I had a lovely morning at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit. I participated in an interesting project with an interfaith educational channel, and was charmed by the producer, an interesting woman who was a natural story-teller.
We spoke at length about our different faiths, our families, even a little bit about writing.
We ended up in the church for the midday prayers with the monks. It was a special treat for me, since I missed my usual holy hour earlier. I sat quietly, listening to their chant, listening to the words that have carried the faithful for centuries, and I felt the connection over time, transcending time in that moment. The concord, the harmony — not only of their voices but their movements, was all in balance.
The symmetry struck me.
I felt, in that moment, the breadth, the catholicity of my faith.
“Would you share with me your personal definition of faith?”
I came across that question on Facebook this afternoon, and it has driven me to distraction all afternoon as I pondered what I could respond.
It is such an amazingly personal question, but the query is posed with an acknowledgement of that — even suggesting that the answer could be sent via message. That’s part of the reason why I feel compelled to answer here although I could very well hide from the public discourse.
While it’s a deeply personal request to share the definition, it’s a profoundly public experience to live it.
For me, faith is a commitment. It’s a response to the gift of God. It’s a promise kept. It’s the thing that keeps me in the pew when I don’t want to be. What sends me to confession in spite of myself. What gives me hope when despair would be easier. What gives me joy in the highs…and the lows.
To live the faith means to assume the risk of living it publicly. Scary in today’s world, isn’t it?
I looked up what the Catechism has to say about faith, and found this:
166 Faith is a personal act – the free response of the human person to the initiative of God who reveals himself. But faith is not an isolated act. No one can believe alone, just as no one can live alone. You have not given yourself faith as you have not given yourself life. The believer has received faith from others and should hand it on to others. Our love for Jesus and for our neighbor impels us to speak to others about our faith. Each believer is thus a link in the great chain of believers. I cannot believe without being carried by the faith of others, and by my faith I help support others in the faith.
That’s why I wrote it here. To share my thoughts, and ask you the same.
“Would you share with me your personal definition of faith?”
Yes. But give me a chance to explain.
I teach a couple of dual enrollment courses at a local high school and often admire the collection of inspirational quotes that have painstakingly been hand-painted on certain walls. This particular quote attributed to Adlai Stevenson faces the last hall before I get to my classroom.
I’ve read that quote dozens of times as I race down the hall toward my classroom. In fact, I’ve seen that quote so many times that I barely notice it anymore.
Today was a little different. I was still in a hurry to get to class, but for another reason. Today begins the Paschal Triduum, marking the end of Lent.
I had a few things on my mind — mostly planning my schedule for the next three days as I endeavor to attend the special liturgies that begin tonight with the Mass of The Lord’s Supper and lead to the Easter Vigil.
I look forward to this every year. In spite of being a crazy busy several days, time seems to slow down for me. It’s a gift that I don’t question. So today I found myself standing in front of Stevenson’s quote when I’d ordinarily zip right past it.
As I stood there reading it for the hundredth time, it occurred to me that I could substitute one single word in that statement and it would encompass every challenge I’ve faced this Lent:
Faith is not a short and frenzied outburst of emotion but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.
I was struck with the simplicity of it. I like shiny things and am distracted easily by anything that is new and promises to be different. Because of this, I think I have missed a great deal of opportunity for growth in my spiritual life. I want to have the epic religious conversion. I want to get, as I often tell my close friends, a memo from God that spells out everything in black and white. In short, I want to be knocked off a horse like St. Paul.
Instead, I get opportunities to wait. To practice patience. To wait some more.
I missed that I could have, should have been doing something while waiting. While I continue to wait.
I’ve come to understand that there’s a certain peace in the long haul, the daily grind of faith.
Guys! You have to watch this documentary. It’s an amazing story that goes behind the scenes of that crazy, dare I say it, insane period of time when Jeremy Lin was burning up the basketball court and helping the New York Knicks break out of a losing streak.
I review it over at CatholicMom.com today. Here’s an excerpt:
Jeremy Lin’s story inspires. He overcomes failure, racial stereotypes, and the insecurity that leads to poor performance on the court. Although an excellent player, he misses opportunities to play on powerhouse teams in college, and then, when he does get picked up by an Ivy League school, gets passed over in the NBA draft.
Director Leong takes us behind the scenes to his childhood, interviews family and friends, former coaches, and Lin himself. The result is a beautiful story of multigenerational dreams, persistence, and ultimately, a trust in God’s perfect plan. We’re treated to Lin singing his favorite Disney tunes along the way, and a self-deprecating humor that reveals a great deal about his character.
We also see him hit a low point, as he fails to make his mark on two professional teams before being given one last, desperate, chance for success with the New York Knicks. He questions himself, “How am I going to be myself with everyone looking?” It emboldens him to play with abandon — to play for God, not himself.
I hope you go on over and read the rest here.