Putting the ego or “enlightened” attitude away when discussing the Christian faith is not easy. One just needs to walk three blocks and see Son Church, Church of Son, Sunshine Church, to see where that “enlightened” attitude has led us. It is even prevalent in our own Catholic faith, threatening to divide when it is through unity that she remains strong. I see it everywhere I go, in my students, young teens who think they have all the answers, my Catholic school friends and even myself. It was something I was guilty of for sure, recently less so, and hopefully with God’s grace, gone all together.
There are great multitudes of us who feel that since we were baptized Catholic and spent a few years in religious ed that we are “experts” on Catholicism and thus educated enough to comment on how the Catholic Church can fix itself or “improve”. We know it’s wrong on so many levels, and are confident debating real expert Catholics, that we know our Faith inside out and they shouldn’t doubt our words.
I can give a variety of real examples that I have seen in my own life. I have friends, for instance, who believe that the Church is sexist, or that the Church’s views on contraceptives or crazy, yet they don’t have any real substance to back up their claim and have shown zero inclination to study the Church’s point of view before they make a judgement. No, I went to Catholic school from Kindergarten to Gr. 9, I am an expert!
Then there are my favourite teenagers! Now, don’t get me wrong I love the guys – after all I do teach them – but they do have this idea that they know it all and that their parents and teachers are sooo wrong. For example, recently in class we have been discussing the now very popular, “I hate religion, but love Jesus” YouTube video. I showed the original and have also showed rebuttal videos. After they watched them both I asked them to compare them and talk about which one was better. Even though the former is full of giant generalizations, and many inaccuracies, to many students they like that one better. Why? Because the former was better looking than the rebuttal rapper and could rap better. Umm really? Physical looks are regarded more importantly, on whether something is true or not, than facts? Yes, these are our future voters!
I myself was one of these teenagers I must admit, I was one of the worst probably. My parents were complete morons as far as I was concerned. I am very ashamed to admit that now and am so thankful that I woke up, and that my parents still talk to me. It also helps remind me that I was in those same shoes, as my students walk in, and I grew out of it. There is still hope for them yet!
Now, in my mid twenties, I would never presume that I know more than the Church. How could I? I have never taken a theology course. How can I compete intellectually with people who have doctored in theology, who are experts on languages and Scripture? How could I presume to know more than someone, who has spent a life time studying the male only priesthood, chastity, or the Gospel of Matthew?
It is truly amazing when you come to the realization that the Church is kicking your butt in every issue, and maybe you should just let it go. It definitely made me more peaceful submitting to Church authority, it definitely brought joy into my life. Sure, I still have my doubts and still need to research an issue, before I believe in it whole heartedly, but I have never once researched an issue, in the Church, that she was not able to back up 100%.
It also helps to read books and articles by some of the experts in Catholicism. The amount of information they know about the Church is just mind boggling. The Theology of the Body by John Paul II or Jesus of Nazareth by our present Pope Benedict XVI, are just two works, that left me in awe and made me realize just how little I really knew.
I’m going to end with a short quote I just read today in Fire Within a book about the mystics St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross by Thomas Dubay, S.M, that I am currently reading.
Both St. John and St. Teresa repeatedly insist that the mystic must live a profound faith life; a life rooted in the Word of God as it is proclaimed in the community He established. Along with St. Paul and the rest of the New Testament writers, the Carmelites make no room for dissent…we can easily be mistaken about what we think is from heaven, but we cannot be mistaken about the Faith proclaimed by the Church, for it rests on the revealed word of Christ Himself.
If two saints, who experienced a deep connection with God, can submit wholeheartedly to Christ’s Church, than how can I do any less?