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Did Curiosity Kill the Catholic?

Updated: Feb 20, 2019

Greg muses how being curious can enhance and supplement our Faith.

Don’t you love how children always question the things around them?

“Mummy, why is the sky blue?”

“Daddy, why is 1+1 equals to 2?”

“Mummy, where did I come from?”

As we grow up, we learn more and more things. Eventually, we begin to stop questioning every piece of information that comes our way. During one of my random thought moments (I have plenty of those, although a majority of the thoughts probably aren’t the best), I’ve begun to realized how much I’ve stopped allowing myself to be curious. Maybe it’s due to my thoughts being too all over the place to be properly inquisitive. Or maybe it’s because the effort and time needed to begin looking for those answers was way too much (relative to simply accepting said information). Maybe it’s just that I’m not so bothered by it anymore.

Whatever the case may be, I’ve realized that I’ve stopped asking and started to merely accept. Now, I grew up in a school system where asking questions were fine, but the answers given could sometimes be simply dismissive (“You don’t need to know this yet”, “It’s not in the syllabus” ,” It’s too complicated” and other such derivations). I then recalled the age-old adage: Curiosity killed the Cat. In my case, it was more unanswered curiosity. (To be fair, in the past, Google hasn’t really become a thing yet)

Similarly, I think many of us were brought up in the Catholic faith with a similar mindset. We came in curious but slowly, the curiosity stopped when we realized that our questions weren’t answered well enough (often given “textbook” answers, as many Singaporeans like to term it) or that the questions were simply dismissed. Heck, the Bible even has a story to discourage questioning (read: doubting Thomas in John 20:24-29). And yet, CCC 94 tells us “Thanks to the assistance of the Holy Spirit, the understanding of both the realities and the words of the heritage of faith is able to grow in the life of the Church:

“through the contemplation and study of believers who ponder these things in their hearts”; it is in particular “theological research [which] deepens knowledge of revealed truth”.
“from the intimate sense of spiritual realities which [believers] experience”, the sacred Scriptures “grow with the one who reads them.””.

Basically, there is a need to continually study and to research. This means that to begin this whole process of research, there is a need to question. St Anselm had a motto: fides quaerens intellectum or “faith seeking understanding”. The Catholic Church is not a church based upon fideism (faith alone). Pope St John Paul II even wrote an encyclical titled “Fides et Ratio” (Faith and reason), and it is this tradition of faith and reason that the Catholic Church stands by.

So then what was doubting Thomas all about? Why did it seem like Thomas was being chastised for his questions? Bishop Robert Barron, in one of his earlier videos commenting on faith and reason, answers this and navigates the tension of having faith and yet, questioning the Catholic Church. Thomas was not chastised for asking questions but rather, it was the intent and the way in which the question was asked. As Bishop Barron succinctly puts it, “Is it wrong to question? No. But is it wrong to be so aggressive in one’s rationalism that one wants utterly to control the situation? Yeah. That’s a problem.” (Also, do watch his video in the link above! Really interesting watch! 11/10 would recommend!)

Now, we may feel like even though the Church says it’s ok to question, we still get dismissive or “textbook” answers that don’t really answer or shed light on our questions whenever we raise our own questions. Trust me, I’ve been there. But sometimes I wonder, could it also be that the person being asked that question has never thought about it before? That they do not know and cannot adequately shed light on these queries? That they, too, are wandering and in search of questions as you and I are?  Or maybe they are not sure if the answers they provide may be bringing us closer to God? Are we not, by growing in our impatience and our frustration, still trying to control the situation? Are we not then like Thomas in that “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” (John 20:25)

Jesus once said, “Let the little children come to me” (Matthew 19:14). As children, our questions weren’t to take control of the situation but simply out of curiosity. We asked not because we needed to know the answer but because we wanted to know. I once saw a post (not sure how true it was) about how there was a second part to the common saying of curiosity killed the cat: “but satisfaction revived it”.

In our case, it is not the satisfaction of getting all the answers because, let’s face it, humankind doesn’t have all the answers and will probably never have. It is the satisfaction of realizing that our quest brings us closer and closer to the Truth that is God. And after we have reached the limits of our human reason and experience, the joy In knowing that we have been given by God the divine revelation and the grace of Faith to supplement our limited rationality. As St John Paul II says in Fides et Ratio (which is also an amazing read), “reason and faith cannot be separated without diminishing the capacity of men and women to know themselves, the world and God in an appropriate way.” May we continue to be curious in our faith and may our questions bring us deeper and deeper into the Mystery of God instead of shutting out the Truth of God.

© 2018 Christ Centered Convo/Gregory Adrian Gunawan

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