A Journey of Faith Part 1 – An Introduction

In my last post (Adult Principles) I talked about wanting to compile a list of traits I felt were important to being a husband, father, and productive member of society.  I shared with you JP Barlow’s list of twenty-five Adult Principles. Barlow's list was quite comprehensive, yet there was one item in particular that I had in my list that Mr. Barlow did not address... 

Faith.

Faith (by definition) is a belief in something for which there is no proof.  I know some consider "faith" foolishness, or a personality weakness.  I do not.  A person's faith is a very personal thing.  Even within myself, I have found my own faith a complicated mix of feelings, beliefs, and even (if I want to be honest) a little contradiction.  In my bio, I have written (about myself)…
"I consider myself a man of faith. I was born, raised, and practice the Catholic faith, and I am not afraid to say that I believe in God. While I have no desire to leave my faith, I am both tolerant of, and interested in learning more about the other faiths and Religions around the world."
I have found that In times of trouble, turbulence and confusion in my life I have found that by turning to my faith I have been able to find peace, serenity, harmony, and answers.  My faith in God is something that has served me well throughout my life, and has always be there ready and waiting for me when I need it most.
I practice my faith within the Catholic Church. 

It’s true, Catholicism has received it's fair share of criticism lately (and I may face a little flack from some for saying this, but I believe some of that criticism is justified).  Yet for all the things it is scrutinized for, the Catholic Church has done and continues to do a lot of good throughout the world.  Do not get me wrong.  I am not justifying the negative by trying to camouflage it with the positive.  I think too many people acknowledge one, and ignore the other (and that goes for both sides of the issue).   

Despite it’s shortcomings, I (personally) have found a certain level of comfort and familiarity within The Catholic Church (as an institution).  At least once a week I have an opportunity to tune out the external noise and chaos of life as a father of five, and loose myself in the familiar and traditional rituals of the Catholic Mass.

I acknowledge that these rituals (the standing, sitting, knelling, and repetitious prayers) may not be for everyone.  It is likely that some (maybe most) people do not understand why we do the things we do (I can not explain them all myself), but being a creature of habit (desperate for stability) I have (personally) found those familiar and traditional rituals help (forgive my use of cliché) "bring me back to where I want to be" and help "center myself”.   As a father of five, “time” is something of a premium.  Participation in those familiar and traditional rituals afford me a small window of opportunity to reset my priorities.  I can take the time to reflect upon the previous week, and focus on navigating around the impending obstacles of the upcoming week.  I emerge from mass feeling re-energized to take on life with an emphasis on positive principals such as respect, dignity, honor, peace, acceptance, honesty leaving behind the negative.  

Admittedly, while I have a strong sense of faith in my life, I am not what you would consider an “overly religious” fellow. I am sure that while some may be surprised by this fact and others may not - I struggle with some of the minutia, “rules”, and viewpoints of the Church.  I tend to be selective on which of these items are “important” to me, and which ones I am able (or allow myself) to overlook.  Does that make me a bad Catholic?  I don’t know. 
One of my favorite movie quotes is from the movie Trading Places where a “secular” character named Coleman (dressed as a Catholic priest and speaking with a stereotypical Irish accent) offers another character a sip of Irish whisky from his flask. The recipient replies “No thank you, it’s against my religion”. Colman then comes back with the unexpected (yet memorable) quote “Religion is a good thing I say, taken in moderation”. Of course the irony (and humoristic contrast) here is that this is said by a religious figure.
What I do know is that I try (and try hard) to follow what I see as the core values and principles of Jesus Christ.  Call me a sinner (or a bad Catholic) if you wish (Matthew 7:1), but in the end I’d rather be judged a honest, compassionate and forgiving man who ate a bowl of cereal before mass than a deceitful, underhanded, and dishonest man who fasts one hour before mass. 

This is where things get complex.  In a confusing and unexplainable contradiction, while I struggle with the “fast before mass” rule, I find inspiration in the Lenten fast.  Why is it that??  Why can I find inspiration while fasting for forty days of Lent, but not for the one hour before weekly mass?   

I wish I was able to discern and tell you why I believe the things I believe, and why I find fulfillment in the things that I do, but I can not.  I can not even explain them to myself, let alone try to explain them to others. 
What I can say, without hesitation, is that that it feels right, and it feels good to do so.  

So I continue living what could probably be described as a life of strong faith as a moderate Catholic – struggling to understand the things I do not, while finding fulfillment in the things I do, 

See what I mean??  Personal, complex, contradictory, and (often) unexplainable…  But in the end, isn’t that what faith is all about?  About believing in something intangible, abstract, and elusive?  Believing in something that you can not prove, even to yourself? 

I have (for quite some time now) wanted to document my personal journey of faith.  How I became who I am today in an attempt to try and understand my faith.  I started by doing just that.  I sat down, and wrote out my personal journey of faith.  Not so much the abstract thoughts and ideas that this post is full of, but moreover the plain and simple facts.  The unarguable facts that may or may not have contributed to what my faith and beliefs are all about today. 

Originally, this was not going to be something that ended up on Father of Five.  It was to be for personal fulfillment.  As I processed my thoughts, and started putting it down I paper – I decided that I would post my journey.  I would open up and share my faith.  I know people choose to “evangelize” by sharing their journey.  That is not my mission.  I am not writing these posts to convert.  I am not writing these posts to persuade.  I am not writing these posts to influence.  I AM writing these posts (first and foremost) for myself. 

Writing this series of posts has been daunting to say the least.  I have spent hours writing, deleting, reworking, starting, stopping, and restarting, repeatedly.  Each time I decide to abandon the project, something has drawn me back to it.  I have struggled with finding the time to dedicate to this project, and (when I have found the time) I have struggled with the mechanics of putting words to the thoughts that best express my sentiments.  This is a simplistic view at best.  I do not want anyone walking away from this series thinking that I have shared (or that they now know) everything there is to know about my faith and beliefs.  It’s just not that simple.   

I will leave the comments open on this series of posts.  I only ask that any comments, questions, links, forwards, and discussion be tolerant and respectful – as I would if you were talking about your faith.

Coming soon… A Journey of Faith Part 2 – The Early Years.

8 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing David. Faith is not an easy subject to talk about, yet you do in a non-threatening way.

    Hopefully some non-believers are reading your stuff!


    I look forward to your next post!

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  2. I think the fact that you recognize your own turbulent emotions/feelings/beliefs with regards to your faith, only makes you stronger in your beliefs. People who have never done the self-introspection thing can be/are shaken to the core when something happens to them that causes them to question their foundation of faith. I suspect that, like me, you take what you need from "religion" and find strength in the simple parts--forgiveness, tolerance, mercy and love.

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  3. In at least a dozen sermons in the last 6 months, our pastor has shared that it is God's faith in US that HE allows us to question our faith in Him. Your work is a blessing.

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  4. You're right... I liked it. Funny, I have been mulling over a similar post for some time. Bits and pieces of it have appeared as thoughts in other posts, but I haven't been able to put it down in a complete form I felt was publishable.

    I resonate with the rules and the sinner/bad Catholic thread of the post. I practice my faith as a Protestant (more specifically, Baptist, although, as I get older, I prefer less "label"). While I believe we are all sinners (either redeemed or unredeemed), I have struggled with a bit of a "bad Baptist" complex. While the Bible does spell out some "rules", Christianity is based on grace. I think many man-made ideas have become "rules" and trump grace. I've lately been leaving behind some some traditions, and focusing on being a more genuine Christian... worshipping in ways that are "me", rather than being forced into someone's mold... not necessarily an easy thing to do.

    Perhaps I should work on putting my "faith post" together.

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  5. Nathan - Thank you. I am glad it came across that way - I was hoping it would.

    Anonymous - your assessment is very accurate.

    Boss Lady - Thank you. It makes me feel better about(and I should be thankful that I can) question my faith / religion - knowing that "He" gave me the freedom and ability to do so. In some odd way, knowing that I have the freedom to choose to (or not to) and that I do choose to makes me feel that much better.

    Jeff - I had a feeling you would (wink). I suspect we share many of the same beliefs / and notions on faith and religion. I'd love to read about your journey... There is more to come from mine...

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  6. Dave....I love that you give the definition of faith (Faith is a belief in something for which there is no proof.) and also love that you feel strong in your Catholicism. Yet, you also mention that you are "tolerant of, and interested in learning more about the other faiths and Religions around the world."

    I was raised Catholic too (as you well know) but question it. Do I believe in God? Yes I do. But do I need to belong to "one team" (ie: organized religion)...no.

    I like my God but respect the Gods that other people also worship because who am I to say mine is better and theirs is not? I only wish more people felt this way as we might just get along a lot better in the world.

    If the God you pray to and worship makes you feel good, then great. Spread that feeling but don't push the religion on me. Hope that makes sense.

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  7. West1818 - It makes COMPLETE sense to me! It mirrors a lot of my own sentiments.

    If you look at most organized religions around the world, most have some very similar traits...

    Christianity all shares the same belief, only disagree over the "rules" within the specifics of the Religion. Christianity and Judaism have the same foundation, and separate only at the ROLL Jesus played.

    Christianity and even Islam share similar traits.. One God (Allah) with a son made human, Jesus (Mohammad)...

    One has to wonder if the differences between the religions of the world are merely a "telephone game" - with regional variations that make up the differences...

    My point was that in the chaos of my life, I do still enjoy and choose to follow the familiarity of the Catholic Church and it's traditions... I acknowledge it's not for everyone.

    We live in a country that allows for the freedom to worship (or not to worship) the way you want to. That is unique, and makes this country great!

    Thanks for chiming in West1818!!

    P.S. Check your hotmail account... I sent you an email this morning.

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  8. Here, I off this as an example...

    LINK

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