Editor’s Note: Today we welcome Mary Catherine Kennedy to our CatholicMom.com family of contributors. A few months ago, I became acquainted with Mary Catherine and have been praying for her studies since that time. As a graduate student, Mary Catherine is studying media and religion and is doing important work to examine the impact of media on the faith and the use of new technologies in evangelization. We’re so happy to have Mary Catherine sharing her perspective. Visit her at her blog, Isidore’s Digital Doorway. Welcome Mary Catherine! Lisa
Recently, I’ve taken on some new things in life that have required me to take leaps of faith. I’m teaching for the first time ever. Getting up and performing in front of a class of 24 college freshmen, feeling like someone’s going to find out that you sort of know what you’re talking about but aren’t 100% sure is definitely a nerve-wracking experience. Teaching those 24 freshmen when at 8AM is even more challenging, especially when you’re not a morning person! Confidence is a key ingredient to success here, but it all boils down to one thing: I just have to have a little faith in myself!
FAITH. It’s a simple word; it gets used a lot. Perhaps it’s even overused. But do we know the true meaning behind it?
According to Merriam-Webster, faith is “something that is believed especially with strong conviction.” Wikipedia says it’s “the confident belief or trust in the truth or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing.”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines faith on many levels. First of all, faith is a grace (a gift of God). The Catechism states that: “Before this faith can be exercised, man must have the grace of God to move and assist him; he must have the interior helps of the Holy Spirit, who moves the heart and converts it to God, who opens the eyes of the mind and ‘makes it easy for all to accept and believe the truth” (153).
Furthermore, faith is a certainty because it is founded in God and His word, which we know to be Truth. But it (that is, faith) seeks understanding because the believer “desires to know better the One in whom he has put his faith, and to understand better what He has revealed; a more penetrating knowledge will in turn call forth a greater faith, increasingly set afire by love” (Catechism, 158). As good Catholics, and actually as Christians in general, we seek to KNOW God intimately: We have so many questions about this life and God’s will because we have this deep desire for understanding of what is going on in our lives. In gaining knowledge, our faith only deepens because God is Truth… so faith is a certainty, even when we feel must uncertain about the paths we are choosing to take in life. Essentially, our ideas of faith as described in the Catechism can be summed up with this quote from St. Augustine: “I believe, in order to understand; and I understand, the better to believe.”
I could go and give more definitions about faith from other great saints and from important documents put forth by the Church. But, I think that to have a clear idea of what faith really is, you just have to live it. The definitions and descriptions from the Catechism are helpful, but I think lived and shared experience is what really rings true with most people today. So, in my own words, I think that to have faith in something means that you believe in that thing, whatever it is, wholeheartedly, even if you’re the only person who believes in it. This is perhaps the situation in which it is hardest to keep the faith (something my dad always tells me to do when we talk on the phone), because it’s easy to just jump on a bandwagon with everyone else. It’s not easy to go against the grain.
Christ points out in Matthew 18: 3-4 that “unless you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, he is the greater in the kingdom of heaven.” Here we can see that having the faith of a child is important – which makes knowing definitions like the ones I mentioned earlier fall pretty far down the list of priorities (though, it’s always good to know what we believe in …) Sadly, the innocence of today’s children is rapidly fading – children today are growing up faster than ever before. Our society has placed great value on things that aren’t as important as they are made out to be while values like Faith, Hope, and Charity are left out of the public sphere and are basically forgotten altogether. The expression “to have the faith of a child” is lost on many, because to have faith in something these days is seen very sparsely.
Recently, I had the opportunity to lead a discussion about faith with the high school youth group at our local parishes. The students first met in small groups to come up with their own definitions of faith. In our large group discussion, we came to the consensus that faith is essentially “believing without seeing.” When we talked about examples of faithful people, the staple/expected answers of priests, grandparents, and parents were mentioned right away because these people (many of them at least) were of a different generation, steeped in the traditions of the Church, thereby making them “old-school” and “hardcore” Catholics, according to the teens. It was funny to listen to the students, who are only about 10 years younger than me, describe these people as if they were somewhat foreign to their generation. But, that’s just further proof that to have faith in something these days is becoming less and less common.
So how do we restore this value – having faith in anything? Having faith in God, yourself, your family, what you’re doing in life? How is this brought back and made important again to the mainstream? I’m not sure I know the answer to that – but it desperately needs to be addressed, before we lose our faith entirely…
I urge you…what are your thoughts? How can we restore FAITH again?
Copyright 2010 Mary Catherine Kennedy