Is The Difficulty In The Definition?


Do some of the difficulties we have trying to explain things to non-Catholics come from misunderstood words?
Take for example, pray. We are an old church, and to us, the word pray means “request”. (I pray thee, pass the salt)
I have found the word pray usually means “worship” to those who have difficulty with us praying to Mary and the saints. Small wonder they get upset.
What do Protestants think we mean by “real presence”? I asked my sil if she still believed in the real presence after she left the Catholic church, and she said yes, but now I have to wonder if she was on the same page as me.
Anyone else have this problem, or other examples?



Ask someone to define sin.

Ask someone to define atonement.

Ask someone to explain how Christ’s death atoned for our sins.

There are alot of problems of definition, just as you described. Even worse is non-Catholic’s insistance that they know better than you, a Catholic, what the Church’s definitions mean. They often would rather play lawyer-like “gotcha!” games with your words before they even hear you fully explain what you mean.

“No, no, yoooooou just said the opposite of what you’re saying now, nope… nope… nuhuh… now you’re back pedaling.”


I also think this tactic is just the cutest:

Phrasing a question in an odd way, inisisting that you answer yes or no, and then quoting a non-applicable bible verse at you.

“Is the Pope perfect? Yes or No!?”

It’s like the old “Have you stopped beating your wife? Yes or No!!”


[quote=Lukelion]Anyone else have this problem, or other examples?


Regularly. I had a go-round about the difference between original sin and actual sin. Another time there was a discussion of exactly what salvation meant–what we are saved from and when. I keep a dictionary at hand as well; someone said that people “assert” something when he meant that they behave in a certain way.

  • Liberian


Definately, definitions are key. And then, clearing up the definition isn’t always the "fix-it’ one may expect.

Like purgatory - explain/define it correctly all you want, to many people it may still be offensive and irreverant and a slap to Jesus’s face.

Many people, I was one, and still probably have things I just haven’t encountered yet that will cause problems, but non-Catholic Christians are taught that Catholics believe “this” and then however good you explain it, they understand what the Church teaches correctly in their head, but it’s still not reconcilable with their belief system.

Another example, to many, they may understand the Trinity, but don’t believe God’s like that; to them, the Trinity will remain an evil synthesis of monotheism and Plato. Their system/worldview won’t allow for Trinitarian theology.

I for one, believe it’s important, if possible, to take time to develop the system that the definitions are rooted in. And for that, you have to understand yours, and their’s is helpful to know too.


Thank you all for your replies.
This apologetics stuff seems to get harder every time I learn something new.
I just found a quote Confucius made five centuries before Christ came. When asked what would be his first act if he were elected emperor of China, he replied "I should begin by fixing the meaning of words."
Guess there is nothing new under the sun :smiley:


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