Our family lived in Europe from 2012-2015. We experienced some amazing things. One of those was to eat at a 3-star Michelin-rated restaurant set in a former castle. I fondly remember that meal for many reasons, not the least of which is that it was the first time the taste of food ever made me cry! I digress, but one of the things I remember most clearly was the service of one bite-sized sample after another.
The chef at that castle restaurant was so proud of his art, and rightly so. No doubt, he studied hard and honed his culinary gifts with years of experience before he produced such fine cuisine. Reaching that level, he desired to share his gifts. Not out of arrogance, but because gifts, by nature, are meant to be given – and received by others. Our expressions of joy at tasting each bite-sized sample became our gift to him.
Am I a world-class chef? No. I’m not sure I’m a world-class anything! I know this, though… I have studied hard and had experiences in my life that helped me earn a reputation for excellence, particularly in the fields of catechesis and theology. Students, parents, parishioners, and even priests come to me when they don’t know how to answer certain questions regarding the Catholic faith or related issues. It’s true. When I’m at a loss, I dig and dig until I find those answers. It’s my passion, just like our chef, and I need to share my gift with others.
With these things in mind, I offer just a bite-sized sample from my first booklet, Food For Thought: An Appetizer. Of all the questions in the booklet, this is the only personal one. I believe it’s a good insight into who I am, and I hope it will entice you to read the rest of the booklet and share it with your friends. It’s available for sale by using the links on the sidebar – or get it for free by signing up for my newsletter! Without further ado, I hope you enjoy what follows.
My Bite-sized Sample
Student: Have you ever questioned your faith and why we believe certain things?
Me: I have definitely questioned my faith at times in my life. It’s natural. The greatest saints did so too.
My greatest time of questioning was probably in my teens and early twenties.
I’d been raised Catholic, but at that time (the 1980s), we weren’t taught the faith very well and I must confess I didn’t know a whole lot about Catholicism. I knew about the Trinity, Mary and the saints, and that God is good and Jesus loves us. I also knew I didn’t like going to church and almost never went to Confession.
By the time I was in my teens, I got out of going to church. I never doubted God’s existence, but organized religion and all the rules that went with it didn’t really interest me. I was more interested in going with my non-Catholic friends to their church outings or Bible studies and just basically having conversations with my friends about God.
When I was 17, which was the age of Confirmation at that time, I decided I wouldn’t get confirmed because I wasn’t sure I wanted to remain Catholic. I had questions about whether the Sacrament of Confession or praying to Mary and the saints were Biblical ideas. My non-Catholic friends assured me they were not, and I wasn’t well-versed enough in Scripture to know any better. Back then, I don’t recall thinking about or talking about issues like abortion, the idea of “gay marriage” wasn’t even on the world’s radar, and I’m not sure how I would have felt about those things then. It’s possible I could have easily been convinced that both were ok, because I didn’t give faith or reason much of a say in what I believed. I pretty much went with the sway of public opinion and was happy to just create God in my own image, if you will.
At age 20, not much had changed. One night, one of my closest friends tried to commit suicide. After he was let out of the hospital, I met with him at his parents’ home. He was a high school valedictorian, and simply brilliant. He told me that he’d been humbled by a conversation he had with his mom a day or two before. She told him to get over himself and realize that he didn’t have all the answers. He’d been questioning some of the teachings of the Church, especially with regard to sex before marriage, and he thought he knew better than the Church. His mom, however, reminded him that people just as smart – and smarter than he – had been members of the Catholic Church over the course of 2,000 years, and maybe… just maybe… he ought to consider that the wisdom of 2,000 years, backed by God’s own teaching authority, might have something worthwhile to teach him. Maybe, just maybe, the Church was right about everything, and instead of disagreeing with it, he ought to try to understand why the Church teaches what it does. He agreed with his mom, and as he told me the story, my heart burned inside. I began to see that the Catholic Church was given to us by God Himself so we could know the truth, and the truth sets us free.
At the time, I’d been dating the girl I’d eventually marry, and she was Catholic too. She was thrilled when I asked her to be my Confirmation sponsor. I got confirmed, and I’ve never looked back. Moment by moment, day after day, I have studied the faith ever since. On every occasion, in every case, I have found that the reasons behind every single teaching of the Catholic Church are completely reasonable and absolutely convincing.
Like my friend’s mom said, in 2000 years, the Catholic Church has had to wrestle with every question imaginable, and the Church has applied the truth it has received from God to every situation throughout the ages in order that we might know right from wrong, even in difficult cases. The Church never teaches anything without it being revealed by God or through the careful and studious use of reason illuminated by our faith, and always with our good in mind. Like so many saints throughout the ages, I know that if ever I have a hard time accepting and understanding a teaching of the Church, that if I just study the reasons why the Church teaches what it does, I discover that the Church is right. Every. Single. Time. And we have God’s promise that the Church will always teach the truth and nothing but the truth.