Sunday 25 February 2024

Why do I believe?


Father Ignatius' parishioners were generally pious people trying their best in life for themselves and their families. It would be fair to say that they knew the "basics" of their Christianity, having been brought up as Catholics and attended the local Catholic schools, and that they rarely engaged in deep religious conversations; preferring to rely on the guidance of their priests whenever necessary.

Every now and then, however, the priest encountered someone who got in deep philosophical or theological discussion without meaning to. 

Margaret was such a case in question. She was a young, bubbly, always happy young student attending the local University. Father Ignatius visited there once a month, on a rota with other vicars from other denominations, to meet the students and to offer help or guidance when needed. One day, she walked into his room and asked politely if she could have a word. Father Ignatius recognised her from Sunday Mass and welcomed her with a cup of coffee and biscuits.

"Father," she hesitated, "you've known me for many years and I received First Communion and Confirmation at Saint Vincent Church."

He nodded and smiled, but said nothing.

"The thing is ..." she continued, "... this is confusing. The thing is, I don't know why I believe. You see, I believe in God, Jesus His Son, and all I've been taught about our faith. I believe all that. But then I ask myself, why do I believe all this? Do I believe it because it is my belief ... if you see what I mean. I believe it to be so. Or do I believe all that because I am afraid of the consequences if I do not believe?"

She stopped suddenly as if embarrassed by what she had said. He waited a moment or two. He was about to speak when she started again, almost repeating herself.

"Why do people believe in God?" she asked, "Is it because they believe, they know God exists? Or is it because they're afraid at what would happen to them if they don't believe?"

"That's a very deep and intelligent question," he replied calmly reassuring her.

She smiled. Inwardly relieved that she had not made a fool of herself.

"Let's take this one step at a time," the priest continued, "you did not choose God. God chose you. He knew you before you were born. He guided you throughout life, when and where you were born, your up-bringing, education and so on, and at some point in your life He tapped you on the shoulder and you came to believe. For some people this is a gradual process, for others it is sudden after an event. You came to believe.

"At some point in your life you knew God exists, and Jesus is His Saviour Son. Now ... some people keep this faith throughout life, and reinforce it in time, and others drift away and lose their faith altogether. I think everyone gets the opportunity to know God in their lives; and people respond differently. Some choose not to believe at all.

"In your case, as happens to many people ... you're not alone in this, Margaret, you are doubting your very motivation to believe. You're asking whether you believe out of fear."

He stopped to judge her reaction, and she nodded. He continued, "sometimes, perhaps more often than not, such fears, such doubts, are put in our minds by the devil to confuse us and derail us away from God. The closer to God we are the harder the devil works to tempt us away.

"Of course, it is right and proper to fear the consequences of not believing in God. But there's an important distinction here. We should not fear that the consequences are that we'll go to hell ... and hell exists for sure. We should fear that by not believing we are in fact hurting God. We are rejecting His love, His creation of us and the whole universe, the sacrifice of His only Son on the Cross. That's our real fear ... the fear of hurting God, not His eventual punishment.

"God does not punish us by sending us to hell. We choose to go there by our behaviour and by not believing. His wish is that we all join Him in Paradise. His offer is open to all of us, but we should RSVP His offer. No one goes to Heaven against their wish.

"Do you remember the parable of the King who invited guests to his son's wedding?"

She nodded again and said nothing.

"The King is meant to be God, and His Son getting married is Jesus; marrying His Church here on earth - this means everyone, you and I included. We are all invited to God's Kingdom, but many don't answer the call. It seems to me that you have. You're doing well, and this is upsetting the devil!"

She smiled and said, "Thank you, Father."

"Do you pray, Margaret?" he asked gently.

"Yes Father, every now and then ..."

He smiled and said, "when you pray, ask God to help you when you have such thoughts, and thank Him for all He has done for you and is doing for you now and in the future. By all means ask Him for anything you need in life; like a child asks his parents. But don't pray to change God's will, rather pray that He might change you into a better person.

"You'd be surprised how many people want to serve God in an advisory capacity!" he concluded with a smile.

She left with a great weight taken off her shoulders; whilst he prayed for her silently.


  1. Nice story Victor. God bless.

  2. ...Victor, I wish you a peaceful Sunday.

    1. Thank you Tom, best wishes to you also. God bless.

  3. Wonderful counsel!
    Whenever doubts cross my mind, I try and remember to tell Satan "Get out! Get behind me!" ... as sternly as I can muster.

    1. Thank you for you kind words, Mevely. I guess the "theological" question is: Do we believe because we TRULY believe, or do we believe out of fear of going to hell.

      The devil tempts our minds by introducing fear into the equation.

      God bless always.

  4. Another stellar Fr. Ignatius story!!! You made my day, Victor.

    1. You are so kind to me, Martha. Thank you so much.

      God bless you.

  5. Excellent response by Father Ignatius. Wanting a relationship with God helped me to know Him more.

    1. Indeed Debby; the Lord invites a personal relationship with us and would welcome a response to His invitation.

      God bless you always.

  6. That bit of fear at the back of our minds can serve to keep us reverent and humble, I think.

    1. True Mimi. But then ... some people might say that we believe out of fear not from Faith.

      God bless.

  7. I had to take a moment here to thank you for taking a lot of our personal problems and giving them to Father I to open some doors.
    Always THANKS for prayers my friend....

    1. Nice to see you here again Jack. Praying for you and Sherry and family.

      God bless you all.

  8. Thanks for this story ...
    My good wishes.

    All the best Jan



God bless you.