Becoming adult or just growing up?

In offering a rich variety of ideas and reflections on “Becoming adult in our faith: building an adult church” Patty Fawkner sgs quoted Maryanne Confoy rsc, who says, "Faith is the way we lean into life." Patty was leading a seminar day, a joint project of Mount St Benedict Centre and the Parish Support Unit of Broken Bay Diocese, on 19 September.

If Maryanne Confoy is right, then surely each of us ‘leans into life’ differently at different stages of life? It follows, then, that our faith also changes, develops and (hopefully) matures as different experiences shape us and demand reflection.

The basis of the day was individual and group reflection on James Fowler’s Stages of Faith, including the gift and the risk of each stage. The stages are Imaginative (faith), Literal, Group, Personal, Mystical and Universalising or Sacrificial Faith. Fowler felt that very few reached the last stage – at least this side of heaven!

Given his open and generous responses to a variety of questions and issues, it was felt by many that Pope Francis has realised Stage 6.

Christian de Chergé, martyred prior of a Trappist monastery in Algeria, was also cited as an individual who had attained Universalising Faith. His story is the subject of the film, Of Gods and Men.

One characteristic of a mature, adult faith is the ability to let go of notions previously regarded as certainties – and to be less dependent on certainties. Patty said, “I think doubt and faith dance together.” 

Adults of mature faith can shape a mature adult Church. In Patty’s view, this would be a Church that

  • Engages in genuine dialogue
  • Takes seriously the adult complexity of our lives
  • Is truly Catholic, concerned with ‘whole-making’ and human flourishing
  • Makes its voice heard in season and out of season
  • Forms adults in their faith
  • Grieves, laments and atones for our institutional sin.

Finally, to be a member of an adult Church, we have to set our hearts on God and love the things that God loves.

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Tracey Edstein

Tracey Edstein is the former editor of Aurora Magazine, the official magazine of the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.