Doubts about faith should spur deeper study, prayer, pope says

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Everyone experiences doubts about the
faith at times — “I have” many times, Pope Francis said — but such
doubts can be “a sign that we want to know God better and more

“We do not need to be afraid of questions and doubts
because they are the beginning of a path of knowledge and going deeper; one who
does not ask questions cannot progress either in knowledge or in faith,”
the pope said Nov. 23 at his weekly general audience.

Pope Francis said that although the Year of Mercy has concluded, he
still wanted to continue his general audience reflections on the corporal and
spiritual works of mercy.

With fewer than 10,000 pilgrims and visitors present and
with rain forecast, the Vatican moved the audience indoors to the Vatican
audience hall.

The pope, with a voice that was a bit hoarse, focused on the
spiritual works of mercy of “counseling the doubtful” and
“instructing the ignorant,” which he said was not meant as an insult,
but simply as a description of a person who does not know something.

Calling a lack of access to education a “grave
injustice,” Pope Francis asked those in the audience hall to give a round
of applause to teachers and the “long list of saints, who throughout the
ages, brought education to the most disadvantaged.”

Education, he said, is both a work of evangelization and a
work of mercy and justice because it recognizes the dignity of the human
person, fights discrimination and, by preparing people for jobs, combats

The work of mercy of counseling the doubtful involves attempting
to “soothe that pain and suffering that come from the fear and anguish
that are the consequences of doubt” about the goodness of life and God’s love.

“I think someone would ask me, ‘Father, I have many
doubts about the faith, what should I do? Don’t you ever have doubts?” the
pope said. “I have many,” he said, “there are times when
everyone has doubts.”

The key, he said, is to see those doubts as a call to deepen
one’s faith either through study or through seeking the guidance of another

“To do this, it is necessary to listen to the word of
God and understand what it teaches us,” he said. “But, at the same
time, an equally important path is that of living the faith as much as

When faith is seen mainly as “an abstract theory,”
he said, “doubts multiple.”

But when faith is lived and shown in service to others, the
pope said, “then many doubts vanish because we feel the presence of God
and the truth of the Gospel in the love that, by no merit of ours, lives in us
and that we share with others.”

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Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden.

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