Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 1453, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

The Best of The Question Box

by Father I.J. Mikulski

(From the June 16, 2016 edition of the Inland Register)

Father I.J. Mikulski Q. If we try to live our lives as good Christian people why would it matter which religion we are ... Methodist, Lutheran, Catholic, etc.? Please elaborate.

A. Everyone has an obligation to follow the trail of truth wherever it may lead. That principle applies to all people, Anabaptists to Zen Buddhists, and everyone in between. The pursuit of truth in all its forms makes demands on us but those demands are worthy of the dignity of human beings.

To say that all beliefs, all doctrines, all creeds are equally good is an admission of intellectual bankruptcy. Two plus two had better not equal seven if you’re going to balance your checkbook. There is such a thing as objective rightness, objective truth, that has been called “The Splendor of Truth.” That’s what we must pursue according to the light that’s given to us.

Jesus Christ is the Son of God, or not. Eucharist is truly the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, or not. Hell exists, or not. Baptism is a necessary step to salvation, or not. The Sacrament of Reconciliation can forgive sins, or not. Each of those topics, and another dozen like them, cannot be true and false at the same time, or truth has lost its meaning.

Now comes the hard part. Each of us is called to follow the trail of truth wherever it may lead us. That may require study and research until we arrive at the ultimate truth, guided by light of grace God gives us.

Religious indifferentism, saying one religion is as good as another, is illogical. How can two contradictory statements both be right?

But professing faith in one denomination or another isn’t just a matter of accepting doctrine. There are human factors too, such as strong family traditions, or sharing one’s faith with a spouse, or a pleasant experience with someone’s faith, or an impressive liturgy. We know this much: The grace of God “blows wherever it will.”

We are held accountable to follow the trail of truth wherever it may lead us. And that, my friend, is our greatest triumph.

Q. I might agree with your response to the person who asked about the Catholic need for penances, but how did we get caught in this business of meatless Fridays and fasting? Why do so many of our church related penances involve eating?

A. There’s nothing more basic than food, whether it’s a brown-bag lunch or gourmet dining. For many years best-selling books have been about self-control by a regimen of rigorous diets and the joys of sex. There’s a bundle of money waiting for the first author who promotes self­control in sex and wild abandon in food.

Restricting food by type and amount is the oldest form of penance because it’s a daily challenge. The Bible presents fasting and abstinence as a sign of remorse, along with wearing scratchy sackcloth burlap and smearing ashes on one’s head. There is no more miserable display of penance than sackcloth and ashes. King David did it, and rightly so.

In times of national bereavement the prophets cried out “full-throated and unsparingly” (isn’t that a fine expression?) for a return to spiritual values starting with self-control over eating habits. Native Americans, with no connection to the Bible, fasted and prayed for divine guidance in the Black Hills.

Aside from Biblical references, fasting is a natural inclination for serious-minded people seeking spiritual cleansing.

Q. There are bigger problems with our Catholic Church than can be settled by a Q&A column like yours. Have you thought of phasing out?

A. Some people say they read the Q.B. column in a moment of weakness. Some folks subscribe to The Eschatalogical Quarterly and find this column a bit tedious.

This Q.B. scrivener has never pretended to be an oracle of theological wisdom. He lets the heavyweights slug it out in the arena while he takes note in the popcorn gallery with lots of company.

From this perch, God is good and people are nice.

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