The theologian and religious educator, Thomas Groome, suggests that the key to an enlivened faith, perhaps even the discovery of our own adult faith, is the result of discovering the relationship between our life story and the Jesus story we find in Scripture.
One of the most haunting and beautiful sounds is that of a 12-string guitar. This type of guitar has a set of strings right next to the normal strings that are strummed when playing a guitar. The extra set of strings are set vibrating when the primary strings are played. These other strings resonate with primary strings. That is, they vibrate at the same rate as the primary strings because the vibration emitted by the primary strings sets the secondary strings vibrating. The sound created by this resonance is awesome.
Groom’s suggests that by sharing our stories in community and reflecting on Scripture stories an experience of “spiritual resonance” is created among ourselves, our little community and Christ. That is, as we share our stories in a community of faith we begin to realize that we are not alone or weird in our spiritual longing, questions and quest. There are others with similar experiences. We can learn from one another. We can share our insights and help one another come to a deeper insight into our experiences. Our experiences may serve as an inspiration to someone else in the community or we may find inspiration in someone else. This was certainly the case regarding my experience in the youth group described earlier.
No matter how important the experience of community is to our developing faith, coming to a mature faith is also a personal quest. We must grow in our relationship with Christ. The relationship must develop from a gift that is external to us and passed on to us by our elders, to the point where it is part of who we are and resonates with our life experience. This process of growth involves our heart, mind and will.
When we speak of heart in this context we speak of the emotions that are inherent in the subjective experience of a relationship. This aspect of growth is nurtured through prayer. When we build a relationship with another person we communicate with that person. We share our experience, hopes, dreams, fears, joys and anxieties with them. We listen to their response and then continue the conversation. It is the rare individual who hears the literal voice of God speaking to him or her. However, the Holy Spirit often inspires our thoughts, brings important insights to our attention or puts us in contact with a person who can share an insight that is a literal answer to our prayers. In our quiet meditation, our centering prayer, our reading of Scripture or even saying the rosary, the Holy Spirit may be speaking to us. We need to be attentive to these messages from the Holy Spirit.
If we are attempting to pass on our faith, it is important to share our experiences rooted in the heart with others. Our experiences of relationship with Christ, with all its joys and struggles, will resonate with their experience. It will provide hope and encouragement.
In the ancient world, most people were not very well educated. A good education required time, energy and wealth that most people lacked. They were too busy surviving. Many communities had a few educated people however; teachers, some government officials and the clergy. When these educated people spoke, you listened. They were able to read the written words of the great thinkers and they were trained in logic and critical reflection. Lacking other voices with similar education, their voices carried authority. As education became available to a broader range of people, the authority of these people came into question. They were no longer the educated elite but part of a broader community of educated people. Indeed, the academic values of open inquiry, critical reflection, respectful but public debate and the supremacy of the best argument placed authority more in the process of inquiry than in persons.
We live in a “post-modern” world. We live in an era where everything is questioned. You might be able to get away with voicing an opinion and have it heard initially. Over time people will want more substance than just a loud voice, if you want to be taken seriously. If we make a truth claim about anything, we need to explain it in detail, identify any assumptions we are making or any premises offered and can substantiate them. We have been taught in school to think critically and this is a very good development, Indeed, critical thinking is one of the hallmarks of the Catholic tradition.