Doubt

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-by Br. Innocent Smith, OP

“In life and the life of faith, often times, we think of doubt as something unhelpful or distracting, as an impediment to greater faith; whereas, in terms of faith, doubt may be the catalyst to deeper faith, yet still, asking more and more profound questions of our faithful and talented teachers. In the 2010 On Heaven and Earth, a book-length dialogue between then Cardinal Bergoglio (now Pope Francis) and Rabbi Skorka of Buenos Aires, our present Holy Father articulated a view of this matter:

“The great leaders of the people of God were men that left room for doubt. Going back to Moses, he is the most humble character that there was on Earth. Before God, no one else remained more humble, and he that wants to be a leader of the people of God has to give God His space; therefore to shrink, to recede into oneself with doubt, with the interior experiences of darkness, of not knowing what to do, all of that ultimately is very purifying.”

(Editor’s note:  this is NOT to be overwhelmed by fear and doubt; so many scripture passages, so little time; but rather to be honest regarding doubt’s existence in our lives of faith.  And, to admit, even, its helpful aspects towards holiness.  It wouldn’t be faith w/out doubt.  It would, rather, be certainty.  We are not called to certainty.  We are called to faith, a call involving greater humility than certainty.  As Christians, we are told over and over again to not fear.  We, therefore, do not fear doubt.  Our faith in Him allows us to look doubt “straight-in-the-eye”, and deal; entering more deeply into the great mystery of Redemption.  Recall, Catholicism has a very specific definition of the word “mystery”; when used in a Catholic sense, a mystery is not something which cannot be known, rather, it is a truth which can only be infinitely explored by human reason.)

In his recent biography of St. Francis of Assisi, for instance, Fr. Augustine Thompson, O.P., devotes ample attention to the doubts and crises that plagued St. Francis throughout his life. Far from detracting from Francis’s sanctity, Thompson suggests that an accurate understanding of the difficulties that Francis went through in deciding how to act are of tremendous importance for appreciating his life and witness:

“It is, I think, misleading to assimilate him to some stereotyped image of “holiness,” especially one that suggests that a “saint” never has crises of faith, is never angry or depressed, never passes judgments, and never becomes frustrated with himself or others. Francis’s very humanity makes him, I think, more impressive and challenging than a saint who embodied that (impossible) kind of holiness.”

Doubt can be a source not only of indecision but more profoundly of purification, for it forces us to consider more deeply the motivations and circumstances of the exercise of our freedom. Doubt is not something to be sought for its own sake, but when it comes we can make the most of the experience by entrusting ourselves to the Lord Who is able to make all things work together for the good for those who love Him.”

Love,
Matthew

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