“Ask a Priest: What If I’m 18 and Questioning My Faith?”

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Q: I am turning to you in desperation. I am 18 years old. I was raised Catholic, and for the first time I am beginning to question the truth value of my faith. I have begun to apply a narrow-minded frame to Catholicism that compares it to “logic” and “science.” I feel very scared and disconcerted by these thoughts, and I am too ashamed to talk about this to any of my friends, priests or family members. How do I renew my faith in God, without seeking proof of his existence, which is inherently disrespectful? Is this merely an existentialist phase that comes with being a college student? Thank you for your time and God bless. – B.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: It is not uncommon for young Catholics to question their faith. This can actually be a healthy sign. It shows that you are maturing intellectually and are no longer satisfied with the simple formulas you might have learned as a child.

This is a time of your life when you can learn the beauty and depth of the Catholic faith and embrace it as your own.

God created both faith and reason, and he wants us to use both in order to know and love him more. Until now, perhaps, you have been going on simple faith. Now your reason is kicking in — and it has lots of questions. That’s OK … because Catholicism has lots of answers.

A few practical steps might help.

First, try to make time for prayer each day. Speak with Jesus. He is at the heart of our faith. Catholicism isn’t just about doctrines and rules. It’s about a personal relationship with Jesus who suffered and died for each one of us. He is also your best friend. You can learn more about him by reading a bit of the Gospels each day. It’s important that you keep your eye on Our Lord.

Second, try to learn more about your faith by reading solid material. A few suggestions: the Youth Catechism, or YouCat; the Catechism of the Catholic Church; its Compendium; The Case for Catholicism; and Fundamentals of the Faith: Essays in Christian Apologetics.

Websites with lots of resources include Catholic Answers, EWTN, Peter Kreeft’s site, and The Catholic Thing.

One caveat: Be careful not to expose yourself to the wrong things. Internet is filled with dicey things.

Also, try to network with other Catholics who are serious about their faith. Perhaps there is a Newman Center at your campus. Or keep an eye out for events that might attract serious Catholics, such as talks or retreats.

It would be good to stay close to the sacraments, too. Monthly confession with a solid priest, and frequent visits to the Blessed Sacrament can do wonders.

Cultivate a devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary through the rosary. She will intercede for you. And count on my prayers.

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