Because We Need to Believe in Goodness

Today my heart is heavy. I was daunted to discover over the weekend what happens when parents are too busy, too distracted, too “successful” to bother rearing their children. The details are immaterial, but the consequences are clear: some children whom I have known since they were in diapers have lost their innocence far too soon.

I cling to my faith. After hearing Sunday’s homily about Saint Thomas the Apostle, I was planning to write about how Thomas’s doubt reminds us that faithful people doubt. It does. But now I see Thomas more deeply. When most of us think of St. Thomas the Apostle, we think of “doubting Thomas,” the one apostle who needed to see and feel Christ’s nail wounds to believe in the Resurrection.

I realize Thomas must have been one of the most loyal of Christ’s disciples. So anguished was he over the loss of his leader, he needed a concrete example of that “good news” in order to believe that God, in His infinite mercy, had resurrected his friend and thus given all of humanity the possibility of eternal life. He needed to believe in transcendent goodness. So do I. Perhaps Thomas, like me, was feeling weary of a world that sometimes seems beyond miracles.

Who was Thomas? We know he was a Jew, perhaps a builder or fisherman, who became a brave and loyal follower of Christ, both during Our Savior’s earthly life and after.

When Jesus announced that he was heading to Judea to visit his sick friend, Lazarus, Thomas admonished his fellow disciples to join Jesus on the dangerous journey. The other disciples were fearful of the risk for both Jesus and themselves. But Thomas prevailed: “Let us also go that we may die with him.” Ultimately,  the journey of Jesus to Judea and his raising Lazarus from the dead precipitated the Sanhedrin’s decision to crucify Him.

Thomas demonstrates his intense devotion once again at the Last Supper. Jesus tells his disciples he is leaving them soon for his Father’s house. Thomas raises an objection: “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” Jesus’ response gives us a perfect encapsulation of Christian faith: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, then you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

After Christ’s death and resurrection, tradition tells us that Thomas spent the rest of his life preaching the good news of salvation. He traveled far from home, farther perhaps than any other apostle, on this mission. He set up seven churches in southern India, beginning in A.D. 52. Legend says he carved a cross with his fingernails, a cross that bled for a century. St. Thomas was speared to death 20 years later in Mylapore.

To this day in southwestern India, Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox believers call themselves Saint Thomas Christians, tracing their faith to Thomas’ first century missions. What a stunning legacy. In 1986, Pope John Paul II visited the San Thome Basilica, the site of Thomas’s tomb near the mountain and cave where he lived a spartan life as a preacher.

Nearly 2,000 years after the apostle’s death and more than 8,000 miles away, what can Thomas’s life teach me about the struggle to keep my faith in a secular culture that seems indifferent to whether its children are cultivating sin?

O Glorious Saint Thomas, your grief for Jesus was such that it would not let you believe he had risen unless you actually saw him and touched his wounds. But your love for Jesus was equally great and it led you to give up your life for him. Pray for us that we may grieve for our sins which were the cause of Christ’s sufferings. Help us to spend ourselves in His service and so earn the title of “blessed,” which Jesus applied to those who would believe in Him without seeing him. Amen.

  • EPG

    I've always been attracted to Thomas. I remember a Sunday School teacher, in our Episcopal parish in the suburbs of Philadelphia, who maintained that Thomas really wasn't up to snuff, becuase he doubted. She cited Jesus's words to him, "Blessed are they who who have not seen, and yet have believed."Much later, I developed the theory that Jesus's words were descriptive, not prescriptive. Of course you are blessed if you believe without seeing. Yet there are many of us who struggle with doubts, fears, uncertainty. We echo the plea, "help me in my unbelief." And I can't help but think that, to some degree at least, Thomas is our patron.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01819831282677092730 Frank

    @EPG, Take heart brother.Concerning times and seasons, brothers, you have no need for anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief at night. When people are saying, "Peace and security," then sudden disaster comes upon them, like labor pains upon a pregnant woman,and they will not escape. But you, brothers, are not in darkness, for that day to overtake you like a thief. For all of you are children of the light and children of the day. We are not of the night or of darkness. Therefore, let us not sleep as the rest do, but let us stay alert and sober. Those who sleep go to sleep at night, and those who are drunk get drunk at night. But since we are of the day, let us be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love and the helmet that is hope for salvation. For God did not destine us for wrath, but to gain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live together with him. Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up, as indeed you do. We ask you, brothers, to respect those who are laboring among you and who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you, and to show esteem for them with special love on account of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. We urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, cheer the fainthearted, support the weak, be patient with all. See that no one returns evil for evil; rather, always seek what is good (both) for each other and for all. Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophetic utterances. Test everything; retain what is good. Refrain from every kind of evil. May the God of peace himself make you perfectly holy and may you entirely, spirit, soul, and body, be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will also accomplish it. Brothers, pray for us too. Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss. I adjure you by the Lord that this letter be read to all the brothers. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. 1 Thessalonians, Chapter 5

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04545510194367389333 Stefanie

    The enemy indeed prowls about the world, looking for someone to eat — to paraphrase the first letter of Peter.And Jesus gives us the solution, "This kind can only be cast out with prayer and fasting."I keep waiting for our local bishops to call a fast. Perhaps — even though it is the Easter Season of Joy — considering the battles raging all about our Church, our Benedict, our families and friends–we should call our own fast.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05040495946170037805 Julie Cragon

    Today you've brought something to light that I've never before realized. I'm a Thomas wanna be. I don't necessarily need to see proof but I wanna be shown the signs. I wanna have those "My Lord and My God" moments. I wanna join Jesus on the journey and I wanna believe I'd die with Him. I wanna be devoted to Him and to spend my life preaching the Good News of salvation. I don't know if I'll ever, but I wanna.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16021781602272064901 Allison

    @Stefanie: I have been praying a lot. Sometimes, it is all you can do but it also can be the most important thing to do.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12442813565745123497 MUJERLATINA

    I have been fortunate to know a young Syro-Malabar Catholic family through the Padre Pio Prayer Group at my parish. These "St. Thomas Catholics" have rituals and traditions slightly different from the Roman Rite, but are in communion with Rome. I love hearing the young mother praying aloud the Aves and Paters during Rosary. Her devotion to the Blessed Mother is quiet, but strong — such an example to me. Let us pray for all the "St. Thomas Catholics" in India and the Diaspora today. May their devotion to the Eucharist and to the Blessed Mother be an example to us all. Amen.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08339821804970482654 Lucy

    Allison, when I see young people who were raised with faith go astray, I'm deeply saddened but not overly worried. I think that when people find out what the word has to offer is just empty promises, they will at least have somewhere to turn back, something to compare it to. Often the prodigals become the best Christians. So there is hope. I will remember your intention in my rosary today.In Christ,Lucywww.mysticalrosedesign.blogspot.comI hope you can stop by for Pro-Life Tuesdays! and Kids Say the Darndest Things Fridays! sometime. :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08973240186255775237 Jennifer

    I agree with you Allison. I was raised Catholic and wandered off in my teenage years and finally came back home. My faith means even more to me now than it ever did. :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04031127190630487584 Abbey

    I wandered from my faith as a teen, which was Pentecostal. I never returned. Instead, I found my home in the Holy Roman Catholic Church at age 31. I have been a practicing Catholic for 25 years, and I see Jesus in everything around me. I believe even though I do not see "HIM", but His hand in everything, His word supporting every thing in mankind. I am His, forever and ever, and I love every moment with Him in my heart.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16021781602272064901 Allison

    Thanks to Lucy, Jennifer and Abbey for their perspectives. I do pray for these lost children and I think it is important to keep in mind, as Lucy mentioned, that sometimes the biggest saints once were the biggest sinners. Paul and Augustine come to mind, but I am sure there are many others, known and unknown…

  • ann

    Hey Allison,Thanks for your wonderful insites to St. Thomas. He just seems so real and relatable. The gift of faith is what carries me through everyday. My son and dauther in-law who have just experienced the birth of a healthy beautiful baby boy choose not to practice the faith. It can be heart breaking if you dwell on the earthy reality of it all. BUT…I know God has his plan for all of them, not just my own kids!! That blind faith is my hope and my joy!

  • Anonymous

    HI Allison…. thank you for this post. I'm a real life 'St. Thomas Christian/Syro-Malabar' weighing in!! :). Yes, I'm from South India and our faith has been passed down to us from St Thomas who came to our shores. Thank God for that. It is true that our rituals and traditions are slightly different but we are Roman Catholic – in every sense. And St.Thomas' feast is a big one in Kerala – where the majority of these Catholics are. Thank you for this post!! Rose (from India :))

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16021781602272064901 Allison

    @Rose: Thanks for weighing in. I was thinking of my own ancestors – who lived in Italy, Spain and Wales during the first century – the so-called developed world. They certainly were not Christianized during the first century. What an amazing legacy of faith St. Thomas left South India!

  • Mary P.

    Alison, thank you for a lovely post. I very much enjoyed reading about St. Thomas. However, I do ask you for caution about assigning blame when bad things happen, especially to children. I understand that you don't mean to. We can all testify that parenting is one of the most daunting jobs in the universe. Many times I blame myself when bad things happen, especially to my children. Sometimes it's deserved. Other times I learn later, it's not. Sometimes God uses both our strength as well as (and maybe just as importantly!) our weaknesses for His own purpose. Of course, I often wonder why God gave children to those who seem, to me, least able or willing to raise them "properly." But I do believe that those parents suffer in their own ways. I have no doubt that these parents need our prayers as much as their children do.My prayers are also with all, like you, who are sensitive enough to not only notice, but to care about theses children, whom you've watch grow up! And I pray for those children, that they may recognize Christ in their lives, especially in hardship.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16021781602272064901 Allison

    @Mary P. Thanks for reading and for your thoughts. I absolutely agree with you that parents should not be blamed when adult children stray. Teens stray too and we parents need to stay involved and concerned. I kept the details of this situation deliberately vague so as to not hurt anyone.The particular situation that grieves me so involves parents of children who are not even high school students. The parents are not supervising them and are allowing them to be in places – with parental knowledge – where children do not belong. They are neglecting their duties as parents. If I felt I could give you the details Mary P, I am sure you would understand my perspective on this one more fully.Children are gifts and it pains me to see parents who neglect them.

  • Mary P.

    Hi Allison. Thanks for posting back. The thing is, I trust your understanding of this situation completely. I know there are parents who make bad decisions, and their children are harmed. It's heartbreaking to hear these stories. I understand that this is yet another situation where parents should have been more careful to protect their children. I've been called overprotective. My children think I'm like a boa constrictor. But in spite of my best efforts, I've still made bad decisions. Later on, I've realized the harm that could have or very nearly came to my children but for (literally) the Grace of God. All I'm saying is that innocence lost usually is due to evil, not from parents, even bad ones. Let's put the blame where blame belongs. On Evil. And I'm sure that those parents now must live with this knowledge. And I cannot imagine living with that. To that I can only add that someone I know suffered from (understatement) bad/neglectful parents. The stories he tells of his childhood keep me awake at night. But his faith was forged in fire, and he will be ordained a priest in 2 months. I'm sure he may be the exception, but we can always pray that out of tragedies such as these comes some good.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16021781602272064901 Allison

    Amen.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02270396127498411004 Shannon

    Allison, one other perspective on Thomas who insisted he had to touch Jesus in order to believe. Thomas was willing to go so far as to break a taboo within Jewish culture: he would TOUCH someone who was dead. That takes faith. Doesn't fit the mold, but it is faith.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16021781602272064901 Allison

    That is very interesting, Shannon. Had not heard that before. He sounds like such a passionate man.


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