Faith: opening hearts and liberating minds

While we cannot deny the extreme hardship that the global Covid-19 pandemic has brought to our communities, for many people the consequences have raised deeply spiritual questions about our existence on this fragile planet.

At CBC, as a faith community, we can view these times as a chance to strengthen our connection with God and re-evaluate our lives. During a special Urbi et Orbi address at the Vatican, Pope Francis said this moment in history is “a time to choose what matters in life and what passes away, a time to separate what is necessary from what is not. It is a time to get our lives back on track with regard to you, Lord, and to others.”

However, for some, faith may feel elusive and nebulous. In our increasingly secular society, CBC recognises that the College may be the primary source of spiritual nourishment for many in our community. As such we have a responsibility to evangelise with an empathy for any disconnection of faith that our people may be experiencing. We are an inclusive community and our aim is always to embrace everyone in the search for meaning and invite all of our families on the journey.

Evangelism is the act of sharing the message and teachings of Christ and is at the core of the curriculum at our College. At CBC, we seek to provide students, parents and staff with the chance to explore their spirituality and awaken to the possibility of living a life of grace. We encourage our community to share in the comfort of experiencing a life of shape and meaning, and to engage in practises that reflect our belief in the inestimable worth of every human individual, for each is made in the image of God.

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Being a person of faith provides a decisive direction. Having faith can reveal that we are not living a movie of our own direction – a script of our own creation – that the picture is bigger than being caught up in our own emotions, wants and needs, and we are part of something greater. Life may not turn out the way we expect it to, and that is okay; that is, in fact, life.

As we reflect on the restrictions and fear brought on by the coronavirus, we can clearly see that the world is evolutionary and changing. Jesus told us this through his many parables with the language of growth and development, using metaphors like planting seeds, sprouting, ripening grain and rising yeast.

Natural, domestic applications that are fruitful and appreciative of the time it takes for something good to transpire. We understand that we cannot control life and death so we slow down and welcome the natural flow of things – the spirit of life, the essence of our being.

Surrendering is a step towards finding faith. That is not to say that we stop being disciplined with our actions and become irresponsible – we don’t stop striving to be the best we can be with our studies, our work and our commitments – but giving up the idea that we have control is an inner acceptance that promotes peace, compassion and love. We open our hearts and liberate our minds and take the risk to delve deeper into life. Philosopher and author Mirabai Starr says, “We must be stripped of all our opinions on the matter if we hope to have a naked encounter with the truth of divine love.” If we are to feel deeply connected and comfortable in this world, we have to be willing to understand that we are not steering the ship.

Dr Brené Brown speaks of the act of surrendering as being vulnerable and believes that giving up the attempt to make things certain and definite in life exposes us to deeper experiences of love, trust, joy, belonging and creativity, to name a few. Dr Brown’s extensive research in the field of social work has led her to meet many entrepreneurs who opened up to their vulnerability with huge success in their careers and personal lives, showing their true selves, imperfections and all, and having the courage to make mistakes. “It’s about owning our vulnerability and understanding it as the birthplace of courage and the other meaning-making experiences in our lives.”

Dr Brown says in order to expose our real selves, which in turn lays us bare for the seed of faith to be planted, we need to ask: “What’s the fear? Where and why do we want to be braver? Then we have to figure out how we’re currently protecting ourselves from vulnerability. What is our armour? Perfectionism? Intellectualising? Cynicism? Numbing? Control? That’s where I started. It’s not an easy walk into that arena, but it’s where we come alive.”

It takes courage to be vulnerable and have faith. If faith is based on spiritual conviction rather than proof, then it takes a brave person to be in that ‘arena’. However, we are not just talking about fideism or ‘blind faith’ because we believe faith is both reason and feeling. Cognitive, emotional and spiritual biases are the ‘armour’ that Dr Brown refers to – people tend to prefer to believe in ideas because they are true and reasonable and logical. Still, it remains a valid experience that a person of faith has a personal relationship with the object of their rapture, whether it be God (the power of creation) or Jesus Christ (humanity). Saying that a personal experience is not a legitimate reason to believe something means you will have a hard time believing anything at all.

Faith can be grounded in our connection with the Earth and our interconnectedness with all beings. It is about moments of inspiration in the face of ordinary life and it is about our own particular embodied experience. Gaining comfort by the presence of God is no less real or logical than experiencing love and feeling joy. As St Ignatius tells us, God’s spirit “stirs up courage and strength, consolations, inspirations and tranquility.”

At CBC, we demonstrate an active, whole-hearted faith and at the end of their journey, our graduates are in the best possible position to see the face of God in all of humanity.

We do this through building quality relationships that promote the teachings of Christ – the Gospel Values that are immutable and beyond religious boundaries. As Pope Francis said in his Encyclical Letter Lumen Fidei, “Faith sheds light on every human relationship because it is born of love and reflects God’s own love.”

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CBC uses the maxim of ‘head, heart and hands’ to capture the holistic integration of faith into the curriculum. Developing critical thinking and academic understanding; nurturing compassion and a deep sense of the spiritual, and engaging in service and collaborating with others to become agents of change for a better world. The call is to go out and be witnesses of the teachings of Christ, and live out the attributes of the CBC graduate – resilience, accountability, selflessness, facing challenges and valuing the ‘other’. Binding all this all together is our commitment to the common good, the great love for humanity that was symbolised by the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ and which can be articulated by our founder Edmund Rice, a man of immense faith: “The will of God to be done in everything we undertake.”