“I just wanted you to know that I won’t offer to pray in class because I’m not Catholic. If you want, you can email my parents and ask them about it. But when you look around the room for volunteers to pray, that’s why I’m not offering.”
A student had approached me after class one day and started our brief conversation with that explanation.
“Oh? That is fine that you aren’t Catholic. I assume your parents are not either, so I wouldn’t email them about it. I still expect you to answer questions and participate in class, though”
“No, they are Catholic.”
“They are, but you aren’t?”
I’ve often wondered why some people remain faithful to the religion of their parents and others don’t. Considering that this student brought this conversation up in the first place, I figured I could try to ask some questions to get some bearing on the situation.
“Are you Christian?”
“No. I believe in God, because I think it is silly not to. I just believe he created the world but isn’t really active in it. I’m not against Christians or anything. I just think you do your thing and I’ll do mine.”
This student seemed so…pragmatic.
I think the thing that struck me the most was how reasonable the student was striving to be. Granted, I am grateful when students are reasonable, but I couldn’t help but sense an absence of joy in this system of belief. In many ways, I was impressed with the responses I received to my questions. Yet I also wondered if this lack of belief stemmed more from a desire to be intelligent rather than closely examining the issues.
The popular notion of ‘you do you, I’ll do me’ continues to baffle me. If there is any honest pursuit of the truth, then clearly you doing your own thing and me doing my own separate thing cannot both lead to the correct answer. Continual diversity in beliefs cannot lead to unity in the end.
Regardless, I appreciated the student’s honesty with me because it allowed me to be more observant in the classroom. One day this past week, I spent some time answering their questions about saints, relics, incorruptibles, and miracles. When the conversation veered towards Eucharistic miracles and how physical miracles need to be verified for canonization causes, I couldn’t help but notice this student’s eyes get quite wide a couple of times. This was new information, it seemed, that this student hadn’t heard before. I couldn’t help but hope it would prove convincing or at least provide a bit of doubt in the current position held.
I don’t think that this is a sufficient proposition, but there seems to be something about the idea of preference. What would we prefer to be true? Do we prefer the narrative of a God who makes the world and then lets it run its own course? Or do we prefer the idea of a God who makes the world and continues to be present to it? Personal preference doesn’t make something true, surely, but perhaps our desires could point the way to something more.
If there is a God, but He isn’t particularly concerned with this world anymore, why are there miracles? If the Eucharist is just a ritual, how do we explain that sometimes the host begins to bleed? If the being that put the world into motion and thus brings about my existence, if this being doesn’t care a bit for me, in what can I have hope?