In 1981 James W. Fowler proposed a series of stages of faith-development across the human life-span. His stages relate closely to the work of Piaget, Erikson, and Kohlberg regarding aspects of psychological development in children and adults.
Throughout history many people have provided their understanding of faith.
- Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase. Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe. Saint Augustine
- To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible. Thomas Aquinas
- Without faith a man can do nothing; with it all things are possible. Sir William Osler
- Faith is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted in spite of your changing moods. S. Lewis
- Faith is not a delicate flower which would wither away under the slightest stormy weather. Mahatma Gandhi
Faith as a concept can be viewed from a secular and religious lens.
Paul O’Callaghan’s writings on the theological virtue’s faith, hopes and charity provide an insight into the Catholic concept of faith.
In the Catholic tradition, faith is one of the three theological virtues (faith, hope, charity/love).
The theological virtues may be considered energies in which the human person is made capable of believing, hoping and loving in such a way that they are sharing a life and developing relationships with self, others and God.
The three virtues are closely linked, faith produces hope and moves towards charity, hope based on faith stimulates charity, and is reinforced by charity. It is not possible to believe, to hope and to love too much, because with God there is no limit.
The four cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, courage, and temperance are so called from the Latin cardo meaning “hinge.” One may consider that the cardinal virtues promote principally the ethical perfection of the individual and act as a hinge in one’s life, while the theological virtues can be thought of as essentially directed to others.
We all have an intuitive idea of what faith is, and we associate it basically with human trust. We place trust in others, sometimes the trust is broken or damaged due to actions and responses.
The Greeks were aware of the dynamism of trust or faith, calling it pistis. It made sense to trust certain people, according to their status or condition. The divinities were also trusted, to a greater or lesser degree, because they afforded inspiration or protection. The difference was that this divine world was not accessible to everyone. For Christians, faith though not unconnected with human trust sees God as one who is perfect in being and action and is therefore fully trustworthy.
Faith is the specific way in which the whole human being opens themselves to God, the one who reveals, is a faith that is open for all.
Benedict XVI points out in his encyclical Spe salvi.
Faith is not merely a personal reaching out towards things to come that are still totally absent: it gives us something. It gives us even now something of the reality we are waiting for, and this present reality constitutes for us a ‘proof’ of the things that are still unseen. Faith draws the future into the present, so that it is no longer simply a ‘not yet’. The fact that this future exists changes the present; the present is touched by the future reality, and thus the things of the future spill over into those of the present and those of the present into those of the future. . . . Faith is a habitus, that is, a stable disposition of the spirit, through which eternal life takes root in us and reason is led to consent to what it does not see.
It is through reason that we can see a lived faith and we come to know and understand the impact faith can have on the human life. Believers come to know God not with their own strength or intellectual power, but by the fact that God reveals himself to them in his Triune life. Thus humans, through faith, partake of the knowledge God has of himself. Faith is present in them as a light, a divine light allowing them to perceive God, and to see themselves and the whole of reality as God sees them.
This faith must be protected and handed on respectfully from one generation to the next. Faith therefore is not only a personal reality but also an ecclesial and communitarian one.
In the Catechism of the Catholic Church we read, No one can believe alone, just as no one can live alone. You have not given yourself faith as you have not given yourself life. The believer has received faith from others and should hand it on to others. Our love for Jesus and for our neighbour impels us to speak to others about our faith. Each believer is thus a link in the great chain of believers. I cannot believe without being carried by the faith of others, and by my faith I help support others in the faith.
Each week in Faith Matters we will be exploring individuals and communities rich experience of their faith. We will explore how faith has had in impact on their lives and how it guides their daily actions. Faith truly matters!
We invite you to share your faith story.
Everyone has a story.
No matter how ordinary yours may seem, we all have a story to tell and you never know what it can mean to someone until you share it.
You could use the following questions as a guide.
Who are the people who guided your faith journey? How did they do that?
Describe some defining moments of your faith journey? What made them significant?
How has your faith been reflected in your work, your hobbies, your values, your choices, and your priorities at various times in your life?
In what ways has your faith guided and supported you over your lifetime? How has your church/faith community guided and supported you?
We hope to use the stories as part of a Faith Matters.