If you were in a group of people talking about religion and were asked a question about an important point in Catholic teaching, would you be embarrassed to say that you didn’t know the answer – that you didn’t know why Catholics believe as they do? If some in the group were ridiculing an important Catholic teaching, would you want to be able to effectively respond?
When I was in high school, a non-Catholic school, I was challenged in that manner on a number of occasions – all of which prompted me to find answers that made sense to me. After high school, when I was in college, the questions were of a deeper and more extensive nature. Somewhere along the line, I came to realize that in such discussions I was not simply representing myself. I was representing the Catholic Church. Perhaps my questioners were talking about their own personal questions and beliefs, but when they were questioning me, I was not. If you are Catholic, you hold a shared belief, not just your own personal opinion. Each one of us bears a shared faith, a faith handed on to us by our family of faith, a belief that comes down to us through 2,000 years of our Catholic tradition. It’s important for you to know and understand the reasons for our beliefs. For instance, when we are asked if we believe we receive the true and real body and blood of Jesus Christ in holy Communion, our answer to the question is both personal and communal. The next question that inevitably follows is, “Why do you believe that Jesus Christ is truly and really present in the consecrated host?” Your answer to that question is of great importance. The content of your answer is a precious moment that can bring the soul of your questioner into contact with Christ. This is of weighty significance far beyond just sharing your personal faith. There are other questions dealing with why we hold Mary our Mother in such high regard, why we venerate the saints, why we champion the unborn, why the Catholic Church has a pope, and so forth. Perhaps the questions are not as important as our belief about Holy Communion, but they are important nevertheless. Do you have some learning to do? Your knowledge of our Catholic faith isn’t just for your own benefit; it is for the benefit of others as well. That’s why we’re here for you in FAITH magazine.