Back in the Summer of 2016, on a fine summer’s evening, I was lying in my bed and debating some of the more profound things in life. Some may find spiritual reflection to be a normal thing, but I was musing after the decision to skip mass with the probability of ending my spiritual life as a whole. I had been studying abroad in Ulm, Germany. I was essentially running away from a harsh and challenging year. In the running away, I had completely lost my sense of faith. During the first couple months of my escape in Germany, I approached the secular view of happiness to its fullest degree. I went out every night until early in the morning with friends, traveled to beautiful locations, and primarily lived out what every young adult formed in the world would label as success. Just a few weeks before landing in Germany, I had gone on a retreat. Like many a young, single, Catholic man having been gifted a spiritual encounter with Christ in the sacraments, I played around with thoughts of the priesthood and what it meant to lead a holy life. However, as water bleeds out of a broken bowl, so does a single spiritual encounter when not set on a good foundation. One half of myself was the moral Catholic man I desired to be from childhood, and the other desiring to enjoy the world as it was.
"My failure to nurture my faith, combined with my erroneous lifestyle, was tearing me apart".
Throughout this internal debate, I concluded that there was only one fundamental point on which these two lives hinged upon: Does God exist? No, I did not go through St. Thomas’ proof of God nor Richard Dawkins’ atheistic writings. I debated the instance of what God meant to me at the time and the possibility that there was no God from my scientific background. Long thoughts made short, I could not come to a conclusion that night that God did not exist, no matter how much I desired it to be so. Attempting to reinstitute that I was a man of genuine nature, I decided that I will then live my life as if God was in existence, regardless of what that meant for my current standings. At the time, I did not know God outside of the catholic education system, but I knew that now was the time to grow in it if I was to choose this life. The environments in which we place ourselves as adults really do matter. It is every person’s duty to choose carefully where they put themselves in life and with whom they interact with. At Rose-Hulman, I lived in a fraternity house, which was not conducive to a lively prayer life (sorry fellas). Additionally, while abroad, I did not know a single catholic along with having a small grip on the German language, which did not help my lack of interest at mass. Mostly, I was actively setting myself up for failure with regard to faith, then blaming God for it.
“Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit?” (Luke 6:39)
Our faith journey and spiritual life is a long walk of facing the truths of Christ, while prayerfully reflecting on where we are reverses where God wants us to be. These truths can be hard to hear while others may be more common sense. Maybe, you were just never made aware of the truths of the Christian faith, and yet others may sound more like a battle of semantics. However, we, as believers in God, more precisely as Catholics, must rely on that fundamental point of faith in Christ when dealing with these truths. I often found that the revelations of the gospel were in contradiction to a lot of the life that I was “happily” living. It seemed that by choosing the Truth, I would soon lose my friends, my community, and especially my personal comfort. The fundamental parts of Catholic living are simple enough to integrate into anyone’s life. Examples: Worship the Lord at Mass on Sundays. Receive Communion and Confession at least once a year. But what I meant by choosing the Truth is in engaging that depth of spiritual life that entirely consumes us, allowing for nothing else to be placed between God and ourselves. When discerning how to act upon the apparent contradictions in my life, I revert to that question: Do I believe in God? To believe, one does not need to escape the world. Nor does it mean that we must run away from every relationship in our life. We must, however, choose Christ first, and to do so with a humble heart. We need to surrender all we are and do to God. We must comprehend that all gifts come from God, and that He will take care of us even though we may not recognize this in moments of despair. Peace in this life can be found in pursuing a genuinely sacramental life, as outlined by many saints. Everyone is called to be a saint (and can become one). It may seem like a tall order, and that we are being asked too much of our life.
I have found that everything is a personal choice in life. Faith, while it is a gift, is one that can be fostered and grown if we so seek it. We first must desire the gift, then ask for it before we can receive it, following both with endless obedience to our Lord and his will. This seems to stump a lot of people, as it did to me for many years. I simply hope to urge people to stay obedient and continue to choose Christ even if it seems like nothing will come of it. Trust in Jesus. Come to believe in God, trust in that belief (and by extension in the Trinity), then seek it out with a humble heart in the totality of your life.
“I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and arrogant, but I have been mercifully treated because I acted out of ignorance in my unbelief. Indeed, the grace of our Lord has been abundant, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Of these I am the foremost. But for that reason I was mercifully treated, so that in me, as the foremost, Christ Jesus might display all his patience as an example for those who would come to believe in him for everlasting life.” (Timothy 1:13-17)
In the above quotation from the Letter to St. Timothy, St. Paul speaks out of humility about the Divine Mercy of God and his transformation in His Mercy. I believe what needs to be focused on, though, is the “deserves full acceptance” part. This “full acceptance” requires entirely giving our lives and accepting this Gift of Faith may require sacrificing anything we find that distracts us from Christ. This can be quite intimidating, but Christ always provides for us. We must continually ask ourselves the question we started with: Do we believe in God?