open minded and curious?

Jan 6, 2013

A few of the young people at Hearts Aflame expressed surprise that they had heard little of the full beauty of Catholic life, until they began an adult faith search which led them to Hearts Aflame.  

I went to bed last night pondering this, since this is my own experience too. 

Too often people who are older than me (51) were taught a lot about the Catholic religion with little emphasis on personal relationship with Jesus Christ. And the vast majority of Catholics who are younger than me, speak of their religious education (particularly in Catholic schools) being reduced to social justice projects and self-esteem exercises.

Then this morning I read on “Rome Reports” that Archbishop Fulton Sheen once said that there were only one hundred people in the entire world who hated the Catholic Church. He added that there were many millions of people who hated what they perceived to be the Catholic Church.

This is my experience too: people who say that they disagree with some aspect of Church teaching, very rarely know what the Church teaches about the issue.

A few years ago I was explaining Blessed John Paul’s Theology of the Body to a Year 13 Religious Education class in one of our Catholic schools. Many of the students were growing in interest since they sensed a resonance between what the pope was saying, and their own personal experience. Their curiosity was growing. 

At this point their teacher (who was neither curious nor interested) intervened and announced that what the pope was saying revealed how out of touch he and the church were.  I was saved by the bell signalling the end of class.

In pastoral ministry, few weeks pass without a parishioner commenting that they disagree with the Church on some teaching. I usually ask them to share which Church teaching they disagree with and why. WIthin moments these intelligent people become vague and reveal that they actually do not understand or even know the teaching of the Church on the issue they have raised.  Too often when I begin to explain the teaching they lose interest and glaze over or end the conversation. People tend to become attached to the familiar security of their own ignorance.

In my experience too, people who say that they disagree with some church teaching, if they read anything on the subject at all, read only the authors who support their own misunderstandings. It is rare that these people read anything that (for example) Pope Benedict has written on the topic.

I doubt that the RE teacher (above), went home with a newly opened mind, curious to find out more about the Catholic understanding of the human person, the body, and the churches understanding of sexuality.

The Rome Reports news item was prompted by the publication of a new book by Christopher Kaczor, a professor of philosopy at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. 

His book: “The Seven Big Myths about the Catholic Church” is available from, and on Kindle, so (for the price of three coffees) you can begin reading tonight. But for free, an Internet search of sound websites, or the Catechism (which has a built in topic search facility) will give you all the knowledge you can absorb.

Rome Reports that the author “says he wrote the book thinking about his own friends who have left the Church, precisely because of these popular misconceptions. So now thorough his book, he hopes to dispel some of those myths by giving readers some insight into the true reasoning behind the teachings of the Catholic Church”. 

I’m back home tonight after leaving Hearts Aflame this morning. On the flight south to Christchurch, and the drive north to Cheviot I thought of little else but the thoughts above. 

The New Evangelization of this Year of Faith (which is already one quarter past) gives a timely opportunity to communicate the beauty of faith as the relevant, lively and robust life that it is. 

Tonight I am deeply grateful and encouraged by my experience at Hearts Aflame with young people who experience their Catholic faith as relevant, robust and lively.

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