Thursday, March 08, 2012

Expressing Faith

"Faith has to do with things that are not seen and hope with things that are not at hand." -Thomas Aquinas

There we were in west central Portugal, visiting one of the sites at which a Marian apparition had occurred. This place, recognized by the Catholic Church, was built after three children reported seeing several times the Virgin Mary (reference your Bible) in a field called Cova da Iria. The place I refer to is called the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima.

The town of Fatima is located about 90 miles north of Lisbon, Portugal. A small village of no other real historical significance is host to this wonderful religious shrine visited by millions each year. The complex is quite large and very inspirational to visit.

What was intriguing about our own visit was the way in which people displayed their spiritual faith. I learned that people will pilgrimage to this place when they have dire needs in their life. Situations such as disease, or problems regarding birth and some even regarding academic tests coming up. As they make their way, they do so to make promises to the Virgin Mary or God.

The making of the promise normally includes walking by foot hundreds of miles by foot. But many will also cross the sanctuary grounds to the sanctuary, and across its marble floors upon their knees. Yes, walking upon their knees, across the pebble-laced dirt paths, ashpalt courtyard, stone steps and floors. You can see the pain upon their face, in some cases the bleeding knees, all for the sake of their faith.

It had me wondering about the sanity of these people. What could possibly be going through their minds to believe in such a way? I than began to wonder how other people expressed their faith and how I myself express my own faith. Displays of faith are truly in the eyes of the beholder one could suppose. In the Bible it is written (Matthew 5:16) in which Jesus said "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."

To take that literally tells me that there are many different ways in which to show that faith. Various practices, that I won't go into detail here are;

• Jewish Kaparot
• Exorcism
• Shamanism
• Mormon Baptism of the Dead
• Islamic Niqab
• Jehovah’s Witnesses Refusal of Blood Transfusions

To those that express these customs or beliefs, the act of faith is quite normal. Is it any more strange that Catholics believe the communion sacrament (eating of the body of Christ and drinking of His blood, represented by small bread wafers and grape juice) is any less odd than the speaking of tongues in many Charismatic churches? Every religion has developed their own methods and means of expressing faith and belief in God.

Again, as written in Matthew 5:16, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." So whether we are singing loudly in praise, laying on of hands, reciting scriptural passages over and over, or even walking on our knees; the way in which we practice our faith is a personal one. It is our learned way, right or wrong to the rest of the world, in which we connect with God.

We could certainly take this discussion off into some very deep theological paths. We could certainly discuss what we believe is non-scriptural or harmful. What I am really interested in discussing is that we are different in how we express our beliefs. In the finality of our own lives, our death becomes very personal with our God. The way in which we expressed our faith and belief in God will be accounted for at that time.

So express faith in your most honest and learned way possible. My hope is that by doing so we can each connect with God in such a way that makes life in the natural a deep and rewarding experience.

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