Originally Posted by TJay
I think nightly prayers are very admirable. It is more than my family did. We all went to church together on Sundays (my parents, 3 brothers, and I), walking to the nice old brick Presbyterian Church, one short block down our little the street. Down the block the other way was the Catholic Church, where most kids went. That church always seemed crowded and busy; they hosted an annual summer carnival, which we attended, and Bingo nights, which we did not. They had a school and a convent with nuns gliding about quietly in black dresses, and a lot of neighbor families sent their kids there - they were noisy, numerous, and boisterously proud of being the best - Catholic and
Italian! Neither if which appealed to me; it seemed very foreign. At my church we had Sunday church, Sunday School, Vacation Bible School Week in the summer, youth groups, a July strawberry shortcake picnic on the lawn, and the odd potluck supper in the church basement. What made the most lasting impression was the young woman who ran the Sunday School throughout those years. She was so kind, so gentle, and so in charge. There were many, many children involved all those years, all divided up into classrooms by age, led by different teachers. She would visit each classroom and tell us stories of Jesus and His love; she would play for us on her autoharp, and sing, and she had us act out Bible stories in costume - I always remember the big box of freshly laundered costumes we'd root through to dress-up. And when we acted up she never lost her patience. She would get quiet and wait for us to finish, watching, and when we realized we'd get quiet, too, and she'd resume. We did not want to displease her, because she was so nice. Also I was in her "movement choir." (I remember once for a pageant she had to pick a "Mary" for a solo... she looked back and forth, back and forth, between me and my friend Laura, considering. She finally picked Laura, but I always had a sense of specialness, that she had considered me.) I think she instilled in me a sense of the realness of the gospel, there was no question she loved God and lived to serve Him. But this sense of realness laid dormant for awhile, with little to back it up.
I think at one point you have to respond to faith. Give it an honest look as an adult. Not just accept the inheritance of your parents' faith, and the good people who came into your life that had that faith. I do believe that while Rationalism, empiricism, naturalism, and materialism and all those -isms have truths to offer, its NOT ENOUGH. What makes the Christian faith different is that its about relationship. Its a relationship we were designed for, and will always long for. We can be distracted, but we will always long. As St. Augustine immortally said, "Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee."
Or, as the Donut Man says, "Life without Jesus is like a donut; there's a hole in the middle of your heart".
And nothing will fill that hole but God. It's a God-shaped hole.
Try as everything else might; it will all come up short.
As a Catholic, I can tell you that your Baptism was very real, and your First Communion too. They changed you forever, in Heaven and on earth. I understand that they can seem to be inconsequential past events now. But maybe someday you will feel as I do - that the Baptism I had as an infant (happened to be through the Methodist Church), which I do not even remember, was among the very greatest gifts of my entire life. Particularly because your Baptism and your Holy Communions were giant spiritual realities
, I am confident the the Hound of Heaven is after you. and He won't give up . He waits for you to turn your heart, in some slightest little way, to Him, so that He can draw nearer.
I do not know why your prayers weren't answered, but I do know that God was with you and His heart broke as yours did. I do feel certain you can know true peace about those things, if you want it. Besides truly answered prayer, I have also experienced unanswered prayer* - desperate, prolonged prayer, in fact. But I do have peace, great peace about those things, now. I believe that peace was a gift of God. In fact in moments of desperation He came to me and comforted me. I know He can give you peace about those things, too (like the peace of the soul of your beloved relative). And I feel confident about that, too, especially because He gave me true peace of mind about a relative of mine that passed.
My grandmother whom I loved particularly harbored a bitterness all her life towards God for bad things that had happened to her, and also she asked, how there can be a God when there is suffering in the world? That question has been asked and will always be asked. But there are good thoughtful answers to that question. It would be worth looking into sometime.
I like your thoughts about the reality of life in nature and all of creation. It makes me think of St. Francis of Assisi, so much loved, for his love or creation. "It is good" said God, when He finished His creation!
I also want to say you were not selfish to ask God to intervene in His laws of nature for your loved one. God says, "Ask anything." You do not always get a yes, because there is more to a situation than we can know. But I do know that no prayer to God is ever
wasted. I would guess God used your prayer to bless your relative and lesson his suffering. I know you will know someday how He used your prayer. I know that He did not
Also you said "it seems seems vile that we have to suffer to prove our faith in God" - no, that's not true. He does not need us to prove anything; He knows everything. He desires that you should have faith - however, it takes very little! Think of the size of your whole body, and the size of a mustard seed. That mustard seed is the amount of faith you need. That's all.
Science, technology, the mind and will of man are all great things but they get used for ill, don't though? It almost seems that the more advancements we make the less humanity we have. At least the ones pushing advancement forward seem to prioritize it over compassionate humanity. Leading to more serious problems. All I know is that I cannot trust man, I can trust God, who I see does work though mankind, through men of good will, to do good things. Which I will try to keep focus on, and not the bad - that I have no control over, but by prayer.
*[some say there are 3 possible answers: yes, no, and later.]