In a world filled with confusion a voice of young optimism illuminates:
"I believe in you God
But Lord, please help my unbelief
I don't understand everything that you do . . . but I know you have a plan," Lauren Popp said in her poem, "Lord, I Believe. Help my Unbelief."
Lauren's poem took first place in the 10th grade division, out of 203 entries for her grade, 22,000 total entries and 1,100 finalists, in the 2014 "Try Prayer! It Works!" nationwide competition, through Family Rosary. She was awarded $100 and her school received $100 and a DVD made by Holy Cross Family Ministry. Children in grades K-12 are eligible, with up to three winners per grade.
Lauren, a 10th grader at Juan Diego Catholic High School in Draper, Utah and member of the St. John the Baptist Parish in Draper, wrote the poem as part of an assignment in her first semester theology class. At the urging of her friends and family, she entered it into the "Try Prayer! It Works!" contest and said she was "really shocked when I'd heard that I'd won," on the statewide and then the national level.
She said she remembered having questions about her faith through her childhood, and felt that many of them were answered as she matured.
A former teacher had told her that when she was doubting her faith, she was actually growing in it.
Lauren used these experiences as guides in her life, and while writing her poem.
"You just have to keep believing that it will get better and that God has a plan," she said.
The competition is a way for students who are Catholic to share their faith through art, poetry and writing. This year's theme was "Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief."
The theme is combined with the events described in the Fourth Joyful Mystery of the rosary in which Mary and Joseph bring Jesus to the temple. The theme of "Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief," refers to Anna and Simeon who waited for the coming of the Messiah and were ultimately rewarded for their faith.
"We all need that extra help of saying, that determination and that patience to say, that 'I believe,' but then, 'help my unbelief," said Beth Mahoney, mission director of Holy Cross Family Ministries. Family Rosary, the sponsor of the competition, is a ministry under Holy Cross. "There's a little bit of a doubt sometimes that creeps into all of us about something and it's that prayer of 'Lord I believe. Help my unbelief,'" that sees the faithful through.
Lauren is among the 79 percent of Americans who are affiliated with a religion and among the 68 percent who say they believe in God, according to a 2012 study by Pew Research's Religion and Public Life Project.
Her mom said the message of Lauren's poem helped she and her husband to consider their own faith.
"We were actually inspired by our own daughter," Louise Popp said.
In her free time Lauren volunteers at an art camp, plays tennis, works at the daycare she used to attend, babysits for neighbors and walks an elderly lady's dog. She is also the vice president of the St. John the Baptist youth group, where she and others "try to be Jesus in people's life," through their service.
"We feel very confident in Lauren that she will be able to hold onto her faith," Louise Popp said.
This is similar to what Mahoney felt after going through the entries from the youth: they reflect depth, hope and honesty.
"The youth are staying with their belief in God and their spirituality," she said.
Lord, I Believe. Help my unbelief.
By: Lauren Popp
Lord I believe that you are good, I believe you are forgiving and loving I believe you gave your only son to save us from our sins
I believe you made us all individual And yet beautiful in our own special waysI believe in the three principles: Faith, Hope and Love. I believe in you God
But Lord, please help my unbelief I don't understand everything that you do I don't understand why there are: So much death, so much hate, and so many conflicts in your world But I know you have a plan
I believe that you make everything happen for a reason That we all have our own journeys, We just need to set out and find our own
I trust in you Lord. Help me set out upon my own journey So that I may become closer to you
Lord, I Believe But please Help my unbelief Because I know you will help me along my journey You have set up just for me.