Dear Maria,

I wonder what I should do when I go to Mass with my spouse, when I really don’t know that I believe all that the Church teaches. I love Jesus, but not sure if I believe that what is written in the Bible is true. How do you know what to believe? Do you have to take all that on faith? I understand science more. 2 + 2 is always 4, it is never 5 or 3 or some other number. I understand gravity, and that every time I jump up, I will come down again and be on the ground. Every time. But with religion, I don’t know much. I used to think I understood what was true, but now, not so much.

So I usually go to Mass, make the sign of the cross, and pretty much only verbally join in when we say the Our Father, pray for the general intercessions (“lord hear our prayer”) for most of them that I believe are important, and the sign of peace. And yes I go to Communion, though this bothers me because I don’t think I am worthy to do so.

I do what I think is acceptable to me, not what was taught in my PSR classes years ago. I do read the readings, never liked the Psalms readings. And use to sing the hymns but have no zeal to do that anymore.

I feel stuck….cannot go back to the zealous person I was….cannot go forward to find what fits for me.

Do you have any suggestions what I could do to grow in faith? Not to be a Catholic per se, but to grow in faith to love Jesus and believe in what his life meant to the first Christians and what it might be said to mean now in the 21st Century?

Genuine but Confused

Dear Genuine but Confused,

Thomas Merton, an American Catholic monk, author, activist, and mystic, wrote this beautiful prayer for seekers:

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”

This searching is a kind of prayer. Religion teaches us words and rituals for prayer, but as we mature we long to find our own expression of faith. Your restlessness is evidence that your spiritual life is thriving. Embrace the longing as a sign that you’re on your right path, even, as Merton says, “I do not see the road ahead of me.”

Keep asking the questions. Find and spend time with people who are also seekers, in prayer groups or spiritual book studies. Ron Rolheiser’s book The Holy Longing is a great place to start, as he says, “In Search of a Christian Spirituality.” (This book will also help with your questions about Mass.) Create a space and time in your home for daily prayer and meditation. Don’t worry about where the searching will lead you, just trust the search. Take the next step that appears, and the one after that, and the one after that. In time, you’ll look back and see how the path became clear to you.

are you on your path J Campbell