I’ve spent a great deal of the summer considering how this next school year will unfurl. Each fall, I start with the hopes that this will be the best year ever. And, in many ways, that has largely proven to be true. The more I teach, the more confident I feel teaching. The longer I am there and the more experiences I have, the more prepared I feel to handle future problems and situations. Yet despite all of my preparations and extra reading I do during the summer, one thing is certain: I will never be perfectly prepared for every question they ask me.
Honestly, I think I am able to answer most of the questions that arise in the classroom. If I have never considered the question or even heard the answer, I am surprised how often I am able to give an answer anyway. I’m not lying to them or just trying to look smart. I’ve come to realize that the longer one knows the Lord and studies His Church, the better one is able to think with the mind of the Church. So even if that question has never been posed to me before, I can often give a pretty confident answer because I have come to know and understand the Church to a degree.
There is, however, a lingering concern that I will be unable to answer a question. Or, worse yet, that my lack of knowledge will appear to mean that the Church has never considered that question or that her theology is found wanting. Regarding those fears, I think back to the summer before my first year of teaching. I was presenting these concerns to a trusted priest and he asked if I thought that a student could ask a question that the Church couldn’t answer or that would prove her wrong. I told him that I was certain the Church had answers and that I trusted her to be true in all things she affirmed as true. For him, that was the end of it. So what if I didn’t know the answer? I knew the Church had an answer and I was fairly confident I could find it if needed.
For the last five years, that is what I have sought to do. To a generation that I struggle to understand, I have striven to present truths they struggle to find relevant or accurate. I ask them to consider the truths of the Church and they echo Pilate by saying, “What is truth?” They question if it matters to know the truth. They ask if everything could be true. And I try to use logic and personal examples to show them the beauty of knowing and pursuing the truth.
With students who are already atheists or indifferent agnostics, I propose something to give meaning and I strive to love them regardless of their acceptance of these truths. In these situations, though I am passionate and care, I try to leave the results up to the Lord. I try to trust that despite their indifference or anger, their intense critiques or their nonexistent logic, that the Lord can turn cold, stony hearts into flesh. And I try to show them that I know He can do this because He has done this to me. In my own way, I try to show them my heart, broken, needy, yet stumbling toward the Lord. I invite them to join me in this pursuit of Truth, in this pursuit of Beauty, in this pursuit of Goodness, in this pursuit of our God.
While school is over a month away, please join me in praying for the students I have had and the students I will have. And, please, pray for me: that the Lord may use a little vessel to show them the streams of life.