Josh Raymond recalled the time his father purchased their first VHS player, he also purchased three movies: Captain Kidd, The Greatest Story Ever Told, and The Empire Strikes Back. The Empire Strikes Back was and is Josh’s favorite Star Wars movie, in part because of a sequence in the film where Luke is training with Yoda.
As he practices using the force to lift some stones, Luke’s ship begins to sink in the swamp. Yoda tells him to use the force to lift his ship out of the mud and onto dry land. Luke protests, but upon further insistence, says he will try. “Do or do not. There is no try,” responds Yoda. After Luke fails to lift his ship up, Yoda raises his small, feeble arm and does what Luke could not. “I don’t believe it,” says Luke. Yoda replies, “That is why you fail.”
Josh welcomed Fr. Joseph Illo onto The Inner Life to discuss how disbelief can affect our spiritual capabilities and what we can do to face our doubts with the truth.
In beginning the conversation, Fr. Joseph referenced the Catechism to provide us with an accurate definition of what we consider theological doubt:
“Voluntary doubt about the faith disregards or refuses to hold as true what God has revealed and the Church proposes for belief. Involuntary doubt refers to hesitation in believing, difficulty in overcoming objections connected with the faith, or also anxiety aroused by its obscurity. If deliberately cultivated doubt can lead to spiritual blindness.” (CCC, 2088)
If indulgence in doubt can lead to disbelief, spiritual blindness, and rejection, how can we steel ourselves against these infiltrating thoughts? Fr. Joseph suggests studying scripture, praying for strength in difficulty, teaching our faith to others, and practicing the faith by obedience to the Church’s precepts, in the small ways as well as the big! He said that Faith, the first of the theological virtues is “the most precious gift we have” because it makes both temporal and eternal happiness possible. Without it, we can lose our way, lose our happiness, and lose salvation.
Fr. Joseph told the story of a bright young man he knew who used to altar serve. He grew up and went on to Steubenville, graduated, got married, and had a family, all the while growing in his faith. He had this very smart friend who was an atheist and he slowly began trying to guide him towards the faith. But over time, as their conversation went on, the Catholic man started to lose his own faith. He became convinced that God did not exist, and the rest of his family lost their faith as well.
“What is doubt? Doubt starts with an involuntary feeling, an anxiety or confusion about a truth…or a doubt about a personal conviction such as, ‘God loves me’ or ‘I’m a good person’ or ‘My life has purpose to it’.” At that point, these are nothing but untrue, intrusive thoughts that the devil has planted in us. We have not done anything wrong. But, if we allow these thoughts to fester and germinate, we are now transforming these wayward ideas into voluntary ones. We’re willfully engaging in our separation from the truth, which is sinful.
As Fr. Joseph identified, the Catechism tells us that we must hold onto the truth and defend it with vigilance and fortitude. And by vigilance, that truly means being ever-weary of concepts contrary to the Church and truth. He went on to say that we encounter these very concepts every day in the entertainment we consume, the conversations we partake in, and in many modern school curriculums. Weed out the doubt and the things that lead to doubt.
Mother Teresa would always discourage her sisters from grumbling and complaining because negative conversations can destroy “our faith and our joyful confidence in God’s goodness.” A simple way to alleviate the doubts in your life is to abstain from negativity. Participate in a fast from negativity the same methodical way you might fast from meat on Fridays, and you will notice how much God has blessed you!
Tune in to The Inner Life weekdays at 11am CT