A few days ago, Italian newspaper La Repubblica published the results of a survey conducted among people aged 18 to 30. The questions asked revolved around the connection that young people feel with certain values or principles upheld by the general population. Only 38 per cent of those who responded said they find the word ‘fede’ (faith) important to them (13 percentage points less than the general population). In the same survey, ‘uncertainty’ featured in first place among the emotions that young people assimilate with the most.
Why are these findings significant? Our hunch is that the alienation towards faith goes beyond the issue of religious affiliation. The Italian word fede is intimately linked to the word trust (fiducia). If we take a closer look at how we develop from our very first weeks and months of life we notice that besides the external physical growth, something else hidden but powerful also gradually develops. It is our capacity to trust, first and foremost the people who brought us to this world.
When we cried out of hunger, we trusted that someone will heed our call and feed us. When we fell, we trusted that we would be picked up again. These and many other small incidents have a say on whether we develop a general capacity to trust. Sometimes our journey is a bit rockier, and trust becomes a bit more challenging; we unconsciously figure out that it is better to go at it alone.
Trust always entails an element of risk, a possibility of making mistakes, and to sometimes even be hurt. How is it that sometimes I would rather carry a burden on my own rather than opening up with someone I trust? Why is it that despite my best efforts, in crucial moments of my life I am unable to trust myself?
In the biblical mentality, faith and trust is that upon which I rest my feet, the foundation upon which I build the edifice of my life, that to which I say Amen! Even the most self-sufficient individual can be found to trust himself and his inner resources, as much as it drains him completely in the long term. Alas, trust has probably become evolutionary, favourable for our survival.
The question then is not so much “are you able to trust?” but “whom do you trust?”. It is anything but trivial to take stock of who is allowed to enter that inner sanctuary of my conscience, my deepest desires and aspirations, together with those painful and deep-seated fears that surge into the light of day. To trust always means to hand over something precious, to make space for someone who has the gentle audacity to come in even when the door to our heart says “sorry, we are closed”. To trust is also to admit that I do not have all the answers to the dilemmas that life throws at me.
There is wisdom in discerning who deserves our trust. It would be far too naïve to build our house on foundations made of sand. But it would also be a tragedy if, trapped in fear, we surround ourselves with insurmountable bastions that can offer a false sense of safety. In this particular time, well-placed trust can be a breath of fresh air, a good opportunity to start over.
Fr Alex Zammit, Member, Missionary Society of St Paul