“Once upon a time, a simple peasant went to a priest who lived in Rome and laid before him a singular doubt. ‘Your Reverence,’ he said, ‘I cannot believe I have a soul.’ It is easy to imagine what was the astonishment of the priest upon hearing this strange announcement. With all his might, he tried to think of how he could best convince this foolish man of his error, and the spirit of God at length suggested to him the means of doing this. ‘My good man,’ he inquired, ‘why cannot you believe you have a soul?’ ‘Because I cannot see it,’ was the reply. ‘Very well,’ continued the priest, ‘now think of something, anything you like.’ After the lapse of a few minutes, he inquired again, ‘Have you thought of something?’ ‘I have, your Reverence,’ said the peasant. ‘I don’t believe you have thought of anything at all,’ rejoined the priest. ‘Why do you say this?’ asked the other. ‘Because I cannot see your thought,” was the reply” (Father Lasance’s Catholic Girl’s Guide, Faith, section 3).
How we all chuckle when we read this story! Yet beneath the laughter is a sympathy –an understanding– of this peasant’s lack of faith. Do we not often wonder ourselves, how are we to believe in what we cannot see or touch or hear?
The answer is faith. Faith is God’s choicest gift to man, infused in every Christian’s heart when the renewing waters of baptism are poured over their heads. Through baptism, we are given the grace to believe all that God tells us and to trust unreservedly in His actions.
However, nowhere is it ever stated that faith is a knowledge or understanding of God. We can never have a complete understanding or knowledge of who God is or what He is like. We know God now merely through the truths which our faith, the Catholic Faith, teaches us. Faith is obscure; many truths can be taught to us that we are unable to see. This makes faith a blind leap in the dark, to act boldly upon what we cannot verify with our senses but know through revelation. Yet it is the very uncertainty of this jump which brings merit to the possessor of faith. Every Catholic should strive to let this blind, willing trust take root in their hearts. For faith will not always be so blind. Through faith, God is giving us a taste, a prelude to the beatific vision which we will hopefully one day attain.
By faith we shall begin to know God as we will one day know Him in heavenDivine Intimacy, 699
Yet how can one hold such undivided confidence in a Being that we cannot see, hear, or touch? The saints, perhaps, were graced to see glimpses of God or hear whispers of His voice. But we, as average Catholics, struggle daily to scrape out our sainthoods beneath the curtain sin has draped between ourselves and our God. So does that leave us shunned, ignored and left to toil in vain under this darkness? No! God, in His mercy, has given us the virtue of faith, the grace to hold confidence in God and the truths He has revealed to us. Whatever He has said must be true, whether we understand it or not, because God never lies. Since the Catholic Faith is clearly the faith that Christ instituted while on earth, we are compelled to believe unreservedly the truths it teaches.
Though one may sometimes feel like hesitating in their spiritual journey to question God’s actions and truths, a faithful soul will follow them trustfully even amid a lack of understanding. This adherence of faith depends on willpower. When in doubt, make a firm act of faith. You must say to yourself, “I believe because I will believe. I believe because You have asked me to, and because you have told me this is true.” Through our belief in God, we please Him, and because we love God, we want to please Him. Christ cherishes the loving confidence of faith greatly! While on earth, before he would perform his miracles, Jesus would always first ask for an act of faith from the individual. Always faith. This is because by in placing faith in Him, the sick and sinful were also laying their confidence and love at His feet. And it was always that same faith that saved them, made them whole, and drew them closer to God Himself.
Since faith is often so blind, it is only natural to feel the urge to question the truths it believes. Do not let the rising of these doubts trouble you! As humans, it is quite natural to question what we cannot physically grasp. Yet do not let them shake your faith either. Doubts generally rise from two sources: ignorance and temptations. If ignorance is the cause, and if the ignorance can be explained by natural means, enlighten yourself! See what the Church teaches about the matter! But more often the doubts are temptations to question divine mysteries that we as humans do not have the power to comprehend–such as the most Holy Trinity, which only God Himself can explain. “Instead of losing ourselves in reasoning about them [doubts] and becoming discouraged, we must simply adhere [to faith] by an act of will” (Divine Intimacy, 703). The devil loves preying upon humanity’s doubting nature. Do not let him! Overcoming these temptations purifies our faith. In this way it becomes the purest form of faith, a faith that believes completely what God has revealed not by fact, understanding, or consolation, but purely in God alone.
Hold fast to your faith! Continue to fight the daily battle to strengthen and preserve it. Cry out daily to the Lord, “I do believe, Lord. Help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:23).
St. Faith, pray for us!
(The first in a series based on the Maiden’s Wreath in Catholic Girl’s Guide by Father Lasance.)