Dear Pope Francis,
During my undergrad, I had the opportunity to be mentored by some very interesting people, one of whom taught me the art of asking questions. He was my theology professor, and he thought that theology could have a conversation with just about every other discipline. While I think some disciplines are more suited to such conversations, I think, in essence, he is right.
For instance, my roommate and I have very different academic backgrounds, but there are many common areas of interest. For instance, we spend a lot of time talking about social understandings of sexuality and marriage because sexuality is part of her field of study, and I’m taking a class on the Catholic perspective and teachings. We agree on some things, like the importance of respect and not being judgemental, but the implications of our academic background and personal belief systems impact how we understand many of these concepts. Despite the numerous differences we still have fascinating conversations, simply because neither of really knows much about the others discipline. Many times, I will hear something in a lecture or read something in a book, and I wonder what my roommate would have to say about it. The next time we are home together and have some free time, I ask. The resulting conversation is usually quite thought-provoking.
Our conversations work because we are equally curious about the other’s discipline, and because we are open-minded enough to listen and respond respectfully, even when we disagree. It also helps that we have a similar sense of humour, and are usually making jokes as we talk. Many times, asking these questions and having the conversation helps deepen my understanding in a way that standard education methods couldn’t, because, simply put, she has a different worldview. It’s a worldview that I don’t always get in my theology classes, but is still equally as important.
At the end of one conversation, my roommate and I agreed that we need to read a book from the other’s discipline, specifically because those books would offer a completely different perspective than we are used to. This, in my mind, is the best kind of education: a way that I can know the Truth, but still critically engage with other disciplines and ideas, and question my own assumptions and beliefs in light of what I’ve learned. Rather than questioning the authority of the Church and her teachings, this process has made me agree with and appreciate them all the more because I know they stand up to my critique.