By Dr. Heather Bozant Witcher, Clarion Herald
Doubt is normal. It’s something we all struggle with in our daily lives, but I think it’s something that often goes uncharted in our faith experiences. We feel a sense of shame or isolation as we wonder about questioning our beliefs.
But it’s important to remember that some of our greatest theologians and saints – the apostles, St. Teresa of Calcutta and St. John of the Cross – grappled with the same sense of pervading doubt.
Often, as young adults enter college, they undergo their first experience of self-questioning.
While I’ve never had college students come into my office to discuss their spiritual lives, I do get students coming to me in the throes of intellectual inquiry.
College courses are meant to be difficult. They’re meant to prompt students to think about their assumptions and their place in the world.
Students who come to my office often begin by talking through their thoughts on a class discussion or their interpretation of a literary work. Our conversations sometimes end with the student making connections to their own experiences and finding some means of relevance in their own lives.
In those moments, I know I’ve done my job well.
But in others, I find a young adult who’s just seeking answers or just trying to work out who they are and where they want to go.
I find someone who struggles with the tension between their own desires and the desires of their family – usually related to whether or not they should be an English major (my parents say I won’t make any money, but it’s the one subject I enjoy). And, in those moments, I see the struggle to overcome a sense of self-doubt.
That’s where I find the connection to college-age Heather – the student who struggled to find her own place within the college community.
I didn’t have any hesitancy about my major or the subjects I wanted to pursue, but I did face a rising sense of spiritual doubt.
Surrounded by new perspectives and worldviews, I had to chart my own path – to take the grounding laid by my parents and family and figure out my own assumptions and grapple with unbelief.
It made me emerge with a greater sense of self-identity, and a stronger sense of my own involvement in Catholicism.
And now, on the brink of motherhood, I find myself in a similar position. Doubt swirls around me: Will I be a good enough mother? Can I really handle twins? What will I do if, much later in life, my boys come to me with their own doubts, their own insecurities about their faith-filled upbringing in light of the growing secularization of our polarized society?
I don’t have the answers to those questions. But I do have individualized plans of action.
I’m preparing myself as best I can to be a mother, knowing that there is no such thing as a “perfect” mom.
And, I’m turning to the same resource for help in overcoming my fears of raising faith-filled children who don’t simply adhere to Catholicism, but question it in order to more fully understand: I’m turning to my parish priest.
We can’t have all the answers – and perhaps that’s where doubt comes from. But, we can equip ourselves to emerge stronger in faith and self-awareness if we look back to previous experiences and know where to turn.
Heather Bozant Witcher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.