Faith has never been something that’s come easily for me. Perhaps it is better said, it’s trust -trust in God and in his help and mercy- that has never come easily. I’m not saying that as something of which I am particularly proud, nor am I ashamed. It’s just something that happens to be, well, “it is what it is”.
I’ve always admired (and stood in a little bit of wonder and bewilderment) at my friends who are so incredibly on fire in their faith and in their trust in God at every step….through good (which is understandable enough), bad (understandable, if perhaps in a slightly diminished sense), and even the horrible (this one astonishes me). Nothing and no one can shake them from their faith, from their trust in the love and mercy of God- even when it seems as though He isn’t listening or seems to have completely checked out of the scene. This level of faith and trust is something that amazes me, and leaves me wishing I could be so on fire- especially when dealing with the life-threatening illness of my child.
I have no clue as to how to achieve an unbreakable, unshakable faith / trust on the level that I see (and would love to attain). I just don’t get it. I do, however strive to reach that height, to make that manner of faith and trust my very own. I slowly chip away at the concrete with which I’ve managed to encase my heart and soul over the years- sometimes, I can see the progress. In other times, I realize I’m much farther back from where I started. The key is, I pick up again and start edging forward. And even in this, I am not perfect. I have spent recent months just mired in place, mostly angry at God for what’s come about than surrendering to any semblance of trust and being hopeful (in His even being there, let alone in His mercy and help)…..and forget any idea of being thankful. Thankful for what, my child’s suffering? The impossible situation in which my wife and I found ourselves? I became blind in my despair.
Things had become overwhelming, and even though I was still in touch with family and friends, I was starting to feel rather isolated in matters. Out of the blue, a monk with whom I’m friends on social media reached out and offered a simple reminder that he was there (along with his brethren) and praying for my child and family. Suddenly, the seeds of faith and trust I had unwittingly planted over the years before crisis struck began to offer up shoots. Some of the shadows that had me wallowing in despondency and self-pity lifted, and I was able to slowly regain a bit of my lost footing. I began to pray again, and to find myself trusting (however minimally) in God’s mercy.
It has been and continues to be a long road….but on reflection, I can see the progress I’ve made (as well as the setbacks) along the way, in building up a faith and trust of the sort I see in my unshakable friends. Will I ever get to their level or anywhere close to it? I honestly don’t know. But I do know that I *never* will if I stop trying to reach that goal. Even if I just inch along and have to restart from a few feet or miles previously walked, I know I need to keep moving forward as best as I can- in so doing, faith and trust becomes increasingly made manifest within me, and the concrete shell around my heart and soul slowly cracks and sheds its flakes, pebbles, and sometimes bricks.
Revolutionary America was a predominantly Protestant society in which Catholics (like other minority religious groups) were subject to exclusion and / or persecution in many parts of the fledgling country.
In a notable display of leadership and true sense of religious equality, George Washington wrote the following letter (dated March 15, 1790) to the Catholic citizenry, expressing a clear recognition of the contributions of Catholics and of their place within the young nation:
While I now receive with much satisfaction your congratulations on my being called, by an unanimous vote, to the first station in my Country; I cannot but duly notice your politeness in offering an apology for the unavoidable delay. As that delay has given you an opportunity of realizing, instead of anticipating, the benefits of the general Government; you will do me the justice to believe, that your testimony of the increase of the public prosperity, enhances the pleasure which I should otherwise have experienced from your affectionate address.
I feel that my conduct, in war and in peace, has met with more general approbation than could reasonably have been expected: and I find myself disposed to consider that fortunate circumstance, in a great degree, resulting from the able support and extraordinary candour of my fellow-citizens of all denominations.
The prospect of national prosperity now before us is truly animating, and ought to excite the exertions of all good men to establish and secure the happiness of their Country, in the permanent duration of its Freedom and Independence. America, under the smiles of a Divine Providence—the protection of a good Government—and the cultivation of manners, morals and piety, cannot fail of attaining an uncommon degree of eminence, in literature, commerce, agriculture, improvements at home and respectability abroad.
As mankind become more liberal they will be more apt to allow, that all those who conduct themselves as worthy members of the Community are equally entitled to the protection of civil Government. I hope ever to see America among the foremost nations in examples of justice and liberality. And I presume that your fellow-citizens will not forget the patriotic part which you took in the accomplishment of their Revolution, and the establishment of their Government: or the important assistance which they received from a nation in which the Roman Catholic faith is professed.
I thank you, Gentlemen, for your kind concern for me. While my life and my health shall continue, in whatever situation I may he, it shall be my constant endeavour to justify the favourable sentiments which you are pleased to express of my conduct. And may the members of your Society in America, animated alone by the pure spirit of Christianity, and still conducting themselves as the faithful subjects of our free Government, enjoy every temporal and spiritual felicity.
(Signed, G. Washington)