Apologetics for highschoolers

A PHILADELPHIA CATHOLIC IN KING JAMES'S COURT. By Martin de Porres Kennedy (Littlefield Press, W. 5180 Jefferson St., Necedah, Wis. 54646, 1999), 316 pp. PB $12.95.

I have always been Catholic; born and raised in the heavily Catholic community in San Francisco, I attended Catholic schools from Kindergarten through undergraduate. I never needed apologetics because everyone I knew was Catholic. My catechetical upbringing never focused on the Bible, but rather on the Catechism, sacraments and liturgical celebrations.

But now I live in the “Bible belt” South. Catholics comprise only about five percent of the total population. My children have cousins and good friends who are Protestants. My children hear about the “cool” ski trips, mission trips and teen groups at these Protestant churches. My children are attracted by the strong scriptural understanding and beliefs their Protestant contemporaries quote.

So, how do you convince teens that Catholicism is the one, true Church and that the others are not complete, no matter how “cool” the trips? How do you nourish their Catholic faith so that they can explain their religion to non-Catholics? How do you teach them to defend their Catholic faith with charity and love but with a depth of understanding that will evangelize while it defends? How do you teach teenagers apologetics?

Further, how can you teach “cradle Catholics” how to defend their faith against the logical and seemingly valid arguments of co-workers and neighbors who, unlike Catholics, are steeped in the scriptures?

One such resource is the novel A Philadelphia Catholic in King James’s Court, by Martin de Porres Kennedy. This novel takes a teenaged boy, a boy raised in the Catholic environment of Philadelphia, and transports him to a farm in Kentucky where his uncle is a Protestant minister. Michael O’Shea is a typical, teenaged cradle Catholic—his faith is a part of him, but he has a hard time explaining the facts of his faith, particularly when he can only use the Bible to argue for his Catholic faith.

Thrust into a world where only the Bible is valid, Michael must defend his faith to vehement non-Catholics using just the Bible—they won’t understand the Magisterial teachings as Protestants do not believe in the authority of the Catholic Church. He is able to use some of his father’s reference books, his own common sense and his innate ability to argue logically and with charity. Michael defends his belief that the Catholic faith is the one, true Church. Along the way, he just about converts some of his audience.

The book is well-written on a young adult reading level and would make a great apologetics course for a highschooler but also for any adult wanting to understand the scriptural underpinnings of Catholic teachings. A companion guide, A Philadelphia Catholic in King James’s Court Discussion/Study Guide, would ensure that students get as much out of the book as the author intended. Mr. Kennedy wrote the companion specifically for religious education classes and homeschoolers.

The very readable A Philadelphia Catholic in King James’s Court (both the book and study guide) is available through various secular and Catholic book outlets, including Amazon.com or canticle.com or directly from the publisher, Lilyfield Press—1-800-933-9398 or familytrad@aol.com. This would be a wonderful book to add to your CCD and adult religious education courses.

Mary C. Gildersleeve
Greenville, S.C.

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