What is Crisis of faith?
Crisis of faith is a term commonly applied to periods of intense doubt and internal conflict about one’s preconceived beliefs or life decisions. A crisis of faith can be contrasted to simply a period of doubt in that a crisis of faith demands reconciliation or re-evaluation before one can continue believing in whichever tenet is in doubt or continuing in whichever life path is in question – that is, the crisis necessitates a non-compromisable decision: either sufficiently reconcile the cause of doubt with the belief or decision in question, or drop the belief.
The concept of a crisis of faith is most commonly applied to religious beliefs, since faith is a fundamental tenet of many religions and the gravity of religious decisions is perceived by many to be great enough to aptly describe a period of extreme doubt as a “crisis”. When we say that the Church is faced with a crisis of faith, we mean that the Church is going through a critical period in her life when millions of her faithful are confused about their beliefs. They are uncertain about what as Catholics they are to hold. And as a result, they are emotionally insecure, bewildered and, in Christ’s words, wandering as sheep without a shepherd.
Wherein precisely lies the crisis?
According to Father John Hardon, S. J., “Some are in open rebellion against the faith of their fathers. They resent the fact that, as some will tell you, they had been brainwashed to believe what modern science, or scholarship, or study or the social sciences or psychology now show to have been useful props in the past, or perhaps convenient labels for the unknown, but these beliefs are no longer tenable today”. Other people are not yet ready to discard the Faith they may still cherish with one part of their being, maybe for emotional or ritual or personal reasons. But they have serious doubts about so much of what Catholics used to believe with the naiveté of children. Some articles of faith they are willing to admit, but others they have strong reservations about.
Many who call themselves Catholics have become so confused by the many theories going round about trans-finalisation and transignification that they openly disclaim that Jesus Christ, the Son of God who became the Son of Mary, is physically, corporally present in the Blessed Sacrament. Yet another group of those suffering from crisis of faith are those who take as gospel truth the problems raised by the demographic experts and the social scientists about the expanding world population as a result of which many of them seriously doubt the teaching of the Church on contraception.
So they settle for questioning the Church’s magisterium and follow instead the teaching of the Church’s sworn enemies. The Catholic Church has always believed that Christian marriage is an indissoluble union of one man and one woman until death. There are now presumably Catholic moralists who say that is part of the past. From now on (they say) even sacramental marriages can and should be dissolved with freedom to enter a second or third partnership after divorce.
Devotion to Mary – A Panacea to the Crisis of faith
There can be no doubt whatsoever that the crisis of faith which many Catholics are going through now is the work of the devil. Natural solution to the problem is simply inadequate because we are dealing, as St. Paul tells us, with the powers beyond those of human nature. The only panacea therefore is devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God and Mother of the Church. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (n. 963) states that “The Virgin Mary… is acknowledged and honoured as being truly the Mother of God and of the Redeemer… She is clearly the Mother of the members of Christ… since she has by her charity joined in bringing about the birth of believers in the Church, who are members of its head”. Thus devotion to Mary is an effective antidote against the danger of crisis of faith and a powerful means of restoring the faith of those in danger of losing it.
The most important form of devotion to Mary to obtain both favours is devout daily recitation of the Rosary. Of particular relevance to the spiritual problem of crisis of faith is the third of Our Lady’s fifteen (15) promises to those who devoutly say the Rosary every day: “The Rosary shall be a powerful armour against hell (the devil), it will destroy vice, decrease sin and defeat heresies”. St. Simon de Montfort called “the extra-ordinary preacher of the Rosary” recited it daily with fervour throughout his life. He found it a most powerful instrument in his struggle with Satan for the souls of men. He would tell his fellow priests: I could tell you at great length of the grace God gave me to know by experience the effectiveness of the preaching of the Holy Rosary, and how I have seen with my own eyes the most wonderful conversions it has brought about. I assure you that the Rosary is a priceless treasure which is inspired by God.
St. Pius V observed that “with the spread of this devotion, the meditations of the faithful have begun to be more inflamed, their prayers more fervent and they have suddenly become different men; the darkness of heresy has been dissipated, and the light of Catholic faith has broken forth again” Pope Leo XIII in his Encyclical “On Devotion of the Rosary” issued September 1, 1883 “earnestly exhort all Christians to give themselves to the recital of the pious devotion of the Rosary publicly or privately in their own house, and family, and that unceasingly”. Benedict XV describes the Rosary as perfect prayer “because of the grace it obtains and because of the triumphs it achieves”. Pius XI noted with admiration the “innumerable multitude of holy men of every age and every condition who have always held the Rosary dear. They have recited it with great devotion and in every moment they have used it as a powerful weapon to put the demons to flight, to preserve the integrity of life, to acquire virtue more easily, and in a word, to attain real peace among men”.
After enumerating the advantages of saying the Rosary, the Pope urged all Bishops to see to it that the Rosary is more highly esteemed by all the faithful under their care. “Through your work and that of the priests who help you in the care of souls, its (Rosary’s) praises and advantages shall be preached and repeated to the faithful of every social class”(Encyclical on the Rosary, September 29, 1937). Devotion to Mary is indeed a panacea for the crisis of faith in our contemporary world because as Pius XII wrote to Cardinal Maglione, April 15, 1940: “So powerful, indeed, is the Blessed Virgin with God and His only begotten Son that, as Dante observes, who desires his help and fails to have recourse to Mary is like one trying to fly without wings”.
St. Robert Bellarmine, Model of Defenders of the Faith said:
And who would ever dare to snatch these children from the arms of Mary when they have taken refuge there. What power of hell or what temptation can overcome them if they place their confidence in the patronage of this great Mother, the Mother of God, and of them? Another reason why devotion to Mary must be accepted as the panacea of the crisis of faith in our modern world is the fact that it is only through Mary, Mediatrix of all graces that we can obtain the graces we need to persevere in our faith or overcome the obstacles that tend to make us doubt or deny our faith.
When we say that Our Lady is Mediatrix as dispenser of graces, we mean that all favours and blessings granted by God to His rational creatures are granted in virtue of and because of her intervention. Her action here has a universal dimension; it involves all celestial and human beings with the sole exception of Christ and Mary herself. Those whose existence preceded the temporal existence of Our Lady (for example, the Angels, Adam and Eve, etc.) received all their graces in view of her future merits and intercession which were, of course, present to God from all eternity, and indeed with a logical priority to their predestination.
It involves also every supernatural favour (sanctifying and actual grace), and even blessings of the temporal order bearing some relation to the supernatural order. Mary does not, of course, “produce” the sanctifying grace we receive through the Sacraments. And yet she is involved even here, in the sense that the actual grace we need to receive the Sacraments worthily is given to us because of her intervention.
Papal documents have frequently portrayed Mary as Mediatrix of all graces. Worthy of specific mention is the trenchant statement of Leo XIII in his Encyclical Octobri Mense (On the Rosary, Sept. 22, 1891): “It may be affirmed with… truth and precision that, by the will of God, absolutely no part of that immense treasure of every grace that the Lord amasses… is bestowed on us except through Mary”. All subsequent Popes have substantially echoed the same refrain, some more explicitly than others.
• Prof. Michael Ogunu is the International President of the World Apostolate of Fatima.