This is a guest post by R. Glenn Guillory
Faith For Me
To me faith is a complex and ever-changing experience. I can best point to what faith is by underlining its opposite “doubt,” for it is only when in life’s ups and downs, and most thrown down by fate that I really understand it.
When an experience, another person, or my own self have let me down and abandoned me, two things generally happen, in this order:
- I recognize that all I’ve believed is disintegrated and in its place rests doubt.
- When I am brought to an abrupt stop, I find myself returning to the very basic beliefs I learned as a child. A belief in a supreme being. And when I am really devastated, facing social shame and dishonor, I actually find comfort in the trinity, the holy family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Deeper in the primitive return I find a need for ritual and prayer.
Faith Finds Me
In my professional life I attended many Intensive Journal workshops, and these were very centering and led me to a deep state of contemplative repose. The last part was a writing session for a sort of Testament or statement of what I felt most about the depth of my spiritual journey. I remember hearing in my heart a song by the Beatles, “Let it Be,” which has the words “Mother Mary comes to me, Speaking words of wisdom…”
When I would conduct workshops and got to the synthesis at the end, everyone was feeling joy and peace from within. As the leader I would hear in my mind’s ear: “Le it be….” I would always go to my deep ancient devotion of my boyhood and find myself cradled in the loving arms of Mother Mary.
A Constant, Never Ending Process
It would not have been easy for me to say this five or ten years ago as I tried so hard to reject all the church teachings. When I look at it intellectually I can rationalize that there is no God in the capitol “G” sense of the term. In the extremes of my actual daily experience, when things are very good or are at their worst, I feel a calling back to a set of core beliefs. These beliefs are constant with my Franciscanism: a devotion to the mother of Christ, and a love and devotion to Mother Mary.
Faith is Instinct, Truth and Doubt
At one time I could have told you fifty different things that defined faith. I realized all of that was affectation. The truth is that although I find it very hard to believe in Christ or Mary, I have an instinctive return to them. The many, many years away from these beliefs (my Buddhist and nature-ist days) do nothing to block or wash way this return to my “homeland.”
I do not say this is a definition of mature faith. In spite of my desire NOT to have faith in this traditional manner I do have it against my will. Leonard Cohen once stated in an interview that the reason he had returned to The Holy Bible was that it was, “Our own Blood Myth.”
Faith with a capital “F” is akin to doubt. Only when I’m thrown down into my deepest doubt do I find what I actually believe in. When the popularity factor and pretensions are stripped away, I have to be humble and say I believe. “I see things the way they really are for me.” Perhaps this is “opening the eyes of my heart.” I don’t know.
I do know, believe, that my faith can cause something like healing and comfort to others. I have met many people who were atheists (a truly charismatic mystic, a clairvoyant person, beautiful men), and all of them converted to Christianity because of the power of faith. 90% of them to Catholicism. To my surprise, four of them confided to me that they converted because of my personal example and faith.
Strange, right? I cannot understand it, but I believe it.