By Francis Patrick Donnelly
THE HEART OF FAITH
O foolish and slow of heart to believe.
DARK corners give pause to the steps of a child. What monster may be hidden in the shadows there he does not know, but the monster loses none of its terror for being imaginary and not real. The childish fancy huddles into the black gloom before it all the fearful things its brief experience has known, and adds to them new horrors, more towering heads, more fiery eyes and wilder looks, rougher hands with more mysterious weapons of frightful torture. What wonder the child is slow of step when a dark corner looms up before it! Was it not some such turn in the way of the soul, some dismal prospects peopled with apprehension that made the two disciples turn from Jerusalem the morning of the Resurrection to their home at Emmaus, and brought down upon them the rebuke, "O foolish and slow of heart to believe in all things which the prophets have spoken"?
The heart of man is not far from his imagination. It will rush exultantly after fancied joys or lag reluctantly with leaden pace where the imagination has nothing but sadness and pain in view. Had this pair of saddened hearts trusted to faith rather than imagination, they would not have shrunk from the disgrace of Calvary or the fear of the Jews. Faith would have told them that if there had been no Calvary, Christ was not the Messias; that their disappointed hopes rested on a belief in some and not all of the things which the prophets had spoken; that the risen Saviour was on the way to the supper-room where the Apostles and disciples were gathered, just at the very time they themselves were
In every heart there is a struggle between the swiftness of faith and the slowness of nature. Every act of the soul that merits the vision of God springs into being at the voice of faith. If I practise temperance for no other motive than to avoid ruining my wearing apparel by falling into the gutter, my virtue is natural, and has its natural reward. I save my hat. But if I would have the reward of God, I must be temperate because he told me that "drunkards shall not possess the Kingdom of God." If I obey nature I receive my pay from nature; if I hearken to the voice of God, I shall merit a recompense from Him exceeding great. So every thought or word or act that is to end in Heaven and in God begins in faith.
Ah, but nature is near to the soul, and is always advertising its rewards. The imagination is its advertising agency, and never were wares more temptingly described than by that agency, never more striking type for display, never more catchy engravings, never such flattering assurances of the best results. What will faith do to offset the nearness of nature and its alluring advertisements? How shall a man "stagger not in his heart but believe," when virtue seems gloomy, when the shades of the open confessional appear filled with horrible monsters, when the voice of vocation calls the soul along the way of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience, at the very time that with a more clamorous insistence the advantages of riches and indulgence and license are cried up? The promptness of love must spur the hearts that are slow to believe all.