Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Doubt affects even the faithful, panelists say

The world was shocked when it was recently revealed that Mother Teresa — spiritual icon and example to many — questioned her faith throughout her life. A new book, Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light (Doubleday, 2007) is filled with correspondence between Teresa and her superiors, revealing her inner faith struggles.

Inspired by Teresa, University Chaplain Gary Brower hosted a Nov. 5 lunchtime panel discussion, to explore the thorny topic of doubt. He was joined by religious studies Professor Sandy Dixon, international studies Professor Claude d’Estree and pastor Regina Groff of the Campbell Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church. The event was attended by about 12 people of all faiths.

D’Estree was not surprised to learn of Teresa’s doubts. “Everyone thinks she was just a sweet little nun, but she was anything but that,” said d’Estree, who spent time with Mother Theresa. “She had a toughness about her. She was certain of her work, but not of her religion.

“The fact that she didn’t leave her work despite her doubt is partially what makes her a saint.” 

The panelists agreed that doubt can be healthy, and through the experience one can find spiritual maturity. 

“Of course you’ll have doubt. It’s part of the developmental process,” said Dixon, referencing developmental psychologist Erik Erikson’s work. 

Groff acknowledged that she, too, has struggled with doubt. 

“I’ve often been in conflict — in my mind, heart and spirit. It’s just how my faith journey has been. But through it all I’ve always felt God’s presence,” Groff said.

Dixon said it’s important to be honest about spiritual struggles. 

“When I’m trying not to doubt, I realize that I’m kidding myself and God,” she explained. “If anything that I believe is true, God already knows my struggles. It’s time to get it out and start talking about it.”

Brower hopes to host more informal discussions on spiritual topics in the future. He joined the University in the summer 2007 as the University’s first Chaplain since 1968. His office provides a venue for reflection on current issues, offers a pastoral care and counseling and supports students’ quests for religious and spiritual development.

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