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Evansville, Indiana
January 8, 1988     The Message
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January 8, 1988

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.... ..... :,,!:! ! ..... . .    , :i!:i , .... :i Faith Today Supplement, The Message, Catholic Diocese of Evansville, January 8, 1988 1 .... ......... ..... !i , Faith Todav By Nell Parent - NC News Service III A supplement to Catholic newspope published by NATIONAL CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE 1312 Mossaduse Ave. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20005. wt grant astance from The CathoI,G Church II'-II EXTENSION soc,ew 35 East Wcer Dr.. Chicago, lilies 60601 All contents copyright 1987 by NC News Se4ce. 1 Rekindling the spark church was nearing an end. She was all the more surprised then, when after communion her in- terest was piqued by the descrip- tion of a home-based adult educa- tion program on contemporary issues of faith. She struggled with conflicting feelings about the program before saying under her breath, "One last chance. I'll give the church one last chance." [3 E] E] Edward sat in the back of the church waiting for Mass to begin. As he had over the past 10 years or so, he arrived early and took the last pew. Observing others entering the church, he began to wonder about their relationships with God. He watched how some proceeded to the middle of the church and others went up front. He concluded that for them to ap- proach so close to the altar, their eborah could sense her commitment to the church slipping away and she didn't know what to do about it. In recent years, the fondness she always had had for the church was being replaced by a growing resentment toward it. At 33, married and the mother of three children, Deborah was facing a major crisis of faith. It wasn't as though she didn't want to be a Christian any longer. Quite the contrary. She wanted to be a better Christian, but she felt the church was getting in the way. During the Second Vatican Council, which had occurred a few years earlier, Deborah became excited about the possibilities for a more open, modern church. She wanted to see a church that fully accepted and respected her gifts as a woman. She also wanted to see other changes -- in the way the church treated the laity, in some areas of human sexuality and family life But as the years following the council wore on, bringing only a few of the changes she sought, Deborah grew im- patient and then frustrated. As she sat in church with her family on a bright Sunday morning in 1969, Deborah unhappily concluded that her membership in the relationship with God must be pretty good. As for him, well, he needed to stay in the back. He felt that it would be hypocritical of him to move closer to the front. Slipping forward a bit so that he was half sitting and half kneeling, Edward let his head rest against his hands on the back of the pew in front of him. He began to think about his chaotic faith. What could he possibly make of it? For more years than he cared to count, he had harbored serious doubts about his faith, about the very existence of God. Week after week, he came to church hoping things would change. In his own mind, he was half believer, half unbeliever and surely a sinner. Sitting back again in the pew, he picked up a church bulletin. His eye caught the description of a Lenten program that dealt with contemporary spirituality, finding God in one's life. Edward had never attended a church program but, as he waited for the entrance hymn to begin, the idea of sign- ing up began to assert itself. He tried visualizing how it would be to participate in the program but that only made him anxious. How could he talk with believers about not being able to fully believe? The idea was preposterous. Still, it persisted. "What the heck!" he thought as as the organ signaled the beginn- ing of Mass. "I'm nearly 70. It's now or never. I've got to face up to this thing one way or another." Both Deborah and Edward are real people, l learned their stories while working in.the parish com- munity to which they belonged. When I met them, they were ex- periencing serious problems with their faith. But by no means are their stories unique. The faith journey is never smooth. All who walk it may find the going at one time relatively easy, at another time virtually impossible. Deborah and Edward got help when they needed it in ways that, as things turned out, met their needs. But the rekindling of faith can happen in many ways. There are two lessons that can be drawn from the experience of Deborah and Edward. *One is that it is important to maintain a certain flexibility in our faith lives, an openness to God's grace, so that when mo- ments of change and growth pre- sent themselves, we will be ready. ,The other is that we never al- low ourselves to become so dis- heartened or so disillusioned by the challenges of authentic Christian life that we abandon the journey. The pearl of great price does not come without risk and sacrifice. (Parent is a staff assistant in the U.S. Catholic Conference Depart- ment of Education.) "Deborah could sense her commitment to the church slipping away, and she didn't know what to do about it .... Edward let his head rest against his hands on the back of the pew in front of him. He began to think about his chaotic faith. What could he possibly make of it?" Both Deborah and Edward were at a rocky point in their faith journey. How could they possibly tahe o new step forward?