I have an adventurous 16 year old son. He recently expressed his desire for adventure to my wife.
Son: I have a lot of things I want to do.
Woman: Yeah, like what? (Imagine the pursuit of many academic and lifelong achievements …)
S: I don’t want to die and leave adventures behind.
W: Do you mean a list of buckets?
S: Exactly. I want to go skydiving. Fighting a black belt with my bare hands – I would definitely win. I want to hunt. Like, kill a bear with a knife.
W: How about the five knives that a bear has on each of its paws?
S: I just don’t want to have any regrets in life.
W: We don’t have enough health insurance for your to-do list, son.
Apart from the fact that this is a hilarious conversation, it also demonstrates an important point. My son wants adventure, difficult and dangerous adventure of course, but adventure all the same. Why? He doesn’t want to have any regrets in life. He wants to live fully. What is his view of Christianity?
The desire for adventurous faith
Does he (and young people like him) think that Christianity is an adventure? Shouldn’t the Church tap into this desire for adventure? In addition, the Church must do better to help young people understand the value of their birthright treasure – their pearl of great price. They need to value their faith to risk everything.
The long way
A little about my history. I am a convert to the Catholic Church. Raised without a religious tradition, I had no idea who Jesus was and what he had done for me. My family was also very dysfunctional. I witnessed alcoholism and drug use firsthand, and very early in my life. A rebel in my family was someone who did good. I first heard the gospel when I was fifteen. Ironically, through a friend of mine named Paul. Paul came to my cousin’s apartment (where I lived after my family broke up in a divorce) and role-played with us. Afterwards, he showed us Christian music videos (in 1988 the lack of musical quality did not help his case) and told us about Jesus. He mostly spoke to my cousins while I watched, except the one time he turned to me…
“Dennis, do you know that Jesus loves you and that he died for your sins? “
Stunned, I just watched him in silence. My cousins seemed to tolerate Paul quite a bit, so I didn’t want to draw attention to myself. That night I prayed to Jesus for the first time, but I kept it to myself. I prayed that Jesus would touch the hearts of my cousins and the courage to tell Paul what Jesus was doing in my heart. God answered my prayer on August 28e, 1988 (I learned later as a Catholic that August 28e is the feast of Saint Augustine of Hippo).
The adventure begin…
August 28e, 1988, my cousin Brian and I were invited by Paul to a “concert” at Calvary Chapel Downey. With nothing to do and not old enough to drive, my mother drove us. Honestly, the “concert” was not good, but there was an altar call. For those unfamiliar with the term, an altar call is when a preacher (usually some evangelical Christian) invites people to come up to the altar to “accept” Jesus into their hearts. To my amazement and amazement, Brian went upstairs. I quickly followed.
The intellectual adventure
Fast forward to 2000. After many years of faith and studying Reformed theology, I found myself in a group of budding intellectuals at Iowa State University. We started an Iowa State version of the Socratic club of CS Lewis. Our goal was simple: to invite people from all philosophical and theological backgrounds to discuss their points of view and to encourage an intellectual dialogue devoid of controversy and emotion. Our efforts have had mixed results, but it was the impetus behind the effort that led me to the Catholic Church. It was an unwritten rule among our group that we couldn’t really hope to persuade anyone of the falsity of their positions unless you truly understood those positions as much, or more than, those who hold them. Anti-Catholic at the time, I took it upon myself to attack Catholicism in the hope of saving those who were under its deceptive grip.
Where did I start? Early in Church history with writers known as the “Early Church Fathers”. I have read Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp, Clement of Rome, Irenaeus of Lyons and others. I signed up for classes at Iowa State in Catholic Studies. The local parish (Saint-Thomas d’Aquin) endowed a chair of Catholic studies which brought various Catholic scholars to teach courses on the Catholic theme at the university. As I read, one glaring fact kept coming back – the absence of my theology in the historical records, except where they agreed with the Catholic Church.
As a Reformed Protestant, I believed in solas: sola fide, sola scriptura, sola gratia, sola deo gloria, and Christo solo (by faith alone, by Scripture alone, by grace alone, by the glory of God alone, by Christ alone). The more I read the First Fathers, the more I was confronted with the fact that two of the founding solas did not exist in the early Church: sola fide and sola scriptura. These revelations have led to a theological crossroads. Either the Church fell immediately after the death of the last Apostle (AD 100) or the Church I sought to destroy was the Church established by Christ. I believed in God’s words in Matthew 16:18 that “the gates of hell” would not prevail against the Church of Christ, so the Church could not fall. I entered the Catholic Church during the Easter Vigil in April 2001.
The Catholic birthright is an adventure
If you’ve stuck with this entry until now, thank you! I went into the smallest details to show that not all who are Catholic are by birthright. Some of us have been around. You could say that we cherish it more, having discovered it for ourselves, many times in spite of ourselves. To us converts, Catholicism is like the pearl of great price mentioned by Jesus in Matthew 13:46. Seeing those who have received this pearl as a birthright and then go and throw it into indifference saddens me a lot. They throw away something so expensive mostly out of ignorance.
Those who leave Catholicism behind are leaving more than a building. They leave behind the foundations of Western civilization itself. The Catholic Church produced the works of Saint Augustine, Saint Anselm and Saint Aquinas, the artistic works of Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the musical genius of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. In addition, the Church discovered the Big Bang theory (Georges Lemaître), founded the scientific discipline of genetics (Gregor Mendel) and a model of the universe (Nicolaus Copernicus). In the repository of Church literature we find classics such as Dante Divine comedy and Chaucer Canterbury Tales. In architecture, the church is unparalleled in beauty when you consider the Duomo in Milan and St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The rich ethical tradition of the natural law of the Church IS the foundation of all modern democracies.
The aforementioned wonders of the Catholic Church are just the icing on the cake that God has given to the world through His Church. The greatest gift the Church gives to the world is Jesus himself in the Eucharist. In the Catholic Church, Jesus is given every day in the Eucharist. In bread and wine, the risen Jesus nourishes his people with his body and his blood. Christ also provides six other sacraments through his Church through which he touches the world. A sacrament is when God uses the stuff of matter, for humans are made of matter, to produce a spiritual effect. For example, the waters of baptism for the initial forgiveness of sins. The Lord also uses the oil for the confirmation and anointing of the sick, the hands for sacred orders, the priest for confession, and men and women for marriage. These too are the birthright of all baptized Catholics.
The story of adventurous faith
During the first three centuries of the Church there were multiple periods of persecution. Christians were qualified as atheists (denial of the state gods and the emperor’s deity) by Roman officials and could be brought before a local magistrate to renounce their faith by sacrificing to the emperor or undergo the dead as a martyr. Despite this ever-present threat, the Church continued to grow exponentially throughout the Roman Empire. This fact appears to be counterintuitive. Why would people continue to join a movement that demanded individual holiness and often lead to physical suffering and death? The answer is in the question. People outside the Church have witnessed the change in their neighbors due to their new faith, and the will of those same neighbors to die, instead of weakening the truth of their claims, has served to convince those outside the validity of the claims of their neighbors. .
Once Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire and the Church of Rome the center of Western Christianity, the mantle of adventure was passed on to the daring missionaries who carried the message of Christ beyond the borders of what was once Rome. Among these were St. Augustine of Canterbury – “the apostle of the English” – St. Patrick for the Irish, and St. Francis Xavier for Asia. They all went through hardships and difficulties but still continued. Their efforts have been rewarded with massive conversions and the spread of the kingdom of God.
The challenge of adventurous faith
As demonstrated, our young people received a pearl of great price. They have a responsibility in their Baptism that is sealed in their Confirmation to take hold of their faith and change the world. If asked, I bet they also yearn for the Church to challenge them and send them on an adventure of faith. My son wants this adventure whatever the source. The Church has the opportunity to offer this great adventure and our young people are ready to seize this opportunity and run with it.
If the Church fails to provide a challenge and demands more of our young people, they will leave. I think it’s worth a try.
Catholic adventure opportunities
FOCUS Missions FOCUS offers students seeking to deepen their faith the opportunity to work with Catholics from around the world. What I like about this organization is that it works with established Catholic organizations. It is not a unique experience, but an ongoing mission that has roots.
Catholic Mission Trips Incorporated Catholic Mission Trips, Inc is another adventure opportunity. The good thing about this organization is that it offers both national and international opportunities. The opportunities seem apt to be more “work intensive” than evangelical in nature.
Life Teen Missions The focus of Life Teen Missions is primarily summer ministry in camps in the United States and Haiti. The ministry of the summer camp is an incredible opportunity for the young people to share their faith while having an adventure.
Camp Sainte-Thérèse Nothing cries out for adventure like the wilderness of Alaska. Okay, it’s only an hour north of Anchorage, but it’s still Alaska. This camp offers a summer camp for most school-aged children, camp support opportunities for 14-18 year olds, and positions for camp staff (counselors, lifeguards and support staff). Speaking from personal experience, I worked in a non-denominational camp in Alaska (Solid Rock Bible Camp) right out of high school and it was one of the greatest experiences of my young life.