I Have a Friend… — Jonathan Bryan

I have a friend who I’ve known since the 1st Grade. We both completed our K-12 education at a Catholic school system where we learned everyday mathematics, sciences, and language arts in addition to Catholic theology. In the past, we completed class projects together, listened to similar music genres, watched (more like mocked and critiqued) movies on the weekends, and talked with one another when something difficult was happening in our lives. Throughout the years we formed a lasting friendship that exists to this day. In all regards, I can say, this person is my best friend.

Despite attending the same school, my friend does not consider themself Catholic and asks relevant questions about Catholic teachings and traditions. Why does the Church have and keep a hierarchy? Why can only men enter the priesthood? Why does the Church keep asking me for money? Why does the Church seem more like a system than a faith? Why do I need to say my sins to a priest instead of just apologizing directly to God through prayer?

These questions illuminate some main reasons why my friend no longer identifies as Catholic but still believes in the moral teachings of Jesus Christ, a conflict that emerges from human beings trying to live out faith and interpret divine revelation. My concern is that I hold similar questions about my faith as a Catholic. I’ve spoken with diocesan administrators and priests about these inquiries, but none of the answers I receive seem to be enough to justify the Church’s practices. I’m willing to ask the questions directly to the appropriate people, but I expect the answers to be disappointing and more confusing after each encounter.

I do not have the strongest faith. Sometimes, I think that if the faith and Church separated, many of those questions would be resolved. Other times, I think that the Church and faith must coexist to truly fulfill one another. I believe the Church as a community is a fantastic support network for preserving the faith, lending a hand to those in need, and instilling moral teachings.

Through my participation in interfaith dialogue, I’ve grown to appreciate questions more. I realize that many of the other fellows face personal challenges and issues with their faith practices. We all come from unique backgrounds and different belief systems. Each individual’s experience with faith is their own. Our interfaith group is willing to talk about the specific differences between religious teachings and not just the commonalities. By doing so, we discuss the core of our beliefs and sometimes admit personal doubts.

Overall, interfaith dialogue has helped me better understand my own faith beliefs better. I’m not a perfect Catholic because I doubt. Although, I view my doubt with my faith as core to my search for the Truth. Like with the scientific method, I inquire and investigate. In spite of these challenges, I still hope both my friend and I come to terms with our faith identities. We still regularly talk and meet one another, and I hope to keep this friendship well past my time on Earth.

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