Can we ever exhaust the meaning of faith? No few-hundred word essay could get you to a definition. Here, Cor Unum Elders Sister M. Clare and Anne Hilofsky tackle faith from their perspectives. Enjoy!
Anne: Defining My Faith
Faith, defined in the dictionary as a noun, is actually as fluid as water to me. “Faith” yesterday may have meant “I have faith the Earth will continue to revolve and travel around the sun. And in the past “Faith” has meant to me that the Bible is the only true collection of stories to demonstrate the history of the Jewish community and handed down by God. The Bible also gives history of the early Christian church and how Christians came to believe as they do.
Faith is the journey of learning to live my life.
But, God does not have a different belief system for each religion. I have participated in religious services from various Christian traditions. Each promises a direct link to God if you follow their rules. There are subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) differences in Christian and non-Christian communities. Among Christian traditionshow communion (eucharist) is given and received is a major one. Being a mere mortal, I can’t determine which is RIGHT. Just like buying a new hat; I won’t know if I want to keep it until I try it on.
For me, “faith” today is that the universe continues to expand, as does the evolutionary process, and that belief continues to awaken in me the mystery of my life. Each morning I read short essays from the Cherokee Nation relating the wisdom of that tribe and I learn or relearn from those readings. When I read about Buddhism I find more wisdom. When I read from the Desert Fathers or the poetry of Rumi I find more truth.
To find my faith, I must continue with an open mind and heart to share ideas and listen. “Faith” is the journey of learning to live my life.
Sister M. Clare: Unwavering Faith in the Divine
When I look back over my years of faith to see how it began and developed, I first must give credit to my parents. Our family was blessed to have had parents with strong reliance on God to help them through difficult times. We children imitated their confidence in prayer, in obeying the commandments, in church participation, in joyful thanksgiving to God for life, success, health, all good fortunes. My first “faith struggle” occurred when I was 12. I walked through the fields, wondering if I really existed or if I was a figment of somebody’s dream or imagination. “How can I know?” I asked myself. “I guess I just have to believe it!”
Then came the years of searching for my reason for being. From bible stories and family folklore I developed an assumption that there was a purpose for my life, “God” knew it, and my happiness depended on discovering it and preparing to live it. I began communicating interiorly with this Divine Being—growing in a firm faith that it was possible to know what choices to make about study, friends, healthy habits, invitations to accept, and the big one: the “calling” to follow! My belief in being called by God to religious life was so firm it has lasted without question for 67 years!
From bible stories and family folklore I developed an assumption that there was a purpose for my life.
As I’ve been attentive to scientific, theological, anthropological, and sociological studies dealing with the tenets of faith, I have changed the way I think about and describe God, but I have never wavered in believing that an eternal Being is responsible for all that exists. I also believe we humans relate to that Being in truthful ways. For example, when I ask for Divine assistance, it is given to me! I can proceed with confidence instead of fear. That interior gift makes my old age and approaching death an adventure as enjoyable as learning to walk, ride a bike, or drive a car!
2 thoughts on “What is Faith?”
Thanks Anne and Sister M. Clare! If you’d like the Cor Unum Elders to address a question you have, let us know!
What does the word FAITH bring to my mind?
Growing up as a child, faith meant “doctrines, saying, yes, I do believe, following the commandments and everything that included”, receiving the sacraments and participating in all the rituals. Starting in my early teens, I was fortunate to be in both catholic and lutheran “religion classes” (Germany does not have separation of church and state). Growing up among Lutherans, both in and outside of school, we learned to respect each other’s faith traditions, and we valued our neighbors and also my paternal relatives, we just ignored some of the directives, like not worshipping with Lutherans.
And in both lutheran as well as catholic religion classes we learned to “read” Scripture as a way God wanted to start and have a relationship with us.
Slowly, my thinking of faith as reliance on doctrines faded away. Then, when I was in my early 20’s, Vatican II happened, Pope John XXIII “opened the windows”, and I was fortunate to be involved with a group of people where we read and discussed different Documents. Our thinking about faith was challenged, and some of the dioceses and parishes in Germany then started implementing, started to “live” out what the documents said. The thought stressed by the Vatican that every believing person receives the Holy Spirit and IS the Church was so new and challenging. We ALL are born in the image and likeness of God, like with His/Her DNA. My ideas about FAITH changed even more. it started to develop into “my” Faith, my belief
Then, over the years, the “normal” adult experiences happened, – joys, sorrows, realization of my and other’s shortcomings, feeling empty, lost, abandoned by God and the Church, by people – but there ALWAYS came a time, when the clouds “parted” again, and for some reason – I could and cannot explain -, there was always something, some mysterious force beyond/but also inside me that helped me trust and move on with what has been given to me. My thinking, my experience of/with God has changed, helped by others, as well as by reading and gaining a bit of scientific background knowledge.
At times, it is challenging to the point where I don’t know how to respond, relate to this God, this life force, energy, who is every where, in every thing. So, for some time now, my “Faith” is not so much a noun, but a verb, an action word, to become “BELIEVING – BE LIVING”, like a seed given to me, needing to be grown by me, in me and through me. I do not understand it, but I do desire to keep on “plugging” along, to continue on the journey, in the company of others, with His/Her energy, life, spirit, life, that is somehow in ALL and in every thing.