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.
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