I had the chance to speak to Fr J. the other day. We spoke on a great many issues, most of which concerned the conflict between faith and reason. I felt myself to be on the side of reason. Indeed, my faith has been on terribly shaky grounds recently and a number of confounding questions still push and tug at the frail pillar on which it balances. I have sought answers on my own but could find no appeasement. Thus I had hoped to learn from Fr J., hearing as how he is intellectually inclined, some things which perhaps I might have overlooked, or to discover some piece of the puzzle kept secret from me by a biased mind.
But alas, I received no truly satisfying answers. He attempted, meticulously and zealously, to explain to me the intricacies of the Christian system of faith, and how it might bind itself by a hidden vine to the realm of human reason. Still, it felt all too speculative, all too presumptuous. I wasn’t convinced. The problem was that he relied greatly on the mystery of “feeling”, that natural and nebulous pull of the heart, to answer what needed firm and distinct reasons. Nonetheless, I admired the zeal with which he spoke of his convictions and the confidence with which he esteemed them true. I came only to admit of the sure strength of his faith.
Then just as the conversation aged, and I began to think the whole meeting fruitless, he said these words to me: I do not worry for you. And quickly, a relief descended upon me, like a warm, heartening blanket. I did not expect such words to come from anyone, and not the least of all, a priest. I had expected for him to express certain disappointment at my departure or fear at my being “lost”, and for him to assail me with an endless persuasion until finally, out of lethargy, I relent. But no, nothing of that sort passed. For once, I felt accepted in spite of my views and doubts. He understood that such views and doubts come naturally, and he could empathize since he once bore them himself.
So even though I learnt little from the meeting, I have had my faith in the religious leaders restored. Once I thought them rigid in their thinking and coercive in their manner, now I think them open and accepting. They do not force their beliefs upon another, but only trust that their God has a way for everyone. These are the kind of people whom ought to be respected most: they who have faith, and faith enough to trust that by the honesty of their beliefs and by inspiring divine powers shall the faith too reach those not yet touched by it.
Fr J. told me, when I asked how he had escaped those reasonable views and reasonable doubts, that it was through a multitude of experiences – experiences of being “touched”. I do not know how much to believe him, but perhaps I shall one day be “touched” and return my wandering ship to the docks.