Monday, February 24, 2014

Why Should I Know My Faith?

In a conversation with friends the other day, the question was posed on why one should bother to study his or her faith? Why continue study beyond the basic building blocks of fundamental faith understanding? In an earlier post I discussed the Church’s call to evangelize, specifically in regards to the New Evangelization. How, then, would it be possible to evangelize and spread our faith if we cannot explain it? Both in my work in the pro-life movement and as a Catholic, I have found that a deep understanding of one’s beliefs is essential to being able to share and explain your viewpoint with others.

Campus Ministry's Theology on Tap series is a great way to
learn more about your faith
Last year as President of the Right to Life Club, I was thrown into a position where people often looked to me for their answers. In all honestly, in the beginning of the year I was not prepared to answer questions about why the Catholic Church teaches that contraception is wrong or where the Church stood on the death penalty or to thoroughly explain the pro-life teachings of the Church. In many cases, I believed in certain teachings of the Church because they were just that, teachings of the Church and as a Catholic, these were the teachings I believed in. Especially in regards to contraception, I would not have been able to defend my beliefs beyond saying it was a teaching of the Church. In conversations about whether contraception is right or wrong, I would be easily persuaded to the other person’s beliefs – whether they were for or against it. It wasn’t until I really started to look into the issue, knowing that I’d be asked about it at some point, that I began to see the Church’s teachings as a truth that I knew I could believe in and actually began to develop my faith around the issue.

What I learned from this experience is that if I don’t take the time to educate myself on my beliefs, then not only will I have a difficult time discussing my beliefs with others, but I would also be at risk of being easily swayed to an opposing view. This is not to suggest that we should not listen to other faith perspectives but that we ought to understand more than just the surface of our beliefs. For me, knowing that I was pro-life was a good thing but eventually it was not enough. Without researching the issue, it became very hard to defend my beliefs and even harder to share them with others, to evangelize the pro-life mission.

The study and a deep understanding of one’s beliefs is so essential to being an evangelizing Catholic because it allows you to express your beliefs in terms that the person you’re in conversation with can understand. Without a deep understanding of your beliefs, it can be very easy to fall into a trap of doubting all your beliefs, especially when you are not surrounded by a community as supportive as Notre Dame.

Understanding your faith can be as simple as keeping up with the Pope’s activities and teachings (try following @Pontifex) and discussing points you don’t understand with family and friends or the religious on campus. Here at Notre Dame, we are surrounded by some of the premier theological scholars of our age, take advantage of that and visit them at office hours or attend one of their lectures. Don’t be afraid to have these discussions with friends of opposing beliefs, often time their questions can make you question what is at the foundation of your belief and make you research what exactly your beliefs mean. Remember that it’s okay to question where your beliefs come from, and why you believe what you do, but these questions should fuel our studies of faith rather than lead us to abandon it. 

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