Feelings of Doubt
Adapted from a sermon by Fr Lazareth el Antony
I continued being an atheist until my mother died. I suffered from my own doubts and fears. I suffered externally and internally. God was not a presence in my life. I suffered 4 years and I never found consolation. I read a lot about Buddhism and Hinduism but it was a taste only. I didn’t arrive at any deep personal commitment with any of these religions.
When my mother died, I felt a hole in my heart. It hit me that I had no mother and no source. I didn’t understand that God was the origin and the reason for my being. After a year of grieving my mother’s death, I went back to the hospital where she had died of cancer. I wanted to remember the days of her suffering. I wanted to go to her room and recapture that last moment with her. For me, death was a darkness that I could not escape. The nurses told me that the hospital room was being used and that I can come sometime afterwards. They sent me to a library to wait for them there.
While in the library, I found a book about the life of a monk called Thomas Merton and I began to read it. The nurses forgot about me and I forgot about them. The book was so engrossing. It was an exact copy of my whole life. Thomas Merton was a philosopher, studied politics and his mother had died. He was a fan of films and books that I had liked. The only difference is he grew up in America, while I grew up in Australia. After his mother died, Thomas worked his way to a Roman Catholic monastery. Well I thought to do the same. I ignored the pages that talked about Thomas’ growing faith in God. He had a friend who converted him to God but I ignored reading that part. I just took the simple idea that Thomas had exchanged his university life to a monastery life. I wanted to do the same because in the monastery, Thomas had found peace.
The next day, I telephoned a Roman Catholic monastery and asked to become a monk. The head monk answered the phone and asked which church I went to and who my confession father was. I told the monk that I did not go to church and I knew no priest. On hearing that, the monk closed the phone. He thought I was crazy and that I had a weird idea about monasticism and he wasn’t going to buy into that. I looked into a phone book and I found another monastery. It was a Serbian Orthodox monastery. I rang and asked for a visit. The bishop of the monastery answered the phone and without questioning me, he said “come and see.” Later I understood why he said this sentence. Rather than ask me questions like the Catholic monk, he didn’t want to prejudge the issue so he said “come and see.” I was pleased with that, and I went.
I arrived to the monastery on a Saturday, which is the day they commemorate the dead. As we entered the cemetery, the bishop asked me to walk with a certain lady and gentleman. I later realized that they were a couple who had lost their daughter in a car crash. The couple was bitter over the death of their daughter and so was I, over the death of my mother.
After the cemetery, the Serbian monks went to the church for prayer. They started to pray in front of the icon of St Mary. I had seen icons as part of Art and History but I knew very little of them. I had heard of St Mary but I knew nothing personal about her. I had no understanding of her role in the church or as a Theotokos. This was the start of my journey to Christianity.
Despite the doubt, every experience I had was a stepping stone to the true faith.