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What Do You Believe?
By Susan Hines-Brigger


A Head Start
Family Project: A Family Creed

A few months ago, at the urging of a friend, I took a giant leap and joined the online networking site Facebook. I have reconnected with a number of friends with whom I had lost touch and gotten to know others on a deeper level. For my fellow parents who very rarely have a spare moment to call a friend or shoot them an e-mail, it has been a nice way to reach out to a whole group all at once.

But what I am finding most satisfying about the whole experience is how it is helping me to discover more about myself. Let me explain. As anyone on Facebook knows, the service offers a million fun quizzes you can take to discover things like, “What Disney character are you?” “What kind of mom are you?” or even “What biblical character are you most like?” (Apparently Ruth and I have some things in common.)

There are also surveys you can fill out to let people get to know you better, such as “25 Random Things About Me.” And while they may seem ridiculous and a waste of time, I’ve actually learned a little about myself in the process. Through these self-evaluations I have realized what image I want to—and do—project to people.

So I started thinking about what I want people to know about me and how they see me. Then, in the midst of all this, I received an e-newsletter from a local writing group that tapped into this very issue.

Each month the newsletter provides writing prompts to help get the creative juices flowing for us writers. This particular newsletter’s prompts seemed to speak to the challenge I was facing. The prompts—“I want to tell you...,” “I want you to know...,” “I want to say...” and “I want to remind you...”—were spawned by a poem written in memory of Esme Kenney, a 13-year-old Cincinnati girl who was murdered in March.

The questions got me thinking: What do I believe? What do I want my children to know—about me, about the world, about life? What message am I sending to others by my life? What do I want to say?

And then it occurred to me that each Sunday at Mass I do this when I join the rest of the congregation in reciting the fourth-century Nicene Creed. The Nicene Creed is longer than the Apostles’ Creed, which according to one tradition contains contributions from each of the 12 apostles. Creed comes from the Latin credo, which means “I believe.”

Whatever the history of the Apostles’ Creed, however, it recalls our most basic beliefs as Catholics. As the Nicene Creed says, for our sake Jesus “was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he suffered, died, and was buried. On the third day he rose again in fulfillment of the Scriptures.”


A Head Start

So our faith gives us a good head start on developing our own creed in life. But it is up to us to take it from there. Here are some ways to help develop your own creed:

Break it down. After reciting prayers from memory, do we really reflect on what we are saying? Stop and take some time to break down the Apostles’ Creed—perhaps line by line—and reflect on it. Seek out some articles that help explain the creed. Think about what you are actually saying and then recommit yourself to those words.

Reflect. Either individually or as a family, develop your own creed. Spend some time thinking about who you are and what you believe. What issues are most important to you? Why?

Write it out. For parents and grandparents, another idea that I got from a friend recently is to write letters to or for your children. My friend wrote a letter to her son’s preschool teachers, telling them all the things she wanted them to know about her son that she couldn’t include on the registration forms.

In your letter, you can express your hopes for the child, remembrances or observations. You might want to hold onto the note or place it among all their special papers/mementos, so it is available years later, when they will probably truly appreciate and understand it.

Or simply write a letter telling them what you believe, hope for them, want them to know, etc. People sometimes do this when they are dying or getting older, but wouldn’t it be better to get in the habit of doing it throughout our lives?

Listen carefully. As you and your family sit down and start to discuss what things to include in your family’s creed, listen closely to the things that your spouse and children mention. You might gain a lot of insight into what matters to them, things that wouldn’t normally come up in everyday conversation.


If you decide to develop a family creed, use the formula of the Apostles’ Creed which can be found at Have each family member develop his or her own article and then present it to the family. Spend some time discussing the item and how each family member feels about that item.

Some suggestions for items that could be included in your family’s creed are: We believe that every family member has the right to express his or her feelings without fear of being judged, or we believe that families should eat together at least once a week in order to stay connected.

After your family has come up with a creed, make a printout of it and display it somewhere in your home. If you have a computer-savvy teen, ask him or her to design the text. Or a rather artistic family member could use calligraphy or other decorative writing to create it. Younger children can help enhance the design with hand-drawn pictures or other embellishments.



Do you have ideas or suggestions for topics you'd like to see addressed in this column? If so, send them to me at “Faith-filled Family,” 28 W. Liberty Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202-6498, or e-mail them to

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