By Deacon Mark Krejci, Ph.D. / Office of Formation in Discipleship
God’s creation is very beautiful. The other day I was sitting outside, and two small wrens were flying about. They deftly moved their wings and darted through the air. Then my attention went to a lovely robin chirping its distinctive song. After a bit, the robin opened its wings, gently floated to the ground and started looking for worms. A little while later, I saw an eagle up high, gliding along air currents as it scanned the ground for its next meal. These beautiful birds all moved their graceful wings to soar through God’s creation.
I have been recently writing about how to have conversations with loved ones about their relationship with Jesus and His Church. Family members who reject Catholicism may ask: “How do you know that the Catholic Church is the right one?” This question tends to come from loved ones who agree that there must be some “creator God” but question why they should believe in Jesus as the Savior or as the Catholic Church as the “right one.”
There are so many ways to address this question with family members, but they have to be open to one idea as you begin the conversation. It is this: We believe what we believe about Jesus, God, the Holy Spirit, the Church etc. because we use both “faith” and “reason” to arrive at the truth. I love the image Pope St. John Paul II used to describe this interaction. He wrote, “Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of the truth.” God gives us all the gift of these two great wings and, based on both faith and reason, we accept the truth that the Catholic Church was established by Jesus Christ and is guided by the Holy Spirit.
This is the point where the conversation can get derailed. If your family member asks you something like “Why should I believe in the Catholic Church” and wants you to make your case based on only “the facts” and to leave faith out of it, they are asking you to fly with only one wing. To attempt to “prove” the truth of the Catholic Church only through reason, logic or thinking (whatever phrase your family member uses) limits us to only one wing. And what do you call a bird that can only work with one wing? Grounded! The bird cannot get off the ground because it needs two wings to fly.
We have faith that the Holy Spirit was sent by God the Father and God the Son to lead and guide the Catholic Church. We have faith in the word of God as revealed in sacred Scripture. We have faith that the Holy Spirit guides the Church. We also believe through our God-given ability to think, reason and reach conclusions. We recognize the beauty, goodness and truth found in the Church. We are moved by the beauty of the Mass and are awed that we receive the Body and Blood of Christ. We marvel in the goodness of Mother Teresa or, for that matter, the many people in our parish community who are involved in countless acts of service. We understand the truth in the words of Jesus that the Church prevails despite all the evil that has attempted to bring it down.
At this point, your family member may say, “But your belief in the Church should be based only on facts and on the antiquated notion of faith! No one really believes in faith anymore because science shows us the truth.” In reply, ask them, “Are you in love with someone?” (OK, you probably know this already because they are your family member and so ask them about the person you know they do or have loved.) When they say they are in love ask them this: “Prove to me that this person loves you only using reason or facts.” They may say things like “Well he/she acts in a loving way towards me and he/she said the words ‘I love you,’ so that is how I know for certain that I am loved”. Come back with “Couldn’t they be lying to you? Could they just be pretending? Where is your scientific evidence that the person actually loves you? No, you can’t do this because you have to, at some point, have faith in that other person.”
When a family member says “Only use facts to prove to me that the Catholic Church is the ‘real’ Church” reply to them that you cannot fly with one wing. Just as the birds fly through God’s creation on two graceful wings, we fly to the truth of the Church on wings of faith and reason.