Cathblog - What is faith?

Julian Poon, My Beloved Son
Texta on canvas
91cm x 122cm



Recently, I received an email from a student that made my year. Chelsea wrote: ‘Today during the theology lecture I was absolutely wonderstruck by one of the things you said and for the rest of the day I couldn't stop thinking about it.

‘You said that faith is something that we all have. I shall be honest and admit I doubted you as soon as you said that but then you kept talking.’

The topic for our lecture included Fides et Ratio, Faith and Reason. Working from John Paul II’s encyclical of 1998, we considered how ‘Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth...’ 

Chelsea wrote: ‘The rest of the lecture I slightly zoned out because I couldn't stop thinking about what you said. And then it made me think, maybe faith is what determines differences in people's preferences towards life.’

Chelsea and I have continued the conversation since and it is such a joy to talk to a young woman who is honestly, openly and happily on the journey of truth discovery.

Another young person who has impressed me with the search for truth and faith is the winner of the Mandorla Youth Art Award in 2012, Julian Poon.

He is a 16-year-old school student who spoke clearly and openly about how he searched for a way to express the theme of ‘Born of a woman’, taken from Gal 4:4. He spent considerable time reading to understand the theme and then exploring other artworks that were related.

This took him into a wide variety of material to search for a way in which he saw the truth which he could then express visually of our God incarnate, born of a woman.

In his representation Jesus has no facial features because Julian wanted to draw the viewer into imagining Jesus’ agony and suffering for themselves.

He also said: ‘Mary, Jesus’ Mother, is shedding tears of great sorrow while looking on her suffering and dying son. Her dress is elaborately patterned because she is a special woman, favoured by God, to bear His son.’

The search for faith and truth of course takes many different paths and the recent establishment of the Sunday Assembly by two comedians in the UK, Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans, gives those who can’t do the church version a different opportunity.

When you engage in all the good things that church worship offers (joyous music for one) but leave out the tough stuff (like believing in God) it can be a feel good experience. Hopefully, such a journey will lead to the expression of goodness is their lives.

This brings to mind a further point. Random acts of kindness and forwarding goodness have been having some airplay.

Forwarding on is the notion of doing something good and unexpected for someone without any thought of return because someone has done something similar for you.

For example, one day I had a coffee voucher for a lovely Fremantle cafe that was to expire that day. I didn’t have time to use it so walked into the cafe, saw a person having a cappuccino alone and gave her the voucher.

 Her delight was real and so it made a difference to her. She might then do something similar for another person on another occasion.

Such behaviour makes our world a better place and helps us to find the truth of what joy and happiness really mean in our lives.

For some they are the mark of Gospel living, for others they come from a different motivation. I hope that these really wonderful expressions of goodness, truth and honesty keep us hopeful in a world that is often sodden with misery and despair.

Dr Angela McCarthy is a lecturer in Theology in the School of Philosophy and Theology at the University of Notre Dame in Perth.

Disclaimer: CathBlog is an extension of CathNews story feedback. It is intended to promote discussion and debate among the subscribers to CathNews and the readers of the website. The opinions expressed in CathBlog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the members of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference or of Church Resources.

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