‘We act, then see’: Thomas Merton on faith and doubt

It is not for anyone to say how or when God is to dispense His gifts of grace. But it seems to me probable that anyone who sees the credibility of the Catholic faith and feels at some time or other a definite desire to embrace it, has already received sufficient grace to to do so. There is no need to wait about for a star to appear in the heavens or for an angel to tell him to get baptized or for him to see Our Lord surrounded by a great light.

If he does not know for sure whether he has the grace to accept faith, let him start accepting it anyway, and he will soon find out that he has been given not only sufficient but efficacious grace to do so. Let him make the act of will which he thinks is impossible: he will find out, after he has done it, that it was possible.


We do not first see, then act: we act, then see. It is only by the free submission of our judgment in dark faith that we can advance to the light of understanding: credo ut intelligam. And that is why the man who waits to see clearly before he will believe never starts on the journey.

(Thomas Merton, ‘The problem of unbelief’, in The Ascent To Truth, London, Burns & Oates, 1951/1976)

Paul Moore’s upbringing was deeply Catholic. He was a boarder from the age of eight at Ampleforth in Yorkshire. But when he left he lost his faith. He pursued a career in the City of London, where, he said, he led a life dominated by a futile quest for money and material pleasures.
”I was very miserable and I was working very hard but I couldn’t find any peace or any joy and so I was looking for a way to feel happier and more peaceful.” He began to rediscover his faith and in 2002 he moved to the Yorkshire village of Wass to take a job with HBOS at the bank’s office in Leeds.

Wass is just down the road from Ampleforth. “When we moved back up to my alma mater I said to myself: ‘I’m going to try to have faith, to pretend that I’ve got faith.’ And as I pretended to have faith, I got faith.”

(Article on Paul Moore, HBOS whistleblower, in the Catholic Herald, date unknown)


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