“We are taught that faith is a gift, and sometimes I wonder why some have it and some do not.” – Dorothy Day, On Pilgrimage, Introduction, pp. 13
Faith has only struck me in the “feelings” sense of the word twice in my life. In the spaces between, my mind immediately went to all the reasons why not, why God couldn’t be. I’d hear of a miracle and think of the liars. I’d read a story about a saint, and reason that they could’ve been clinically insane. I’d go to prayer hour, look at the Blessed Sacrament, and focus on the fact that this could’ve just been a room with a piece of bread in it. It’s embarrassing to say it, but it’s the truth.
Put frankly, faith is not and may never be “my gift.” But perhaps in fighting for it, in a strange and paradoxical way, it will become my gift.
I rarely feel close to Him, but cling to the fact that since I’m a “feeler” by nature, maybe the struggle, in clear contrast to my nature, shows me that this is something, some being, altogether different— A way to show my complete and utter dependence on God.
But then I think, maybe I’m just explaining it away. I have an eternal atheist living on my shoulder, whispering, and I’m in a perpetual argument with it.
And I wonder, what would it take to convince me? I’d explain away anything.
You get the idea.
Flannery O’ Connor puts it so eloquently:
“What people don’t realize is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross. It is much harder to believe than not to believe. If you feel you can’t believe, you must at least do this: keep an open mind. Keep it open toward faith, keep wanting it, keep asking for it, and leave the rest to God.”
I recently picked up a book during my prayer hour while reflecting on my doubt— it was an interview with St. John Paul the Great, Crossing the Threshold of Hope. I randomly opened to a part where the interviewer asked the then Pope John Paul II, “Have you ever once hesitated in your belief in your relationship with Jesus Christ and therefore with God?”, and he responds, with the phrase so often found in the Bible: “Be Not Afraid.”
As it so happened, when I looked up from the book, the stained glass to my left was inscribed with the same saying. And the next day, Sunday, the scripture, and homily focused on that exact phrase.
My answer is to not be afraid. But will “Be Not Afraid” be good enough for me? Am I seeing patterns in my everyday life, empty and lifeless, that make me feel suffocated when I think they may not be rooted in truth, or am I being surrounded by something sanguine and perfectly real?
St. John Paul II says we should not fear the truth about ourselves. This is a decision all of us have to make, and I’d rather not live in a world full of distraction- buzzing past the terrible yet awesome reality that it could be likely that there is more than this. And I will explore it.
Why would all human history consider the question? Why should we be evolutionarily pointed to some supernatural sense of something bigger than ourselves?
I must at least posit the question, and ask it more than once.