Ever seen the notoriously anti-Catholic Jack Chick tracts? My good friend Dan Grajek and I decided to provide an alternative to them both in our evangelical Protestant days and as Catholics in the early 90s. We had discovered that we were kindred spirits and started doing street witnessing: particularly on college campuses and the annual Art Fair at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. I was out there every year in the 80s, as a Protestant (sometimes with Dan), and Dan and I went twice after we became Catholics. I’d love to go out there again.
I provided the text and he did the art. In 1985 we produced a satirical spoof of skeptical theories about the Resurrection of Jesus and also a treatment of atheist materialism. You can see the complete actual tracts at the following links:
When Dan returned to the Church in the early 90s, a little while after I had been received into it, he decided to devote his talents to making specifically Catholic tracts as well. I collaborated on three of these:
The Cloud of Witnesses [communion of saints]
Dan then proceeded on with mutual friend Joe Polgar to create twenty more tracts (see the entire listing of titles). He decided to call this enterprise Catholic Information League. It soon made a bit of a splash in the Catholic world. This Rock Magazine (now Catholic Answers Magazine) noted it in its October 1993 edition (“Dragnet” regular feature; probably written by Karl Keating):
Do you need something really short and illustrated to get a conversation going with a “non-reader”? We suggest you call the Catholic Information League at [phone number] and request samples of its cartoon tracts. You might call them Catholic versions of the tracts Chick Publications puts out, but even shorter. You won’t find any detailed arguments here (what do you expect from a sheet half the size of this page?), but you will find sensible explications of basic beliefs.
In the same section in February 1994, the magazine devoted even more ink to Dan’s cartoon tracts, and even reproduced the entire Resurrection tract (not seen, however, in current archived online versions):
In the October 1993 “Dragnet” we mentioned cartoon tracts published by the Catholic Information League. CIL received such a response that it is now planning to make its tracts available to the masses.
On this page and the next is an example of a CIL tract; the title is “The Resurrection: Hoax or History?” As you can see, the drawings are clever, and this little tract gives Jack Chick some competition. Bonus: It and the others incorporate a quirky sense of humor absent in Fundamentalist literature. CIL tracts have the further advantage of being true.
CIL has five other titles: “Joe Hardhat: The Quintessential Catholic,” in which a construction worker defends the papacy during his lunch break; “The Bible,” which refutes sola scriptura; “The Aftermath,” written to show that Vatican II didn’t change the essence of the Church; “My Formative Years,” a Catholic version of a typical “repent and be saved” Fundamentalist tract; and “The Class Struggle,” which depicts in a humorous light the current anti-Christian fancies in higher education. Other comic-style tracts are being prepared.
For information, or to order a sample six-pack for $2.00, contact the Catholic Information League, . . .
The tracts soon received even wider attention in “high places”: they were endorsed / recommended by Fr. Peter Stravinskas (The Catholic Answer, March/April 1997, p. 27), Patrick Madrid’s Envoy Magazine (March/April 1997, pp. 17-18; “Friends in the Field,” by Tracy Moran), and others. The late Servant of God Fr. John A. Hardon, S. J. (+ 2000) was eventually an editor and theological advisor, and recommended the tracts on Mother Angelica Live (June 21, 1995), and even showed them to Pope St. John Paul II (likely the only time any of my writings have ever been seen by a pope!).
Dan also went on to write a book with a fairly unique approach, called The Last Hobo: A Clueless Detroit Kid Hitchhikes across America the Summer the Seventies Ran Out of Gas (2016). I started getting articles published in Catholic magazines from 1993 on, my story was included in the bestseller Surprised by Truth (edited by Patrick Madrid) in 1994, I completed my first book in 1996, and launched my website in 1997. Finally in 2001 I was able to devote myself to full-time Catholic apologetics.
It had been a long 20-year journey from the time I was absolutely convinced that God had called me to become an apologist. I just didn’t know then that I was to become a Catholic nine years later and successfully engage in full-time apologetics in that world. Nor did I know about the Internet in 1981: the thing that virtually made my career possible in the first place. God knows the future, being out of time. We simply have to trust that He knows what is best for us.
In 2012, St. Paul Street Evangelization was founded by Steve Dawson. Their mission is “to engage the culture in a simple, non-confrontational method of evangelization which involves making themselves available to the public to answer questions about the faith and to pray with those who request it.” This is essentially the same outlook on “street witnessing” that Dan and I had followed in the 1980s as Protestants and occasionally afterwards as Catholics. I’d like to “get out there” some more. It’s a great joy and fun, too. In 2013 Steve asked me to edit evangelistic / apologetics tracts that were to be published by SPSE, and I was the editor of sixteen titles (all available on their website):
One of my bestselling writings is a short pamphlet for Our Sunday Visitor, entitled Top Ten Questions Catholics Are Asked (2002).
Ironically — in light of the fact that I am often scorned or mocked for writing too-lengthy material — one of my “sub-specialties” is “short pieces” explaining the faith. I’ve done six two-page fictional dialogues and two similarly short summary tracts (all written in 1995):