Here’s something you don’t see in The New York Times every day. It’s an account of how one man battled stress after the stock market crash by visiting a doctor—and returning to the Catholic Church:
Dr. Kimmel began with word definitions. He said it was natural to be “concerned” about my family, but “worrying” represented a higher level of concern, and too much worry could lead to “anxiety,” which could be very unhealthy. He also reminded me that I could consider the possibility that both of my worries could have happier endings than I was imagining. And he used the word “faith,” certainly in the secular sense because I had told him I was not religious. He said that I could have faith that my loved ones could get better. He could have used another word and said that I couldbelieve things could get better, but he had used the word “faith,” which triggered memories of my adolescent years in the Catholic church.
…Since my college days in the 1960s, when Existentialism was all the rage, I had believed in a godless world in which each individual had to decide what he or she believed in and what ethics and rules to live by. I remember asking questions of priests and nuns that were answered with a seeming mantra that you simply had to have faith. I had assumed faith to be a gift from God, that God gave faith to some and not to others. I was now developing a new thinking, that I could choose to believe in certain aspects of religious faith without necessarily contradicting my basic agnosticism. I didn’t have to buy the whole package; I could believe in and use the things that made me feel good, and that made me feel a part of something larger than myself.
I started going to Catholic Mass every Sunday. I went because of the way it made me feel. I recalled happy days of early adolescence when I loved God. I now saw children making their first holy communion, the little boys in their white suits, and I longed to be one of them, to go back to those days of pure innocence. I was aware of the irony that I had taken control of my ability to choose to have religious feelings which, in turn, required me to relinquish control to the notion of a higher power. And a funny thing happened: I found joy in being part of the congregation, a group which I had previously not respected because I thought of them as mindless sheep being led around by a questionable liturgy. Now I was one of the flock. Relinquishing control felt wonderful.