Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Keep the Faith: Disease and Disaster Might Challenge Our Belief in God, but despite All That, We Must

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Keep the Faith: Disease and Disaster Might Challenge Our Belief in God, but despite All That, We Must

Article excerpt

One of the most memorable moments of my life was when I conferred the sacrament of confirmation on 20 youths in San Francisco's Children's Hospital--children ranging from 4 or 5 to 16 years of age who were dying from leukemia. I was apprehensive about how these young ones would feel about receiving confirmation.

When I arrived, I found many of the children bald from chemotherapy and radiation, thin and pale, their faces as white as the pillows on which they lay. I imagined they would be resentful, angry at God for letting them die so young. I thought they might be rejecting God.

Did these children have these feelings? No.

As I anointed their foreheads with the chrism, their faces were peaceful, serious, and with a look of awe realizing that they were receiving a gift from God. What faith!

But today, we are told that religious faith is declining in America. Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, and Sam Harris have written best-selling books about atheism. ... Billboards appear in major cities proclaiming that millions Of people are living lives that do not need a God.

We live in a world reliant on science, which on one level is good. Science is not an opponent of religious faith. Science and faith are both part of God's truth. Charles Darwin did not want his discoveries about evolution to diminish faith in God. Albert Einstein believed in a supreme intelligent being. Today popular physicist Stephen Hawking sees God in the laws of the universe. One of the most gifted scientists, Louis Pasteur, once said, "Because I am a scientist, I have the faith of a French peasant; if I continue to study science, someday I may have the faith of a French peasant's wife."

There are many challenges to our religious faith. We puzzle about a merciful God and the suffering of innocent people in the earthquakes of China, Haiti, and Chile. Yet even in their suffering, these victims seem to draw closer to God. Through the tear in broken hearts, God is finally seen. God knows the full answer to the suffering of the innocent. We don't.

And then there is the sexual abuse crisis. This challenges our Catholic faith--and perhaps causes us to lose it. Many of us who are bishops, as leaders in the church, often have been blind, ignorant, and clearly wrong in this crisis. At times we have focused more on the perceived needs of the institutional church than on the needs of the victims. …

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