Friday, November 11, 2011

How Did They Not More Quickly Find (the) Lord?

November 11, 2011

Memorial of Saint Martin of Tours, bishop

By Melanie Rigney

"All men were by nature foolish who were in ignorance of God, and who from the good things seen did not succeed in knowing him who is, and from studying the works did not discern the artisan; But either fire, or wind, or the swift air, or the circuit of the stars, or the mighty water, or the luminaries of heaven, the governors of the world, they considered gods. Now if out of joy in their beauty they thought them gods, let them know how far more excellent is the Lord than these; for the original source of beauty fashioned them. Or if they were struck by their might and energy, let them from these things realize how much more powerful is he who made them. For from the greatness and the beauty of created things their original author, by analogy, is seen. But yet, for these the blame is less; for they indeed have gone astray perhaps, though they seek God and wish to find him. For they search busily among his works, but are distracted by what they see, because the things seen are fair. But again, not even these are pardonable. For if they so far succeeded in knowledge that they could speculate about the world, how did they not more quickly find its Lord?" (Romans 15:17-19)

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. Day pours out the word to day, and night to night imparts knowledge. (Psalms 19:2-3)

“Remember the wife of Lot. Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses it will save it.” (Luke 17:32-33)


Lord, help me to temper my questions with confidence that You have all the answers, even if they aren’t readily apparent to me.


I recently turned in to my publisher the manuscript for a book I really didn’t want to write. The working title is Returning Catholics’ FAQs. It consists of answers to about 120 questions people ask when they’re contemplating a return to our Church, from “Why do Catholics hate gays?” to “Will I have to spend the rest of my life in the back pew begging God for forgiveness for the years I didn’t go to Mass?”

I didn’t want to write it for a lot of reasons. Two books about Catholicism pretty much pigeonholes one as a Catholic writer rather than a Christian writer. My coauthor from the first book wasn’t available. Most of all, I think in hindsight, it came down to having to go back six years to when I returned myself and again research my issues with the Church. But the publisher gave me a deadline, and so I met it.

And the process changed my life. Again.

I found that even the issues I find the most challenging had a basis in Tradition, sacred scripture, and, most importantly, love. I found that I’m not as smart as our Church leaders, and certainly not as smart as God.

That’s one of the things about people, whether they’re contemplating a return to the Church or conversion, or even if they’re cradle Catholics. Sometimes, we choose to ignore or criticize Church teachings because we don’t like them or think the Church is wrong, outdated, misogynistic, behind the times… in essence, we decide our knowledge is correct and superior to anything we might find in dogma or doctrine. It’s easier to criticize… and either walk away or ignore what’s there, to preserve our life and our views as they are.

It’s harder to research the reason for the Church teachings on birth control or celibacy or purgatory and determine where precisely we disagree. Sometimes, the results may even change our minds, or at least make it easier to submit our will and intellect. Sometimes, we lose our knee-jerk reactions… and gain knowledge. Or, having gained that knowledge, we are all the more capable of engaging in intelligent discussion over knowing God as He is.


Select the Church teaching you most struggle with, and spend some quiet time with the Catechism or online at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops ( or the Vatican ( to research the Church’s position.