In my last post, I questioned whether my belief that Catholicism is “simple” could be squared with the immensity and depth of the Catholic Church. I compared Christianity to breathing: it’s so simple you don’t have to even think about it and at the same time so intricate very few of us can fully understand it.
This week, Bishop Robert Barron threw another challenge at us “Simple” Catholics. I started listening to Bishop Barron’s Word on Fire podcasts. (I highly-recommend them; he’s a genius and he’s fun to listen to.) In Episode 7 he talks about the Second Vatican Council and the (in his opinion) mistake the church leaders made by “dumbing down” the message of Christ. Bishop Barron was called upon to respond to proponents of new atheism, proponents that the Bishop said were intelligent, well-spoken and believable. He argues that defenders of Catholicism need to remember the depth of our faith, and to study the works of the many, many brilliant men and women who helped describe that faith for us. By oversimplifying the message of Christ, we run the risk of seeing people peeled away by the seemingly-thoughtful and logical atheists.
So, which is it: simple or sophisticated? Deep or easy? Do you need a Phd or the faith of a child?
I think the answer is “yes.” You bring everything you have to the Catholicism game. God created you and guided you in the path to become what you are. He wants to relate to that version of you. If you’re a bishop who can speak several languages and is conversant with philosophers, God wants to talk to you about how Balthasar and Plato agree or disagree. If you’re a simple carpenter who works hard to craft new homes, God wants to understand why you think maple is a better species for cabinets than birch. God wants to talk to YOU. God wants a relationship with YOU.
The reality is our universe is complex; more complex than anyone but God can ever hope to understand. The other reality is that God created each one of us as a unique part of that universe, with a unique role to play. We each have a unique set of tools, tailor made to help us play our role. Bishop Barron was given gifts of great wisdom, intelligence and communication to answer questions about atheism and philosophy. My simple carpenter father was given the gifts of deep faith and clear speech to convey the strength of God’s personal love for each of us.
Each of us have a mission that is our own; no one can fulfill that mission for us. It’s that simple.