"The Stranger—s Bargain,— by Ed Hays, is about
a young man who is approached by the devil, and the devil—s attempt
to make a deal with the young mannot for his soul but for
The devil says: —What I buy is the dream; that
special vision of how you see yourself as an adult in this world—.That
dream fuels your life with meaning and a rare form of excitement.
It is that dream that sets you apart from the others; in fact,
from everyone else!— The young man asks: —I don—t understand,
why would you want to buy my dream and not my soul?— The devil
responds: —Because, my young friend, if I were to obtain your
soul, I would have just a soul, but if I am able to purchaseat
a fair price, mind youyour dream, then I have changed the
course of history! Your soul affects only you, but your dreamah,
that—s something different.— Further on in the story the devil
tells the young man: —Every woman and man dreams of being someone
special, but between 16 and 26, or perhaps even 36, they trade
in that great dream for a little dream, an average dream.—
Our faith challenges us not to trade in our dream.
"Every believer in this world must become a spark of light,"
said Pope John XXIII. As Catholics, how do we practice our faith
so we find a path and a light to see by? What might we do to enable
us to be people of purpose, heart, balance, gratitude and joy?
How do we protect and nurture our dream?
In this Update we—ll take a look at seven
practices, or disciplines, that can help you hold fast to your
dreams and become a spark of light. Like the sides of the diamond,
these disciplines are connected, interdependent and equally important.
Slow down, serve others, study wisdom, worship together, share
faith, seek counsel, take time to fastthese are seven disciplines
that will help you grow in adult faith.
Mother Teresa wrote, —God is the friend of silence.—
As a disciple it— is so important to take time each day simply
to quiet down and listen to the Spirit as it speaks in the events
of life. People find all sorts of ways to achieve this silence.
It might be a daily walk, it might be a daily stop at a chapel
or other quiet place in your daily routine. For those caring for
young children, it might be only a few moments between chores
while the children are asleep.
Some Catholics have familiar prayers that they
use for such moments. The rosary is a treasured way of slowing
down and praying quietly. If you don—t wish to practice something
so structured, slowing down can be as simple as taking 10 minutes
each day to be silently present with God. One way to do this is
to sit in an upright and comfortable position and focus on your
breathing. Recognize that you inhale God's presence with each
breath and exhale concerns, distractions, worries. This may be
simple, but to do so on a daily basis requires a great deal of
Whatever your practice, over a period of time it
becomes an oasis in your day. Within our tradition there are many
traditions of meditation and quieting (i.e., Ignatian, Franciscan,
Benedictine), and bookstores are loaded with recent titles on
techniques and processes of meditation and centering. All are
built of some aspect of quieting, an essential practice for a
The Gospels are filled with examples of Jesus and
his disciples serving others. We are called to serve those in
our families, workplaces, neighborhoods and beyond. The phrase
"think globally, act locally" comes to mind. On a regular
basis (weekly? monthly?) a Catholic takes time to serve the poor.
This service might be at a local soup kitchen,
working with St. Vincent de Paul, assisting with making housing
available through Habitat for Humanity. You might choose instead
to become an advocate for issues of justice at the local, state
or national level. For example, a regular checking of the local
Web site of the diocesan Catholic Charities office or the state
Catholic conference can help you learn about local legislative issues
that need support. There is a long list of organizations that one
can join that both serve those in need and advocate for change (i.e.,
Bread for the World or Heifer Project). Contact your parish or diocesan
justice and peace ministry for leads, or visit their Web sites.
Of course, serving others begins at home. A disciple
is continually trying to "spread light" by acting out
of forgiveness and compassion with family members and neighbors.
A disciple of Jesus is challenged to be a lifelong
learner. After all, Confirmation wasn—t a graduation ceremony!
Our Church teaches that continual study is a key to adult faith.
The two key areas of study and reflection are Scripture and Church
Scripture study can be done individually (as part
of your quiet time) by using a tool to read and reflect on the
daily and/or weekend lectionary readings. There are many printed
missals, prayer books and Web sites that bring the lectionary
readings easily to hand. Ask yourself, "What is one insight
which strikes me today as I reflect on the Scriptures?" If
these insights are included in a faith-sharing setting, this can
be a powerful way to learn more about the Scriptures and about
how the Spirit is speaking to your life.
Following the Sunday lectionary readings through
the three-year cycle will expose you to the major themes of the
entire Bible. Or, if you prefer, study an individual book of the
Old or New Testament. There are many easy-to-use Scripture study
tools available for Catholics. Your pastor or parish religious
education staff can help you find the right one.
The second part of studying wisdom involves the
teaching of the Church. Catholics now have available a major resource
in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. This is meant
to be a reference tool that any Catholic can use. There are also
a number of other sources, many published since the Catechism,
which can update you about Church teaching on particular topics
or themes. You—re reading one of them now! You'll find other resources
from the Web site www.americancatholic.org,
or at the Web sites and catalogs of other Catholic publishers.
A Catholic bookstore in your area is an excellent starting point,
Ideally, a parish will make the wisdom of the Church
available to its parishioners by having a resource center of adult
study materials, both print and audiovisual. A parish audiocassette
collection can be shared among commuting parishioners, for example.
Of course, none of this replaces parish-sponsored adult study
Disciples gather regularly for Eucharist. In his
encyclical Day of the Lord, Pope John Paul II called Sunday a
day —at the heart of the Christian life— and the Eucharist the
heart of Sunday. This is a celebration of the —body— of Christ
becoming visible, and is a nourishing experience so one can become
bread that is broken for others. If a person has taken time to
reflect on the Sunday Scriptures and experience faith sharing
about them with others, the Mass takes on deeper dimensions of
relevance and community.
There are other ways to pray in community, too.
Whether it be rosary, novena, stations, spontaneous prayer, traditional
or contemporary, at church or in a home, prayer with others is
a critical practice of a disciple.
A disciple takes time to talk about his or her
faith with others. All the better if this is a regular, scheduled
time. There has been a steady growth in Catholic faith-sharing
groups in recent years. Typically this happens in a small group
who gather for prayer, sharing, support, learning and service.
The faith sharing can be as simple as taking time to reflect upon
and speak about —God moments— that one has had since the last
faith-sharing session. If there is a learning component involved
in the meeting, the faith sharing can be in response to the meaning
that a particular passage of Scripture or a particular teaching
of the Church has for an individual. An experience of service
can also be part of faith sharing. A small Christian community
should be typically asking —so what— about something that it is
studying and reflecting upon. Such a question often leads into
action flowing from the insight and the action leads to reflection
and sharing about the experience.
Sharing faith can also be more informalwith
one or two others who get together on a regular basis for prayer
and support. Increasingly there are Catholics gathering to reflect
and share faith about the work that they do. For example: As a
banker, or teacher, or nurse, to what degree does faith show up
in one's work? What insights does one have from the Scriptures
and/or the teaching of the Church for the work a person does?
Sharing faith also means the ability to listen
actively to others. What —pre-judgments— are you making about
what another is saying, especially if there is a disagreement?
Two important questions for faith sharing are: —What lens am I
looking through that differs from the one this person is using?—
and "Please help me better understand the reasons for your
thinking this way.— These kinds of questions can open up those
gathered to the flow of the Spirit.
Some small groups meet weekly to share their faith
by singing together. You guessed itit—s the choir or parish
A disciple needs guidance on faith—s journey. Robert
Wicks, author of numerous books on spirituality, writes in Touching
the Holy—that a person needs an array of spiritual guides
—to help us deal with our unrecognized and unnecessary fears,
help us appreciate the need for proper detachment, and to lead
us to a sense of enthusiasm and perspective in a world strained
by anxiety and confusion.— This array can include a spiritual
director or mentor, one or more spiritual companions, and various
books that one relies upon for guidance and through which notable
spiritual women and men can be accessed.
The point is, as writer Anne Lamott says so well,
a follower of Jesus needs— to seek a light brighter than the —glimmer—
of one—s own candle. To have a regular relationship with a spiritual
director keeps a person accountable to another for his/her spiritual
practices. Spiritual companions help one keep balanced, supported
and challenged on the journey. Spiritual reading is a source of
wisdom that can keep the flame burning.
(fast amid feasting)
A person from a developing country recently asked
a middle-class lay Catholic minister in America if he was wealthy.
As the lay minister responded that he was not, he was met with:
—Do you eat every day? If you do, you are considered wealthy in
Fasting is a Gospel-based discipline, though its
roots go back further. Fasting from food is a practice of the
faith because it can heighten one—s awareness of dependence upon
God, awaken one to the bountiful gifts of food that are continually
bestowed, and attune one to the plight of so many in the world
who fast by the necessity of undernourishment and scarcity. There
are other senses of fasting besides food. Weaning ourselves away
from consumerism is a challenge of our time. Society tells us
we can only find fulfillment through acquisitions of things, through
roles or accomplishments. The discipline of just saying no to
consumer extras is a type of fasting.
In Mark (Chapter 6) and Luke (Chapter 9), we read
about Jesus giving instructions to the disciples as he sends them
out to preach the Good News. He tells them to take little for
the journey, to travel light (with little baggage) so one can
become light (the opposite of darkness). This is the practice
of fasting amid feasting.
Keeping the dream alive
Anne Lamott, in her autobiography Traveling
Mercies, gives a rationale for regularly taking her seven-year-old
son to church: —...I want to give him what I found in the world,...a
path and a light to see by. Most of the people I know who have
what I want...purpose, heart balance, gratitude, joyare
people with a deep sense of spirituality. They are people in community,
who pray, or practice their faith...people banding together to
work on themselves and for human rights. They follow a brighter
light than the glimmer of their own candle...—
—— If you learn to practice the disciplines of
the disciple, you, too, will follow the brighter light, Jesus.
That is the key to adult faith. Faith is a gift, but, like a flower
in the garden, it must be fed and cared for. Spiritual disciplines
are the way we keep our faithand our dreamalive.