On Doubt

"We too often forget that Christian faith is a principle of questioning and struggle before it becomes a principle of certitude and peace.  One has to doubt and reject everything else in order to believe firmly in Christ, and after one has begun to believe, one's faith itself must be tested and purified.  Christianity is not merely a set of foregone conclusions." ~ Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, 1966

I ran across this quote from Thomas Merton while doing research for a paper on the intersection of his spirituality of peace and the ecological spirituality he was developing when he died in 1968.  I find it humorous that this quote is in a book with a Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, "official declarations that a book or pamphlet is free of doctrinal or moral error." Official permission to doubt, then!

Questions and doubt play a huge part in my own spiritual journey.  Before I was a Sister of St. Joseph of Peace, before I was a church geek, I was an agnostic bordering on atheist.  I had so many questions, about this Jesus guy, about the institutional church, about a group of people who seem so sure of themselves, who think they know what happens after life, etc... etc... etc...  Then, somehow, through the deep grace of God's incredible love, I found my way back to the Church of my childhood.  Except that I was an adult, no longer a child, and I had to live into my questions  Thankfully I found a parish community where I felt like I was in the company of people who were questioning and struggling, rather than people who felt like they had all the answers.  This enabled me to live and grow into this experience of being an adult Catholic.  Having permission to question, I began to find answers not in books or rote prayers or dogmatic statements, but in the lived experience of God's love, in our shared Christian story, in the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus.

I've still got questions. My questions are my friends.  They keep me interested, they keep me engaged, seeking, growing in love and relationship with God, with my fellow travelers, with my own heart. And for that, I am very grateful.

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