In his booklet, "Finding God In Doubt and Disbelief" Deacon Nick Donnelly explores a pervasive and almost universally encountered problem with the spiritual journey of many disciples: how the experiences of grief, trauma and suffering can all too easily undermine our faith, while also examining the demands of persevering with Christian discipleship in a culture which has forgotten, does not know, or is actively hostile towards, God.
In the first chapter, Deacon Nick surveys the" battlefield", where Satan is ever-present and seeking to devour us, explaining through the Parable of the Sower how Our Lord Jesus Christ highlights where our faith journeys may veer off course, while, at the same time, encouraging us to be the seed that is planted in fertile soil and which generates a bountiful crop. We are wounded through many experiences and negative influences on our lives, and Deacon Nick corroborates his good counsel by drawing many insights from the personal tragedies in his own life, including family bereavements, a battle against depression and a longstanding illness. Concise commentaries are also offered on three Christians who famously struggled with their faith at times of crisis in their own lives: St Theresa of Calcutta, and the profound absence of God that she experienced for forty years of her life; Edith Stein, a convert to Catholicism whose "towers of rationalistic prejudice" were overturned through witnessing the faith of sincere Catholics whom she befriended; and C.S. Lewis, another convert from atheism whose very intellectually based approach to the faith was seriously challenged by the death of his relatively young wife Joy from bone cancer.
Deacon Nick also explains very lucidly how the certainty of faith can be assailed by three major threats to religiously revealed truth: subjectivism (where truth can have no objectivity, being reduced to mere opinion), relativism (where nothing is absolutely held to be true, and truth is never a constant, being changed with the passage of time or history), and scepticism (rejecting the notion that religion can be true), using the example of scientism to illustrate the case.
The final chapter, bringing together all the strands and topics discussed in the book, offers sound counsel in times when we are experiencing the darkness of "desolation" (as St Ignatius of Loyola termed it): we must always keep our gaze fixed upon Jesus Christ in whom we must steadfastly trust, especially in Eucharistic Adoration, where Our Lord always invites us to leave our difficulties at His feet; we must also stay close to the Blessed Virgin Mary, nurturing habits of prayer (including the Rosary), spiritual reading, and frequenting the Sacraments of the Eucharist and confession more often. Deacon Nick reminds us that to believe is "an act of the intellect assenting to the divine truth by command of the will moved by God through grace" (St Thomas Aquinas), and therefore, by choosing to believe, we are choosing to co-operate with God and our faith is thereby strengthened.
The booklet draws greatly on the Catechism of the Catholic Church, especially in areas where further technical definitions or explanations are required (e.g., in making the distinction between voluntary and involuntary doubt), and our faith may also be consolidated through developing the practice of reading/consulting the Catechism often, for it embodies "the symphony of faith". This booklet is highly recommended for all who may be feeling lacklustre about their faith, or who are experiencing a deep sense of anxiety and/or helplessness about prevailing currents in the contemporary Church.