It was a lovely Spring evening, quite bright and warm for this time of year, when Steven Milliner, the Youth Club leader, decided to take the children to the park opposite St Vincent Catholic Church for some fresh air and exercise.
Most of the boys had gathered with two Club Leaders at the far end of the park to play football. The rest of the children stayed in the playground area and played on the swings, the slides, round-abouts and seesaws; supervised by a couple of Leaders and Father Ignatius who’d turned up to help.
The priest sat on a bench and kept a watchful eye when he was joined by Tony a young volunteer who helped at the Youth Club every now and then.
“Could I ask you something Father?” he said hesitantly as he sat down.
“Fire away …” replied the priest.
“How is it that you priests can be so strong and steadfast in your Faith. You and Father Donald are so saintly and you preach on Sunday so well … I mean, do you ever have doubts?”
Father Ignatius smiled. “If only you knew …” he thought silently.
After a moment or two Father Ignatius spoke gently.
“Well … Father Donald may well be saintly I suppose … as for me … hmmm … what makes you think I’m saintly?”
“You’re always so calm Father. Nothing seems to rattle you. And your Faith is so strong …”
“Well Tony …” Father Ignatius said after a short pause, “priests are human beings just like everyone else. Just because we wear a white collar, or have been ordained as priests, does not make us Saints. Of course we have doubts every now and then … perhaps not as much or as often as other people, but we are no less immune to the attacks and temptations of the devil.
“A person’s Faith depends on a lot of factors. We all have different levels of Faith … if I can put it this way. Some people have a strong Faith in the Good Lord and can withstand no end of suffering and hardship … others fold at the first stumble …”
“So, if you do have moments of doubts Father, how do you fight it?” asked Tony.
“Prayer … constant prayer,” the priest answered, “one of my favorite prayers is what the man in the Bible said to Jesus. ‘I believe Lord; help my unbelief’. Look it up in Mark 9:24.”
“Yes Father … I remember reading that …” Tony replied.
“Priests are no different to anyone else,” continued Father Ignatius, “some have strong Faith indeed, living Saints as you call them … whilst others do struggle sometime, just like anyone else.
“Anyway … why do you ask? Having any problems?”
Tony hesitated a little before replying.
“Well … sometimes I have doubts …” he said, “… and yet at other times I feel totally certain about my Faith. I believe and totally trust in God, especially when all is going well in my life.
“I suppose the problem is that I don’t trust myself to believe enough. It’s as if I should believe and trust more … yet it does not seem or feel enough. I doubt myself in what I believe. Do you understand what I mean?”
Father Ignatius said nothing for a while as he cleaned his glasses.
“Look at that seesaw over there …” he said finally, “Do you see how one child at one end is up in the air one moment and then down again the next, whilst the other child in turn is up in the air? And then the first child is up again … and down again …
“Life is a bit like that sometimes. You have at one end of the seesaw Worry and Doubt; and at the other end Peace and Certainty.
“Sometimes Worry and Doubt are in the ascendant and together what powerful adversaries they make! We start questioning our Faith. We ask ourselves ‘What if I got it all wrong? What if there is no God at all!’. We worry about our family, our friends, our finances and worldly goods. I’m sure you can imagine what it’s like.”
Tony nodded silently.
“But at other times, especially after prayers or Bible readings, the seesaw tips the other way and Peace and Certainty are up in the air. We remember the many times God was there for us when we needed Him. And the many situations He saved us from and helped us through.
“It’s at these times that we know for certain that He exists alright, despite what others might lead us to believe.”
“That’s a good analogy,” said Tony quietly.
“I suppose we can’t control the up and down movement of the seesaw,” continued Father Ignatius in his calm voice, “that’s what it was designed to do. But with constant prayers we can ensure that Peace and Certainty are there high up for all to see in our lives for as long as possible.”