Updated: Sep 20, 2018
This year I went on a religious retreat that my college organized during the semester. It was a really reflective weekend, but it led me to question some things about how I personally express my faith.
I’m a very casual person, in faith and just about everything else. When I talk about my faith with others, I’ve had mixed results because of this. It’s enabled me to have conversations about my friends’ faith experiences even when they admit they’re uncomfortable talking about it. But it’s also led me to doubt myself.
During the retreat, we met in small groups. The group would close with each person in the circle saying a prayer. When praying, I tend to use a very casual voice. So when it came time for me to say my prayer, I opened with “Hey God” instead of a more formal address. I hoped I wasn’t the only one to be so casual in prayer style, but that wasn’t the case. The others in the group were much more formal than me, and I questioned if I should have even been there, if my faith was as strong or worthy as the others. If I even belonged in that community. Of course in reality there’s nothing wrong with a very personal relationship with God, but in the moment, the doubt was overpowering.
That doubt lingered for most of the retreat. However, as we got towards the end, I thought about some of the other ways I believed I was expressing my faith. The ways that immediately came to mind were service and attitude.
My Marist experience emphasized service to others, and for me there’s something deeply spiritual when you feel you’re doing something that will benefit others. I also believe a person’s attitude and demeanor can be a prayer-like activity. I can’t claim to be a perfect person, nobody is. But a lot of my attitudes and treatments towards others are inspired by my faith and my faith experience. A strong sense of forgiveness and loving kindness inspired by Jesus’s love for us have been a major goal for myself as a person. And to be honest, the attitudes of the many Marist brothers I’ve met played a major role here as well.
After realizing this, I quickly came to the conclusion that the Marist mission of making Jesus known and loved played a major role in how I express my faith. For me, with this mission as a compass for my faith, I felt more comfortable looking outward with my faith instead of inward, with expressions like prayer. Some of my Marist mentors, the giants whose shoulders I stand on, have taught me a great deal about faith specifically. Br. John, Mr. Kelly, and Mr. Klimas of Molloy have shown me that making Jesus known and loved is to make others feel loved. This is why I express my faith the way I do, because when I see others who feel loved, I see God’s love in them.
My prayer isn’t words. It’s actions, simple or complex. It’s how I most comfortably show my faith, even if it isn’t obvious that my faith is a driving force. And of course, traditional prayer is great. It’s a great way for you to connect to God in the world, and can be really reflective and meditative. It’s just not always for me. And I imagine there are others out there who feel the same doubt I felt on the retreat, who were never told it’s ok to express their faith in different ways.
Since that retreat I’ve been trying to cast away my doubt about my own faith, by recommitting to prayer in the way I know best. Actions coupled with personal reflection. I’d like to think I’m doing good so far.