The Big Question


Tommy never stopped asking questions. Tommy liked to ask them. In fact, he had made a game of asking questions in some instances.

For example, his seventh grade teacher could never resist a good question. He led the class in asking Mr. Brown questions about his life for an entire week before he figured out that Tommy was trying to avoid world history lessons.

The opportunity to attend Catholic school came later in that same year. The one great difference between religion sponsored education and public sponsored education is the separation of church and state. Otherwise it is nearly the same. Tommy excelled in asking questions at St. Joseph’s, especially during Catholic studies.

On one occasion, the class had a very special guess, the Arch Bishop of the Diocese. He came all the way from Santa Rosa. He engaged the students in an enlightening sermon about sin and eternal damnation.

The class sat there and quietly listened as the Bishop walk about the room and spoke. He even walked past Tommy and laid his hand on his shoulder. A bond had developed between them. Tommy knew he could ask the Bishop anything.

When the Bishop finished speaking, he asked for questions. He wanted to hear how well the class had been paying attention to him and their Catholic studies. Tommy already knew that he could ask him anything, so he raised his hand.

After standing up and clearing his throat, Tommy asked, “If Jesus spent three days in Hell for all the sins of the world and for all men not yet born, how long the average person could expect to be in Hell for living a life of sin for only eight years? The Archbishop of the Diocese, who came all the way from Santa Rosa, just stood there with his mouth wide open.

That must have been the “big” question.

Mother Superior had Tommy by the ear and down the hallway in less than thirty seconds and Father McKay was close on their heels. And for the next half hour Tommy sat in the nurse’s office. Soon afterwards Dad came to get him and by the next week he was back in public school.

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