SIMPSONVILLE — When Carrie Vaughn of St. Mary Magdalene Parish was struggling to understand her faith, apologist John Martignoni came to her rescue on Catholic radio station WCKI, 1300-am.
“I started listening to him on my lunch hour,” she said. “He kept answering my questions, so I called the Catholic Radio Station to get his Web site. I ordered all his talks and have been hooked ever since.”
She talked to her pastor, Jesuit Father Herbert Corner, and made arrangements for Martignoni to speak at St. Mary Magdalene. The apologist drew about 150 people for each of two talks June 2-3. Martignoni cited Catholic radio as inspiration for his ministry as a Catholic apologist.
“I’m here today because of Catholic radio. I now go around the country telling Catholic people how to explain and defend their faith,” he said.
Apologetics, he explained, is a tool for evangelizing and forming Catholics in the faith. As a young man, with advanced college degrees and a successful life in corporate finances, he was unable to defend his religion against attacks by fundamentalist Christians in his native Alabama.
“I needed instructions in my faith, but I was so ignorant that I didn’t even know I was ignorant,” Martignoni said. “I couldn’t answer people when they asked why Catholics believed this or that.”
One day he discovered Scott Hahn, who uses the Bible to explain the Catholic faith.
“I started learning apologetics, not just what my church teaches, but why. I learned about my faith truly for the first time. Apologetics was the key to my conversion,” Martignoni said.
He started the Bible Christian Society in response to anti-Catholic programming he heard on a Christian radio station. He wheedled his way to production of a Catholic response call-in hour on that same station — and that proved to be so popular that it eventually led to the formation of the first Catholic radio station in Birmingham. Within a year, people started calling him to lecture to their groups and schools and parishes. In addition, he has to date sent out 125,000 tapes and CDs of his talks.
Martignoni’s life is consumed with his radio show and the lecture circuit, but he insists that every Catholic can and should be an apologist.
“We’re all called to holiness, regardless of our station in life, and we should be able to explain our faith. Apologetics is one weapon in the battle to bring others closer to Christ,” he said.
He recommended taking a page from Protestant religious education by having Catholic children memorize scripture passages and facts from the Catechism.
Martignoni’s show airs on EWTN and at 3 p.m. on Catholic radio in South Carolina.