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by Marty Barrack
Born and raised Jewish, I was baptized into the Catholic faith on Easter Vigil 1989. My completion story appears in Envoy Magazine, Mar-Apr ’97 and in Pat Madrid’s book, Surprised by Truth 2.
Jesus had given me, all in one glorious night, the gifts of Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Eucharist. I wanted to give Him something in return. I wrote Second Exodus, a nearly 400 page book. It originally intended to help other inquiring Jews realize that by becoming Catholic they were completing what they had already begun. As it turns out, there has been nearly as much interest in Second Exodus’ strong defense of the Catholic faith and in its exceptionally clear illumination of Catholic teaching as in its highlighting of the Israelite origins of the Catholic Church.
Father John A. Hardon, S.J. wrote one of its two forewords. Father William Most wrote the other. When Second Exodus was published, Father Hardon asked me to think of it as more than a book. He asked me to think of it as an apostolate. Second Exodus had always been intended as a book to be sold to Catholics, who would give it to Jews who had expressed interest in learning how Jewish the Catholic Church really is.
Father Hardon asked me, “When a Jew reads Second Exodus and has questions, who will answer them?” We had agreed that a Jew who really reads Second Exodus would probably know more about the Catholic faith than the Catholic who gave him the book. We both knew that in many regions of the United States today even the local parish priests would not be able to answer the Jew’s questions. I agreed to set up an apostolate that would respond to questions that anyone still had after reading Second Exodus.
I decided to make the apostolate a web site. I bought FrontPage, a software package used to write web sites, and began to write a small web site that had a question and answer format. When a question arrived that had some private aspect, I answered it directly by e-mail. When the question was more related to Catholic teaching, I put it with my answer in the Forum section.
As I learned more about web site design, I began to get dissatisfied with my original site. When I wrote the first version I did not know how to use templates and libraries, so I ended up duplicating a lot of effort each time I made a new page or even updated a menu. Also, I had originally set all my pages to a fixed width of 640 pixels so that they would be usable even on the older 14” monitors. However, when my pastor used his 14” monitor to look at my site, he found the right edge cut off. I had forgotten that every browser uses a small amount of page width on the right side of the screen for scrolling; I had to fix each page separately. Finally, my pages did not load fast. FrontPage gets its ease of use by storing a lot of excess code right in the web page. I decided to switch to Dreamweaver and completely rewrite the site from the ground up. The new version makes extensive use of templates, so that new page creation is much faster and easier, and also of libraries, which let me update each of my menus once and then automatically replicate the change everywhere the menu appears. More important, I came up with an approach I call Catholic web site design which I used throughout the site.
I’m passionately in love with Holy Mother Church and all that she teaches, so the web site is up to about 400 pages. It still tells everything you want to know about Second Exodus, and still has a forum where questions can be asked and answered, but in my enthusiasm for the Faith I also use it to address a number of emerging issues. For example, faithful Catholics urgently need to encourage their children to enter the formative professions. First and foremost, we need young priests and religious. But even in the secular career fields, jobs like teacher, college professor, lawyers, judges, politicians, journalists and entertainers, directly influence the ideas and values of many people during the course of their careers. We need to get more people into these kinds of jobs, as martyrs if necessary, to begin persuading others that Catholic values such as pre-marital chastity, lifelong marriage, openness to the transmission of life, etc., return to the American mainstream. Another of my passions is words, so I came up with Catholic definitions for many of the words we use today, to anchor their meanings. I also regularly write articles for the major Catholic magazines, so I decided to share them with my site visitors as well. There is much more, but that will give some sense of how the Second Exodus web site works. Come visit. If you like it, buy Second Exodus!
Copyright © 1999-2010 Martin K Barrack. All rights reserved.