By Father Roch Kereszty
Special to The Texas Catholic
After our last column on atheists, we now look more closely at the way we all come to faith and the call to persevere in the faith. Before one takes the leap of faith, they must have some evidence that their decision is right.
As we have seen, that evidence can be based on either rational arguments or personal encounters, or a combination of the two. The Christian’s leap of faith is never an irrational escape from reality, such as is typical of a sect or cult, which satisfy insecure people’s craving for belonging at the price of abandoning any critical thinking and surrendering to the “divine” leader their freedom of mind and will.
The journey of faith that leads to the Catholic Church does not require this dehumanizing sacrifice. On the contrary, for the Catholic, the leap of faith calls for the use and development of our God-given intellect and free will.
How much intellectual preparation the journey of faith needs, though, depends on one’s intellectual level. For an unsophisticated individual, the fact that some intelligent people whose goodness and integrity he admires might be sufficient reason to be attracted to the Catholic faith. John Henry Newman, on the other hand, needed almost half of his life to sort out all the issues involved until he could make a rational decision to enter the Catholic Church. In fact, according to the same Newman, we are capable of finding only a convergence of intellectual probabilities for the truth of faith. Yet, no matter how strong this evidence, none of it can force us to jump out of the airplane of our cozy inertia and risk the fall to the ground, while trusting that the God-given parachute of faith will open at the right moment.
Only God himself can give us the initial daring of trust which enables us to jump. Then, in the moment we believe, the parachute opens up. From that point on, we possess not just very strong probabilities regarding God but the absolute certainty that God himself holds us up above the abyss of nothingness and that his love embraces us.
In other words, in the act of faith we encounter God himself, and for the Christian it takes a more concrete form: we encounter God in the risen Christ. Thus is the promise of Christ fulfilled for every believer: “In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live” (Jn 14:19).
The grace of faith sheds light on the mysteries of faith, such as the Holy Trinity, the Incarnation, the Redemptive Death and Resurrection of Christ, his presence in the church and, most powerfully, in the Holy Eucharist. The mysteries of faith begin to make sense to us even if we do not fully understand them. We have enough understanding, however, to see how these truths provide meaning for every aspect of our life.
The grace of faith also elevates our free will. Throughout our lives we must face doubts about God and his revelation. Even the greatest saints, such as St. Therese of Lisieux and Blessed Teresa of India, had to fight them. Perhaps, we can even say that the greater the doubt, the more God is calling his son or daughter to act freely and to show that we trust and love him. Yet no one will lose the grace of faith if his mind and will remain anchored in God and in his love. No matter how strong the wind and how threatening the waves on the stormy sea, we should cry out with confidence when we begin to sink: “Lord save me!” (Mt 14:30) He will stretch out his hand and lift us up. It is in this way that our faith is tested and strengthened. As long as Christ holds our hand, we share in his almighty power and face every danger with confidence.
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.