Perhaps the biggest thing that I struggle with when it comes to my faith is just how small my faith is, and how it flickers at the slightest breeze, as compared to those around the world. My faith, grounded in Catholic theology, seems so small and weak when I look at it in comparison (which is already my first mistake). Whether it is the Uighurs facing a modern day Holocaust, or Jews battling for a homeland (and the Palestinians as well), Christians in countries openly hostile and violent to them or any variety of person, strong in faith even when faced with active persecution, my faith seems like a sham.

Not only is it difficult to watch those who hold the flame of faith in hurricane force winds when looking at my flickering matchstick, there is the added difficulty of which faith system is the right one. Even within American Christianity, there are more denominations and individual faith systems than I could possibly be aware of; and if I am not even aware of them, then how do I know if my faith system is the one that is best for me?

It is perhaps in this last sentence where I find myself getting into the most difficulty – what is “best for me.” It is a very selfish way to look at faith, spirituality and religion. This is where I find it is best for me to bring the importance of mystery into my faith system. My system of faith and belief is, I hope, one that will be continually challenged both from inside myself and from those outside. It is something that will grow, change and evolve into something that holds elements of what it once was, while also being something entirely new. For me, the only way to achieve this is imbuing my faith with mystery. If I am able to allow myself to appreciate the mystery that naturally springs from ignorance, then perhaps, over time, I will be able to fill my ignorance with insight.

This leads me, however, to the question as to the worthiness of both ignorance and insight, and whether one necessarily needs to replace the other. As I touched on earlier, there is simply no way for me to comprehend the depth and richness of spirituality that permeates American culture, let alone the world over. If this is accepted as true, then this means that my faith will always be colored by some level and form of ignorance. Is there utility within this ignorance? Again, it comes back to mystery. If I allow myself to become comfortable on the bed that ignorance can so easily make, then it’s utility turns into a hindrance. However, if I am able to remind myself that this ignorance is part of the mystery, and something that should continually be explored and challenged, then I hope and believe that ignorance can be something that can lead to a deeper faith life.

Within all of this, one of the most challenging aspects that I find myself faced with is where does Religion (with a capital R) fit into the mystery of faith? How can the ritualized, scrutinized and intricately studied world of the Catholic faith fall into the mystery of faith? For me, Catholicism has always been something approaching the antithesis of mystery. It is something that has literal thousands of theological treatises written on it, hierarchies established over millennia, educational institutions built on the foundations of this belief system and dozens of different orders, teaching the laws and statutes in their own, unique wording. Where does the mystery of faith fit into this institutional, oftentimes rigid system? I know that there are hundreds of answers to this question, yet it often seems as if this is something that I will need to stumble through myself before finding an “acceptable” answer.

Through all of these questions and meandering thoughts, I try to remind myself that these are things that have been asked by countless individuals and societies over thousands and thousands of years. It is certainly too prideful of me to expect that I can find the answer to this question that so many have gone searching for, but it is something that I will search for nonetheless. Even if I am unable to express the things that I learn in words, perhaps I can find an answer that leads to a flourishing of inner peace.

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