Why it’s Time for a Catholic Dumbledore’s Army (and Why You Need to Join)
NOTE: This is Video #1 in my new 5-part series “Why It’s Time for a Catholic Dumbledore’s Army (and Why You Need to Join)”! Watch the video above or read the transcript below. And sign up to get the rest of the videos at CatholicHogwarts.com!
Welcome to this free new video series on “Why It’s Time for a Catholic Dumbledore’s Army (and Why You Need to Join)”!
I’m Brandon Vogt, bestselling author of seven books, including Why I Am Catholic (And You Should Be Too) and RETURN: How to Draw Your Child Back to the Church.
I also work for Bishop Robert Barron’s Word on Fire Catholic Ministries and run several websites and initiatives including StrangeNotions.com and ChurchFathers.org.
But here’s something not everyone knows: I’m also a convert to Catholicism. I was not raised Catholic. I was raised Protestant and converted to Catholicism as a senior in college, about 10 years ago. I won’t go into the whole story now—you can find the whole thing on YouTube, when I appeared on EWTN’s The Journey Home show.
But I wanted to share something here that I usually don’t tell people: as a new Catholic, after I converted, I was scared. Not just nervous, but scared.
What was I scared of? Well, I was scared of the questions and criticisms I would receive when people discovered I had become Catholic.
Just think about it: I converted to Catholicism in college, the same time when so many young people leave the Catholic Church. So as most of my friends were leaving religion, I was joining. I was swimming upstream.
Therefore, I knew I would face all sorts of questions from friends and family: “How could you become Catholic?” “Don’t you know what the Church teaches about X, Y, or Z?” “Don’t you know the Church abuses young children, or hates gay people?” “How could you possibly believe this or that?”
And sure enough, that’s exactly what happened. My atheist friends started laying into me, suggesting that Catholicism was dumb and anti-science. My Protestant friends began grilling me about the Eucharist, Mary, and the saints. My secular friends asked me all sorts of uncomfortable questions about abortion, contraception, same-sex marriage, and the sex abuse crisis.
And I just wasn’t prepared for any of that. I didn’t know how to answer those challenges. When I went through R.C.I.A., to become Catholic, we hardly discussed any of those hot-button issues. So whenever they came up in conversation, I was scared—I would get nervous and afraid.
I had only one strategy, and that was to hope the conversation would turn away from that topic, in a new direction.
However, fast-forward ten years, and now I’m super confident and excited to discuss my faith.
So how did that mega-change happen? How did I go from a scared and nervous Catholic to someone excited to talk about any Catholic topic, even the hardest religious and moral questions?
Well, it started with an epiphany, And that’s what I want to share with you in this video. The epiphany came while I was reading one of my favorite books, Harry Potter, and it was a flash of insight that changed my whole life.
Now, before getting to the epiphany, let me just say this about the Harry Potter series. I love these books. I’ve read the whole series three times, and just marvel at the Christian symbolism, in which it’s drenched from beginning to end.
To understand its Christian meaning, read the writings of John Granger, an Eastern Orthodox scholar, or for a Catholic perspective read Nancy Brown’s great book or Haley Stewart’s blog posts.
Now, I know Harry Potter makes some Catholics nervous. They think it encourages witchcraft or leads to the occult. Apparently, an exorcist at the Vatican even warned parents to stay away from it (though it’s not clear whether he actually even read the book.)
Now, perhaps the books have led to bad outcomes in a few isolated cases, but any book can be abused. I’m convinced Lord of the Rings has led more people into pagan dark arts than Harry Potter, but we would never think of banning Lord of the Rings.
Virtually all Christians I know who have read Harry Potter have fallen more in love with the virtues and, indirectly, with the life of God.
Now, we can talk about the merits of Harry Potter some other time, but that’s not the point of this video series. It’s not essential that you like the books or have even read them.
I’m just using Harry Potter here to make a point, as a literary analogy, because that’s how I had this epiphany. So if you see someone critiquing this video series, saying, “How dare he promote Harry Potter!” you can just smile and know they never even watched this video to hear the caveats.
OK, so let’s move on. Anyways, my epiphany came while I was reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, which is the fifth book in the series.
Basically, at this point in the story, Harry Potter is a young wizard who attends Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, along with several young wizarding friends. Their beloved headmaster, the wise and generous Albus Dumbledore, was recently removed from the school (unjustly), and his evil replacement, Dolores Umbridge, is pretty much the worst teacher you could imagine. She’s cruel, she’s abusive, she’s condescending, she’s priggish—she’s just awful.
Now, in normal times, the students could probably stomach a bad teacher. We’ve all had bad teachers, and we just live with it. But here’s the problem: these are not normal times. Harry and his friends learn they are under serious threat. Lord Voldemort, the most evil and dangerous dark wizard, has returned to power, and his vicious followers are gathering around him. Their goal is to overtake the wizarding world—and destroy anyone who resists.
Harry and his young friends sense the danger immediately. But few of the professors do. Dolores Umbridge, the new headmistress, could hardly care less. She denies Voldemort is even alive, much less preparing an attack on Hogwarts. Whenever Harry suggests Voldemort has returned to power, she punishes Harry, gives him detention, and even tortures him.
The worst part, though, is that besides being headmistress of the school, Dolores Umbridge also takes over teaching the class on “Defense Against the Dark Arts,” which is the one class designed to actually teach the students valuable, practical skills to defend themselves in battle, the one class that might actually help them defend the school against Voldemort and his followers.
But get this: instead of teaching the students real-world tips and strategies, instead of giving them time to practice these skills, Dolores Umbridge forces them to just read their textbooks during every class, from beginning to end, in order to memorize abstract theory.
In fact, during the first class, she specifically tells them to put their wands away because they won’t be needing them at any point during the entire year.
Now, that’s crazy, right? It would be like you taking a basketball class, and during the first session, the coach telling everyone to put their basketballs away because they won’t be needing them during the year, because every class will be devoted just to reading books about basketball. It’s ludicrous.
And Harry and his friends agree. They’re so frustrated they aren’t learning the skills they need, so they know they have a choice. Either we can just go along with Dolores Umbridge, learn nothing, and be totally unprepared to face Lord Voldemort and his followers, or we can do something about it ourselves.
So they choose to act. They create a secret, underground community, which they call Dumbledore’s Army, named after their beloved headmaster. They set up secret meetings where they gather in hidden rooms to learn new spells and techniques, and then they split up into pairs so they can practice the new skills on each other.
Harry Potter is part of the group himself, but since he’s a couple steps ahead of the other students, he also emerges as the leader of Dumbledore’s Army, and coaches them through all the new spells and strategies. Since he has actual experience battling Voldemort, in the previous books, Harry is able to share real-world, proven advice with his friends—stuff that actually works and isn’t just abstract theory.
Harry encourages his friends with this thought: “Every great wizard in history has started out as nothing more than what we are now: students. If they can do it, why not us?”
In the end, the impact of this Dumbledore’s Army is incredible—even world-changing. I don’t want to spoil the books if you haven’t read them, but it becomes clear that Dumbledore’s Army—this rag-tag bunch of students who taught themselves practical skills they were not learning from their institutions—this Dumbledore’s Army was the main reason why Hogwarts and the entire wizarding world were saved from Lord Voldemort.
Now again, as I’m reading all this in Harry Potter, I had an epiphany: this is just like the Catholic Church today.
Like the students at Hogwarts, we Catholics are under serious threat. There are dark forces, growing stronger every day, aiming to crush your faith. They want to eviscerate it.
You know exactly what I’m talking about, don’t you? Think of all the TV shows and movies that depict religious people as stupid and backward and try to make you feel embarrassed about being religious. Think of the news stories and columns that scorn the Catholic Church. Think of the schools and colleges that undermine the faith of our young people. Think of the insidious sexual abuse crisis.
Consider the record number of people leaving the Church. Did you know that 50% of Millennial Catholics have left the Church? Or that for everyone person who joins the Church, 6.45 people leave?
We’re just hemorrhaging people. This is like the worst war zone, with maximum casualties. It’s like the Battle for Hogwarts in Harry Potter.
But to make matters worse, we’re in the same position as Harry and his friends: we’re getting little help from our parishes and institutions in this battle. Now just to be clear: I’m not bashing parishes and institutions. I love them and they do amazing things. If nothing else, our parishes offer us the sacraments, which are the most important gifts we have for strengthening our spiritual life.
However, when it comes to real, practical skills for discussing and defending our faith in the real world, most parishes just don’t offer much. They don’t teach us how to dialogue with our atheist friends or family members. They don’t coach us through leading our children or loved ones back to the Church after they’ve drifted away. They don’t show us how to talk effectively about tough issues like same-sex marriage, transgenderism, or abortion.
The problem is that many of our institutions operate like Dolores Umbridge. They mostly focus on abstract teachings and don’t offer us real-world, practical strategies for navigating these issues. And they don’t give us a place to practice these conversation techniques, to get better and more effective.
So that’s what led to my epiphany: it’s time for a Catholic Dumbledore’s Army. I’ll say that again: it’s time for a Catholic Dumbledore’s Army.
If we’re not learning this stuff from our parishes and institutions, we need to do what Harry and his friends did: we need to learn it ourselves. Otherwise we’ll lose the battle. Otherwise our faith will shrivel under the mounting pressure around us. Otherwise our young people will continue leaving the Church.
So like Harry and his friends, we basically have two choices. Choice number one is to follow the Dolores Umbridge plan, and just do nothing. However, that guarantees we’ll be weak and powerless in the battle. We’ll fail.
Choice number two is to follow the Harry Potter strategy and build and join a Catholic Dumbledore’s Army. Only then will we be prepared.
Now, as I thought about this epiphany, it led to a few other major insights which dramatically changed the way I approach my faith. And that’s what I want to teach you in the rest of this video series.
So, in Video #2, the next video, you’ll learn why we Catholics should copy Harry’s brilliant strategy for saving Hogwarts. This is key.
Then in Video #3, I’ll share an important discover I made while reading Harry Potter alongside St. Thomas Aquinas: a common pattern that both Harry Potter and St. Thomas Aquinas followed to become masters. This pattern will make your faith life so much easier.
In Video #4, we’ll tie things together. You’ll learn how to discuss hot-button issues as smoothly and effectively as Dumbledore, without being nervous or afraid—and the best part is that you can learn this skill in just 15 minutes per week.
Finally, in Video #5, you’ll learn what to do next, how to put all this stuff into practice and how you can join this new movement, this Catholic Dumbledore’s Army, which thousands of Catholics have already signed up for.
So, does that all sound good? Does that sound helpful to you? Great! If so, then be sure you catch Video #2, which will go live in a few days.
But before we go, I want you to leave a comment right below this video and tell me this: as a Catholic, what issue are you most afraid to discuss?
Maybe it’s atheism, abortion, same-sex marriage, or transgenderism. Perhaps is the sex-abuse crisis, contraception, or just why you’re Catholic in general. But tell me this: what are you most afraid people will ask you about? What hot-button question makes you most nervous and tongue-tied?
Leave your comment below this video. I’m going to read every single comment here, and I’ll respond to as many as I can.
Also, do me a favor: share this link on Facebook, Twitter, or even email this URL to your friends. I want to draw as many Catholics as possible into this movement.
And then be sure to pop in your email below so you don’t miss Video #2. That way, I can email you the next video right when it goes live in a few days. That’s it!
Again, thanks so much for watching this first video, and I’ll see you in Video #2, which you’ll get in just a few days!