How a devout believer approaches unbelievers
These days this is the question – at least, for some people. I wouldn’t be writing this if the English papers I read didn’t periodically publish the same letters written by the same people, announcing to all and sundry how clever they are to have chosen atheism. At the same time these correspondents ridicule and insult “credulous” believers and trample heavily on what believers hold sacred. This in itself is a basic lack of education on their part.
I personally have never been able to decipher what is the aim of all these repeated declarations. Is anybody stopping anybody from being an atheist? If the aim is to persuade, it backfires. The more you attack my faith, the more I think about it and hold on to it. Faith is such an intensely personal matter that it can neither be caught nor taught. It is a gift from the Creator God (whether you believe in Him or not is completely beside the point). You are left free to accept it or reject it.
People who have rejected faith in God are a mixed bag. They come in all shapes and sizes. On the local scene, they are usually lapsed or nominal Catholics while they include as well a crowd of Church-bashers whose favourite sport is to bash the Church every chance they get. Periodically they rake up old sins of the Church – real or otherwise, only God can judge – and revel in highlighting its new sins in the media.
They forget the obvious, that the Church, as a human institution, is made up of sinners. You just have to look at the original 12 to realise how flawed they were from the start. It is the easiest thing on earth to pick on the sins and failings of the Church as if this is something surprising or shocking. What do you expect from fallible sinners? Aren’t we all in the same boat?
Many people are of the opinion that, in truth, there is no such thing as an atheist. The term atheist is a misnomer. What does an atheist do? He denies the existence of God. Then, with his next breath, he will set himself up as a god and woe betide whoever does not see eye to eye with him. He will go on boring everyone quoting long, unpalatable chunks from other pseudo-gods like himself and expecting everyone to swallow them whole the way he did.
So what to do in this situation? It may come as a surprise to some that the Mother of God entered this fray long ago and is proposing a solution. Ever since August 1987, on the second day of every month, She has been coming to Medjugorje to pray specifically for unbelievers while inviting everyone to pray with Her for this specific intention. She classifies humanity not according to religion, race, skin, colour, wealth, status, nationality. No, for Her (and whether you believe in Her or not is beside the point as far as She is concerned) all the human race falls distinctly into two categories – believers and unbelievers.
Before anyone rushes to false conclusions, Her definition of a believer is one who has a personal knowledge of the love of God, one who listens to God and communes with Him. The unbeliever lacks this experience for reasons which vary from one person to another. This definition is a vast area which requires in-depth analysis and obviously cannot be tackled here. The individual must do a lot of sincere soul-searching to see in which category he fits. So what does She propose meanwhile? Do not point fingers, ridicule, insult, argue, fight, get angry or frustrated, judge or condemn or try to stand with one foot in each camp. In Her own words, just “pray, pray, pray”. And while you are at it, make sure that you pray with the heart.
These days, the lists of guest speakers at International Marian Conferences do not just include learned theologians and Mariologists. They include persons who put in brackets after their names (ex-sceptic or ex-atheist) as if this is for them a badge of honour. When you read or hear their diverse testimonies, they all insist on the same thing – and this thing is fast becoming an interesting titbit of information on the Mother of God, which you will never find in Mariology. They all claim that the speciality of the Mother of God is cracking hard nuts.