Giving teens "Something Solid"

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It was a Wednesday night, and instead of being at home finishing up their homework, about 75 teens lined the cafeteria at St. Louis Priory School to get some schooling on exactly who Jesus said He was.

It was the latest talk in a monthly series called "Something Solid," organized by a couple of parents who had a desire to offer something along the lines of catechesis and apologetics to help better form their teenagers in the faith. Father Fadi Auro, associate pastor of Ascension Parish in Chesterfield, and Benedictine Father Augustine Wetta from Priory share a healthy dose of banter and fun, as well as hard facts about the faith during their presentations, generally held the first Wednesday of the month on Priory's campus.

Earlier this month, the duo presented, "Jesus Christ: Liar, Lunatic or Lord?" -- a look at who Jesus Christ said He was.

Throughout the centuries, many people have said Jesus was a good man, a shrewd philosopher, or a moral teacher, the priests acknowledged. Others have said He was evil, or that He never even existed. But Jesus did, in fact, exist, and "He could have only been one of three things: a liar, a lunatic or Lord," said Father Auro.

"Depending on how you answer this, this question is going to change your life," he said.

The two priests refuted some of the more common objections to Jesus' existence as the Son of God. Some of them included:

- Jesus never said he was God. ("It's ridiculous to think that Jesus didn't say he was God," Father Auro said, citing one of several examples, including Mark chapter 14, in which the high priest questioned Jesus if He was the Messiah. Jesus answered, "I am.")

- Didn't the Church make up its doctrine on Jesus being God much later? (The doctrine on Jesus was in many of the early Church documents, noted the priest.)

- Even if Jesus said He was God, why should we believe Him? (God sent messengers before Him to announce His coming, as evidenced in the more than 600 prophecies in the Old Testament, Father Auro said.)

The monthly series, which started in September, is "intended to get you thinking and give you all of the tools that you need to defend your faith in an increasingly hostile environment," said Father Auro.

Father Wetta said he had wanted to get into the popular topics of same-sex marriage and women's ordination right away, but as Father Auro noted, it's important to first build a foundation before getting into these more complex topics. In earlier talks, the two have spoken about why apologetics matter and the existence of God.

"He does exist, in case you missed that talk," Father Wetta joked.

Cindy Hofstetter and Stacey White, parishioners at Ascension who got the series started, said the turnout has been better than they had expected. Turnout each month has averaged about 75-100 teens, and parents have stuck around to listen, too. The series has now been expanded through the spring of 2014.

"In our present culture, Stacey and I were wanting our own kids to be able to defend their faith," said Hofstetter.

The questions from teens flowed during the evening, as evidenced in eighth-grader Anna Forgét, who asked the priests what to say in response to people who question whether the presence of Jesus as God was part of a massive conspiracy theory.

"I understand the language they're speaking," said Anna, who attends Incarnate Word School in Chesterfield. "And this challenges us. I don't usually get challenged so much like this."

Mike Dobbs had been bringing his son, Matt, a home-schooled high school junior, to the talks. The parishioner of St. Angela Merici in Florissant said this is "a chance to learn more with kids your age on subjects we don't really discuss (in depth) all of the time."

"These are things we've always been taught -- but (this helps) to get specific reasons from pure logic," said Matt Dobbs. "Having a deeper understanding of the faith helps to get others to understand all of this."

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