Mark P. Shea is a popular Catholic writer and speaker. The author of numerous books, his most recent work is The Work of Mercy (Servant) and The Heart of Catholic Prayer (Our Sunday Visitor). Mark contributes numerous articles to many magazines, including his popular column “Connecting the Dots” for the National Catholic Register. Mark is known nationally for his one minute “Words of Encouragement” on Catholic radio. He also maintains the Catholic and Enjoying It blog. He lives in Washington state with his wife, Janet, and their four sons.
I wanted your opinion on a matter. Our 8 year old daughter has been invited to a Bible Study (non denomination; ie., non Catholic) put on by a neighbor (husband & wife team) every Thursday. Now the person doing the inviting is another neighbor (a very nice lady) whose daughter is in the same public school class as our daughter. She invited our daughter last week for Christmas Caroling which I allowed as there was no Bible study for that Thursday. She went to spend time with her friend to sing songs, eat pizza, and watch Charlie Brown’s Christmas. Generally, though, every Thursday they have a Scripture reading and then a discussion.
I am leary of sending her as I know being non Catholic, they could be teaching doctrine not faithful to the Church. I was invited to go along but did not want to set a precedent. The lady that invited us is a neighbor friend we have known for years and sends her daughter and son every Thursday. Her husband was once Catholic but now apparently goes to a Baptist or some other Christian church with his family.
For the last 3 weeks, she has invited our daughter to come. The first time she just couldn’t because of homework. The second time she went to go caroling. Now, this is the 3rd time, which could be an innocent thing but my “Spider Sense” is tingling and am concerned. I will probably tell them a polite “No, but thank you.”
Do you think I am overreacting? I have read that in these situations, Catholics have been persuaded into leaving the Church.
You aren’t overreacting. You are being a prudent cautious dad. Well done.
That said, I would say don’t send her by herself, since she’s too young to be able to deal with the information she might hear. I think that, if possible, you should go with your girl and provide a Catholic perspective. The Faith has nothing to fear from neighborly Protestants who are, in all likelihood, well-intended and people of good will. If you run into something you read or hear that is at variance with the Faith and you aren’t sure what to say, don’t feel ashamed or flummoxed. Just take it as an opportunity to learn more about your Faith. Use the Catechism and resources like Catholic Answers or my stuff or Steve Ray’s massive compilation of materials if you have questions. The Faith is an anvil that has worn out a lot of hammers. There is, I’ll warrant, nothing you will heard said in the Bible study that has not been hashed over by the Catholic tradition at some point. The main thing to be cautious about is the illogical thought, “These people are good and sincere, therefore what they say must be true.” What they say may be (and probably will be) mostly true since they will be talking about the Bible. But at certain points (as, for instance, “The Bible is the source of all revelation” or “We don’t need saint to pray for us” or “Some people worship Mary” or “Catholic believe you can work your way to heaven” or other standard canards) your well meaning neighbor will have false notions of what Catholics believe. The way they can be disabused of those notions is by getting to know a real Catholic who really knows their faith: in other words, you.
In short, it may be that you are being called to be the witness to them, not that you or your daughter are in danger of being pulled out of the Church. That may require learning more about your faith when the questions inevitably come (active Catholics inevitably provoke questions by the mere fact of who they are). Indeed, what you might do is not only graciously accept the invitation in the spirit of neighborliness, but also (after you have been a couple of times) extend an invitation to these folks to come to Mass with you (it will be an absolutely new experience for them, most likely).
This could be the start of an interesting relationship. Embrace it as an apostle and be not afraid.