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“Ask a Priest: What If I Feel My Faith Fading?”
Q: This is probably the fourth letter I have sent to you guys, but to be honest, I just feel like you are the people to turn to sometimes. For nearly a month, it feels a bit like my faith is declining. I think it might be because of how much religion is portrayed negatively on the Internet. But to be honest, I don’t even know anymore if God even listens to me. I have been trying to keep my faith, no matter how hard it seems, but really, I feel like he doesn’t respond to me. I know this might have another meaning or something, but to be honest, I don’t want to keep living this way, since at this point, it now feels like all these ways to calm me down are just excuses to keep me believing in God. I do want to keep my faith no matter what happens, but in the meantime, is there anything else I should know? -C.T.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: Faith is a gift that we need to guard and protect, as well as try to nourish through prayer and the sacraments.
You touch on a big problem: the Internet. There are all kinds of wild things on the Internet, which is why we need to be careful about what we expose ourselves to.
It might be good, then, to limit your time on the Internet to good things. The Vatican website is a great treasure of papal and magisterial documents. Lots of other sites, such as Catholic Answers and Discerning Hearts and our own RC Spirituality.org, offer material that helps build the faith.
We live in a very secular age, and that reality won’t change quickly. So we need to be prepared for the long term. This doesn’t mean living in a bunker. Rather, it means looking for ways to help share the faith with others around us. The more we share the faith, the stronger our own faith grows.
If you feel up to it, you can engage people in dialogue on the Internet. But — and this is a big but — you need to prepare yourself well in apologetics. That is where ongoing study of the faith could help (the Catholic Answers site has a lot of good resources).
As for God responding to you, he might be communicating in all kinds of ways. His ways can be very subtle, however, and we can miss the clues.
A few observations might help you. First, one way to gauge the Holy Spirit’s work in you is your life of charity. Are you more sensitive to the needs of those around you? You are growing in patience and mercy? Those are signs that God’s grace is at work in you.
Second, God might be allowing you to go through a dry period. On the positive side, he might be inviting you to have even more faith in him, to persevere in prayer even when you don’t see the fruits of it right away.
On the less positive side, you might be feeling some of the fallout of having exposed yourself too much to the wrong kinds of things on the Internet for too long. Just as ocean waves beating against a rocky cliff will eventually cause part of it to crumble, the nasty things on the Web can weaken our faith and our spirit of Christian optimism. Hence the recommendation to stick to positive things on the Internet.
You might want to look for a good regular confessor or spiritual director who can help you navigate through the rough waters. A three- or four-day retreat might be helpful too. If you can’t get to a live retreat, perhaps the “Cure for Discouragement” online retreat could suffice in the meantime.
Be confident that the Holy Spirit will help you. Stay close to the Blessed Virgin Mary. And keep up the prayer life and sacramental life. Those essentials will serve you well.