By Gordon Nary
Gordon: When and why did you join Our Lady of Mt. Carmel and what aspects of the parish do you find most inspirational?
Tim: There are four main things I look for in a parish and Our Lady of Mt. Carmel has all four of them flourishing. First, I look for solid priests. Fr. Anthony Siroki, our pastor, is a very holy priest. He cultivates the interior life first and foremost, and it shows in the way he lives his life for the flock he shepherds. Second, he is both brilliant and orthodox. His homilies are catechetical, apologetic, informative, and inspirational every single week. Remarkable! He makes me want to take notes. Third, the liturgy is faithful to the rubrics of the Church, and reverent. And fourth, there is a true family spirit that gives birth to a palpable joy at OLMC that is contagious!
Gordon: Before we discuss you leadership in apologetics evangelism, and communications, there may be some of our readers who may not know what apologetics is and why apologetics is a critical component of our faith. Please share with our reader an overview of apologetics.
Tim: Apologetics is the science of defending the truth of our Catholic Faith. It employs philosophy, theology, history, science, and more in order to fulfill the Christian calling communicated by our first pope, St. Peter, in I Cor. 3:15: “Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence.”
Gordon: Who are some of your favorite apologist saints and what impact did they have on Catholicism?
Tim: Among my favorites are the three patron saints of apologetics: St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Justin Martyr, and St. Catherine of Alexandria. St. Thomas Aquinas may well be the most important philosopher/theologian/apologist the Church has ever produced. He embodies what every apologist strives for. He used all of the physical sciences, along with the highest sciences of philosophy and theology in order to communicate the Faith in an understandable way to the world. Along with St. Augustine, his impact on theology and philosophy of the Church is unparalleled. St. Justin is often called “the first apologist” because he was the first to present systematic defenses of the faith of the Church to unbelievers. His two greatest works are truly remarkable. His “First Apology” was written to the Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius in the mid-second century and is an effective work to this day in presenting the Faith to unbelievers. And his “Dialogue with Trypho” is an exhaustive apology written to “Trypho the Jew” and is to this day a remarkable defense of the Faith for our Jewish friends. St. Catherine of Alexandria was the daughter of Constus, the governor of Alexandria during the reign of emperor Maximian (AD 286-305). She was a remarkable scholar from a very young age and ended up studying her way into converting to the Faith at just 14 years of age. Because she was from such an important family, she has access to the emperor and used that access to rebuke him for his cruel treatment of Christians. She engaged any and all in intellectual argument and led hundreds to the Catholic Faith before being martyred at the age of 18. It is said that she converted hundreds to the Faith by her martyrdom and is a reminder to apologists that a life lived for the Faith is the most important element in the life of an apologist.
Gordon: When and did why did you join Catholic Answers and what are your primary responsibilities as Director of Apologetics and Evangelization?
Tim: I approached Karl Keating back in 2004 and asked if he needed any help at Catholic Answers during a Catholic Answers cruise I had been invited on as one of the speakers. When he offered me a job I was ecstatic. Catholic Answers is the standard bearer when it comes to our profession. As Director of Apologetics and Evangelization I am asked to speak at conferences, write books for Catholic Answers, write articles for Catholic Answers Magazine and our blog, and answer questions, both written and on our radio /television shows, as well as produce audio and video series on various apologetic topics just as all of our apologists. But I also have the added responsibility to ensure on-going formation for the apologists in my department, ensure that what goes out from our apologists is orthodox Catholic teaching, and attend to the various administrative duties of a director. I also hire and fire, if necessary, the apologists in my department.
Tim: At first, my impact was quite traumatic. They did not like the idea of me becoming Catholic. And that is an understatement. But by God’s grace, my three brothers, mother, father, three brothers, and even two sisters-in-law all became Catholic. And one of my brothers is now a Catholic priest. These conversions are a testimony to the grace of God. Even though, at times, I was not the best example of the apologetics envisaged by our first pope that I mentioned above from I Peter 3:15 (at least, not the “with meekness and respect” part!), God brought good out of my, let us say, less-than goodness!
Gordon: Please share with our readers an overview of Tim Stapless.com.
Tim: Timstaples.com is my personal website/blog. On it, I have scores of free articles and information about apologetics and theology, but I also get to have some fun with it and present some things that are non-apologetic. I have articles on all sorts of topics, such as, sports, history, politics, I put up some of my favorite funny videos, favorite magicians, favorite golf trick shots, and a whole lot more. In fact, I am now working on a three-part series of posts that will present my top thirty favorite movies of all time. It started as my “top ten” favorites, but I just could not limit it to 10. It has now stretched to my “top thirty!”
Gordon: In closing, what in your opinion are the three greatest challenges to contemporary Catholicism?
Tim: First, living in what has become a neo-pagan society, Catholics must take the challenge of Pope Francis, in Evangelii Gaudium, 132, to present a “creative apologetics” that can present the Faith to a contemporary culture that has lost its way. We have to attempt to find new ways to communicate to a culture that generally does not even know the very basics we Catholics too often take for granted. Second, I think we have to engage in what Pope St. John Paul the Great referred to as “the new evangelization.” What’s “new” about it is that it must begin in the pew and in the re-evangelization of a once-Christian West that is no longer Christian. Many who attend Mass from time to time, or even every Sunday, are not believers in the essentials of our Catholic Faith. They need to be evangelized. And as for the un-churched culture at large, evangelism and the apologetics we need as the tools of evangelism, seem to be the keys to this “new evangelization” to which we are all called as Catholic Christians. Third, and most importantly, we must live what we preach. The priest scandals that have truly rocked the United States and beyond can hardly be overstated when it comes to the damage they have caused. In a sense, we have to earn the right, once again, to be heard in a society that has gone a long way toward marginalizing the Catholic Church and her message. It is going to take time, but I believe there is no substitution for a life lived for Christ in peace and palpable joy in the midst of a confused culture that does not know which way to turn. Kimberly Hahn has said many times that we are going to “change the world, one diaper at a time.” And that is true. But I would also say that statement contains part of the ultimate answer for our culture. We must “change the world one family at a time.” It will be in the context of families living the Faith in joy that the evangelism St. John Paul called us to will be actualized.
Gordon: Thank you for an extraordinary interview. I know that all of our readers will enhance their lives with Catholic Answers and the opportunity of meeting you.