Wednesday, 9 December 2009
I'm losing my Faith.
Father Ignatius was in the Sacristy tidying up after morning’s Mass when one of his parishioners came in and asked if he could have a quick chat. Being quite approachable, the priest glanced quickly at his watch and agreed to spend a few minutes with the young man, in his mid-twenties.
“Father … I’m losing my Faith …” was the abrupt introduction.
Father Ignatius said nothing, encouraging the young man to continue with a nod. “I’ve been a Christian all my life, but there are times when I’m totally confused. I ask myself whether God really exists … whether it’s all real … or just some invention. I wonder whether God … Jesus and the whole of Christianity have just been invented over the years by society … just to regulate itself … I sometimes find it a real struggle to believe that God exists … but the more I try to believe the more I doubt.”
“I don’t blame you,” replied the priest, and this had the desired effect of gaining the young man’s full attention.
“We’re living in difficult times,” continued Father Ignatius, “times of confusion, half-truths and miss-information. The world is in financial crisis and turmoil. People are losing their jobs and their livelihoods. They fear for the future. Nothing seems as it should be. It is no wonder people get confused and don’t know what to believe anymore. And in their confusion and daily worries they can’t keep their focus on God. They hear and read so many conflicting stories they don’t know what to think anymore … to the point where they even start doubting God’s very existence.
"You’re not the only one who came to me recently saying what you’ve just said. That you doubt God exists.”
“Oh …” said the man.
“When the Jews left Egypt, they were confused too …” the priest went on, “they had left the relative safety of slavery behind them, where they were fed and watered, and here they were, going round in circles in the desert following a man promising them jam tomorrow … or was it milk and honey?”
The young man smiled.
“So they rebelled against Moses. They didn’t want to believe in His God, leading them to safety. Despite what they had seen that God did for them … dividing the sea so they could cross safely, sending food from Heaven and so on … they still doubted and rebelled. They were more interested in placing their Faith in a statue made of solid gold. At least this was something they could see and touch and admire!
“Years later we read in the Bible about other people doubting and in confusion … just as you feel right now.
“Peter had been with Christ for at least three years and had seen His miracles and heard His sermons. He witnessed the healings, the raising from the dead, walking on water, feeding the thousands. He of all people had no reason to doubt. Yet when it came to the crunch he too doubted and denied knowing Christ … not once, but he denied knowing Him three times.
“How does that compare with you … hmmm?
“As for the disciple Thomas … well he just refused to believe period.
“So you’re in good company young man. You’re not alone in doubting about the very existence of God your Creator.”
At this the young man was totally confused and didn’t know what to ask next.
Perhaps he had expected some magic formula to restore his ailing Faith, a wave of a wand, or some soothing words from his priest … but alas no … the priest just confounded his thoughts by affirming that his doubts are neither unusual nor unexpected.
Father Ignatius smiled and said, “That didn’t help did it?”
“Well …” hesitated the young man.
“There once was a man whose son was very ill, and He came to Jesus for help” continued Father Ignatius, “ ‘Help us if you can,’ he asked Jesus. Jesus replied ‘Everything is possible if you have Faith,’ to which the man said ‘I do have Faith, but not enough, help me to have more.’
“Jesus healed this man’s son. He saw that the man was struggling with his Faith, as you’re doing right now. So He helped him.
“We don’t all have the same strength and vigour of Faith. Some, like you’ve admitted, are a little weak and waver from time to time. Just like Peter and Thomas did.
“But don’t tell me about it. Tell God, in your own words. Tell Him you’re struggling to believe; ask Him to help you.
“Say over and again I believe, Lord; help my unbelief.
“The good Lord will help you … but only if you are willing to believe … if you’re willing to fight your doubts, and your fears, and your confusion.
“God loves you, and He does not wish to see you go astray, away from Him. He will not allow you to be tempted beyond your capabilities. He is not in the business of losing souls you know …”
Father Ignatius paused for a while and then continued in his gentle voice.
“There’s an old Cherokee Indian legend about a youth’s rite of passage, when he becomes a man so to speak.
“When the child is of a certain age his father takes him to the forest where he has to sit blindfolded overnight. He shouldn’t take off the blindfold but sit there, in the darkness, hearing all the noises of the night … animals howling, the rustling of the trees and so on, and conquer his fears.
“The next morning, at sunrise, he takes off his blindfold and looks around him only to find that his father had been sitting with him all night, protecting him from danger. He shouldn’t tell what happened to anyone else, so others may experience the love of their fathers too.
“You are now blindfolded and confused. But God your Father in Heaven is right beside you, protecting you at all times. Because He loves you, more than any earthly father can love his children.”
The young man smiled and wiped his eye with the back of his hand.
“OK … I think you’re already on the first steps towards recovery … I suggest you pray time and again … especially when you feel doubts coming on … recite the Rosary … have you got one?”
The man nodded.
“Our Lady will always protect you if you ask her. Don’t be afraid to tell her how you feel.”
As the man left the Sacristy much relieved than when he first came in Father Ignatius added, “and whilst you’re praying, don’t forget to say one for me!”