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My spouse, Amparo, and I have a grandson, Leo, who is 20 months old. Because of the pandemic, we’ve seen him only once in the past year. He and his parents live over 500 miles away but we would normally drive there two or three times a year and they would visit us once or twice. During these times, I’m sure we share this kind of experience with many people. 

Fortunately, Maureen, Leo’s mother and our daughter, makes a point of calling us on Facetime almost every day so we get to share in Leo’s growing up. We’re fortunate that Leo seems to enjoy his “talks” with his Abue (Abuela) and Papa (That’s me).

It’s interesting to see again the phases toddlers go through: the first crawl, the first step, the first words. Leo is a wonderfully happy kid. It’s easy to get him to laugh, and on Facetime, he laughs easily when we make faces or play “hide and seek.”

Something More “Sophisticated”

But it won’t be long until “hide and seek” won’t cut it for entertainment and something a bit more “sophisticated” takes its place.

As I’ve aged, I often reflect on the phases of life we all go through. They are physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. Many, however, don’t seem to progress much in the last category, nor do they recognize its lack as a disability. But in my view, many people have developed a sort of spiritual atrophy, a failure to grow and recognize what the vast majority of humans have recognized since the beginning of history – that humans have a divine spark, faint though it may seem at times.

Many view the human spirit as a human construct, not an innate, essential element of being human. And many have not advanced beyond childhood in their spirituality or religious beliefs and practices, and those beliefs and practices often comprise the sum of their spirituality.

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They may have had a good start as children but lost interest and in the process, lost their faith. They stopped learning, and caring, about it. When thinking about the subject, I’ve found, they often refer negatively to “what they learned growing up.”

Maintaining, or acquiring faith, I believe, requires interest and some “work,” specifically, study and prayer. Many people advance in other kinds of education and skills, but, spiritually, remain stuck in childhood. That’s the real childishness here, in my opinion – the failure to “grow up” spiritually.

“When I was a child,” writes the Apostle Paul in his first letter to the Christians at Corinth, “I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways.”

Faith, of course, is not a matter of how much you know. But it’s hard to appreciate football unless you know what first downs and extra points are. You can much better appreciate a painting if you know something about the painter, and you have much more interest in a piece of music when you know the circumstances of its composition.

Put In the Time and Effort

Much of the criticism of religion is warranted – including criticism of my own Catholic faith – and I often empathize with the critics. But much of the criticism is – let’s face it – the result of ignorance. People sincerely searching for God have to put in the needed time and effort. In my opinion, understanding religion – especially that of your birth – is a great aid to belief and thus, spirituality.

Where to begin? Just go online and type in the religion of your choice. Don’t exclude the faith of your childhood. Then read whatever is there with a critical eye. Does it make sense? If not, go back and see what does. Some of what I read online spouts a brand of Catholicism that predates the Vatican Council, held in the early 1960s to reform the church. In general, you can trust the official church and synagogue sites.

Finally, as I’ve written so often in these blogs, pray daily, even when you’re busy. Carve out a time and place for prayer. And pray even when you’re having doubts about its usefulness. In my experience, it’s important to stick with it for an extended period. And consider finding a church or synagogue where you can share your faith with others.

Ask God for faith, but don’t limit yourself to “gimme” prayers. Tell God what you think of him/her. Include the doubts, and above all, thank God for all you have and are.