Keeping a Budding Philosopher Grounded in Church Teaching

After Carl Wahlbom [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

After Carl Wahlbom [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

My youngest son is 21 years old. Because of various circumstances and roadblocks throughout his young life he has not received any of the sacraments. That is not to say that he has had no instruction about the Faith, that he does not participate at Mass, or that he does not believe in God. I just wish he would have had more exposure to the Faith as he was growing up. I am glad that he comes to me when he does have a question about what the Church teaches on particular issues. Then we can muddle together to find the “answers.”

Now that he is in college he has discovered philosophy. He has been exposed to various philosophical teachings, but those points of view make him want to know about the Church’s view. That is where I really wish he had had more exposure, more depth, more grounding in what the Catholic faith teaches because the questions he asks are becoming harder to answer. Not because I cannot explain or find the Church’s position but because sometimes I may have to review or explain catechetical points with him. I have to ground (there’s that word again) him in the Church’s teachings so that he has a benchmark to compare and contrast against the philosophies he is studying and/or to enhance his own understanding about the Church. Believe me, it’s not easy.

I try to avoid getting into heated discussions with him. If he asks a question that seems “far-fetched” or at least not in line with Church teaching, I always try to point him in the right direction. I don’t feel that he is questioning the Church. I think he is exercising and training his mind in the philosophical arts of questioning and argumentation. But sometimes he can get a little over the top.

He has discovered Justin, Augustine, Anselm, and Aquinas along with recent philosophers such as Sartre. For his final paper in his philosophy class he wrote on love using the concepts of Anselm and Aquinas and received an “A” on it. So he clearly has a mind and a knack for putting this stuff together.

Last week we had dinner together and spoke about different topics such as angels, demons, and evil in the world. He knows Aquinas’ (and the Church’s) position on why God allows evil in the world but he wants to really wrap his head around it and he just can’t seem to. It’s one of those mysteries, I have to remind him. There are just some things we don’t understand and maybe we aren’t meant to. We concluded the dinner/talk with him asking if I was glad that I had a son who asks questions that force me to understand my beliefs better so that I can answer what he poses. I have to answer that question with a resounding YES!

[Tweet “Answering my son’s difficult questions forces me to ground myself further in the Faith.]

Answering those difficult questions forces me to not only instruct and ground him in the Faith, it forces me to ground myself further as well. Those years of instruction that I felt were lost are perhaps now being gained with more thoughtful inquiry, more pointed questions, and a mind that wants to learn, rather than a younger mind that was taught but perhaps did not comprehend or did not have an interest.

Keep asking those questions, kid!

Copyright 2016 Michael Carrillo


About Author

Michael Carrillo is a retired police officer from a large California metropolitan police department. He is married to Vicki and they have five adult children between them. He is an unabashed fan of Jesuit education, though he regrets not obtaining one himself. Day hikes and walks give him opportunities and inspirations to look for and find God.

1 Comment

  1. It’s wonderful that this is a source of mostly joy for you. That will help both you and your son much more than letting it be a source of sorrow. And I agree: the fact that he likes to discuss these things with you and pester you with questions is undoubtedly a sign of the Lord’s grace. Thanks!

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