Bringing Faith to Life
Since my faith awakening all I’ve really wanted to do was bring faith to life for those who primarily experience faith as a set of rules. I had a troubled youth and wanted to help young people realize what I did, that is, there is a God who created them and is their biggest cheerleader. Instead of rules, I wanted to help them focus on the relational aspect of faith in Jesus. I was called to become a parish youth minister and set out on my mission of saving the youth.
Teaching faith is a hefty task to pull off. God is bigger than we can conceive so naturally teens (and adults) wonder how God and our faith tradition and practices all fit together. How do you illustrate faith to anyone, much less a teenager on the edge of adulthood? I ministered with adolescent and high school teens by creating ways of bringing faith to life through experiential youth nights, retreats, mission trips and the like.
Once I started a family I was faced with raising children in the faith. For years my wife and I dealt with our children’s distractions at mass, barely memorized prayers, and teaching out of context doctrine. As much as we tried to bring faith to life through clever examples or extended explanations, many times our attempts seemed to fall on deaf ears. We remained faithful to attending mass, blessing our food, and night-time prayer, yet I often wondered if they would ever really “get it.”
Now that my children are in middle school they are faced with many real-world challenges. Life has gotten more complicated for them and their issues have intensified. But what I have observed is how they intuitively approach their new challenges from the perspective of values – discerning what is ultimately “right” and what is “wrong.” Some decisions are successes while others become learning opportunities, yet there is a moral system at work.
In retrospect, my efforts to explicitly bring faith to life, while valuable, were superseded by simply bringing life to faith through lived example. The simple commitment and example of going to mass, prayer, and service has taught those under my care more than valuing faith as a set of rules to follow. They have learned that faith involves trusting that God is always with them and that there is nothing that is too big for us and God to work out together. Ultimately, we stay connected to God by offering our lives to him through trusting that God is love and he is always with us.