The Rope of Faith

“I’m you,” I told my father when I was a toddler, and then spent the rest of my childhood and early adulthood trying to figure out how he did everything. So it’s odd that I never discovered how he managed to hold on to his faith despite a life filled with doubt.

A Catholic philosopher, he wrote hundreds of articles about faith, but kept his work impersonal, safely sequestered in book reviews and academic journal pieces, and never considered revealing the personal side of his faith to the world. Still, I knew his faith was deeply personal, in part because the challenges to it were so painful: an alcoholic father, childhood bullying, a lifelong struggle with anxiety, and his end-of-life battle with leukemia. Everything about this journey could cause even the strongest faith to unravel. Yet my father seemed peaceful at the end of it all.

My father was prone to circumspection around his children, but when the doctors told him it was only “a matter of months” before the leukemia got him, he embarked on what he thought might be his final opus. Never one for euphemisms, he titled it “Death and a Philosopher.” He never got to finish the article. I found an unfinished draft on his computer.

My hope is that the passage below, and my father’s broader story, will carry readers through some of their own doubts, just as it has carried me.


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About the Author

Michael D. Kerlin is a Philadelphia-based management consultant and freelance writer. He is writing a family memoir about doubt and faith.