It was Friday afternoon. Father Ignatius was at the local Catholic school taking on the Religion class as usual. He always allowed a few minutes at the end for the students to ask any questions which he promised to answer honestly. There was no hiding from them. They were astute enough to know when he was not being straight.
The first question was aimed directly and with force, "how do you trust God?"
"Do you mean me, personally," he asked, cleaning his spectacles to gain thinking time, "or do you mean anyone in general?"
"Both," said the teenager, "you always appear calm and full of faith, Father ... how do you do it? How can you be so sure that things will be OK? How can we or anyone else be so sure? To have faith like Jesus said!"
"Yeh ..." joined in another young man, "it was easy for Him. He was Jesus. We are not. We can't have His faith can we?"
A young girl raised her hand and asked, "are you never afraid Father? Have you never wondered that things may turn out not as you want? It's one thing to say you trust in God; but trust Him to do what? What if things don't turn out as you wished?"
He put on his spectacles and motioned gently for some quiet.
"So many good questions," he said quietly, "I don't even know where to start. But I'm sure you'll remind me if I miss out your question!"
"The first question asked by Helen was how do I personally trust God," he said, "there is no magic way to trust God. In my case, I base my trust through personal experience. I have lived much longer than all of you and when I look back, there have been many difficult and sad situations in my life. At the time, I was worried, concerned, afraid even. But when I look back I realise that over all they turned out all right. They may not have turned out exactly as I wanted but generally they worked out well in the end.
"Looking back, I now realise that God was with me at the time. So, over the years, I have learnt to trust Him. Trust is something you build up gradually. When you first meet someone new you are unsure of them. You chat, you get to know them, they get to know you, and gradually you build up a friendship and you build up trust!"
"Is that how it is with you and God?" asked Peter.
"In a manner of speaking, yes it is," answered the priest, "I have experienced many difficult situations in life. I guess at the time I panicked. Why me? I asked myself. I am a good person. I love God. I am a priest for Heavens sake; why is this happening to me?"
They laughed again. He had the knack of using humour to teach a lesson they'd remember.
"But in general, all worked out well in the end," he continued, "God was there to protect me. And that has built more trust in Him. So now, when things do go wrong, I try to remember again events in the past and I try to trust Him again. It is not always easy, especially if the situation is really dire, but you have to trust God as best you can! But based on past experiences when God helped me I have learnt to trust Him more and more every day. Now, what was the other question?"
"Have you ever been afraid?" asked June, "that things would not go well ..."
"Yes, often ..." said Father Ignatius gently, "fear is a natural emotion. It just happens. Fear is good, because it teaches us to be careful, not to do dangerous things, not to be reckless. As we grow, we learn to control our fears. We learn to identify which are genuine fears and which are unwarranted fears based on our imagination perhaps, our tiredness, wrong information or understandings and so on.
"But sometimes in life fear just happens especially in a dangerous situation. Let me explain. Once, years ago, I was visiting an elderly parishioner who was very unwell and not expected to live beyond the night. She lived in the Northern part of town which, as you know, is not that nice a place. It was late at night, it was raining and very dark. On my way to the car as I left her home a mugger pointed a knife at me."
He paused to judge their reaction.
"Yes ... I was afraid ..." he said, "I was not so much afraid of dying ... but I was more afraid as to how much it would hurt if he stabbed me!"
"Gosh ..." said one of the young teenagers, whilst the others remained silent.
"What other questions were there?" he asked to ease the tension. They remained silent.
"Look ..." he said, "life is not always easy. For some of us it is sometimes difficult. I hope you will not have many difficulties as you grow up. But you need to learn, now that you're young, to trust God every day. See Him as a friend, a caring Father, Someone who loves you. Jesus said to His disciples ... and to us ... 'I call you friend!' ... look it up in John Chapter 15 Verse 15 ...
"As a friend ... Jesus ... and God our Father, care for us. They will not see us perish and be lost to Him. Yes ... we will have difficult times; but God will always be there by our side. Protecting us. Jesus is but a prayer away. All we need do is call His name.
"Trust God now ... when life is good and perhaps you're generally doing well in life. And that trust will grow when things get harder!"