Saturday, 5 November 2011

Year of Faith (5): the idea of a "journey of faith"

To describe catechetical programmes, and particularly those associated with the Rite of Christian Inititaion of Adults, as a "journey of faith" has become a common place in some parishes. Different people are seen as being "at different stages or places in their journey of faith". This idea has come to be associated with a reduction in the emphasis placed on doctrinal teaching as part of the catechetical process. Instead of being a person who "hands on" or "hands over" the content of the faith, the catechist is seen as someone who "accompanies others on their journey of faith". From the point of view of doctrine, an unfortunate aspect of this idea is that not accepting certain teachings of the Church can be seen as just being at a "different point in the journey of faith" rather than as being a call to conversion to deeper faith.

There is, of course, an authentic sense to the idea of a "journey of faith", when the word "faith" is taken to refer to the act of the individual who believes and not to the content of what is believed. Then, the journey of faith is one of deepening one's knowledge and love for the Person who is the content of what is believed. The journey is one in the act of believing, not, in the first instance, a journey in or of doctrine itself (though the journey is nourished by doctrinal teaching).

It is in this latter sense that Pope Benedict XVI refers to rediscovering the journey of faith in Porta Fidei nn.1-2(the emphasis added in bold is mine):
The “door of faith” (Acts 14:27) is always open for us, ushering us into the life of communion with God and offering entry into his Church. It is possible to cross that threshold when the word of God is proclaimed and the heart allows itself to be shaped by transforming grace. To enter through that door is to set out on a journey that lasts a lifetime. It begins with baptism (cf. Rom 6:4), through which we can address God as Father, and it ends with the passage through death to eternal life, fruit of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, whose will it was, by the gift of the Holy Spirit, to draw those who believe in him into his own glory (cf. Jn 17:22). ....  
Ever since the start of my ministry as Successor of Peter, I have spoken of the need to rediscover the journey of faith so as to shed ever clearer light on the joy and renewed enthusiasm of the encounter with Christ. During the homily at the Mass marking the inauguration of my pontificate I said: “The Church as a whole and all her Pastors, like Christ, must set out to lead people out of the desert, towards the place of life, towards friendship with the Son of God, towards the One who gives us life, and life in abundance.”

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