If I were certain, I would not need faith

"If I were certain, I would not need faith" by Jay Cuasay (CatholicMom.com)

Copyright 2017 Jay Cuasay. All rights reserved.

One of my theology teachers was fond of saying, “If I had certainty, I wouldn’t need faith.” While we often think of handing on the faith as a set of bedrock beliefs of unwavering values, we often overlook the relationship between uncertainty and faith. We live in uncertain times, perhaps just like or completely unlike any other.

Just like every fall in my parish we are crushed by the start of the Religious Education year, the regular school year, and final preparations for celebrating Confirmation. This year, along with the normal ebb and flow of changes, we have been blessed with a new bishop. But that also means small and large changes to the celebration details.

I feel blessed to be working with one of the best groups of confirmandi and an unusually active group of parents this year. But we have also been plagued by parish institutional dysfunctions caused by transitions in staff and a higher than normal ebb of volunteer parish ministers. Where once there was certainty and firm resolve, one prays and has faith that somehow these gaps will be filled.

In my personal life, the fall means an uptick in my wife’s work schedule, which changes whatever normal schedule we had. With a child starting middle school, we are also challenged by her surges of independence, which requires trust — faith in her. As she tests her own worldview and values in a larger school than before, her own sense of justice meets her own sense of dissatisfaction. She, like us, enters the struggle with what was certain and what to hope for in change.

Finally, her godparents, who are working through a messy divorce, have now impacted our lives in an unforeseen way as my wife and I discuss changes to be made to our survivorship policies. Who should take care of our child in that event? Who is best to take care of her financially? Who lives in the best place? Who would be capable of continuing to nurture her in her faith? It does not seem like any one person or family matches all those important needs.

Fishing for Faith

As I look at the group to be confirmed this year and at the incoming Religious Education classes, and at my own child, I find I am uncertain how we have managed to come this far and where faith may lead us in the future. I am mindful of studies that point to the decrease in Mass attendance, the low numbers of those seeking vocations. I look at my own parish and see faithful servants grow older, retire, and have their places filled with dwindling numbers.

I accept that there are things we cannot know. I am uncertain. Hence, there is faith. Not just wishful thinking, but more like the pull on a fishing line as it sinks into the depths. I do not know how great the haul will be.

Every year more than 100 confirmandi walk down the aisles of our church. I do not know who will continue as active Catholics over the next few years into college or beyond. I accept that I cannot know. I hope the newly confirmed will at least maintain an openness for God to nurture their faith beyond formalities of Religious Education to their everyday lives where love of God and love of neighbor happens.

"If I were certain, I would not need faith" by Jay Cuasay (CatholicMom.com)

Copyright 2017 Jay Cuasay. All rights reserved.


The Church I grew up in is completely different than the one my own child is in now. It is after all the living Body of Christ and not just repeating a memory or nostalgia. What do you do to keep the faith alive from generation to generation or just day to day? What effect have these stark changes of uncertainty had on your faith?

Copyright 2017 Jay Cuasay


About Author

Jay Cuasay is a freelance writer on religion, interfaith relations, and culture. A post-Vatican II Catholic father with a Jewish spouse, he is deeply influenced by Christian mysticism and Zen Buddhism. He was a regular columnist on Catholicism for examiner.com and a moderator and contributor to several groups on LinkedIn. His LTEs on film and Jewish Catholic relations have been published in America and Commonweal. Jay ministered to English and Spanish families at a Franciscan parish for 13 years. He can be reached at TribePlatypus.com.


    • Jeanie Egolf, I wonder what is going on in your life that made this reminder so striking? For my part, on OCT 24th I will celebrate my 11th Confirmation Mass, but with a new diocesan bishop. This has made everyone review all the various details.
      On one hand, this is still basically a Mass with the Confirmation Rite replacing the Creed. The rubrics of what the Sponsor and Candidate do during the Rite are no more difficult than the communion line and saying “Amen.”
      But how many instructions and guidelines it generates is staggering. There is no certainty that such words will deliver what they order. But with so many hands wanting to help with this celebration, it will be interesting to see HOW GOD HAPPENS.

  1. Faith is trusting everything to the Lord and his promises. What is uncertain is the first part. The last part is and always certain. We write about our uncertainties like this well written piece and whether we resolve them or not the Lord continues to deliver his promises.

    • I always liked what is said about faith in Hebrews 11:1. In simplest terms, Faith was a way of knowing. Some things you see to believe or you know them to be true (are certain) because you see it in plain sight. In such a case, FAITH isn’t uncertainty, it’s knowing without seeing or at least primarily by needing to see.

      But for some “reason” we do go through periods where bedrock empiricism hardens into fact and we are seduced into faith as fiction.

      I suppose if I exchange God’s “promises” with LOVE, that hard/harsh empiricism changes from SHOW me that you love me to I BELIEVE that I am loved. And the “reasons” will involve things seen and unseen.

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