May 28, 2022

Confused young female wearing cozy sweater shrugging shoulders and gesturing with open palms, feeling uncertain about making serious decision, posing in studio together with her indecisive husband

Question:

Why should I care about learning about my faith?

Answer:

One of the great frustrations we can face when we become awakened to and fascinated by our Catholic faith is that others don’t share our enthusiasm, and try as we might, we can’t seem to get them as excited as we are. How, then, might we respond in these situations?

First, it’s worth confirming your own sense: this information is indeed informative, in the most literal sense of the word it “in-forms,” or “forms inwardly”; it forms us within ourselves. Let me explain.

The truths of our Catholic faith are not mere faith facts or bits of religious trivia that those of us who are theology geeks collect in our minds simply to increase our knowledge. Certainly, knowing these truths does in fact increase our knowledge, but it does—or ought to do—so much more than that: it is meant to not merely “inform” us in the everyday sense of the word, but to “form us from within”…to transform us.

For these truths indeed have the ability to change our lives…the more deeply we know them and the more fully we live them, the more we are changed, transformed, sanctified. In other words, the holier we become. Or just as importantly, the more we are able to love God and our neighbor and the more we are able to receive God’s love.

This is worth emphasizing because too often we see knowledge of our faith as a merely academic thing, as something for those who like to study things, but not for those who aren’t as inclined to pick up a book. Here it’s helpful to recognize that knowledge of the faith isn’t really knowledge about something as it is knowledge about someone: God, and what he has revealed to us. So growing in knowledge and understanding of our faith isn’t so much about getting smarter as it is about getting to know someone better. And as we get to know this particular person better, we become more like him—we are changed.

A second point: this is true for everyone who comes to know and live the Catholic faith. It isn’t for a select few who are invited to receive this transformative knowledge; it’s intended for everyone, for all people. Everyone who has the ability to know—no matter how great or little that ability—is invited to come to know the one true God, and Jesus Christ whom he has sent (John 17:3), and in order to know God, one must know about God, and hence, the importance of knowing our Catholic faith.

And this is where our question this month becomes relevant: most of us do not immediately grasp the power and importance of growing in knowledge and understanding of our faith. It can be easy to see someone else’s passion for growing in faith knowledge as their own particular hobby. Just as some people are fascinated by, say, stamps, sports or celebrities, others are fascinated by their faith.

But this is where the point we just made is relevant; this kind of knowledge is for everyone. Faith knowledge isn’t so much like stamp collecting as it is like eating or breathing—it’s something necessary for life. Now, obviously we don’t literally die if we don’t grow in faith knowledge, but we do live a more impoverished life than we would otherwise.

Again, though, most people do not recognize this immediately. And if our motivation is pure and if our desire to help them come to know the faith more deeply is driven by our love for them and for God, then this can be incredibly frustrating. We are offering them something that is of real value to them, something they cannot receive in any other way, and they are uninterested.

What, then, do we do? Here are a few things to consider in situations like this. First, continue to deepen your own faith, in both knowledge and life. Doing so demonstrates the importance that it has for you, but even more importantly, it will result in your continued transformation, and that is a powerful witness to those around you. As they see that you are different, the likelihood of them inquiring about the source of your change—and their openness to hearing your answer—will increase.

Second, pray for them, that the Lord would give them a hunger and thirst to know him and to know about him just as he has for you. We, too, often neglect this crucial step, but to the detriment of our desire to help others come to know the God who loves both them and us.

Third, recognize you may not be the one who is meant to verbally share the Gospel with them. Certainly, we should all always be ready to give an explanation for our own faith (1 Peter 3:15), but until they ask or the Lord prompts us to speak, we should persevere in living our faith as mentioned above, recognizing that someone else in that person’s life might have the task of sharing the faith in word as you have shared it in witness.

As we celebrate this Advent season, may we quietly contemplate the God who loves us so much that he became one of us, and may we, by our witness and our word, lead others ever closer to him.

Be sure to check out the additional resources at sfcatholic.org/answer. If you have a question you need an answer to, email rkranz@sfcatholic.org.

Chris Burgwald holds a doctorate in theology and is the director of discipleship formation for the Diocese of Sioux Falls.