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Articulating the faith

| Wednesday, February 22, 2017

I’ve never been particularly good at articulating my faith, which is strange given that it’s always been such a core part of who I am.

I went to Catholic school almost my entire life, I’ve led retreats, gone on service trips, I never miss Mass on Sundays and now my first full-time job out of college is working as a campus minister for Notre Dame’s Dublin program. More than that superficial laundry list of credentials, though, my faith is the foundation of who I am and how I both see and interact with the world.

Combine all of that with my love of writing, and you’d think me well equipped to discuss my faith clearly. But whenever I try to explain what I believe and why I believe it, the words never seem to come.

Sometimes I imagine this made-for-the-movies moment when someone challenges my faith and I dramatically recite the Nicene Creed, professing to the hypothetical dissenter my belief in one God, the Father almighty all the way through to one holy, catholic and apostolic Church. But I doubt that is ever going to happen, though the Creed is probably a good starting point for expressing my faith.

Other times, I envision a fellow Catholic chastising me for not being faithful enough, to which I like to imagine I would powerfully retort that after the soul-crushingly tragic past two years my family has endured, I would not have been able to keep going but for the grace of God and my firm foundation in the Church. And while this scenario is also unlikely, I think my discomfort with talking about my faith is rooted in a sense that this hypothetical situation is more likely than the first one I described.

My years of Catholic education left me with a decent enough knowledge of the Church and a good sense of what I believe, but I can never help but feel I don’t know enough. The result is that I hesitate to speak about my faith for fear of being called out as some sort of impostor, not worthy of calling myself a Catholic. I know this fear is unfounded, but sometimes the Church and the people who work for it still make me feel this way, though I also know they don’t mean to.

I served as a sacristan for three years in Alumni Hall, and this year I’ve been in charge of planning Masses for the Dublin program, but I’ve never felt fully confident in either role. I like helping out at Mass because it makes me feel more active in my faith, but doing so also has a certain way of making me feel less secure in my faith.

I don’t know the difference between the Mass of Redemption and the Mass for Our Lady, or even why there is a difference. I don’t know what a divine mercy chaplet is or really how to pray one, and the last time I tried to pray the rosary with a group, I fumbled my way through most of it. I haven’t gone to confession in three years because I’m embarrassed to tell the priest it’s been that long, and I can never remember the Act of Contrition.

I feel bad about all of this, but what makes it worse is that I feel as if fellow Catholics will judge me for these things. My gaps in knowledge about the Catholic faith make me feel like I’m not part of the club, and while I openly admit that there’s plenty I don’t know about the Church, I do know that it shouldn’t make me feel like that.

And I really do know, or at least truly hope, that no one in the Church actually judges me for these things. I know several priests whom I consider good friends and mentors, and I have never felt as if they have judged me on the veracity of my faith. I’ve almost always been part of warm, welcoming faith communities, too. There’s still this feeling, though, that there are groups within the Church who are somehow more serious about or better in their faith, and they judge me for my relatively lesser faith.

All I really know, though, is what I believe: The Catholic Church is a universal church with room for everyone, even those of us who sometimes struggle to articulate the faith. Hopefully, though, the more I think about it, reflect on it and talk about it, the better I’ll become at living, speaking and spreading the faith clearly and joyfully.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Jack Rooney

Jack is a 2016 graduate of Notre Dame, and The Observer's former managing editor. He is currently spending a year living and working for the University in Ireland, and writing columns to keep him busy. For more random thoughts and plenty of news links, follow Jack on Twitter @RooneyReports.

Contact Jack