Before I started teaching I remember speaking to a priest about my lack of knowledge and experience. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to answer all of their questions and would find teaching to be too much for me.
“Do you trust that the Church has the answers, though? That your students couldn’t come up with a question that would prove the Church wrong or that she hadn’t thought of?”
Father seemed to look at me as if that was enough. So I would be delving into teaching a subject that I didn’t know everything about but I believed that the Church could answer every objection. In other words, what was the worry?
That realization, that nothing my students or anyone could do or say would change my trust in the Church, was a necessary one. Even if I don’t know the answer now, I believe there is an answer.
I have a few students who are over the Church. They don’t want anything to do with religion and their perception is that mandatory theology classes are killing them. I graded a journal the other day and some of the things the student wrote made my heart ache. He was writing words that spoke strongly of his dislike for the Church, his disbelief that Christ was there or listening, and his dislike at even having to keep a prayer journal. What may have surprised him was how I read his words. When he talked about Christ not listening, I pictured a hurt little boy too closed off to even accept the comfort Christ was offering. As he described his desire to do whatever he wanted and not follow the Church, I envisioned reckless parties and a continued desire to fill an aching hole within himself, all the while refusing the only true means of fulfillment.
I don’t know how to prove the existence of God. I can give them different arguments for God’s existence but I cannot give to them my experience of God or the fact that I know, without a doubt, that God is present and that He loves me. In many ways, I am baffled by disbelief. I understand that I am a teacher and I am supposed to help them through these things, but it is not something I have experienced myself. Sometimes I was angry at God, sometimes I felt He didn’t care about me, but I always thought He was there. I see my students aching for God and yet not even willing to acknowledge the ache.
When I hear their questions or their critique of the Church I wonder how we can see things in such a different light. I see a loving Mother and they see rules. I see a tremendous love story and they see someone uninterested in their lives. It doesn’t make me doubt my faith or doubt God. Rather, it makes me desire, somehow, someway, to give them my faith, to help them understand God, to trust in Him. I haven’t figured it out yet, but there must be a way.