What would you think if you were seated in a room with six eighth-grade boys and they spent an hour and a half talking about God? That was my experience last night and all I could do was say, “Wow!” A group of us with eighth-grade boys who were confirmed this past fall decided to have the boys read Because God is Real by Peter Kreeft and get them together every couple of weeks to discuss it. Last night was our first group session. We began with a prayer and some pizza and then it was time to get the discussion rolling. The book is a series of questions and answers. The boys talked about the questions that most impressed them, the questions that surprised them, and the questions and answers they just didn’t quite understand. The discussion also took tangential trips into their experiences explaining their faith to those who do not believe and standing firm in their faith when others dispute it. We touched on the papal visit and Pope Benedict’s thoughts on faith and reason. These are normal middle-school boys. They can go from unbelievably goofy to profoundly intellectual and insightful in a matter of seconds. It was an incredible sine wave to ride for ninety minutes.
I taught most of these boys in my seventh grade CCD class. I have to tell you it made my little catechist’s heart go pitter patter to hear them identify the three kinds of sacraments (initiation, healing, service) or to hear them speak of the Magisterium as the teaching authority of the Church. They learned something! (insert contented sigh here )
The boys were extremely enthusiastic about this book. Reading it seemed more like a conversation than a lecture. My son said he looked forward to every opportunity to pick up this book and read a few more pages. The writing is easily understood without being simplistic. Profound philosophical thoughts are presented with humor. As Peter Kreeft himself describes it, this is an adult book that kids can understand.
Of course, I am not one to become complacent. These boys are open to spiritual reading. What should we put in their hands next? I think the Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis is a good choice. Hollywood is making this classic into a movie so I want them to read the original before their image of this story becomes formed by the silver screen edition. If you have any other ideas, please post them in the comments.