A joyfully Franciscan view of Catholic life, inspired by St. Clare (Santa Chiara) of Assisi!

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Chiara Offreduccio (St. Clare) was born in 1194. It is said that when her mother had Chiara in her womb, an angel appeared to her and said, "your child will be a light that will illuminate the world!" Hence, her mother named the child Chiara, which means "light. As G.K. Chesterton put it, St. Clare was a romantic figure just like Juliet was. However, instead of running away from her family in order to be with an earthly man, Clare gave up everything and ran away from her family for the love of her Savior!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Struggling with Faith and Solidarity with Christ

In conducting research for my posts on the history of nuns’ habits, I read excerpts from a book in which many nuns claimed that non-religious people tend to overlook the fact that nuns were once everyday laypeople, too! Not only did nuns have regular occupations, but they have shared in the same struggles with faith.

Indeed, when I hear the “call stories” of various nuns and sisters, many of them admit that they tried to talk themselves out of a vocation by telling themselves, “I thought that girls who become nuns/sisters were perfect ‘cradle Catholic’ girls who never once questioned their faith. That certainly wasn’t me, so I told myself that I shouldn’t become a nun.” Fortunately, those women came to their senses and realized that many Catholics- religious and non-religious- have had periods in their life where they have questioned their faith. Indeed, I am a person who had gone through several long years of being away from the Church and simply not believing anything.

I was raised in the Catholic faith and practiced it during my childhood and early adolescence. However, I’ve always been a philosophical type and when I hit High School, I started reading the wrong type of authors- people like Bertrand Russell, Rousseau, Thomas Paine’s “Age of Reason.” Since I read these books on my own, I didn’t have anyone to steer me towards intellectual books in favor of God’s existence and the Catholic Church. By the time I was to be confirmed, I considered myself a “deist”: a person who believes in an impersonal God who simply made the world and decided to let it run according to its own design without interacting in any human events. Before long, the deism gave way to agnosticism.

I wasn’t personally fulfilled by being a deist/agnostic, although this worldview seemed to be the only thing that “made sense” to me. Indeed, I was in spiritual darkness....I wanted to “shut on the light”, except I had trouble finding the light switch. My first year at Notre Dame, I remember seeing how joyful my Catholic friends were as they went to daily mass, Stations of the Cross, and other Catholic devotions. I wanted their happiness, but somehow I didn’t want to sacrifice my “rational worldview” for what I thought was an outdated religion. Nonetheless, I made seminal attempts to have my apologetics-savvy Catholic friends answer some of my questions. However, each time I thought that one of their rebuttals “violated reason,” I became more frustrated with my inability to believe. My problem was that I felt that in order for me to come back to the Church, absolutely everything needed to be rational and make perfect sense to me. The harder I tried to make sense of everything, the more miserable I became. Perhaps, I thought to myself, God chooses only a select number of people to have faith. Perhaps I was one of those people who weren’t supposed to have faith. Indeed, I was miserably wrong. The truth is that God wants everyone to believe in Him….He has His own time table as to when that happens.

Needless to say, I was miserable in my own struggle with trying to have everything about Catholicism make sense. One day, I remember breaking down in tears and making a quiet prayer to God (which was one of the first prayers that I ever made to Him since I had left the Church) and said, “God, maybe everything doesn’t have to make sense. I just want to believe in You, even if nothing makes sense to me. You’re a lot smarter than I am…You were the one who created reason, so who am I to say that it doesn’t make sense to me? Perhaps You have Reasons beyond my flawed human understanding.”

After I made that desperate little prayer, my faith journey became so much easier. Now that everything didn’t have to make perfect sense anymore, I was much more open to the faith. I began to pay attention to the text of the songs that my Liturgical Choir sang on Sundays; I was more willing to attend Daily Mass and other devotions; I was more willing to listen to what my Catholic friends had to say about the faith. You can read more about that particular section of my faith journey in this blogpost from last year. Nearly one year after I opened myself to God’s graces by putting my faith struggles into His hands, I was finally able to say “Yes” to everything in the profession of faith at the following year’s Easter Vigil. I remember looking straight at the tabernacle and saying to Jesus within my heart, “Lord, THANK you for giving me to grace of returning to your Church! I am SO GLAD to have You in my life!”

So, why am writing about my own faith struggles? It is because I want to let those of you who might also be having dryness of faith that God loves you, and He is in solidarity with you. Indeed, the moment of coming back to the Church at the Easter Vigil was joyful….but I had to go through a lot of pain and tears in order to get to that point. Similarly, Our Lord has walked that same painful road with each of us via His Passion and Death on Good Friday. He understands our tears, our struggles, our failings, because He has been there. Every time we are feeling miserable and dry in our faith life, Christ is there with us and Our Lady is there to support us. However, I want each and every one of you out there to know one thing: Christ wants YOU to believe in Him and he wants YOU to be a part of His Church. Even during the times when it seems like you just can’t believe, simply look at a crucifix or an image of the Holy Face in order to see the sufferings that He bore so that You could believe in Him. Those bruises and scars on His face are simply signs of how much He loves you and wants you.

I will remember in my prayers during this Holy Week each and every one of you who might be going through spiritual dryness or struggles in their faith life. May the Easter Triduum be prayerful, peaceful, and most of all, joyful!

“Upon Him was the chastisement that makes us whole; by His stripes we were healed.”
- Isaiah 53:5


Blogger Kelly Joyce Neff said...

God bless you, Chiara, in your beautiful faith sharing. It will shine a light for many.
A loving and deep Triduum to you and a Blessed and joyous Easter.
Pax et bonum,

12:43 AM  
Anonymous Candice said...

I wish you all the blessings of this Easter season. Thank you for sharing.

9:06 AM  

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