Jennifer Fitz is the author of Classroom Management for Catechists from Liguori Publications, and a contributor to numerous Catholic books, magazines, and online publications. Find her online at JenniferFitz.com.
Dear Christian Bible Guy,
I want to thank you for coming up to my son and his friends at our state’s March for Life and trying to talk them out of the Catholic faith.
You were bound to talk to someone. The pro-life movement is the place of all places where serious Catholics and serious non-Catholic Christians spend lots of time together side-by-side. Naturally you think Catholics are wrong about some of the details of our faith – if you thought we were right, you’d be Catholic.
And you weren’t that crazy anti-Catholic guy with the sign declaring “The Pope is NOT Pro-Life.” My kids got a big chuckle out of that sign. You were different. You were someone who genuinely believed Catholics are well-meaning but misguided, and you came up to my son and his friends because you love them and you want them to know the truth about God, Heaven, and their eternal destiny.
I’m the same way.
So thanks for taking an awful lot of time on a blustery day working to ensure my boy’s salvation — because you did for me and for him a service that I could never have done myself.
This is what you didn’t know when you walked up to them: You happened to pick out a handful of the smartest, best-catechized boys our diocese has to offer. You might have been able to disconcert one of those boys standing all alone... but in a group? You didn’t have a chance.
They totally put you through the ringer. You tried an argument, and they shot it down, and when you tried to shift to another point without admitting defeat, they called you on it. They don’t just know the Bible, the Catechism, and Church history: They know how to think. They know how to recognize a fallacy, and they know how to tell when someone’s engaging in shoddy debate practices.
Honestly? You were sport for them.
But although to them it was just fun and games, to their parents this opportunity for our boys to exercise their faith-and-reason skills was a precious gift.
See, we parents know that we can do all the right things and still end up with children who leave the Catholic Church. Our kids have free will. There are things we can do to improve their odds (and we do those things), but our kids aren’t robots. We can’t program the Catholic into them, press ‘run’ and sit back amazed at our parenting prowess.
Our kids are persons, young persons who are being pushed and pulled in many directions. By late high school and college, most Catholic kids have already left the Church. What you did was help them stay Catholic just a little bit longer.
These years are agonizing for us parents, because can’t really know exactly what our kids our thinking. Kids who grow up in a Catholic home, and who know their parents put a high value on the Catholic faith, can be tempted to stay quiet and get along and try not to upset their parents by airing their doubts. Sometimes a Catholic kid will do this out of genuine respect and love, not understanding that Mom and Dad would much rather work through any difficulties with the faith together, patiently and prayerfully, just like we’d want to work through any other serious problems in our children’s lives.
So Mr. Bible Guy, when you came up to my boy and his friends and pushed on their faith a little, that was a help for us all. You helped those boys remember there are reasons for their faith. You helped them feel the exhilaration of being able to deploy all the tools of rational thinking in order to sort through truth and nonsense. And what’s more, you brought those kids together and united them in their decision to continue calling themselves Catholic.
Was an hour with you a cure-all against militant atheism and every other ill of the modern soul?
No, it wasn’t. It was just a little booster shot. It was an inoculation against creeping doubt.
And who knows, maybe it helped you reconsider the Catholic faith, too.
So thank you for all that.
Take care and keep on with the work for Christ,
—A Grateful Catholic Mom