A Presentation on Faith

Faith. The elephant in the room. We are fine with the other goals. Then faith rolls around and the reaction is at best, ‘Oooooooh’ and at worst ‘Bugger this, it has zero relevance to me and my life. I will now make something up to put on the department improvement plan.’

So after much meandering, seeking a ‘way in’ to this goal, I’ve decided to grab the bull by the horns and just begin with FAITH.

What does it mean to say that you have faith? Ideas from the floor? C’mon, you’e all got an opinion, let’s hear it!

I pondered this over the washing up last night. What did I conclude?

FAITH is not about certainty. It’s not about saying ‘I believe such-and-such 100%’. I think that people say they are not ‘religious’ or ‘Christian’ because they cannot buy into everything that ‘religion’ or ‘Christianity’ professes. There is an assumption that you must be ‘all or nothing’. I’d argue that this is far from the truth. Some of the holiest people around were racked by doubts and fears: St. John of the Cross knew what he was talking about when he coined the phrase ‘the dark night of the soul’.

Having FAITH is about having doubts and fears, acknowledging them and deciding, regardless, to keep searching. A man once confessed to Jesus, ‘I believe, help my unbelief!’. Jesus didn’t send him packing to come back when his FAITH was a bit better, a bit purer, a sort of ‘A band 1’ faith. Jesus healed his son. Herein lies a lesson about FAITH I think. Whatever you have is good enough.

FAITH is not a destination. I don’t think FAITH is about looking around and saying, ‘Ah, I’ve arrived. How wonderful. I’ve got it sorted. Those people who disagree with me are WRONG. Queue the smugness.’
FAITH is instead a journey. A journey which is motivated by a desire to seek after truth and what is good. So, like it or not, if you are interested in truth or goodness at all, by my reckoning you have FAITH.

FAITH is not a crutch. It is not my way of making it through this life because I can’t bear the prospect of dying and instead I need to believe in an afterlife where I will be united with my loved ones and various fluffy pets. Since deciding that I was a Christian, FAITH has hamstrung me as much as it has crutched me, if you follow the metaphor.

FAITH is about being open to others and to the possibility that there may be more ‘out there’ / ‘in here’ than our senses and our current systems of knowledge tell us. Is having faith an exercise in self-aggrandisement or

FAITH is about believing in better. It’s about having hope and the conviction to work towards realising this state of ‘better’. If you’re into self-improvement, girl-improvement, school-improvement or world-improvement, you may find FAITH becomes relevant, sustaining you as you strive to make your vision a reality.

FAITH is about listening to your heart and mind, following where they lead, experiencing something I call God but you may call something else, and allowing yourself to be changed for the better by that experience.

So there. FAITH in a few easy paragraphs...!

This understanding of faith (fruit of washing up and a couple of gin and tonics) I believe is relevant to us and our girls today. The new phrasing of the FAITH goal used in the updated ‘Heritage and Horizon’ document is ‘A Living FAITH’. The previous wording stated ‘FAITH relevant in the world today’. We have an idea of what FAITH may be. What about this thing known as the WORLD TODAY?

More audience participation please. Answer me this. What is this ‘world’ that we live in, that we should be preparing our girls for? Describe it for me.

Possible answers:


  • Skeptical, derisory attitudes about religion/faith (increasing secularisation);
  • Sexualisation of our culture;
  • Blame culture;
  • Materialism;
  • Equality and inequality;
  • Narcissistic self-esteem v. healthy self-esteem;
  • Opportunity;
  • Global, mixed;
  • Ever-changing.

So if this is our WORLD TODAY, we are charged as Sacred Heart Educators to encourage in our students a set of values and core beliefs that will be relevant to this world, that will help them navigate this world with their sanity and self-esteem intact. Values and beliefs that will allow them to FLOURISH.

Look at our joint description of the WORLD TODAY and tell me this: What traditions, beliefs and values do our girls need if we are to effectively prepare them for life outside our walls?

Sr. Aideen Kinlen, Provincial of the Irish-Scottish Province of the Society of the Sacred Heart, says in ‘Heritage and Horizon’ that the outworkings of a living faith are: ‘staying power’, ‘unselfishness’, ‘good judgement’ and a ‘future-focused’ outlook that requires adaptability, resilience, fearlessness.
Madeleine Sophie Barat, founder of Sacred Heart Education, adds to the list with what she calls ‘Qualities of heart’: self-knowledge, energy, purpose, conviction, openness to others.

And after all that what’s the ‘religious spin’?

Well, here’s the crux of the FAITH goal for me, and what has formed the basis for my thoughts about the Faith Goal when engaged in Whole School Planning.

What it means to have faith:

To understand that each of us possesses an inherent dignity, (‘religious’ bit) because we are all willed and loved by God;

To know something of love, (religious bit) specifically as expressed in the heart of Jesus Christ;

and:

To respond to that love in how we relate to ourselves and in the way we interact with others.

Handing out Faith Goal plan for records, take staff through general points, invite comments and thoughts. Can it help them in their own planning for the Faith goal.

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