Let me tell you the story of how I got deeper into the Catholic Faith.
I was a freshman in high school and had a teacher with some very obvious anti-Catholic prejudices. He was a history teacher, which gave him an outlet for his opinions from time to time, especially when the subject came to medival and Reformation-era history.
I had always sort of taken it for granted that I was Catholic. I was baptised Catholic, had received my First Communion, and was going to Mass with as much regularity as I possibly could. Some Sundays we wouldn’t get up and go to Mass, and I didn’t really have a problem with that. I knew I was Catholic, and it was little more than a label to me. I was fine with this. I had not yet ignited my wants and needs for the spiritual. But soon I would make a turn around.
But about the time I started hearing some of the very subtle anti-Catholicism at work in the classroom, I began to wonder about my faith. I began to realize that this man was speaking falsehood (or at least distortion) in his lectures on the Church. So I set out to find some answers for him.
About a month or two into my freshman year, if memory serves me correctly (and it usually doesn’t), I was at my grandfather’s house after Mass or overnight on a weekend (again, bad memory). (Today is a particulaly special day, by the way, being the feast of St. Francis, as my grandfather Felicis Memoriae was a big fan of St. Francis–loved the Prayer of St. Francis.) Anyway, I was poring over his small collection of Catholic books. I don’t know what exactly prompted me to do this, but in doing so I found a book that many people here are quite familiar with: Catholicism and Fundamentalism, by the wonderful Karl Keating. As I read more and more of this book, I couldn’t help but laugh at how many of the charges my teacher was bringing against the Church were not only in this book, but they were in the exact words my teacher was using. That, and they were countered rather beautifully.
So after this experience, I sat down with my teacher while the rest of the class was doing homework or something–some free moment. I began a discussion of Peter and the Papacy, one of the topics so eloquently covered in this book. He told me Peter was never in Rome, and there was never any evidence of him being in Rome. I responded with the verse in which Peter himself says he is in Rome (1 Peter 5:13), Rome being called by the code word “Babylon.” My teacher responded with silence. He never spoke ill of the Catholic Church while I was in his class from that point on.
So this got me thinking. I was being met with attacks to the faith from other fronts as well–fellow students, peers outside of school, and of course the media–although I didn’t realize it at the time. So I began studying. I borrowed many of my grandfather’s books and read through them, hungry for knowledge and devouring it at a voracious pace. I was also hungry for spiritual gifts–I began attending Mass more and more, in order to receive our Lord in the Eucharist. I began studying Scripture, and through the story of Christ as told in the Gospels began to see the fullness of truth as I had never before. I attend to my spirituality through regular prayer, and I attend to my thirst for truth through study and defense of the faith.
So what is my point here? My point is that some people have different ways of finding God. God, of course, realizes this–hence differing vocations. In learning more about God, in learning more about His Church, His Saints, and the enlightening beauty that is in everything He blesses, I have not only fulfilled my intellectual desires, but my spiritual ones. I pray, I practice regular devotions, and I attend Mass (the highlight of my week). But I also study theology. Theology is one aspect of my Spirituality. In learning more about truth, I am fulfilled.
So about not seeing the forest for the trees, it is in learning about the trees that we may better see just how beautiful the forest is.
God Bless you, Mr. Heibel, and may He lead you to truth.
St. Francis, Pray for us