Guess What, Mom: a dialogue by Patrick Madrid

In the late 1980s, I tried my hand at writing dialogue articles such as “Guess What, Mom.” They were an attempt to capture the parlance and cadences of the arguments against the Catholic Church I was personally encountering at that time from non-Catholics and former Catholics.

I wanted to distill in print the phraseologies and emphases that people had been voicing to me during the Q& A sessions at my parish seminars, the reasons for abandoning the Catholic Church that folks were giving me (often vehemently) in one-on-one conversations, and the various arguments against the Catholic Church that I was hearing every day on the Protestant call-in apologetics radio programs, such as The Bible Answer Man, that I listened to so avidly back then.

As I wrote this dialogue, I pictured in my mind’s eye an earnest young married woman in her late twenties “breaking the news” to her Catholic mom that she had left the Church for a true “Bible-believing” church. What ensues is the mom’s unflappable response to her daughter’s challenges.

Of course, few of us Catholic parents would, in real life, have the imperturbable, well-prepared, and quick-witted poise that this mom shows. I sought, rather, to voice her character more as an ideal to be emulated.

Guess What, Mom

“Hello.”

“Hi Mom, it’s me.”

“Hi Honey. How’s everything going? Are the kids all right? It’s been a long time since you’ve called.”

“We’re all fine. No problems. In fact, I’ve got some great news, and I wanted to share it with you and dad.”

“You sound a little nervous.”

“Well, I am a little, I guess. I’ve wanted to tell you this for a while, but I didn’t know how to do it—how to say it I mean. Mom, something wonderful has happened. I’ve been saved.”

“Saved from what?”

“No, not saved from what—saved by what. I’ve accepted Jesus as My Lord and savior. That’s what I mean. I’ve been saved now that I have a personal relationship with Jesus.”

“What do you mean a ‘personal’ relationship? You’re a Catholic! You were baptized and confirmed, and you made your First Communion. You’re been raised in a personal relationship with God since the day of your birth.”

“No. That’s just it. I never made a commitment to the Lord. I guess I always just accepted things as true because you and Dad and the Church said they were. I never checked things out for myself in the Bible. Now that I’m saved I read the Bible every day. I never did that as a Catholic.”

“‘As a Catholic’? What does that mean? That now you’re now not a Catholic? Have you left the Church?”

“Don’t get mad. Yes, I’ve left the Catholic Church, but I’ve joined the true church of Jesus.”

“Oh? And what is the true church of Jesus?”

“It’s not any particular denomination. It’s the community of all believers in Christ who worship him in spirit and in truth using the Bible—God’s precious Word—as the only authority, not relying on any popes or bishops or priests or man-made traditions. That’s the true church, the church of Bible-believing Christians who have a personal relationship with Jesus, not with some denomination.”

“Well, my relationship is with Jesus.”

“In a way it is, but not the way that I’m talking about, not in the way that counts. See, Catholics think they have to experience Jesus through the Catholic Church.”

“Are you saying you think I worship the Catholic Church?”

“No. But you put too much emphasis on it. The Bible says that ‘there is only one mediator between God and Man, the man Christ Jesus.’ That means that you won’t be saved by being a Catholic or by going to Mass or by saying rosaries. As a born-again Christian I experience the Lord directly. I don’t need priests or sacraments or the pope to be intermediaries for me. I go to God directly.”

“Listen, you said that this was a wonderful thing, but I’m not so sure it is. It sounds to me like your enthusiasm has blinded you to what the Bible really says about the Church.”

“I go to a Bible study every Wednesday night. Our pastor teaches straight from the Bible every Sunday. For the first time in my life I know what the Bible says. You and dad don’t read the Bible, and you never taught me to read it.”

“Every Sunday at Mass you heard the Bible read—Old and New Testaments. Didn’t you notice?”

“Mass was so boring I couldn’t pay attention. That’s the reason why I stopped going when we moved here. I wasn’t getting anything out of it. The Bible-believing church I go to now is great. We have fellowship and song and lots of time in the Word.”

“So, you think you understand what the Bible really means, right?”

“Right. For the first time.”

“Well, I’ve been studying the Bible a lot lately myself and . . .”

“Mom, you read the Bible, and you’re still Catholic?”

“I sure do, and I sure am. Why does that surprise you?”

“Well, the Catholic Church teaches non-biblical doctrines—traditions of men. Catholics pray to saints, and that’s not in the Bible. You can’t be a Bible-believing Christian and a Catholic at the same time.”

“I believe the Bible and I’m a Catholic. In fact, since I’ve started attending the weekly Bible study at the parish, I’ve become more interested in my Catholic Faith, and I really feel like my relationship with the Lord has grown.”

“But Catholic teachings contradict what the Bible says.”

“Oh? Give me an example.”

“How about purgatory? You won’t find it anywhere in the Bible. Paul says that to be absent from the body means to be present with the Lord. He doesn’t say a word about purgatory—in fact, the word purgatory isn’t anywhere in the Bible. It’s a man-made tradition.”

“Do you have your Bible handy? Take a look at Luke 16:22-26.”

“Just a second. Here it is. It’s where the rich man goes to hell for his selfishness and the poor man, Lazarus, goes to heaven. So what?”

“How could Lazarus have gone to heaven when Jesus hadn’t died yet and heaven was still closed to men?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean that Jesus described the destinations of two people after death. They didn’t go to the same place, and neither one went to heaven. One of them went to hell. Where did the other one go? This is an example of Jesus referring to a third place—not heaven or hell—which means he’s talking about purgatory.”

“Mom, if Jesus had meant purgatory he’d have used the word purgatory. It’s not really clear what he meant by that parable, but we know that he wasn’t talking about purgatory.”

“Do you believe in the Trinity?”

“Yes, but what does that have to do with it?”

“Where in the Bible do you find the word Trinity?”

“Well, the Bible doesn’t use that exact word, but the teaching is clear from all the references.”

“So what you’re saying is that you believe in the Trinity even though the Bible doesn’t use the word ‘Trinity,’ right?”

“Yes, but the Trinity is a biblical doctrine.”

“How do you know that it is? Just what is your authority for interpreting verses that may refer to it? Where did your infallibility come from?”

“C’mon, mom. Now you’re being sarcastic. You don’t need to be infallible to understand the Bible. Its message is plain.”

“But other people who claim to use only the Bible as their authority differ with you on this very subject. Jehovah’s Witnesses and United Pentecostals are two examples. They don’t believe in the Trinity, and they claim the Bible doesn’t teach it.”

“They’re misinterpreting Scripture.”

“How do you know? What’s your authority for interpreting the Bible?”

“The Bible alone is my authority. That’s all I need.”

“Oh? Where does it say that in the Bible?”

“I don’t know the exact verse, but I know the verse is there. The Bible is all we need.”

“No, the Bible is not all we need. And the verse isn’t there. The Bible doesn’t claim to be the sole authority. We also have to listen to the Church. Remember that Jesus founded a specific Church—his Church—and in Matthew 16:19 he promised it would never be overcome. At the end of Matthew’s Gospel he promised to be with his Church even to the end of time. And in John 14:16 he promised the Holy Spirit would abide with the Church forever.”

“Where did you learn that?”

“At our parish Bible study. We covered purgatory a few weeks ago, and I’m looking at my notes right now.”

“Let me get back to what I asked earlier. Do you have a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus?”

“I sure do! Every morning at Mass I receive Him in the Eucharist, body and blood, soul and divinity. You can’t get much more personal than that. If you want to know what the Bible says about the Eucharist, take a look at the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel.”

“I know all about that, mom. Jesus is speaking metaphorically, not literally.”

“That’s incorrect. Read the chapter again Jesus says that if you don’t eat his body and drink his blood you won’t have life within you—that means you’ll be spiritually dead if you refuse the Eucharist.”

“I don’t believe that’s what Jesus meant.”

“So I ask you again: What’s your authority for knowing what he meant? We both read the same words but interpret them differently. Other people have still different interpretations. How can the Bible be the ‘Final Authority’ when so many people disagree on exactly what the Bible means?”

“I know in my heart that I’m right. The Lord has shown me.”

“Well, I can say the same thing, and we’d both agree that the Lord isn’t going to lead us in two different directions. We can’t both be right. And that’s where the Church comes in. Jesus promised the Holy Spirit would guide his Church into all truth.”

“What are you driving at?”

“What I mean is that the Church was teaching the gospel for decades before a single word of the New Testament had been written—before the Bible as we know it was in existence. We had the authority of the Church to guide believers before the Bible hit the scene. Now I certainly don’t mean that the Bible is somehow unimportant. The entire New Testament was written by Catholics, for Catholics, and about Catholics.”

“Come on, that’s crazy!”

“Then how do you explain the fact that the earliest Christians, the men and women who knew the apostles and the authors of the New Testament, believed in things like the Eucharist, the Mass, and purgatory?”

“I don’t believe they did!”

“The proof’s there if you’re willing to check it out. The Catholic Church’s teachings on things like these aren’t man-made traditions. Now I know you have to run. I just want to say that I want you to know the truth—God’s truth.”

“I have that truth now, Mom, in a way I never did in the Catholic Church.”

“Tell you what—think about what I said and pray about it. I’ll send you a book I think you’ll find interesting. It explains these things better that I can. Will you read it?”

“Sure.”

“You read it using your Bible as a guide and call me back when you’re done so we can talk about it. Okay?”

“Okay. You know, I really thought you’d explode when I told you I’d become a Christian. I still disagree with you, and I think Catholicism’s wrong, but I’m willing to read up on it to prove its errors both to myself and to you.”

“I can’t ask for more than that. Call again soon honey, okay?”

Patrick Madrid hosts the daily “Patrick Madrid Show” on Relevant Radio, broadcast on 150+ AM & FM stations across the country and on the Relevant Radio app. He is the author of 26 books.