What Is Faith?


Faith is described as, “confidence or trust in a person or thing; belief that is not based on proof”. It can also mean, “belief in anything, as a code of ethics, standards of merit, etc.”

Everyone – regardless of their religion – has faith in something. That may be as simple as having faith that your car will start, or that a friend will support you during a tough time. Being faith-filled (in my interpretation at least) means that you believe a higher power is in charge.

Faith – religious faith, anyway – was something I was raised with. My fraternal grandparents, who emigrated from Italy, were truly faith-filled human beings. They lived across the street from their Catholic church and attended regularly each week. During my childhood in the 70’s, I frequently attended mass with my grandfather. Back then, mass was spoken in Latin, and women were expected to cover their heads in church. My grandfather, a handsome, dapper man, always wore a suit to church. I can remember sitting there on the hard pew, wondering what the heck I was listening to, but happy because I was spending that special time with one of my favorite people.

Through the years, faith has become to mean different things to me. My first book, Losing Faith, was occasionally misinterpreted as the loss of religious faith. If you’ve read any of my books you’ll know it was the furthest thing from that. The “faith” in this instance, was nothing more than a character in my book, although the play on words did have more than one meaning: my character Faith died, and the characters who were left behind found that faith (in life, in love) was something easily lost as well.

Having been raised as a Catholic meant nuns in long black habits, Catechism on Saturday mornings, and a childhood spent questioning the true validity in this religion that felt forced upon me. Once my teenage years came along – and my sweet grandpa had passed on – religious faith was nothing more than a fond memory.

When my husband and I were planning our 1989 wedding, we both knew one thing for certain; we had no intention of marrying in the Catholic church. There were varying reasons, but mostly I didn’t want all the pomp and circumstance of a Catholic mass, and the soon-to-be-hubby had no interest in converting or attending the required classes. He had been raised Baptist, and since neither of us were regular church goers, so we chose to marry in a Methodist church. To be honest, it had more to do with the building itself (the space) rather than the denomination. It was a beautiful church.

As I grew older and had children, I began to question ANY faith-filled religion. So often in dealing with other parents at school or various events, I realized how many people used their so-called religion as an excuse to absolve themselves of sin. Or just basic human decency. Those self-named Christians became people I no longer trusted or enjoyed spending time with. In my mind, using any faith as an excuse to treat people like crap is not what the “holy one” intended.

In any case, I tried to keep an open mind. I continued to question, continued to display rather forward thinking (at least in comparison to the close-minding thinking of the Catholic Church I was raised in). I had faith – in something bigger than myself – though I certainly never have or will pin that faith on one true higher being. I had faith in love and family and friendship. I had faith in myself, that I could always be better, do more, love more deeply. But when I found myself caring for my friend as she struggled with breast cancer at the age of 37, I realized how easily faith of any kind could be shaken.

When she died at the age of 40, leaving behind two young children and a husband, faith of any kind deserted me. I railed at the so-called “higher power”; if there was indeed a God in heaven, how could he let a young mother die such a horrible death? How could he let her struggle at all?

It’s been 7 years since we lost her and to this day I remain unconvinced that there is real faith out there. Don’t get me wrong… I do know real, true, faith-filled individuals like my grandparents. I have a Muslim friend who graciously shared her faith with me, allowing me to see the kindness and humanity in a religion I knew nothing about. I worked with a gal who wore her Christianity like a comfortable pair of pajamas. And there’s no one more faith-filled than my sweet mother-in-law. She walks the walk, lives her faith, and never once looks down her nose at you. She understands, as real true believers should, that we are human and humans make mistakes; mistakes we learn from, but are no absolved of.

I will continue to explore the part religious faith plays in my own life. I will always have faith in the way I interpret it; faith that I can get through anything, as long as there are people I love by my side.

AJ

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