By Joel Padgett
Connecting Faith and Life
Everyone reading this article probably knows of at least someone who has left the Catholic faith. What each person experiences as a result of such news is just as varied as each reader. Some are heartbroken, whereas others may be frustrated and angry. Yes, some may even be happy, and others may simply be indifferent. Some feel discouraged or paralyzed by the apparent inability to change the situation, whereas others feel moved to constantly cry out to God in heartfelt prayer. Likewise, the reasons for those leaving the Catholic faith – or even if there isn’t a conscious reason at all – are just as varied.
In his first letter, Saint Peter tells us to “always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope” (1 Peter 3:15), that is, a reason for our faith in Christ. Although it would certainly be worthwhile, it is not my intent to present a long list of reasons why people choose to leave the Catholic faith and then proceed to answer each objection. Neither do I have the space to present a perfect, well-reasoned explanation of our Catholic faith, although that too would be of great value. Both of these things have been done far better than I could ever hope to do. I simply wish to present one reason to believe … a saintly one.
Saint Paul writes, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain … If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied” (1 Corinthians 15:17-19). This doesn’t apply just to us. It applies to every person who believes in Christ and, consequently, in the Catholic faith. In a special way, Saint Paul’s teaching applies to the saints, since they are upheld as exemplary models of faith. If Christ is not God, if he is not truly alive, then the lives of the saints have been in vain, and they are worthy of little more than our pity. In fact, they would be the most to be pitied; that is, over and above anyone else who doesn’t believe.
Personally, I find that a hard pill to swallow. Even the briefest of glimpses at the past 2,000 years reveals an enormous contribution that the saints have made to the common good, in addition to all that they did to benefit the life of the Church.
Here, I am referring principally to the lives of the saints, since they are upheld as true models of our faith. Unfortunately, there will always be individuals who abuse religion to do horrible things, but those individuals are not upheld as exemplars of our Catholic faith.
In fact, some of the greatest contributions to science and medicine have been made by holy men and women. Furthermore, both our hospital and university systems are indebted in large part to the Catholic faith. In more recent times, who can deny the incredible witness of Saint Teresa of Calcutta or Saint John Paul II? Even in times of struggle and doubt, the testimony of the lives of the saints should always be strong support for our faith.
Closer to home, think of those people of faith whom you have known personally and who have touched your life. Think of those individuals whom you know whose lives just wouldn’t make sense if you left faith out of the equation.
Can they truly be written off as having lived in vain, especially if faith was perhaps the deepest motive for their actions? Can you sincerely describe them as the people whom you have most pitied? If not, what is this faith that played such an important role in forming and shaping them to be the person that they are?
Either these individuals are fools, or perhaps there is something real, something true, to their faith. At the end of the day, the most important thing is to live in the truth, that is, to live our faith and believe in it because it is true. And it is only Jesus Christ who is “the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6).