that man’s faith or lack thereof – would have more clearly come through. To wit:

    I stand by the point that our engagements with Protestants would be more fruitful if we assert our belief in Christ as Savior first, before getting into Catholic distinctives. St. Paul was willing to be all things to all men to lead some into the faith: “To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some” — 1 Cor 9: 20-22.

    St. Paul was willing to speak to the Athenians in the language of their pagan philosophers to lead them to Christ. And speaking of St. Paul, the theme of his preaching was clear: “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (I Cor. 2:2). We won’t go wrong imitating him and making our relationship with Christ the centerpiece of our spiritual conversation with non-Catholics.

    It is downright sad and a scandal that our neighbors would not know that Christ was at the center of our faith from our conversations with them. Our Church and our popes have asked us to make Christian unity a focus of our prayers and actions. Do we take this seriously as part of our mission, as part of the great commission? Removing barriers does not mean watering down our faith, dumbing down our liturgy, refusing to act as Catholics. It does mean giving others a boost to the top of the wall so they can peer over and see how beautiful the Catholic faith is instead of adding more bricks to the wall and belittling them because they don’t see the way clear to jump over it.

    Every document the Church has written about ecumenism and dialog advocates finding common ground as a starting point. And we have the very best common ground with Protestants – our Lord Jesus! But let’s use the terminology our Church does – separated brethren. These are our brothers and sisters in Christ. We should be longing to have them share at the table of the Lord with us. What a sad commentary that some of them are more concerned with whether we are “saved” than we are concerned about helping them become Catholic. Let’s resolve to change that.

    • jflare29

      If we miss some of your point, Mary, perhaps you miss some of ours?
      In my lifetime, Catholics HAVE attempted dialogue and discourse with Protestant friends, neighbors, and associates. Problem is, most Protestants I’ve met have no desire to genuinely discuss faith in any way that’ll help them see Christ differently.
      I think it quite noteworthy to see Blessed John Paul’s efforts with the Orthodox during his papacy. John Paul, himself, wished to see a return to union with the Orthodox first, then he’d work on Protestants. Sadly, the Orthodox haven’t been as excited. If anything, most recently they’ve refused any form of useful dialogue unless Rome agrees to cease and desist with evangelizing Russia. Several Orthodox leaders literally see Russia as “their territory”, Roman Catholics ought to leave it to them.
      I’m also reminded of a song by Carman, The Courtroom. In this song, a sinner dies and God’s about to condemn him to Satan’s wrath, but then Christ comes in as a defense attourney, insists that His blood worked and that the sinner’s name is in the Lamb’s Book of Life. In this case, Christ’s sacrifice on the cross isn’t transformative, but more like a defense attourney who frees a prisoner, one who’s as sin.

      After listening to a CD by a former Protestant, I began to realize that many Protestants view Christ’s sacrifice in that precise manner.

      We can be willing to discuss faith and answer questions all we want, but Protestants need to be willing to reciprocate. Nine times out of ten, they have no interest in that vein.

      There’s little, if anything, we Catholics can do abut that.
      Other than pray some more Rosaries.

      • Mary Kochan

        “After listening to a CD by a former Protestant, I began to realize that many Protestants view Christ’s sacrifice in that precise manner.”

        Doctrinally the forensic justification doctrine is held by many Lutherans and Calvinists. However, practically if you ask those same people if the Christian life is marked by growth in holiness and charity, they will say yes. In fact, there is a joint declaration on justification between Lutherans and Catholics.

        In other words, it helps if YOU ask questions and try to learn how they think instead of expecting it to go one way — that they have to listen to you.

        • jflare29

          “In fact, there is a joint declaration on justification between Lutherans and Catholics.”

          I’ve read it. ..I’ve also read a letter to the editor in which a LUTHERAN pastor declared that he’d never subscribe to that idea.

          While I understand your point quite well, I might remind you that we all have lives to live, priorities that we must set related to how we’ll use our time.

          I have little interest in attempting to learn to ask someone else just the right question to spark his interest.
          I literally have other things I need to be doing.

          • That is the crux of the problem, isn’t it jflare? There are some who do not want to listen, but rather who want to convert the Catholic to heretical belief.

    • Mary, it is truly ironic that you state you received a lambasting. The reason is that you are lambasting this man’s personal response to God from the question brought out in your article to make your point – Catholics ought to talk about Jesus. The difference is that you are here to defend yourself, but this man is not. Perhaps there’s a better way to make this point that dragging a dead man’s name through the mud?

  • jflare29

    Glad to hear it, I guess. I’ve only very RARELY had anyone ask me honest questions. If anything, if faith comes up, it’s usually to prove why the Catholic faith has lost its marbles.
    Sadly, when you consider the education in faith that my classmates and I received during (Catholic) high school, I guess that’s not that surprising.

    I can certainly hope that you’ve been able to lead people into the fullness of faith. So long as they’re genuinely entering into the fullness of faith. Too many people misinterpreted Vatican II and threw out too much of traditional practice. Reminding people of anything prior to 1970 can lead to..interesting situations.

  • Mary Kochan

    Don’t worry jflare29, I make really sure to tell people that any non-Latin Mass they go to is barely valid, most priests they encounter are probably heretics, and they shouldn’t ready any books about the faith written after 1964. I find that this greatly increases their confidence in the Church. //sarcasm off//

    • jflare29

      Do you REALLY think you’ll persuade anyone with a response that strongly insinuates contempt for traditional practice or belief?

      Not sure it matters, but I still attend Mass in the Novus Ordo (I don’t yet understand the traditional Mass well enough), I’ve found a very few priests who’re marvelous examples of vigorous Catholic faith (my pastor being one of them), and most of the books I’ve read regarding Catholic teaching have copyrights of 1980 or later.
      Two of the authors are none other than Blessed John Paul II (Male and Female He Created Them, A Theology of the Body), and Pope Benedict XVI (The Spirit of the Liturgy, Jesus of Nazareth, and his book-length interview with the journalist). Do I dare mention Fulton Sheen’s book too, or is that too old?

      Honestly, too often, Catholics behave as though the “old” Church had too much rigidity of thought and practice. For my purposes, we’ve merely traded one form of rigidity for another: A stubborn refusal to admit to the Church’s existence prior to Vatican II.

      I think we need to be quite open and honest–and celebrate–ALL of the Church’s teaching. Not just the part the modern world likes the most.

      • Mary Kochan

        That’s me — the raging modernist. LOL. Click on my name and read my other articles why don’t you? Sheesh.

        • jflare29

          I have.

          After reading this one, I looked at the author’s block again. I wasn’t surprised. You seem to me somewhat alike to Brian Cones and a few others at NCR.

          We all know each other’s handiwork, don’t we?

          • Mary Kochan

            Stand up comedy is not your forte; keep your day job.

          • jflare29

            I didn’t intend comedy.

            I am, in fact, dead serious.

            I recall this same suggestion coming about during my late teens. Judging by the response here, many of us attempted precisely what you suggest.
            ‘Twould appear that several of us got our intellectual hind ends kicked for the trouble.

            I suspect many of us feel that we’re quite willing to discuss faith with anyone, but we’re not going to throw out half our belief and doctrine to make it happen.

            Our faith is much to valuable to us for that.

          • Mary Kochan

            So you’re seriously sayng that I am trying to get Catholics to throw out half their beliefs and doctrines? I mean that is what you seriously say?

            That would of course explain the existence of this website with over a hundred Catholic authors, series on catechesis, apologetics, scripture, liturgy, education, etc. Yes, of course, any objective observer can easily see why I run this website. It is to tear down the Catholic faith. It just makes perfect sense. LOL.

  • Mary Kochan

    A perfect example of what I mean was emailed me by a friend:

    Many years ago, my husband’s great uncle, a born again Christian, greeted me into his home for the first time. He hugged me, asked me a few questions, then got right to his point, to interview me, his new niece., a cradle Catholic.
    “Do you know Jesus?”
    “Yes, I do!”
    “Oh, are you a Christian?”
    “Yes, I’m Catholic. Jesus is my Savior.”
    “Oh.” He looked confused, then tried again. “But do you LOVE Jesus?”
    “Yes, I do! He died for me.”
    “And you’re a Catholic?”
    “Yes. I love my faith!”
    He put his arm around me and had a big smile. He was happy but perplexed and not sure if he should continue. I would have been happy to continue our conversation, but I have been raised to allow our elders to set the pace of conversation, and the rest of the family quashed his zeal quickly.

  • jflare29

    Methinks I should mention this:
    I’ve been a huge fan of EWTN since my return to the ‘States in 2005. I’ve watched many of Marcus Grodi’s shows in which he interviews former Protestants. In the vast majority of those interviews, you’ll see a long, winding road from Protestant ideals to Catholic conversion. Most of the time, it happens as a result of several interactions with Catholics or practical Catholic faith, not from the odd occasion when Catholic and Protestant discuss faith.

    Seems to me that we can take a hint from this: You’ll most likely have the most success from a long friendship with someone.
    After high school graduation, I’ve never been in one place for more than two or three years at a time.

    It’s very difficult to establish and/or maintain any meaningful, fruitful friendship or dialogue when we don’t cross paths more than that.
    I think I’m one of millions in that state of life.

  • Mary Kochan

    Well, when I go on there, I’ll announce it on Catholic Lane, so stay posted.

  • GodsGadfly

    1. Remember: many Catholics in America are descended from people who came here fleeing persecution. Among the Irish, for example, I think you’ll find a greater reluctance to speak publicly about the Faith than Italians or Spanish.
    That said,
    2. I think it’s the “Name” of Jesus that’s at issue. Catholics are extremely uncomfortable about referring to Our Dear Lord by Name, because we fear that even the reverent use of His Name in conversation borders on violating the Second Commandment. Remember, we’re also a religion that teaches that *EVERY* time you hear or mention Jesus’ name, you’re supposed to bow and/or cross yourself.
    In conversation, we’re more comfortable with “Our Lord,” or “Our Savior,” or another title than with His Name, and we think of casually saying His Name as one of those irreverent things Protestant Snake Handlers do.

  • neirboh

    Oh my. I am a convert to the Faith. For the last 15 years I have had the privilege of bringing the Eucharist to homebound Catholics. During that time I have encountered many well-meaning evangelicals who seem to be fighting to bring their Catholic relatives out of the Catholic Church. The elderly are often so vulnerable because they are dependent on these same people for companionship and care. When I interact with these people, I am very sensitive to the differences we have in basic faith language. For instance, most protestants equate ‘praying to’ to worshiping. That is why they think we worship Mary. Mostly (right or wrong) I try to leave Mary out of the conversation. When I get home again, I ask her intersession! After all, she only wants to bring people to her son!

  • If this man is aware of it or not, saying what he did about Mary is implicitly saying much about Jesus, because Mary is Theotokos who was immaculately conceived, gave birth and nurtured her Son, fully participates in His mission, was assumed body and soul into heaven and reigns as the Queen Mother.

    I don’t find the man being 80 years a Catholic and yet his son had a Protestant funeral to be relevant. He died and cannot be faulted for where his funeral was held. Since his son was attending this Protestant church and since he was attending with his son, this is no surprise.

    Moreover, the nature of the question, “I finally asked him one day, ‘If you died and stood before the Lord and He asked you why He should let you into heaven, what would you say?’”, requests this man’s answer. Since he is speaking in the first person to God, his answer, “I just ask the Virgin Mary to pray for me,” is telling. Let’s evaluate it.

    His answer first brings forth that he is not guilty of the sin of presumption. The very question asked seems to expect some sort of presumption. Prayers for the Virgin implies he sees himself as a wretched sinner. In what way is this attitude different than St, Francis of Assisi or any other of the saints? The answer is, it’s not different, his attendance at a Protestant church aside, for we are evaluating his answer. Mary is Queen Mother and as such, asking for Mary’s prayers are quite noteworthy, for it has always been Mary’s role to bring us to Jesus.

    Surely there will be objections about the failure of this Catholic man by attending a Protestant church, having a Protestant funeral, etc. There’s no doubt the man was far from a model Catholic in judging what the article reveals. Be that as it may, the man’s answer which is what is being criticized in the article, is actually the best thing about the man as you have revealed him, in my opinion.

  • Mary, I think you have a point about ecumenicism. It helps to speak the language of the people you are trying to reach.
    I’m a cradle/revert in the heart of Billy Graham territory. I almost never am asked about my faith, but if I am, I plan to say, “I am Catholic, and Christ is the source and summit of the Catholic faith.” I bear always in mind Abp. Fulton Sheen’s admonition that there probably are not a hundred people in the US who hate the Church, and expect reasonable people to let me translate.

  • Theodore Kobernick

    Thank you for a most stimulating article, Mary.
    There are all flavors of Catholics, and even more flavors of Protestants. It’s not easy to generalize.
    But if ANYONE asks us a question where it is appropriate to cite Jesus by name as our Savior, it is appropriate to name him. We might do well to recall the second verse of 1 Corinthians: “To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with those everywhere who call on the name of out Lord Jesus Christ — their Lord and ours.”
    Moreover, we must not fear to acknowledge Jesus to anyone in “this adulterous and sinful generation”: “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glorywith the holy angels.” (Mark 8:38). I assure you that too many Protestants (as well as Catholics) fear the disapproval of men, so they do not risk becoming fools for Christ.
    As I review some of the earlier comments, it strikes me that it make no sense for a Catholic to set Mary over against Jesus!
    May I suggest an approach which might begin to open a Protestant mind regarding Mary? If you will ask Protestants whether they ever pray for blessings on another person, or whether they ask others to pray for them, most Protestants will agree that they do intercede or ask intercession from others. (If they do not believe in intercession, it’s probably useless to point out such passages as Romans 15:31, where Paul asks for intercessory prayer.) Next, point out that Jesus himself said of the Father, “He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.” (Luke 20:38) Now, you might be in a position to point out that Mary is living, not dead, and that you are asking her to intercede for you, just as they sometimes ask other Christians to intercede for them; and that you can’t imagine anyone else being closer to Jesus than his mother.
    This gentle approach might open a mind which is not utterly closed. I pray it succeeds, and that it draws the Lord’s people closer together.

  • wadestonge

    Both sides are right.

    It was a beautiful answer from a man who had a childlike faith and love for his spiritual mother. It was also a true, albeit partial and incomplete answer.

    On the other hand, considering the particular audience, it was a horrible answer. You have to think about how it comes across, just as Jesus always did – as one poster said, a little training in rhetoric would have been beneficial.

    But Mary’s right about the root problem – lack of catechesis and formation. If all it took was the old, “If you died today, do you know where you’d go?” to get this guy to question his Catholic faith and lead him on the path to forsaking the sacraments, then obviously there was something a little defective in his Catholic catechesis, apologetics, formation, and as a result, his Catholic convictions. Isn’t that obvious?

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