I am writing to ask if you could help me clarify my doubts as I do not have the courage to reveal them to my parish priest for he knows me well, that is why I prefer to maintain anonymity through technology.
I am almost 21 years old, I was raised on faith in God, but maybe I am losing it. Months have passed since doubts began to creep into my mind owing to the fact that throughout this time I have never found the courage even to formulate my thoughts and face the issue by myself, not least in the presence of a confessor. The point is that I no longer know if I believe in God.
I attend Mass weekly during which I receive Holy Communion and say prayers, but when I stop and think rationally of the reason why I do all this, I am surprised to learn that I am not fully convinced of the existence of God, of Jesus, of the Virgin Mary, of the Holy Spirit, of the Saints , of the Angels, of Heaven…
Despite this, I cannot even imagine giving up professing faith, spending my Sundays without Mass or turning my thoughts to the Lord even if they only flash into my mind during my daily tasks. At this point I am afraid of having become a Catholic just out of habit who practices by inertia rather than by conviction.
I have tried to reinvigorate my poor asphyxiated faith by attending Mass and prayer meetings more frequently, so I have begun to attend Saturday Mass as well as Sunday Mass in addition to an hour of prayer which is held in a nearby Parish after vespers in the middle of the week. I have been also attending Morning Prayer whenever possible though it has always been an unusual practice for me considering that in my past twenty years I went there only twice!
But this method has not worked. As a matter of fact just to use a biblical definition, I think I am building on sand for I have been practicing more and more while still wondering why I keep doing all this. I have been feeling guilty because I know that all the people praying around me do firmly believe that they are being heard. Thank you for taking the time to read my long email.
Under the circumstances, for what it is worth, I assure you of my prayers Best regards
The Priest’s reply
I’m sorry to answer you just now and I beg your pardon.
But only today I have read your email.
1. I think that you can find the answers to your many questions in your life of faith. Should religious practice, which you have commendably strengthened, lack, you would experience a fearful sense of emptiness in your life.
But this is not the only reason why you believe.
2. Let me tell you first that faith in Jesus Christ is not the conclusion of our reasoning.
In fact, there is a disproportion between the natural level on which our reason is found and the supernatural and therefore divine level concerning God and the Gospel.
By your reasoning you can certainly demonstrate the existence of God. Many philosophers have rationally reached this conclusion counting on their own strength only.
But believing in Jesus Christ means responding to God who reveals Himself.
It therefore means responding to God on a supernatural level.
And no one can give you an answer if the Lord does not grant him the necessary strength attraction.
Jesus said very clearly: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him,” (Jn 6:44).
3. The way by which the Father draws us to Himself so that we can firmly believe in Him is reminded us by St.John in the Holy Scriptures when he says: “Whoever believes in the Son of God has this testimony within himself.” (1 Jn 5:10). Therefore, it is God Himself who has opened your heart to believe.
He has opened your heart as Lydia opened hers one day to adhere to St. Paul’s preaching: “One of them, a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth, from the city of Thyatira, a worshiper of God, listened, and the Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what Paul was saying.”(Acts 16:14)
4. Our inner witness of God is so strong that we adhere to what He tells us we reach a far higher level of certainty than that we have when we say that two and two are four.
This is why so many people, even children , had been ready to give their lives for Jesus Christ.
Instead, they had not been ready to give their lives for a mathematical truth, albeit a very certain one.
Indeed, we adhere to what Christ tells us with a level of certainty that is not rational or human, but supernatural and divine.
5. However, this is a leap in the dark or a blind way to adhere to God’s Words because you realize that everything that is written in the Gospel or that comes from the mouth of Jesus is true.
We all how the guards who had been sent by the leaders of the people to arrest Jesus and went back with their hands in their hands felt like. To the question: “Why didn’t you bring him here?” the guards replied: “”Why did you not bring him?” The guards answered, “Never before has anyone spoken like this one!” (Jn 7: 45-46).
They had heard that His Words were not only true, but far more true than all the words they had ever heard until then.
6. Paul Claudel, after his conversion, re-examined all the objections he had previously raised to faith.
And he found that all of them were groundless.
He could not help but believe any longer. He felt that everything Jesus said was true.
Everything is bright, everything overcomes any resistance in the Gospel.
After all, we cannot forget that Jesus, knowing all the questions that men of all times – and not only those who were in front of Him – would have asked Him, said: “Can any of you charge me with sin?” (Jn 8:46).
Who can say to Jesus: “You were wrong, you were wrong about this”?
7. So this is the fundamental reason why you follow Christ.
You follow Him because he Himself has touched your heart, He has opened it, and you feel that nothing is more true than following Him.
8. This is not the only reason why you feel the need to follow Him. You have also another reason: you feel that your heart is filled with His presence.
By living with Him, you are experiencing a sense of companionship or of continuous communion that goes from heart to heart and that you cannot do without. Without this sense of companionship, in fact, it is as if the light disappears, as if you feel empty inside.
We can say of Him what we say of His Holy Spirit, with Whom He is one, and that is, that He is “perfect comforter, sweet guest of the soul, sweetest relief”.
And He is also “the most blessed light that invades the hearts of His faithful”.
9. Finally, in your personal life you have so much evidence of His infinite love and of His tenderness.
Only a heart of stone would dare to say: it is sheer chance , it has always and only been by chance.
Is it possible that chance is so full of concern, of acknowledgment, of consolation, of holy affections and lights?
I am sure that you have knocked on Heaven’s door many times and that you have received so many answers: graces you have asked for and obtained, dangers you have miraculously avoided and that you can never forget, interventions of God obtained through prayer and through the intercession of the Holy Virgin and the Saints, tangled situations that have been unraveled and have smoothed out …
Each one of us has a list of graces received from God so each one of us can tell and bear witness to the singular Providence of God in his or her life.
When we are assailed by doubts, because the Truth we evidently adhere to cannot be seen, being it supernatural and divine, all we have to do is remember the benefits that we have received from God as well as the many occasions on which we have said: “There was the hand of God, here, I have no doubt”.
10. I have to add one last thing. Believing more and more strongly does not just depend on us.
Apart from the good will that we is needed to deepen more and more what we believe in, it is necessary to ask God for the grace to be able to believe more and more as the Apostles did and to say incessantly: “Increase our faith!” (Lk 17:5).
The Lord Who inspired us to make this request, because He “for his good purpose, works in you both to desire and to work” (Phil 2:13), is not slow to answer and to make us feel more and more strengthened.
With the hope that the Lord will encourage you more and more to know and love Him, I assure you of my prayers and I bless you.
Translated by Emanuele Menchiari