The other day I was speaking with a combat veteran. I expressed some concern as he was leaving. He turned, smiled, put his hand on my shoulder and said “As long as I have my Bible and a friend to talk to, I’ll be OK”. Would that I had such clarity!
I have long been drawn to people of simple faith. By “simple” I don’t mean simplistic. Indeed, most of the people of simple faith whom I have known were intelligent and articulate. Rather, these have been folks for whom faith is not complicated. So what is this simple faith?
Simple faith places priority on love and charity. people of simple faith are recognizable in their kindness and compassion. I remember one time seeing my mother, a person of remarkable simple faith, putting balloons in an envelope. When I asked her what she was doing, she said “Oh, I’m sending these to a missionary in the Philipines to help the lepers with their lungs.” No fanfare. No adulation.
2. Simple faith does not judge. It is clear to me that there is no room for judgment if one is faithful, especially if one claims to be Christian. I recently read a story about Fred Rogers of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. Fred was an ordained minister who espoused a simple straight-forward faith and once refused to condemn gay people, say instead in his best Mr. Rogers voice that God loves everyone just as they are.
3. Simple faith accepts that God is in charge and has a plan. As such, a man of beautiful simple faith grieved his pending death from Gehrig’s disease but voiced accepting that it was God’s will and that his family would be provided for.
4. Simple faith accepts an afterlife. I struggle mightily in this area yet on her death-bed my mother rejoiced that she was “going to see my girls”, referring to my two deceased sisters.
5. Simple faith is not easy. Thus many people of simple faith embrace St. Paul’s words “I have finished the race. I have kept the faith.” Anyone who has run a long race knows that at the end there is exhilaration. But there is also exhaustion.
I envy simple faith. I accept that my path is to question, to argue with God. But in my own heart I envy my veteran friend, my mother, my friend who died of Gehrig’s disease and other teachers who remind me that maybe it’s not so complicated after all.
I remember seeing that simple faith in my grandmother, Ama – all her grandchildren called her that. I still see Ama walking home from Mass, in her navy blue dress, crossing heavy traffic to get home. Ama said the rosary every night, read her Bible daily, went to confession weekly, and attended daily Mass as often as she could. Ama never talked about her faith, she lived it. Ama taught me to pray first thing in the morning and last thing at night – I was to get on my knees, fold my hands in prayer, and bow my head. Ama died 33 years ago and I wish I could tell her how her faith has saved my life.