Thursday, November 3, 2011

Missionary for a moment

"You're Catholic, right?"

I was eating/studying over lunch with a classmate, and he asked this toward the end of the break. I wondered why he had to ask: I wear a San Damiano crucifix, I've blasted the entire medical school with two emails about the Catholic Medical Association, and I had blessed my food in front of him. I supposed that he was just speaking for the sake of something to say. But after he got my happy "yes," he kept going.

"What do you think of the pope?"

What do I think of the pope?? He's my vicar, my father, my teacher, my superior.... "What do you mean?" I asked him.

We talked about the pope for a little while, touching on authority, succession, and publicity. I tried my best to listen although I was bursting at the seams to say lots of theological stuff! It was fortunate that I held my tongue, because we stopped talking about the pope when my classmate got to the heart of the issue: faith and knowledge. How can you assert something without being able to prove it?

I was able to answer that question, goofing at first but then growing more simple and less scholastic. I told him that not everything that is not rational is irrational; not everything that is not natural is unnatural. And he actually seemed to be thinking about what I said.

Histology was our next class and we are in different labs, so we parted after my few sentences. But I was a missionary for a moment. (As an aside: thank goodness I am not a full-time missionary. I sort of shrivel up at the thought!) How wonderful; I hope I was a good tool.


  1. You acted wisely by not engaging in debate.

    I remember once a doctor was asked: "How can you be a doctor, obviously well educated and well qualified, yet you believe in something you can't prove like God!"

    The Christian doctor replied: "I am no different to a car mechanic. He knows how different bits of the car work and I know how different bits of the body work; and when they don't work well I try my best to heal them. Unlike a mechanic, who has a blueprint of how a car is made and how every bit works, I don't have all the information in the blueprint of the body. The maker of the body, God, has wisely kept some bits secret from us humans. Just as well, otherwise we'd ruin that too!

    I'm no different to a Christian car mechanic who also believes in God!"

    God bless.

  2. What a great story! I've gotten asked that question a lot (the are you Catholic one) but it has never ended as well. Normally their next question is "Why do you people do this: insert statement based on misrepresentation of theology and our faith?"

    Thanks for sharing our faith with compassion and knowledge.

  3. Thank you both for your comments! Victor, your doctor who didn't engage in debate (despite being served what I think is a provocatively phrased question) and Katie, what you said about "compassion"--you're both so on-target. I think being a missionary means silent sacrifice and slow, gentle teaching with example. (Look at Christ!)