All posts tagged: faith

A Letter to the Newly-Baptized

To the Newly-Baptized: You may already feel it—the fact that this journey you are on made a significant transition when you were baptized. Though you remain on the same path towards Christ, your landscape and means for getting there have radically changed. In this post I will discuss three ways in which your Baptism marked a significant moment in your journey, changing you irreversibly, and then speak to the continuing nature of your journey. First, in Baptism you were adopted into a new family, one of choice. Though you were born into a birth family many years ago, Robin Jensen in Baptismal Imagery in Early Christianity notes that “unlike a birth family, this was a family one chose” (57). Tertullian exhorts the one being baptized saying: When you come up from that most sacred washing of the new birth and for the first time you raise your hands with your brethren in your mother’s house, ask of your Father, ask of your Lord, for special grants of grace and attributions of spiritual gifts. (58) You now have …

Exposed: Why I Am a Christian

Editors’ Note: This post was originally delivered as a presentation at the 2016 Why Christian conference. I’ve always wanted to be accepted and liked. I suffer from the disease of caring too much about what other people think. It’s crippling. In fact, I was scared s***less to come here today. Sometimes, I think I prefer the safety of my writer’s life—my cloistered office—to being out in public, exposed. When I’m writing my pages it’s easier to tune out the world, or engage with it selectively, to maintain the illusion of control. To craft the message. But sometimes, that message is false. This is one of my author photos. A friend came over and took it before my book came out. It’s a picture of me in my office with my daughter, Ruthie. White plank walls. Minimalist aesthetic. Good natural light. Serene. Except that it’s not my office. This is a picture of my actual office. I cleared out my living room for the first shot. I moved a piece of art in from the kitchen. And …

The Light in Darkness

Therefore I intend always to remind you of these things, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to arouse you by way of reminder, since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me. And I will see to it that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things. For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we heard this voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have the prophetic word made more sure. You will do well …

Forming Adults in Faith Through Fiction

The National Directory for Catechesis and Our Hearts Were Burning Within Us: A Pastoral Plan for Adult Faith Formation in the United States both name the following three goals of adult faith formation: to “invite and enable ongoing conversion to Jesus in holiness of life,” to “promote and support active membership in the Christian community,” and to “call and prepare adults to act as disciples in mission to the world.”[1] Offering a model of lifelong growth in faith, adult faith formation is the principal form of catechesis in the Church and the model upon which all other catechetical efforts are to be based.[2] Thus, adult faith formation can be summarized as a ministry of connection, fostering an adult’s relationship to Christ, to the Church, and to a missionary vocation in the world. This vision of three-fold connectedness stands in stark contrast to the reality of many adult Catholics today. Pew’s 2008 “U.S. Religious Landscape Survey” revealed that one-third of self-identified adult Catholics believe in an impersonal God; this statistic reflects a startling disconnect between these …

Moral Virtue, The Grace of God, and Discipleship

Moral theology has traditionally explored how people act in the world (“moral”) in the context of their faith in God (“theology”). This volume purposely examines morality in the context of Christian belief. What difference does faith make in how a person lives his or her life? Surely a person of faith engages in certain distinctive activities, such as going to church, praying, and reading the Bible. But what about the myriad of activities that all people partake in every day, such as eating, facing difficulties, exchanging goods, and making decisions? Does the person of faith engage in these activities with the same “morality” as everyone else? As is already clear, a life of discipleship is not simply about performing certain types of actions. It is a vocation, a transformation of one’s very self. Such a transformation of course impacts how we act. The primary question for this chapter is, how does discipleship, a life of following Jesus, transform not only who we are but also how we act in this world? The ancient notion of …

The Raised Hand

You can tell a lot by the timing, posture, and movement of a raised hand. The quick and sudden, mid-sentence hand raise often catches my attention and I anticipate a thoughtful inquiry into my lecture. The slow, slouching, ninety-degree elbow raise frequently precedes the request for the bathroom and freedom from the current attack of information and instructions. The shaking, waving, over-eager, over-achiever hand raise almost always offers to write on the board, deliver the mail, pass out the tests, clean up after projects, email the class, and bring in cupcakes. All of these examples are caricatures of our students, and yet each of these students is in our classrooms this year, and will be every year. I offer this image of a raised hand to share a reflection I had during my third year of teaching. It occurred to me that I had gradually altered my approach to raised hands. When I began teaching, I naïvely called on each and every hand that was raised, and gave my absolute best, most exhaustive answer to …

Seeing the Unseeable

The Letter to the Hebrews is a masterful restatement of the story of Israel in light of Jesus Christ. In chapter one, the letter clearly states its premise: In times past, God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; in these last days, he spoke to us through a son, whom he made heir of all things and through whom he created the universe. (Heb 1:1–2) One must think about the Letter to the Hebrews as the slow building up of an argument about what has been revealed in Jesus Christ. For this reason, it is often difficult to understand snippets of the text without grasping what comes before and after. On the Nineteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, we hear about the faith of Abraham. At the beginning of chapter 11, faith is described as “the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen” (Heb 11:1). The word “evidence” means more than what one would collect from a crime scene. It means seeing what is not …

The Silent Prayer of the Humble Heart

The Catechism begins its discussion of prayer with a flat assertion: “Humility is the foundation of prayer” (§2559). Many people resist the term “humility,” either because they mistake it for humiliation, or they consider humility a sign of weakness, or—to borrow a cliché much in use today—a symptom of low self-esteem. Humility, however, is that virtue by which, as St. Thomas Aquinas rightly says, we recognize the correct relationship between a person and God. Let us, for a moment, consider a person who has the explicit intention to pray. Think of that instant when, before even articulating words or thoughts, this person kneels down or sits in a church or stands quietly in a garden with the desire to communicate with God. What does that gesture mean? At a minimum it signifies that the person desires to address an Other. In that simple gesture, the person also indicates a longing to surrender his or her self-sufficiency to that Other. It is in that very act of self-surrender that humility is made manifest. Because by calling …