I got to know Karl Keating in early 1987, back when he was still practicing law full-time and dabbling in apologetics part-time.
“Catholic Answers” was, in those days, simply a part-time tract and newsletter apostolate Karl had operated for a few years from his home, writing new materials in his spare time.
We made contact as the result of an article I happened across in our diocesan newspaper, a brief, blasé squib about a public debate on the papacy that Karl had engaged in with an itinerant Baptist minister who ran an anti-Catholic organization aimed solely at converting Catholics to the “truth.” That caught my attention.
I was excited to see someone else involved in apologetics, something I had developed a deep love for, doing it also in my spare time (I had a full-time career in sales). For some time I had assumed I was alone in the world in my love for apologetics, and it was energizing to see another Catholic out there mixing it up with critics of the Church.
I put down the paper and reached for the phone. The article had provided no contact information for Keating or Catholic Answers, so I doubted I’d be able to reach him, but just for a lark I decided to check with directory information.
To my surprise, presto, I had a phone number for Catholic Answers. But since it was well after 9:00 p.m., I knew no one would be at the office, so I called, intending to just leave a message. After a couple of rings, a voice answered: “Hello, Catholic Answers.”
“Um . . . hello,” I said, surprised that someone was actually answering the phone this late. “I realize I’m calling after hours, but I wanted to leave a message for Karl Keating.”
“This is Karl Keating,” the voice on the other end said.
“Wow,” I exclaimed. “I didn’t expect you to answer the phone,” and then I told him I had read the article and that I was happy to hear about the apologetics work he was doing.
An hour and a half later, we finished our phone conversation, and I had a new friend.
Karl and I had talked enthusiastically about our common love for apologetics, and I was impressed with all the good work he had undertaken, single-handedly, to answer critics of the Church. He told me about the tracts he had written, the monthly apologetics newsletter,Catholic Answers, he produced, and the debates he was engaging in. All of this was very exciting to me, and over the next several months, Karl and I spoke frequently by phone, comparing notes and discussing various apologetics issues.
Fast-forward now to early January,1988. Through a lot of prayer and reflection (read the details of that saga here), I had come to realize that God was calling me to do something for Him, something other than the secular work in sales I was doing at that time. The problem was, though I sensed He wanted something in particular from me, I had no idea what it might be.
For a solid month, in addition to praying the rosary every day for this special intention, I spent my lunch hours at a Catholic parish near my office on my knees in front of the Blessed Sacrament, praying and asking the Lord to show me what He wanted me to do with my life. I knew He was calling me to something, but I simply couldn’t discern what that something was.
So, deciding to “step out in faith,” I resigned from my job, determined to force the issue and find the new career I felt God was calling me to. That weekend, after I quit my job, Karl called. During the course of our conversation, I asked him to keep me in his prayers as I figured out what career direction I’d be headed in.
“Sure, I’ll pray for you,” he said. “But I can do something else. I’ve recently decided to shut down my law practice and open an office for Catholic Answers. I’m going to turn it into a full-time venture. Why don’t you come work with me at Catholic Answers and we’ll build it into something big?”
Without hesitating, I said, “No, thanks. I appreciate the offer, but whatever it is God wants me to be doing with my life, I’m sure it’s not apologetics.” Working in Catholic apologetics had never even remotely occurred to me as an option. It never entered my mind that I could make a living and support my growing family as an apologist.
But Karl was persistent. He reiterated his offer for me to come work with him and help establish the full-time Catholic Answers operation. Though I tried to demur, I can see now that God was working through him.
For the next twenty minutes we discussed the idea, and our call ended with my agreeing to give it a try. After all, he reminded me, what did I have to lose?
That phone call changed my life. Only months later, as I looked back on how it all happened, did it finally dawn on me that my prayers for God’s guidance had been answered. The Lord had shown me what he wanted from me. I was too blind to see it at first. I realized that this- being an apologist- was Christ’s answer to my prayers.
I had the privilege of working with Karl and the many other great people at Catholic Answers for eight years. When I became vice president of Catholic Answers, a few years into my employment there, I had the best seat in the house from which to watch the organization unfold from a part-time apostolate to the major institution it is today.
I thank God for that opportunity to have been a part of such a thing. During my time at Catholic Answers, I saw close-up the dizzying rise of Catholic apologetics: the flood of tapes and books, the seminars and debates, countless new converts, and now the once unheard of luxuries such as Catholic apologetics radio programs, websites, and the plethora of excellent apologetics television programs on EWTN.
Working with Karl, back in those early days before apologetics had caught on- well before being an apologist was acceptable, much less “cool”- was a wonderful and extremely enriching experience for me, personally, spiritually, and professionally. I learned a lot and had an immense amount of fun along the way, helping to “blaze the trail.”
I thank God every day for that privilege. I also thank my friend, Karl Keating, for inviting me to join him on the adventure.
— By Patrick Madrid (www.patrickmadrid.com), all rights reserved.
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