When I was about ten years old, my brother Jack came home from first grade one afternoon, and told my mother that he had some homework. It was, he said, to learn the first five questions of the catechism.
I’m sure by then my mother knew the first five questions by heart – Q: “Who made you?” A: “God made me.” Q: “Who is God?” A: God is the infinite, all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving…” etc. But she nonetheless sat down with Jack, opened his catechism and asked him: “Who made you?” “Who made you?” repeated Jack. “That’s right,” my mother replied, “who made you? What is the answer?”
“Oh, we don’t have to learn the answers,” Jack said. “We just have to learn the questions.”
At the mature age of ten years, I thought this was so very funny.
But now I think how right this little brother of mine was. As Roman Catholics, we belonged to the One and Only True Church, which in addition had just a century earlier infallibly declared itself infallible. We had no need of questions; we already had the answers.
And yet the questions are profound: where did we come from? why are we here? where are we going? Oh, those questions are worth learning. They are worth a lifetime of pondering.
What a terrible loss to learn to skip over them before we had barely reached the age of reason.
Jack was right: we have to learn the questions.