Finding God: The Path of Return

There are as many paths to God as there are individuals. This is the fourth post in a series, on Huffington Post, that looks at six of the most well-traveled paths for contemporary believers. The previous post explored 'The Path of Independence'.

This path gets more crowded every year. People in this group typically begin life in a religious family, but drift away from their faith. After a childhood in which they were encouraged (or forced) to attend religious services, they now find it either tiresome or irrelevant or both. Religion remains distant, though oddly appealing.


Then something reignites their curiosity about God. Maybe they've achieved some financial or professional success, and ask, "Is that all there is?" Or, after the death of a parent, they start to wonder about their own mortality. Or their children ask about God, awakening questions that have lain dormant within themselves for years. "Who is God, Mommy?"

Thus begins a tentative journey back to their faith -- though it may not be the same faith they knew as children. Perhaps a new tradition speaks more clearly to them. Perhaps they return to their original religion but in a different, and often more committed, way than when they were young.

That's not surprising. As I mentioned in an earlier post, you would hardly consider yourself an educated adult if you ended your academic training as a child. Yet many believers cease their religious education as children, and expect it to carry them through adulthood. People in this group often find that they need to reeducate themselves to understand their faith in a mature way. 

When I was a boy, for instance, I used to think of God as the Great Problem Solver, who would fix all my problems if I just prayed hard enough. Let me get an "A" on my Social Studies test. Let me do well in Math. Better yet, let tomorrow be a snow day.

If God was all good, I reasoned, then God would answer my prayers. What possible reason could God have for not answering them?

Read the rest here.

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8 years 1 month ago
Father Martin,

 You have previously written of the ''Path of Independence.''  In this post, you describe a not-uncommon sequence of events. Most are born into at least nominally religious families and are ''churched''.  Many young people and young adults then go through a period of questioning, doubt, agnosticism, perhaps athiesm, and alienation from organized religion.  Some of those return to both a different understanding of faith (different understanding of God) and may also return to institutional religion, either the original or a new one - often because of marriage and beginning  a family.   However, at times you have seemed to disparage (in articles outside of America) those who are ''spiritual but not religious.''   In this post, you acknowledged the spiritual in your life finally, and you returned (in a big way) to organized religion.  However, many return to faith, but independent faith (SBNR) and do not return to organized religion.  Does your understanding of the ''path of return'' include those who return to faith, to seeking a relationship with God, but who do not return to organized religion? 
david power
8 years 1 month ago
Very nice article Fr Martin.
I think I  understand those who go under the "spiritual but not religous" umbrella. 
Often I would love to be under it myself. A moments thought of how miserable the Churchmen have been lately makes it appear like a grassy field.
However, before I discovered their hypocrisy I was taught what communion means . Religious means to be open to all things, to feel the beyond or the something greater.The Religious sense is an intuition against a reductive vision of things. Our Communion , well  explained by Timothy Radcliffe here

is what keeps me from being "spiritual".  But also their is a great value in all of those who are "on the way". I dont think it is "disparaging" to speak of them the way he has but a means to underline that there is a lot more.       
david power
8 years 1 month ago

They may have a head and a governing body but they dont have the barefaced cheek to claim to be divinely appointed. It is a biggie that one. Apart from the Orthodox all the rest are new and improved versions of the original rabble that Jesus had around Him.
Joining the old one for them was unthinkable as it had become too corrupt.  
 The point I think is deeper than a simple unity but living in communion.Not something brokered by us or even really open to manipulation. Every scumbag and hypocrite on the planet is welcome in our Church. To make them feel even more at home we usually  make them a bishop! :)

It is the sense of being a part of the original rabble that is Catholic. We usually resemble Peter and Judas but in our own minds are more like John. 
I remember a story years ago about a Bishop and celebrity discussing the Church.The Bishop was urging young people to come back to Church or at least to pray as they often felt lonely and there was a  high amount of  suicides.In the to and fro between them ,the celebrity took on the role of critic and the Bishop of apologist .In the end the Celebrity mustered all of his disgust and said "What offends me and many others is the hypocrites that go into  Church" the bishop reflected for a moment and then said solemnly "that is true ,there are many hypocrites in the church"    and then a second later he said "but there is room for more".

The celebrity smiled and said "touche"


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