Taking the Risk of Faith, Finding the Fullness of Faith

Excerpted from Risk of Faith, by Fr. Dwight Longenecker

See also
Reflections on the Method of Blessed John Paul II

Reality-Based Thinking

Before the 1960s, the basic thinking about education was that children, and those being instructed in the Faith, should simply accept the truths as presented by the authority figures. The Church, the government, the educators and parents knew best, and education simply consisted of learning facts and learning how to conform and obey.

However, in the 1960s, the hallmark of a good education changed to include the processes of critical thinking, experimentation and testing the truth. Unfortunately, the Catholic Church was very slow to pick up on the new educational theories when, for many people, polite conformity to the establishment authority structures no longer worked. People wanted to ask questions and explore the Truths of the Faith for themselves, but too often the Church authorities were not ready for such questioning. People knew that rebellion was not the answer, but suddenly polite conformity was not the answer either. A third way had to be pioneered. This third way, of personal verification, is the most difficult, but also the most authentic, because it encourages the student’s critical instinct. In this response, the critical instinct is seen as positive, and the student is encouraged to rummage through the backpack which he has been given for the journey of life, and to test the contents to see if they are true and reliable.

The reason most Catholics leave the Church is that they, or their Catholic educators, equate “polite conformity” with the fullness of the Catholic faith.

What Jerry, Mike and Tony really needed was to find a way to dig deeper into their faith with an open curiosity. They needed to embark on an honest quest for the truth. This process would have helped them deepen their faith, and prepared them for the tests that life inevitably brings. If this quest for the truth is taken, religious education becomes an adventure of faith rather than simply the rote acceptance of religious dogma and practice. For Giussani, religious education is an exciting quest in which the educator and student embark together into the mystery of God.

Risk of Faith, Dwight Longennecker, Luigi Giussani, CL Communion Liberation

The Adventure of Faith

The reason most Catholics leave the Church is that they, or their Catholic educators, equate “polite conformity” with the fullness of the Catholic faith. What Monsignor Giussani discovered to be true for high school students applies to Christians at every level of faith. Throughout our lives, Jesus Christ calls us to step out of our comfort zones, to leave the ordinary world of our “fishing nets” and to follow Him. This personal commitment to Christ requires continual risk. Within each one of us there is a deep instinct to learn more about the mysteries of our Faith. Too often, those who settled for “polite conformity” themselves went on to suppress the questioning instinct in their own children, and unwittingly drove them from the Faith. At the heart of the gospel is a radical message that overturns respectable and polite expectations. For the Faith to be real, each disciple has to hear Christ’s call and leave everything to follow Him. Each disciple has to “step out into the deep” and confront the realities of the Faith.

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