By Fr. Ed Dougherty, M.M.
The 1943 film The Song of Bernadette opens with the quote, “For those who believe in God, no explanation is necessary. For those who do not believe in God, no explanation is possible.” This line is derived from the teachings of Saint Thomas Aquinas, and it expresses such an important theme within the story that it is reiterated near the end of the film when the character of Abbe Dominique Peyramale, played by Charles Bickford, speaks these words to skeptics who cannot get beyond their doubts, despite the miraculous occurrences that have taken place in their humble town of Lourdes, France.
This struggle to believe in God and in his miraculous hand at work in the world around us is an enduring challenge that has been faced by people from all walks of life, and it is a challenge that even the saints have faced. In the Gospels, we see the Apostles themselves struggling with doubt, with perhaps the most famous story of doubt taking place when Thomas declares that he will not believe in the Resurrection until he sees Christ with his eyes and feels Him with his hands.
Christ’s response to grant Thomas the proof he seeks demonstrates the reality of God’s miraculous interventions in the world. This type of intervention is similar to what took place at Lourdes, where Saint Bernadette experienced visions of our Blessed Mother and then healing waters poured forth from a spring in the ground, where thousands of miracles have since taken place.
But we should also remember that, after dispelling Thomas’ doubts, Christ said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen Me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” This is the challenge that most of us are faced with for the majority of our lifetimes. Even those who encounter the miraculous at some point in their lives must return to everyday reality where they might struggle to maintain faith in God. But we might also see this challenge as a gift because Christ is giving us the opportunity to exercise faith in the same way we might exercise our brains or the muscles in our bodies. And when we exercise faith, we cultivate endurance that will prepare us to be tested.
The Christophers recently produced a prayer card on faith that is a beautiful meditation on the mindset that leads us to trust more fully in the providence of God. This prayer helps us to realize that, in order to cultivate our faith, we must first open ourselves to God and to realizing how He guides us through life experiences. And by exercising faith, especially in the most difficult times, we inspire others to face their own challenges and to cultivate faith within themselves.
As we start into this new year of 2022, one great resolution is to recommit ourselves to cultivating the faith within ourselves, our families, and our communities. When we do this, we will find a greater ability to see God at work in our lives and in the world around us, and we will need less explanation for those things that are inexplicable. This leads to wisdom and an understanding of how to cooperate with grace, even when we can’t predict the outcome. It is this way of being that will inspire others in our families and communities to let go of doubt and move closer to the joy of knowing and believing in God.
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