Faith - Where To Start?
I have absolutely no idea where to start this post.
Which seems fitting, because the post is about not knowing where to start when you want to know God.
Whether you are an atheist, agnostic, from a different faith, a practicing christian, a non-practicing christian, or someone who doesn’t know what the heck they are, we all have questions. But where do you go when you decide you want answers?
Whether you want answers to “debunk” Christianity, or you want answers to find out what you believe, where do you start?
I think there are two main reasons we don’t learn about God, know God or draw closer to God. One is the simple fact that we don’t know how to.
Because where's the starting line? How do we begin?
By going to Mass? Maybe. But if you don’t understand what’s going on during that one hour then there’s a lot you’re not gaining from it. Maybe you already go to Mass, and you’re still not sure what the point of it is. It's just an hour of daydreaming about your next meal.
By reading the Bible? Well that’s not exactly light reading, and how the heck do you read it anyway? First page to last? Old Testament then New? Literally? Figuratively? Symbolically?
Do you watch documentaries and videos, read books, listen to podcasts? Probably should. But which ones? And by who? What topics first?
When I decided I wanted answers, I had no clue where to start. I had so many questions and I knew there was so much I didn’t know. There was so much information it seems impossible to get anywhere with it all.
The second reason we don't pursue God is because we think it doesn't matter in our lives.
Because life has been pretty good so far and I haven’t had a deep faith, or any faith at all. So why does it matter. Why bother.
I'm content with where I am now.
So we let our questions stay questions, or latch on to flimsy ideologies and try not to think about it too hard.
It's like the story of the kids playing in the mud pile. They're all having fun, making mud pies, splashing around and making mud angels. And one of the friends leaves to go explore a little further. In 10 minutes he comes back and says, "You guys, you're not going to believe it but theres an incredible beach just over there! There are so many kids playing in the water and in the sand, its even greater than this!" And all of the other kids reply, "But why should we go? We're content here in our mud pile." And the one kid says, "I know this is fun, I was having fun here too. But the beach is even more fun! You need to come and see for yourself! Then if you want, you can go back to the mud pile. But trust me, you won't even want to!" But all the kids are content in the mud, so they stay. And the one kid wishes his friends would just go and see it to believe, but he can't force them to come. So he goes, and they stay.
It's great to be content with where you are now, but that shouldn't stop you from exploring the places that can bring you even more joy.
We all have different backgrounds and have had different levels of exposure to Christianity. And there are so many different places we can begin to explore it, if we want to.
So first, you have to want to. And then you find your starting line.
I know my limits, and being the one to explain everything to you is very far out of those limits. So I’m happy to just be a tour guide; pointing out and giving brief overviews of what you can learn from different resources. But I’ll let the experts do the explaining.
The “Is God even real?” Starting Line:
Father Mike Schmitz is the man. I'm going to mention him quite a lot. He's great at engaging the audience and working logically through his talks to get to the answer. This is a great talk if you think 1.) God is something people believe in just to feel good. 2.) Science and Christianity are at odds. or 3.) That God's existence doesn't matter.
This is the true story of Lee Strobel, a seasoned investigative reporter from the Chicago Tribune who sets out to disprove God's existence and crumble the ground which Christianity stands on. Strobel is an atheist, who cross-examines experts to figure out the truth and build a case against Christianity using evidence and facts. He consults recognized authorities from schools like Cambridge and Princeton in areas of archeology, science, psychology, and medicine with questions like: How reliable is the New Testament? Does evidence for Jesus exist outside the Bible? Is there any reason to believe the resurrection was an actual event? Could Jesus not have actually died? Coming at the issue from every angle, Strobel finds out that the evidence stacks up unequivocally on Christianity's side. And the facts are not biased. Facts are facts. So this is a great read/watch if you want to know what the facts are.
The “Show me the reason in Christian faith” Starting Line:
Handbook of Christian Apologetics - Peter Kreeft and Ronald K. Tacelli
Heads up, "Apologetics" doesn't mean to apologize or be sorry. It means to give a defense for. A lot of people think that reason and faith are at odds. So if you pride yourself on being an "academic", and think that reason and logic point away from Christianity, this book is for you. It uses logic and reason to arrive at the answers, covering issues like creation and evolution, the Bible, life after death, Christianity and other religions, and objective truth. See how your logic and reasoning hold up against it.
I wrote a little somethin' somethin' to help you figure out who the heck Jesus was and why reason and logic back up His claim.
The “I believe, but I’ve got so many questions” Starting Line:
Another Fr. Mike Schmitz resource coming at you hot. I don't know about you but sometimes I'll have incredibly random questions pop into my mind, or I'll learn something and have no idea what it means or why the Church teaches it. Theres a pretty good chance Fr. Mike has done a video about it. He answers big questions that we've probably all thought of like, "whats the meaning of suffering?" or pretty random questions like "is it ok to hate someone?"
Father John Riccardo played one of the biggest parts in helping me dig deeper into my faith. I owe so much to him and his podcasts. He's incredibly intelligent and dynamic. You can use this archive, or go into your podcast app on your phone and search "Christ Is The Answer." On the online archive you have titles of the podcast and a brief description of what it's on, but on the podcast app you just get the date, not the title. So it's a little bit like Podcast Roulette...the good news is you can't pick a bad one, because I don't think that exists.
This is the number 1 resource for answering your questions about Catholic teachings. The answers to what the Church teaches and why it teaches it are in here. If you still don't understand something after reading it, or aren't sure about it, don't stop there. Go to the next starting line resources.
The “I want to know more about being/becoming Catholic” Starting Line:
Whether you're already a Catholic or want to know more about being one, Fr. John's RCIA for Catholic's series is an awesome place to start. Start with #1 and take it from there.
The Alpha series is phenomenal. It covers the big questions and the teachings of the Catholic Catechism, so it's a great follow up to the RCIA series.
"What Happens At Mass"- Jeremy Driscoll
Whether you've been going to mass since you were little because your parents brought you or if you've been just a few times, many of us have absolutely no idea what the heck is going on and why we do what we do during that hour. This book will transform the way you participate in Mass. I will be the first to admit that this isn't going to be a page turning book. Sometimes you have to re-read a line over again in order to understand what the author is saying. But man, when you understand, it will hit you hard. Then when you go to Mass, and understand what everything means and what is happening, you'll experience it like you never have before.
"Rome Sweet Home" - Scott Hahn and Kimberly Hahn
This book is awesome. It's the story of Scott Hahn and Kimberly Hahn's conversion from Protestantism to Catholicism. Scott shares how he went from despising the Catholic Church and tearing apart rosary beads, to investigating Church doctrine and learning about what it means to be Catholic, to converting to Catholicism which destroyed many relationships in his life and put his marriage in jeopardy. Kimberly shares her own perspective on their conversion story and how it changed both of their lives.
The “How do I start to incorporate God in my life? Starting Line:
The first and most important thing you can do to incorporate God in your life and start a meaningful relationship with Him is to pray. Treat it like any other relationship. You didn't make your friends by only seeing them one hour a week. You didn't develop a relationship with your significant other by only talking to them for 5 minutes every day. You don't form great relationships by putting in very little effort. When you talk to friends or loved ones, you don't spend all your time asking them to do things for you, or complaining about things going on. You tell them you love them, you thank them for what they have done for you, you talk about your struggles and your joys, and you show them they mean a lot to you. You give them your time. That is how you should approach praying.
Here are some fundamental Tips for praying.
How you start your day, shapes your day. You know how everyone runs around saying that breakfast is the most important meal because it gives you the energy you need to start your day off right? Think of your morning offering as your spiritual breakfast. Having God be the first thing you give time to in the morning will fuel you more than coffee ever could. And this is coming from a coffee addict.
Want God? Theres an app for that. Ok so not actually, but it's kind of like a technology center that gives you resources to help bring God into your life. There are a bunch of different sections, like daily readings, daily prayers, how to pray the rosary, the basics of going to confession and more.
There are so many incredible books that are centered around God. So not only are they enjoyable and engaging, they're really moving. There are so many but just to mention a few of my favorites:
The “I want more" Starting Line:
What could be "more" than receiving the body and blood of Christ. A relationship doesn't get more intimate than that.
For a long time I didn't acknowledge the Blessed Mother more than giving a spiritual head nod. But there's no one who can lead you closer to Jesus than His Mother. I had no idea how to pray the rosary until recently, and now its something I don't think I could live without doing. The more you do it, the more natural it becomes. Set aside 20 minutes, that's all the time it really takes.
Laudate app: "Rosary and Chaplet"-->"Mysteries only and Podcasts"--> "Podcast from Christian Peschken")
This is how I started learning the rosary. It's awesome for beginners, because he says it out loud and you can just follow along. The more you do it, the easier it becomes to do it on your own.