It’s Okay Not to Know Everything

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Top apologetics resources online


My first day on the job as a novice catechist, I looked over my classroom of wiggly fifth-graders and silently wondered what I had signed up for. An eager college student, I thought volunteering at my parish would be a great opportunity to grow in my faith; I had no idea how much it would grow in the end.

Before I had even finished attendance, a hand shot up. “Miss! I have a question!” I looked at the boy and gulped, saying as sweetly as I could, “Yes?” — not wanting to hint at how unsure I felt of myself. The boy leaned forward conspiratorially, a slight smirk on his face; I knew I was in trouble. “My older brother said dogs don’t have souls, so they don’t go to heaven. Does that mean my dog Peanut is going to die and I will never see him again?”

A gasp erupted in the room as the other students, especially the girls, contemplated eternity without their favorite pet. I straightened up, mentally flicking through the notes I had taken on this topic from my limited resources, such as the film All Dogs Go to Heaven, and quickly decided I needed to do more research before answering him.

I was prepared for this moment — the moment of unknowing — so I handed my young friend an index card and a marker saying, “That is an excellent question! I want to answer that question very well for you, so write it down for me and put it in my question box, and at the next class we will talk about what happens to our pets after they die.” I exhaled, the tension leaving my body — disaster averted, at least for now. My little friend leaned back in his seat, a bit defeated, and started scribbling, periodically eyeing me. He was bested. I don’t think I was the first catechist he tried to trump, but I may have been the first who had a strategy to deal with his attempts. Nothing is worse than feeling as though we don’t have the answer to a child’s question. As adults, we lean upon our life experience and studies, feeling confident until the moment a child asks “the question” that rattles us with its simplicity and insight.

I quickly learned that having a special “question box” to which I could direct off-topic questions was a saving grace. It gave me a chance to do some research and get back to the students at the next class.

As catechists, we aren’t expected to know everything, but people do expect us to know
where to look for answers.

Here are five recommended online resources that I’ve found helpful for answering difficult
questions that come up — saving me stress and meeting the needs of my students. Besides our Bibles, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and our religion textbooks, these websites ought to be bookmarked for future use!

Catholic Answers
Catholic Answers is a goldmine of apologetics resources; it contains an online library of answered questions and the ability to submit your own if you don’t find it on their site. They also have a store with top apologetics books and videos. The address is easy to remember:

Knights of Columbus — Catholic Information Service
A little-known but great source is this site sponsored by the Knight of Columbus. They have dozens of booklets for sale that you can download for free as PDFs about many aspects of the faith, including free catechetical courses online or by mail. My personal favorite resource is booklet 419, Technology and the New Evangelization: Criteria for Discernment.

Catholic Culture online library
Looking for a specific quote or document to back up your teaching? This site is for you! Catholic Culture describes their library in this way: “This library contains the wit and wisdom of nearly 2,000 years of Catholic authorship. It includes encyclicals and other Church documents, papal audiences, writings of the Church Fathers, works of contemporary Catholic scholarship, and countless articles, commentaries, and research works on a full range of Catholic topics.” I use it at least weekly.

Dr. Peter Kreeft’s website
Sometimes our students’ questions border on the more philosophical. I’ve always found Dr. Peter Kreeft’s style to be approachable and easy to understand. His site has a collection
of his talks and writings, organized by topic. One Billion Stories Sometimes the best answer to a question is the witness of someone who is living the faith. One Billion Stories is a hub for the witness of many such people, from young people to successful professionals, integrating a wide swath of interests.


Sr. Brittany Harrison, FMA, is a Salesian sister and the campus minister at Mary Help of Christians Academy in North Haledon, New Jersey. A frequent guest on Relevant Radio, her aim is to help students, readers, and listeners to connect faith with everyday life. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @SisterB24.

This article was originally published in Catechist magazine, April 2019


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