Before coming to Franciscan, I thought I had a fairly well formed faith and saw the world through those eyes of faith. I came from a strong parish, a strong youth group, and many strong friends. It appeared I had it all. There was one thing about my faith that over the years has been challenged, formed and tested. The one way in which I feel it has changed the most has been in not seeing the world in such a black and white manner.
Granted yes the Catholic faith does have objective truth and there are certain things we cannot accept in any way such as manslaughter, suicide, pornography, masturbation, adultery and slander. All of those things are objectively wrong and should be avoided like the plague. Yet there is another side to Christianity, the side of being outside of sin, and the side of growing closer into union and love with Our Lord. This side of the faith is not nearly as stressed as turning away from sinful behaviors.
Which, yes that is important, but the point is the reason we turn away from sin is to be able to turn away towards God.
Recently I had a conversation with a friend about our moral responsibility towards those around to “call them out/call them higher” as we say it. The stance I was holding was there are objective things that are good to do to be able to grow closer to God. Their stance was that for people it is different. For example if someone who is Catholic but doesn’t really pray, spends 5 min in prayer, it could be equivalent to someone who actively practicing the faith spends 60 min in adoration.
Who is right in this circumstance? Well I think both in a way. There objective things that are good, but at the same time we need to meet people where they are. This means that someone who spends 5 min in prayer one time isn’t called to the same level of union with God but it may be a totally different path. Before Franciscan I would have disagreed completely with what they were saying, yet now I see there can be a little bit of gray in the faith. Not a bad gray but the idea of being able to accept things not only as black and white was a big growing point.
That conversation typifies what the whole experience of Franciscan has been, but more importantly the counseling program.
In counseling and pastoral counseling, it is necessary to not see clients as black and white, as either living in the faith or not. It is a spectrum on which God draws us in closer to His Sacred Heart. He desires us all to be as close as we possibly can, but that may not be the same for all of us.
So, how does this reconcile with our seemingly black and white objective faith? In a lot of ways, that is not our faith. Our faith, through all the doctrines and dogmas, lead us to the heart of Christ. Is there a formula to become close to Him? No Are there certain things He has given us that bring about special graces? Yes.
All the saints we have are so vastly different and have come to know Christ through so many different ways. Through all of our own life experiences, we come to know him not in black and white but through our own shades of gray.
The one thing we need to keep in mind is to focus on the light and not the darkness. “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” (Jn 1:5)
If you take anything from this blog, then take the idea that we are meant to live in the light. The light is not just black and white but more like levels or shades of lightness. For all you counselors out there, remember that each person has some light inside of them and they are not ever all darkness, there is always hope.