“Blessed are those who have not seen but believed.” John 20:
It’s no secret that I’m a perpetual doubter. I even know why I doubt, all the good it does. There are many fancy hypotheses about the roots of doubt from sin to projection of attachment issues but in the end knowing why does nothing to relieve the state. Perhaps St. Thomas the Apostle had attachment issues. He doubted. The only difference between him and me is that he saw and touched the Risen Christ. That and nothing else cured his doubt. By the way, his feast is today.
Many great Saints have doubted their faith. They didn’t ask why. They asked how, how they could deal with it. Their solution was usually to dismiss their doubting thoughts and not trust their feelings. Instead they focused on completing their duties and practicing their faith to the best of their ability. After all faith isn’t about emotional confidence or intellectual understanding. It’s about choice.
I happen to like St. Thomas’s response to seeing the Risen Lord. He said, “My Lord and my God.” That’s all. Based on that little sentence I have devised an exercise to help with my doubting. We can’t have St. Thomas’s experience but we can train our brain to experience the Lord in everything else. Here’s how it works.
Every time you see a sunrise, hear a singing bird, or experience any other wonder of nature say, “My Lord and my God.” Each time you see an act of kindness, your beloved pet act amusingly, or a child’s happy eyes say again, “My Lord and my God.” Say it also when you listen to someone’s woes. The Lord is present and alive in all those things.
You don’t have to understand or feel those words with confidence. You only have to say the words, silly as that seems. As the habit grows you may find yourself instinctively saying it in the midst of grief, stress, or physical or emotional pain. You may even then find yourself saying it at the moment of consecration at mass even if you doubt the Real Presence. Again you don’t have to understand or feel it to say it. Just say it.
We only have to practice our belief, dismiss thoughts to the contrary, not rely on feelings, and behave according to what we commit to believe in order to be a person of faith. God knows we doubt and it is good that we do. It proves that we are not God and can’t do a thing without His grace.
St. Thomas the Apostle, pray for us!
Painting by Mattias Stom (1615-1649) The Incredulity of St. Thomas, public domain.