The most formative moments of my Jesuit high school career took place while sitting on the floor in Mr. Mensel’s religion classes. Before beginning the lesson on World Religions or Eastern Religious Thought, Mr. Mensel would sit back as students presented prayerful reflections over Scripture passages, poetry, or music.
Mr. Mensel’s quietness spoke to me of a deep wisdom, a confidence in God’s pervasive presence in all things, even in other religious traditions. The few times when Mr. Mensel would speak up, he often mentioned how his study of Hinduism and Buddhism helped him better understand and embrace his own Catholic faith. He knew from his own spiritual journey that by letting us explore religious questions on our own (with supportive guidance, of course), we would develop stronger faith lives than if he simply spoon-fed us theology. During a time when I too was struggling with my Catholic faith, I was comforted that he gave me the license to question, doubt, and explore.
Thanks to Mr. Mensel’s trust in the process of religious exploration, I ultimately came to embrace my Catholic faith in college more strongly than I ever had before.