By Father Roch Kereszty
Special to The Texas Catholic
After the detour on the Health and Human Services mandate on contraception and God’s providence, we will continue our series on faith.
In the last column I described the harmonious development of the faith of a child who is raised in a genuinely Christian home with loving parents who practice their faith. The child experiences the reality of his faith and eagerly shares in it. But with the eruption of adolescence, the young man and woman will naturally be drawn to test what he has received from his environment, including his or her faith.
How privileged are those children whose parents and/or teachers can show them—at the level of their growing intelligence—that the Catholic faith makes sense. The mysteries of faith are beyond our limited mind’s power of proof. They would not be the mysteries of the infinite God if they could be grasped by our finite intellect.
But if these mysteries are accepted through faith, they illumine every aspect of our life and become an inexhaustible source of hope and energy. The mysteries of faith are like the sun. Just as we can look at the sun only through dark glasses, so we, too, can look at God himself only through the dark mirror of our reason informed by faith. But it is the light of the sun and of God himself that enables us to see this world.
The road from the unquestioning intuitive faith of the child to that of the adolescent can often be rough and bumpy, even in the case of a child with a strong Christian home. Yet, in most of such cases, children grow through adolescence without the temporary or permanent loss of faith.
Crises may develop, however, if the adolescent comes from a home where religion is more or less a matter of conforming to social customs. In such cases, the young mind will discover the hypocrisy of his parents’ faith and may rebel not only against them but against the Catholic faith itself. He may not be able to see in it anything more than empty ritualism and self-righteous moral posturing. What a blessing if the young rebel finds a teacher or a close friend whose sincere and intelligent faith awakens him to discover the attractive reality of a genuine Catholic life. Such personal encounters are at times reinforced by a deep religious experience which might help the adolescent discover the reality of what he had known in his childhood environment only in its distorted shape.
Another cause for a serious faith crisis (even for those who come from a more or less sincere religious environment) may be caused by the adolescent’s fall into the habit of an addictive sin, such as sex, alcohol or drugs. As long as the adolescent refuses to see the evil of their actions, they distort their image of God. They will either turn God into a cruel tyrant who throws his weak, imperfect creatures into everlasting fire for petty issues or they imagine God to be so kind and understanding that he automatically forgives his children.
Too often I have seen students oppose actively or passively God on ostensibly rational grounds only to learn later that they were, unfortunately, busily concocting an elaborate rationalization for some habitual sin. It is very rare, I suppose, that someone has actually lost his faith on genuinely rational grounds. The adolescent’s intellectual crisis of faith often covers a moral crisis.
In the next column I will attempt to show some of the ways God deals with the young who have lost their faith.
Father Roch Kereszty, O.Cist., is a theologian and monk at the Cistercian Abbey of Our Lady of Dallas in Irving. His column will appear occasionally in The Texas Catholic.