I find it difficult to stand up and to say “I have faith”. I feel what makes this difficult is the faithless age we now live in.
I know how easy it is for other people to stare at us and criticize our faith saying, ‘Faith in What? Yourself? Another person?’- their list of criticisms could be endless. I find so often the tiring criticism that I should ‘enter the present day’ and that I ‘have problems’. How much less often do I hear the critical response to my statement being ‘Oh you have faith in God? That’s a great thing.’.
In this faithless age it is easy to feel discouraged. Sometimes I feel it is easier to be quieter about my faith then to share this part of my life with my friends. I remember the time when I was going through the RCIA course. I wasn’t brave to share what I was doing- not with my close friends, not with my family, not with my colleagues at work. I was afraid to share with them that I was learning about Catholicism. I didn’t want to tell them that in all likeliness I would end up becoming a confirmed Roman Catholic.
I knew that I had faith. What I was lacking in was fortitude. Without the strength of fortitude, I did not of the temerity to stand up and say ‘I have woken up and heard the word of God.’
For the first time in my life God was a real presence. No longer was God a mere sneerable or laughable myth. He was now real to me and in the beginning it was difficult to deal with this. It is like inwardly knowing the importance of my relationship with God. However outwardly I am more concerned about how people care about this so I am more inclined to hide this part of my life from them.
From personal experience, I know how easy it is to deny Jesus. Even St. Peter denied Jesus three times after his arrest.
In Matthew 26:69-74, St. Peter is sitting in the courtyard of the high priest. A maid came up to him and said, “you were also with Jesus the Galilean.” But he denied it before them all, stating ” I do not know what you mean.” Then St Peter goes to the porch and another maid sees him. She says, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” For the second time, he denied it, saying “I do not know the man.”
Then a third time, people come up to him and say, “Certainly you are one of them, for your accent betrays you.”
And for the third time Peter denied knowing Jesus as it had been foretold. I feel there is a temptation for the faithful to be like St. Peter and deny Jesus. Not because we are inherent cowards, but because of the consequences if we speak up. We are afraid of the consequences if we speak up and say, “Yes, I believe in God!”
But yet, I am now no longer afraid. I no longer hide this side of my life from people. Now I have little difficulty to stand up and say, “I am a Catholic Christian.” My deepening faith has helped me to do that. I was once a committed atheist and over a short period of time became a devout Catholic. As a consequence, I have experienced many criticisms directed at my faith.
It takes fortitude to defend against the critics. They have no faith of their own
However, they do have the confidence to criticise my faith. It takes fortitude to defend against this. But does not Jesus say in Matthew 5:11,” Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.”
In this age it often is easier to believe in medicine, science, space exploration, then it is to believe in God. In this time of the expansion of knowledge, it is hard to see God in all his wonder. For those without faith, they are always vulnerable to other influences and superstitions.
When I did not believe in God, I read Tarot and Angel cards. There were many people who came to me in their desire to find out their probable future. This was because of their life problems or fear of the future. They had no faith in God so instead they put their faith into the shining darkness of the New Age.
There is a large number of people who said to me now that I am a Catholic Christian, “OH, you don’t believe in that rubbish, do you.” and then they would go to a psychic who stated they could contact a dead relative or friend for them.
It takes fortitude to withstand criticism. It takes fortitude to explain that love of God and a public affirmation of faith leads me to go to church, pray, and even kneel before the Tabernacle. I know they would criticize this as an activity for a foolish or misguided person. I feel that there is no best response to their criticisms except to lead by example. To show my faith by never being afraid to carry a Rosary, or to be seen praying. To never be afraid to ask a friend to step into the Catholic Church for a few minutes- it could lead to their conversion.
I encourage you to have fortitude in your faith.
After all as stated in John 15:16 ‘you did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you might bear fruit, fruit that will last and so whatever you ask in my name, the Father will give you.
So I ask the question, do you have fortitude?