Today we celebrate the Chair of St. Peter - Christ's appointment of St. Peter as the leader of His Church (Mt. 16:13-20), our first bishop and pope and we celebrate the succession of popes and bishops since his time. And I had previously wanted to do a fun craft with Joan, like these, but I found myself reflecting on something else and discovered that today's lesson was for me, not her. I realized that I've been given a great gift: simple faith.
You see, I can't remember a time when I've doubted the existence of God, when I've found difficulty in believing in the traditions and teachings of the Catholic Church. I've never had a moment of deep conversion. Religion, spirituality, and faith have always come so easy for me.
You could always find me in the youth group, the bible study, the praise band, the prayer circle. But, this doesn't mean that I've lived a blameless life free of sin and evil, nor does it mean that I know everything about my faith and live it out perfectly. God knows I have room to grow in holiness, knowledge, and devotion, but it does mean that where my will was lacking, my intentions were pure. I've always found the faults to be within myself, never in God nor in the teachings of the Church.
I realized today that not everyone has been given the gift of simple faith. Many struggle with the idea of God, His Son in Christ Jesus, or the authority of His church on Earth. And though many great blessings have come through the conversion of those people, like St. Paul or St. Augustine, I have been spared from such dark moments. Even through all of the house drama, I never doubted God's will at work or His love for us - I was only drawn more closely into His comfort. I am so grateful for this protection.
Some might say that I'm just naive and haven't studied other religions enough or that I don't have enough knowledge to make an informed choice about religion. They're right. I'm simple and ignorant and still have much to learn even about Catholicism. But the more I do learn, the more I do ask, the more I believe that the Catholic church has the fullness of faith, the authority given by Christ Himself through the Holy Spirit. And I have the 266 popes to thank, along with their Magisterium (the teaching office made up of the popes and bishops that teach on faith and morals), for doing most of the leg work for me - the studying of scripture, the passing down of traditions, and the continual praying for guidance and protection from the Holy Spirit.
Have the successors since St. Peter been perfect? No. Christopher West writes better than I,
"... the Church doesn't claim that all her members and leaders throughout history have never spoken in error or never made mistakes... The charism that protects the Church from error applies to her definitive teachings on matters of faith and morals. Certainly members of the Church, including some priests, bishops and popes, have not always lived according to the teachings of their own faith... This is scandalous and can weaken people's faith in the Church. Yet the fact that the Church has endured so much corruption and is still standing after two thousand years also bears testimony to Christ's words when he founded the Church upon Peter: 'The powers of death shall not prevail against [the Church]' Mt. 16:18."
Yeah, having doubts, questioning your faith, learning about someone else's religion are all normal, and even healthy, parts of faith and I think it's good to explore those carefully. But I'm thankful that my simple faith has kept me from really battling over the whole God thing, like so many have. And I truly feel like it's more than that whole "ignorance is bliss" mentality. Because my bliss is an honest and pure peace that only He provides and I am so thankful that He found me worthy of such simple faith.
So if you find yourself, like I do, having an easy, simple faith - thank God. And if you are struggling right now with any part of faith, know that my prayer tonight is for you and I will ask St. Peter to pray along side me, for God to grant you enlightenment and peace as well.