By Judith Costello
There are parents who feel that children should decide which church, if any, they want to associate with when they become teenagers. Before then, they are left without much religious guidance. This idea is becoming increasingly common in our modern world.
I heard this concept espoused recently. The fellow said, “Kids need to reason for themselves regarding what is true.” They shouldn’t just be handed a set of beliefs. The man said to my daughter, “Catholics are told how to think. What happened to basic freedom in your Church?”
This worldview has a lot of false assumptions and needs to be challenged …especially when such statements are addressed to children! First of all, I pondered, “What is freedom?” The modern world would have us believe that freedom is “to believe according to our own experience and live according to whatever pleases us.”
But this is not freedom! It is hedonism and myopic thinking. All the great saints teach that the world is what shackles us and puts us in chains. Witness the reaction that happens whenever a new gadget is advertised. Millions flock to the stores standing in line late at night. Kids say, “I have to have it because everyone else does.” Such a reaction is to be chained to “throw away goods that will be out of vogue next month.” It is to be manipulated by the media.
My husband likes to explain it this way: If a river is flowing freely, it is within its banks. In other words, it flows most comfortably within borders. When you take away all borders, the water has no direction and it is not free. Without banks, the water spreads out aimlessly. It becomes destructive and eventually it disappears into the ground. To be free is to know the things we can “bank on” that provide a clear direction.
We are truth seekers by our very nature. Even those who say that truth is relative … there is only “your truth and my truth” … are still looking for truth. So are there truths that are universal? If not, we are like the river without banks. We are likely to wander aimlessly, manipulated by the whims of culture.
We need to look beyond our egos. Truth is the channel through which our existence can flow freely. It is what releases us from aimlessness. Truth is deep… “like the deer that longs for the running stream, our souls long for the Lord. (Ps. 42)”
God doesn’t ask us to puzzle out what we believe based solely on our own experience. He gives us lots of guidance. There are “outer banks” through which our lives can flow freely and safely toward the ocean of goodness, i.e., our heavenly home.
Truth is revealed through the life of Jesus who said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.”
Truth is a part of the ancient traditions and formal teachings of the Church. (This does not mean that every word from a Church authority will be truth. But on teachings of faith and morals, the Church offers clear guidance.)
Truth becomes a part of us in prayer, as the Holy Spirit guides us.
The idea that we can “determine what is true for us” comes out of great arrogance. Jesus did not come to earth to say, “Follow your own path; whatever you believe is fine.” No. He followed the will of the Father. He submitted himself to the cross. He did not deem “equality with God something to be grasped at.”
When our kids are young, they need to have the borders of faith set in place. Because there is truth.
(Judith Costello is a freelance writer who grew up in Davenport and now lives in rural New Mexico. Her Web site is www.thedailychristian.com.)