There is a memorable character in the Graham Greene novel A Burnt Out Case named Rycker who is a former monk who has left to get married. He is living in mortal sin, but he thinks the dryness of his spiritual life is because he is going through “the dark night of the soul.” So deluded by his own spiritual pride he imagines that he is a great saint who is suffering for Jesus. In fact, Greene brilliantly portrays the man as almost a comic figure for his foolishness, false humility and fake bravado.

It is a cautionary tale reminding one of the genuine minefield through quicksand that the spiritual life can become. There are all sorts of ways one can lose the faith, and there’s the old story about the sixteen year old schoolgirl who went to the Mother Superior at her convent school and said, “Ohh Reverend Mother! I’ve lost my faith!” To which Reverend Mother replied, “Nonsense girl. You cannot lose something you’ve never had!”

One can certainly lose one’s faith through mortal sin–not necessarily the great, shameful and shocking sins we think of, but the long slow slide into sin that we excuse in ourselves, sin that we tell ourselves is not really so bad, sin that we really do not want to give up even if we could. That is one way to lose one’s faith, when one simply wakes up one morning and realizes the faith is not there any more. You simply don’t believe any of it and can’t see the point of religion. So you stop. You pull out. You leave it. There was no great moment of doubt and despair. The faith simply rotted on the vine and fell to the ground and dissolved in the heat.

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