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The Message
Evansville, Indiana
November 11, 1988     The Message
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November 11, 1988

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Faith Today Supplement, The Message, Catholic Diocese of Evansville, November 11, 1988 J 1 /.2 Faith T0dav L A supplement to Catholic newspapers published by National Catholic News Ser- I vice, 13i2 Massachusetts Ave. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20005. All contents copyright 1988 by NC News Service. 38 Paul told me that his love for Jean increased as he realized how much faith they had in common. And he felt that his appreciation of his own church membership grew because he had been putting into words the' inner workings of his heart. Putting faith into words By Father Herbert Weber worship style, that his appreciation of his own church NC News Service I sometimes wonder if there isn't more talk of religion in the college dorm rooms late at night than there is at our campus parish center. Frequently I hear reports from students that they were up well into the night discussing -- or argu- ing about -- religion. Sometimes these discus- sions come to my attention because the par- ticipants are troubled by what was said. Talk about religion has never ceased to be a major topic for young adults. Church tradi- tions, styles of worship or ways that the Bible is used continue to attract attention. But talk about religion does not necessarily mean there is talk about faith. Even though religion discussions can become emotional, they usually focus on issues outside oneself such as codes of behavior, structures of the church or points of doctrine. On the other hand, faith discussion centers on the internal connection one makes with those codes and structures. It backs up the religion talk, but is much harder for most to enter into. It is, therefore, much less common. A college sophomore stopped me last year at the tmiversity recreation center. Recogniz- ing me from church, he wanted to talk about his experience during Thanksgiving break when he went to Mass in a large cathedr;d. The M;Iss had intrigued him, and he was totally taken up with discussing formalities of Later in the year, as Lent rolled around, this same young man was in a discussion group that I joined. Again the talk centered on wor- ship experiences. Scott shared his Thanks- giving experience. But he also began to talk about his own story of faith -- how he long- ed for a sense of mystery in life, how he wanted desperately to make his church heritage his own and how he was rcff)cusing his image of Jesus. Scott had moved from a discussion about religion to one of faith. It is not easy for many to articulate their faith. In fact, for some it does not even seem desirable. But when people find that faith talk can be a means to spiritual growth for them- seh,es, and not simply a source of inspiration or challenge to others, then the question is how to get started in this type of communication. When Paul and Jean were dating, they discovered that coming from two different denominations led them into frequent talks about religious practices. They respected each other enough to really listen to each other's expression of background and heritage. But both were drawn to something deeper than the initial level of discussion. Soon they began to express their images of Jesus or talk al)out how they perceived God acting in their lives. Paul, the C:ttholic party, told me that his love |k)r Jean increased :Is he realized how nTuch fftith they had in c()nlnlon. And he felt membership grew because he had been put- ting into words the inner workings of his heart. As a young adult, he was for the first time making the faith of his parents truly his own. Opportunities to express faith are not always present. Nor can they happen with just anyone. There has to be a profound level of trust so that risks can be taken. A member of one prayer group told me she likes the group because "unfinished thoughts" were ac- cepted. She felt comfortable trying to express herself without feeling judged by how it sounded. Often prayer groups, weekend retreats or discussion sessions can provide occasions for faith talk to happen. At our parish, we use the shotgun approach and offer many pro- grams in which people can come together. In each of these, we try to foster mutual respect and trust. But with the right setting and a little courage, there is no reason why other gather- ings -- families coming together, roommates chatting late at night or friends spending a day together -- can't also become oppor- ttmities for faith talk. All that is needed is a willingness for the participants to attempt to put into words what their relationship with their God is all about. (Father Weber is pastor of St. Thomas More Unit,ersi O, Parish in Bowling Green, Ohio.) ,,]