Looking to test your knowledge of the Catholic faith? If a theologian isn’t available, a room full of youngsters also might work quite well.
Kids may not have all the answers regarding the faith, but they sure can ask the tough questions. That’s been the experience of Mary Ann Obark, religious-education director at Christ the King Parish in Irondequoit, who said she is occasionally called into classrooms to assist catechists with questions posed by students. Whereas some of those inquiries lean toward the humorous side, such as "How much money do priests make?" Obark said inquiring young minds often reveal a depth that can actually serve as a model for their elders. She offered such examples as: "What happens when you die; does Jesus come for you?" "Has anyone ever seen hell or heaven?" "When is the world going to end?" and "Are Catholics better people?"
"I think that children come to faith and God with a wonderful freedom. They are free from any preconceived ideas of what God should be or how God should act. I think this allows them to ask questions that most adults don’t even entertain," Obark remarked. "Children see possibilities and put no limits on their imaginations. These are truly gifts to the rest of us who have lost some of the wonder and awe of our youth."
Patrick Fox agreed that youths should be respected for raising profound questions about their faith.
"The mind of our young are always curious and exploring. My experience is that they have the ‘why’ questions, that is, ‘why’ to just about everything," said Fox, a longtime parish faith-formation coordinator who also is the former diocesan director of youth ministry. Fox added that "the joy of education is to listen for the questions because they are the doorway to the mind, and we have to be ready to respond to the questions when they come."
This readiness was displayed by the Holy Father himself. In October 2005, Pope Benedict XVI conducted a question-and-answer session in a gathering at St. Peter’s Square with children who had recently received their first Communion. Among the questions the pontiff fielded were: "Do I have to go to confession every time I receive Communion, even when I have committed the same sins? Because I realize that they are always the same," and "In preparing me for my first Communion day, my catechist told me that Jesus is present in the Eucharist. But how? I can’t see him!" Regarding confession, the pope responded that it is only required before Communion when a very serious sin has been committed, but going often to confession is nonetheless a good practice. Regarding Christ’s presence in the Eucharist, he said that "there are many things that we do not see but they exist and are essential," such as our ability to reason, our intelligence and our soul: "We do not see the very deepest things, those that really sustain life and the world, but we can see and feel their effects. This is also true for electricity; we do not see the electric current but we see the light … so it is with the Risen Lord: We do not see him with our eyes but we see that wherever Jesus is, people change, they improve."
Bishop Matthew H. Clark, as well, has been known to invite inquiries by the audience at youth-related events over the years. For instance, at the 1994 Junior High Youth Rally, the bishop spent 90 full minutes patiently answering such questions as "Why can’t women be priests?" "Why can’t priests get married and have kids?" and "How could you help all the people in need?" A Catholic Courier story about the event likened the barrage to an interview with Mike Wallace or Sam Donaldson. But the bishop answered every question thoughtfully, such as: "Have you ever seen God?" to which he replied, "No, if that means like I’m seeing you — (but) I’ve seen God because I’ve seen you."