Living your Faith
18. Living Your Faith: Introduction
When it comes to developing an understanding of what it means to live our faith, we must begin by acknowledging the apparently obvious: none of us is living our faith perfectly yet. Recognising this allows us to do two important things. Firstly, it orients us towards God in humility, opening us to the reality that our perspective on what’s important and on how our faith should be lived is ever open to deeper and more fruitful understanding and awareness. Secondly, it reminds us that each of us is on a pilgrimage in faith. We have been invited into a loving relationship with the eternal and infinite God. Imagining that we have already got the things of faith totally sorted is to completely underestimate the One who is calling us into being. Each of us is on a spiritual journey, being led by the Holy Spirit to a life that will take us along unknown paths to a destination that, as yet, we cannot fully comprehend (see John 21:18).
This is the reality that governs this section of our website: Living Your Faith. It begins by offering some thoughts on why the sacraments are an important part of our Catholic faith experience. Acknowledging that God has a plan for the building up of his kingdom, we then turn our attention to understanding what it means for each of us to identify and respond to how God is asking us to participate in his work. We then reflect on why it is that our communal experience as the Body of Christ is expressed through symbol and liturgy, before noting the centrality of our mission as baptised Catholics to an authentic living of our faith commitment. This will lead naturally to a discussion of the importance of a social conscience and an awareness of what it means to live as stewards of God’s gifts in this world. The section concludes by reflecting on the assistance offered by on-going faith formation as part of the Catholic experience and on the need to make use of reasonable opportunities to grow and develop our life of prayer.
19. Living Your Faith: Sacraments
Catholics are a deeply sacramental people. By this we mean not only do Catholics participate in sacraments as a regular part of their faith experience, but that they also live in the conviction that the spiritual and the physical are inherently related. A spirituality divorced from the physical (i.e. divorced from our bodies, our relationships and our environment) is not a Catholic spirituality. The origin of the Catholic conviction on this point is found in the incarnation itself. God became a human being: the spiritual was manifest in the physical. This occurrence forever changes the way we relate to the physical. A dualism that keeps the spiritual and the physical separate has no place in the authentic Catholic experience.
The seven sacraments of the Church (Baptism, Eucharist, Confirmation, Reconciliation, Anointing of the Sick, Marriage and Holy Orders) take their legitimacy from the sacramental principle described above and are each unique and foundational expressions of that principle.
20. Living Your Faith: Gift Discernment
Each of us is called to contribute to the building up of God’s kingdom even as we make our own way towards the life to which God is calling us. We are members of the Body of Christ and, as such, have our own part to play in that Body (see 1Corinthians 12). Coming to understand the part each of us plays calls us into the process of discernment. The awareness that each of us has of our own personal vocation is premised on the relationship we each have with the God who calls us into being. You uniquely reflect the wonder and reality of God, and your vocation is the way in which God is manifest in the world through you.
Elsewhere on this website you can find information on the ‘Called and Gifted’ program offered by Archdiocesan staff to assist your parish or group in the gift discernment process. The personal vocation that each of us is offered manifests itself in a number of ways, not least by means of the gifts that God offers to us for the building up of the Body of Christ and for the proclamation of Jesus Christ to the world. Discerning those gifts takes us on a journey into the very life of the One who is the source of all good things.
21. Living Your Faith: Liturgy
Catholics are a liturgical people, linked as we are by our common faith and by the profound awareness that ‘wherever two or more are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them’ (see Matthew 18:20).
The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium (SC), is our definitive statement on liturgy as given to us by the 2nd Vatican Council. According to SC, Catholic liturgy is firstly a communion with, and the glorification of, God. As we participate in liturgical celebrations we enter ritually into the paschal mystery (i.e. the life, death, resurrection and raising to glory of Jesus Christ), which is at the centre of our faith experience and of our worship of God. By means of our liturgical participation, we recognise God’s initiative and we are invited to respond first ritually and then within the reality of our daily lives.
In this, we see the second great effect and purpose of liturgy: the individual and collective sanctification of those participating (SC 7). Furthermore, liturgy brings us into communion with one another, developing in us a sense of communion and so strengthening our experience of being part of the Body of Christ.
22. Living Your Faith: Prayer & Spirituality
In each of the introductions to the three sections so far (Being Catholic, Becoming Catholic and Living Your Faith) we have made reference to the centrality of your relationship with God as revealed in the person of Jesus Christ. We have noted that this relationship finds its context within the Body of Christ, through which we are introduced to the teachings of Jesus Christ and guided in their application to our lives today.
We are called to be people of prayer. By this, we do not just mean that we are to find the time to ‘say prayers’, although that has its place too. Rather, we are to take seriously the invitation to enter more fully into the relationship that is at the heart of our faith. We are to have hearts that seek to engage with and respond to God. Learning to do this takes time, discipline and perseverance. As we enter into a life of prayer, we discover that prayer is not so much about ‘getting God to do stuff’ as it is about offering our very selves to God that we might become the means through which God can reach out to the world in which we live and work. You are to be God’s voice, God’s hands and God’s heart to a world in need. When people encounter you they are to encounter Jesus Christ. The only way that that can become remotely possible is if we allow Jesus Christ to work in and through us. We are to be men and women of prayer.
23. Living Your Faith: Mission & Outreach
In our baptismally mandated mission to evangelise, the question of who we are sent to evangelise becomes relevant. Clearly, the proclamation of the person of Jesus Christ is intended for all people, as Archbishop Christopher Prowse reminds us. We are to witness to our faith and to the hope we have in the presence of whoever crosses our path.
This can be a daunting prospect, particularly if we start to focus on whether or not we are fully equipped to do what’s required. There are always many reasons why we think we cannot do what is asked of us. In a manner reminiscent of the excuses supplied by the guests invited to the feast (see Matthew 22:1-14), we are well practiced in our ability to be able to justify our inaction. Our reasons are many and various: we’re too busy, we’re not experienced enough, we’re too old, we’re too young, we’re not theologically trained enough, we’re just lay people, it’s not our job anyway…the list goes on. In the end, all the excuses tend to boil down to one salient point: we don’t trust that God will work through us in our inadequacy.
This is not the problem we imagine it to be. The grace to recognise that without God’s assistance we cannot even begin to do what God is asking of us is a very important grace indeed. The recognition of inadequacy is in fact the foundation upon which God can begin to work through us. As Paul reminds us (2Cor 4:7ff) God delights in using us in our inadequacy to make it clear that this is not our doing but God’s.
24. Living Your Faith: Social Justice
The commitment to promoting a just society is essential to the living of the Catholic faith. A lack of commitment to addressing the needs of others, by assisting individuals and addressing systemic problems that lead to inequality and suffering, cuts at the core of who and what we are called to be. A failure to be involved in social justice is a failure to understand what the Catholic faith is all about.
Not that our faith is, in the first instance, a social justice movement. It is not. We do not take our meaning from our desire to address inequality and to make the world a better place. We take our meaning from our individual and collective relationship with Jesus Christ. It is as we seek to reveal Christ to the world, which is at the heart of our mission and at the heart of who we are, that we align ourselves with those we encounter who are most in need. Our attention to social justice is the natural consequence of a life lived in Christ.
25. Living your Faith: Adult Faith Formation
For better or for worse, many of us carry an understanding of our faith that was given to us as children. While there can be a certain beauty and simplicity as we live in the light of that understanding, it must be admitted that it can often falter under even the most benign scrutiny. Big questions often arise in time of crisis, and our simple answers can begin to unravel. Unfortunately, not everyone’s faith survives the questions that life throws at us. When life gets complicated in this way, we only really have two options. The first option, and the one that many take, is to abandon the practice of faith. In the heat of the day the fragile shoot of faith does not survive (see Matthew 13:6). The second option, and the one to which we are all invited, is to embark on a journey of learning and purification, as our understanding and experience is challenged and deepened. Many of us resist this journey across the unknown, but it is the journey to which we are all called as we walk towards Christ (see Matthew 14:22-33).
It is for this reason that all adult Catholics are called to make appropriate provision for their own adult faith development. That can take a variety of forms depending an individual’s circumstances. Some find themselves a good mainstream Catholic writer and periodically work and pray their way through a book they have written. A number of people find writers such as Henri Nouwen, Robert Barron, Ronald Rolheiser or Joan Chittister helpful in this regard. There are many other examples. Some will look to the classics: the writings of St John of the Cross, St Teresa of Avila, St Francis de Sales, St Therese of Lisieux, and Bl. John Henry Newman from amongst the rich treasury of Catholic writers down through the centuries.
Sometimes we need more than a book to read or a video to watch. This is where getting together with other Catholics exploring their faith can be very helpful. By joining others in this way we discover another benefit of belonging to the Body of Christ and experience in one another’s company the support we all need as we journey together in faith. Regular faith formation seminars are offered throughout the Archdiocese, with information concerning upcoming seminars to be found on the Archdiocesan calendar. Any parish, school or group wishing to have something run locally, needs only to contact the Coordinator for Faith Formation and Spirituality to discuss options: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 02 61634300.
26. Living your Faith: Catholic Spirituality opportunities
As important as ongoing faith formation is, there is something that is even more important: paying attention to our spiritual experience. At the heart of this is regular prayer (see ‘Prayer and Spirituality’ on this website) and participation in the sacraments (see ‘Eucharist’ and ‘Sacraments’). To supplement and to help us deepen our awareness of and participation in prayer and the sacraments, we benefit from seeking the assistance of someone who can assist us as we walk our spiritual pilgrimage (a spiritual director). For those who are unsure of who to approach to assist them as a director, a list can be obtained from the Archbishop’s office: 02 61634300.
Some also find benefit from joining a prayer group or an ecclesial movement within the Archdiocese. While this is not for everyone, certainly there are those who gain great benefit from even a temporary association with a group or a movement.
Taking the time to participate in a retreat can also be enormously beneficial. The sisters of St Joseph run a small retreat centre on the coast: 02 44724021. The Mission of the Redemptorists offer regular retreat experiences at their centre at Galong: 02 6380 5222. Each year the Archdiocese offers its own Archdiocesan retreat, generally held at Galong. Contact the Archbishop’s office for details: 02 61634300.
- The Sacraments
- Gift Discernment
- Prayer and Spirituality
- Mission and Outreach
- Social Justice
- Adult Faith Formation
- Catholic Spirituality Opportunities