Part of the call of the Year of Faith is to renew our knowledge of and commitment to the faith that was gifted to us at baptism. Veritas is therefore happy to offer a Year of Faith: Book of the Month. These books are intended to inform readers on a wide variety of faith topics. As an initiative for the Year of Faith, you might like to start a Year of Faith Book Club in your work, school or parish community, where these publications can be discussed and shared.
Year of Faith: Book of the Month for January: Will There Be Faith? Depends on Every Christian by Thomas H. Groome
In the face of mounting obstacles, parents and educators find themselves increasingly challenged by the task of leading people toward lives of faith. Will There Be Faith? offers a new vision that can enable parents and teachers to embrace their responsibility for religious education in our time and, with the help of God’s grace, to fulfil it well. It proposes an approach that is contemporary, natural, holistic and flexible, summarised quite simply as ‘bringing life to faith and faith to life’. Will There Be Faith? is for any parent or teacher, priest or layperson involved in or concerned about whether there will be faith on earth.
An excerpt from Will there be Faith? Depends on Every Christian:
Groome explains the title of the book in its introduction (page 1):
Toward the end of Jesus’ public ministry, we hear him wonder, ‘When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?’ (Lk 18:8). Though the origins, meaning and translation of ‘Son of Man’ are much debated, all four gospels have it as Jesus’ favourite title for himself. Here, Jesus’ musings come somewhat as a surprise, just after a teaching about perseverance in prayer and the inspiring story – only in Luke – of the ‘persistent widow’. Jesus’ question reads like a throwaway line or a rhetorical rumination to himself. Taking it at face value, however, it looks as if he really was wondering whether his own mission would endure over time. Jesus was asking, ‘Will there be faith on earth?’
Groome goes on to explain that while we know that we can rely on God’s grace to encourage faith on earth, grace always comes to us as a responsibility, what he names a ‘response-ability’. In this book he offers to parents and teachers an approach to teaching faith which can be summarised as ‘bring life to faith and faith to life’. He outlines the four characteristics of this approach on pages 5–6:
It is contemporary in that it takes seriously our present sociocultural situation, draws upon its assets (for it has some), and meets its challenges for educating in faith. It does this while drawing wisdom from the past two thousand years of the Church’s catechetical ministry, beginning with the way Jesus himself taught. A life to faith to life approach is also natural in that it reflects the process that goes on in our heads and hearts whenever we learn the stuff of life that shapes who we are and how we live, what really matters. And because the approach is natural, any parent or teacher can readily use it effectively. It is holistic too in that just as Christian faith should shape beliefs, relationships and values, this approach engages people’s heads, hearts and hands. Likewise, it encourages family, parish and programme/school, the three stakeholders in religious education, to work together as a coalition for faith on earth.
The life to faith to life approach is flexible too. It certainly can be used in the formal setting of a classroom. I’ve done so for kindergarten up to the doctoral level, and so have thousands of other educators. It is also effective in less formal contexts, such as youth ministry gatherings, adult education classes, parish scripture study and catechumenal programmes, retreats and faith-sharing groups. Parents can readily take this approach to sharing their faith and use it to guide the everyday conversations about the great and small issues of life that constantly arise in a family. People have also found that life to faith to life has potential as a style of preaching, spiritual mentoring and pastoral counselling, though I don’t deal with those here. I will, however, offer numerous examples and suggestions gleaned from my own thirty-five years of both teaching religious educators and doing religious education myself and, more recently, from my belated experience as a parent.
My focus is explicitly Christian and often reflects my Catholic perspective, identity and context. I know from experience, however, that a life to faith to life approach can appeal to a broad spectrum of mainline Christian communities. Also, over the years, many of my students from the other great world religions have found it effective for educating in their faith. The approach can also be used in non-confessional contexts as long as the intent is that people learn from and not merely learn aboutChristian faith or other religions. Last, I try to write in accessible language, keeping notes and technical terms to a minimum. In sum, this book is for any parent or teacher, pastor or layperson involved in or concerned about whether there will be faith on earth.
About the Author:
Thomas H. Groome is chair of the Department of Religious Education and Pastoral
Ministry and professor of theology and religious education at Boston College’s School of Theology and Ministry. A world-renowned authority on religious education, he is author of numerous books and publications.
Previous Year of Faith Books of the Month:
October 2012: Heaven Sent: My Life Through the Rosary by Fr Gabriel Harty
November 2012: Sacred Space: The Prayer Book 2013, from www.sacredspace.ie
December 2012: The Illustrated Bible: Story by Story by Michael Collins