By Father John Donovan/ SUN contributing writer
A tenth grader who was clearly struggling with his faith, when his peers were struggling to understand as faith a concept, recently asked: How is your faith encouraged and available to you each day? I was in the classroom to speak about vocations, Christian Vocation and Ministerial Vocation. A moment was needed; the subject changed, something funny was said, before I could address a question that has been posed through the generations. It was asked out of innocence and need. What a wonderful opportunity to reach someone even if the rest of the class did not understand the depth of the question. As young as he was, he sought wisdom.
Delicately, I proceeded to speak of my faith as being nurtured and visible each day when I see Christ in others. It was a difficult answer for me to walk through; I have used it as a talk in retreats of many years. The pained look on the boy’s face was slightly tempered. He listened intently to how a neighbor, a boss, and a family member had been instrumental in epiphany moments in my life and that was how I was I able to understand then, and now convey, how God is present in our midst. God is not distant but working in our midst, through others and as believers, through us too. The person who is the bearer of God’s word may not be the one we think of sometimes as the model of holiness, but they can be a witness to Christ’s presence. He was accepting this answer as a starting point. Then I added, “I am sure there will be something today that will show that God has been working, amongst us even if it is this question.” That caught him by surprise; in the midst of his doubt he certainly did not think he could be an instrument of a Christ filled moment.
The boy’s questions were excellent. They were at the heart of what it means to be a believer. I have only encountered a few adults who have asked such powerful questions. It may be that we are “seasoned” to think that we should not ask, but already have the answer. Yet, in visiting parishes and schools and have worked closely with teenagers throughout my years as a priest, such questions are asked with sincerity, inquisitiveness and with hope; so readily by our young. In Jesus’ wisdom he did invite the children to come forward, for it is from their guilelessness that we are to glean the attributes of openness and trust. Jesus instructs us to be childlike, for then we may see through the layers of muck that we can create for ourselves in our sophistication. Who has not been taken back by the straightforward honesty of questions child that may create an awkward moment? Yet, it is this honesty about our relationship with God that we are called too.
As our young are prepared for confirmation and are told of the adult responsibilities of faith, let’s not exclude that within those responsibilities is to be childlike. That is, honest and able to trust that there will be moments that they will see God in others.