Faith has been a concept I have struggled to grasp throughout my life.
Ever since I can remember, I had questions about my Catholic faith. When I was younger, I would ask plenty of questions to more fully understand the different lessons and concepts being taught in almost every religion class I took. Slowly but surely, these teachings started to take root in my young mind and shape my outlook and actions.
Certain stories stuck with me. Growing up there was one I often struggled with, the story of “doubting” Thomas. I often felt Thomas justifiably had reason to doubt and had every right to want to see real evidence of Jesus, who had just been crucified. The lesson from this story, which is to have faith and believe even what we have not seen, did not make much sense to me. I knew that if I was in Thomas’ position, I too would have very likely doubted my fellow disciples and unfortunately responded the same way Thomas did. This was before I started building my faith in God.
From a very young age, I was fortunate enough to know God and see God’s beauty all around me. God greatly blessed me with a wonderful family and a unique beginning.
I was born to parents who were Catholic lay missionaries with Maryknoll at the time. Because of this, my birthplace (as well as my siblings) was in La Paz, Bolivia. My parents served there for seven years and during that time they had my sister, brother and me. My parents lived in exceptionally humble conditions and worked hard on building libraries and providing new water systems for villages without access to potable water.
From day one I couldn’t ask for better role models and examples of Christ in my life. My family decided to move back to the United States when I was very young so unfortunately, I have very little recollection of my life before returning to America.
Throughout my childhood and youth, I have been privileged to experience a Catholic education. It was in my religion classes that I especially was able to learn and grow spiritually with my friends. I thank my Catholic school education for developing my faith and setting the foundation of my relationship with God. Once I reached high school, I decided to depart from my home in Texas and attend Subiaco Academy, like my father and grandfather, which is where my faith in God was strengthened more than ever.
At Subiaco, I have the unique opportunity to observe, and even to a small degree, participate in aspects of the Benedictine monastic life lived so authentically by the monks of Subiaco Abbey. From evening vespers to witnessing lived values of community, hospitality and “ora et labora” (prayer and work), the Benedictine life of faith is ever present.
There seems to be a special, distinct spiritual atmosphere here that I would have never imagined I’d find in the middle of rural Arkansas. While at Subiaco, I have learned countless valuable life lessons from many different monks. I’ve felt impacted by the humble lifestyle the monks experience in their daily service to God and to others both within their community and beyond. Having the opportunity to live beside and learn from the Christlike example of the Benedictine monks at Subiaco is truly a blessing and inspiration as to how my faith in God can continue to deepen.
With the academy being one of the abbey’s primary apostolates, the students and monks benefit greatly from each other. An example of this is the rugged cross-country course in the nearby abbey ridges. Under the leadership of our cross-country coach Brother Raban, we run a course winding its way up and down the steep hills of the ridges called “The Rule.” The most challenging steep incline of the course is appropriately named “Chapter 7,” which is the chapter in the Rule of St. Benedict that is long and about humility. From running “The Rule” I feel that I have strengthened my faith by learning about different aspects of the Rule of St. Benedict and learning to push through and trust God even when I want to quit or am doubting myself.
Looking back, my faith journey through this relatively short life I’ve lived so far could be compared to the steep rises and falls of that Subiaco cross-country course through the ridges. There have been times when my relationship with God felt non-existent or extremely one-sided.
During these times, I struggled to have faith in God, and I deeply questioned what God wanted from me. Thankfully, over time I found that to end this unpleasant rollercoaster I was experiencing of ups and downs in my faith, I needed to start completely trusting in God’s beautiful plan and stop basing my faith in God merely off of what logically makes sense to me, like the example of “doubting” Thomas.
God has given me countless reasons to hope and believe in him and his loving presence in our world. It is my responsibility to have faith in God and build a strong relationship with him, inspiring a life of caring for others. Ultimately, “without faith, it is impossible to please God.” (Hebrews 11:6).
Anthony Gehrig is a junior at Subiaco Academy. St. Patrick Cathedral in Fort Worth, Texas, is his home parish.
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