Missionary Sending

How the Eucharist Helps Us Turn from Fear to Faith: Counsel the Doubtful

I was in Rome for a weeklong meeting. I was there with other Jesuits from around the world who are national directors of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network. We celebrated Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica. We visited ancient shrines of saints and martyrs. Our conversations flowed from English to French, Spanish, and Hindi.

And yet, Rome is a city of paradoxes. Glorious basilicas double as tourist attractions. Visitors snap selfies and broadcast themselves on TikTok near altars and chapels. “Hey, everybody, guess where I am? Rome!” Martyrs spilled their blood on Roman streets in witness to the Risen Lord. Do today’s Romans care? Do your kids? Many people doubt the historical event of Jesus. And many people are far from the Eucharist because of their doubt.

Pilgrims leaving through a doorway while they approach a magnificent church.

As he approaches his passion, Jesus asks, “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Lk 18:8). Soon after this, Jesus makes a perfect gift of himself through the Paschal Mystery: his passion, death, resurrection and ascension. Because Jesus rose from the dead, all things truly are made new. Because of his faithfulness, we can be faithful. After a week in Rome among others who follow Christ faithfully more than 2000 years later, I can reply with certitude, “Yes, Lord! Your faithful people praise you!” (see Ps 145:10). And we praise him most powerfully at every Mass.

The Remedy for Doubt

Counsel the doubtful. It’s a spiritual work of mercy. It’s a teaching of the Church. Doubt flows from fear. Faith flows from Jesus. Who does he want to counsel through you? In our secular world, faithful Catholics may respond, “Okay. How?”

I live on a college campus in Milwaukee. I’ve taught in high schools, led retreats for prisoners, and served in homeless shelters. In every setting, people struggle with doubt. I hear it in confession, in spiritual direction, and over lunch tables. It leads to some lively conversations. “Father, I’ve got a question for you...” Other times, people are so deep in their doubt that they struggle to talk about it.

Doubt can take many forms—a sarcastic skepticism, serious searching, or heavy darkness. If they’re willing to talk to me (or any disciple of Christ), then they’re likely headed in the right direction. That means they are open to conversation, information, and inspiration. As a priest, I’m not simply offering them a self-help program, I’m offering them Jesus: his words, his love, him. I want them to truly know Christ and I want them to encounter him–especially in the Eucharist.

A painting of the apostles in the storm on the sea

So, where does doubt come from? We see Jesus diagnosing doubt in the Gospels and offering a remedy. Here’s his diagnosis: fear. Fear is at the root of doubt. The disciples in the boat during a storm at sea began to shout, full of fear. Jesus says, “Why are you terrified, O you of little faith?” (Mt 8:26). They doubt God’s power as they are faced with the power of the storm. They’re afraid, and they doubt. In faith, Jesus offers a pathway that is holy, beautiful, and meaningful. This pathway reaches its earthly climax at every Mass, a true foretaste of heaven. But some hear Christ’s message and wonder, “Is it really true?” as they are drawn into lives of glitz and glamor that our secular world offers, but always leaves them empty.

What is the remedy to fear and doubt? Jesus. And if people do not know he is the remedy, then we need to help them. That is where counsel the doubtful comes in!

A close up of two friends having coffee. The image centers around their hands over a coffee cup.

Counsel the Doubtful

In my ministry, sometimes the doubtful come to me and sometimes I come to them. I might ask, “How are you doing? You seemed upset in class yesterday.” Having a solid relationship—with Jesus and with those we counsel一is the essential foundation of this work of mercy. You know your kids and grandkids better than anyone. Part of effective counseling is listening. Like a good doctor, I first need to know the nature of the ailment before I offer a diagnosis and a remedy.

I know that when I’m struggling, I need to tell my story. I need to explain what’s happening. And I need someone to listen to me and to care about me. Thankfully, I’ve had some great spiritual directors and superiors who offered me counsel in my own doubts and difficulties. St. Ignatius summarizes this approach in a few words: “Go in their door so they come out your door.” This means walking with someone who is struggling— but not leaving her in her struggle. It means seeing that Jesus is on the journey with her, leading her to a place of light and peace. Jesus may want to speak words of peace and consolation through you.

Personalize the Counsel to Fit the Doubter

Doubts come in many forms. There are theological doubts such as, “How do we know that God exists?” “Did Jesus really rise from the dead?” “Is the Eucharist really the Body and Blood of Christ?” There are moral doubts: “Why does the Church teach this about sex?” “How do we know that’s true?” And there are personal doubts: “Am I worth anything?” “Does God care about me?”

You may want to share a bit about your own experience. “I wrestled with that question a few years ago.” Or, “You know what helped me when I was in a situation like that?” It’s okay to refer her to another resource, but don’t make it too complicated. “Here’s a short Bible passage that I look to sometimes for clarity,” or, “Margaret is really good on this topic; maybe I can introduce you two.” Don’t put too much pressure on yourself; if I walk with the person one step closer to Christ, then perhaps I’ve done my job. Jesus will continue to walk with her and guide her in the next step.

A young woman praying in an adoration chapel

Offer Them Jesus

Finally, let’s simply and directly offer them a chance to encounter Jesus. “I’m going to Mass on Sunday morning. You’re welcome to come. It always helps me. I usually go for coffee afterwards and I would love to have you come along.” Or, “I go to Eucharistic adoration at my parish. Do you want to come? I find it so peaceful.” If they aren’t ready, that is okay. Jesus is always waiting for them, and he may simply be asking you to remain by their side in the meantime.

Reflection Question

Who is one person that God is calling you to share a ‘spiritual conversation’ with?

Action Point

Open the Catechism and read one page to help you deepen your own understanding of our faith—perhaps on the Eucharist, confession, Mary, etc.


Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created, and you shall renew the face of the earth.

Fr Joe Laramie, S.J., is the national director of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network (Apostleship of Prayer). He is a Eucharistic preacher for the National Eucharistic Revival. He is the author of Love Him Ever More: A 9-Day Personal Retreat with the Sacred Heart of Jesus, based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola.