A Catholic Monthly Magazine

3D Faith

by Joy Cowley

We were nearing the end of a writing workshop and it was time for questions. Given the subjects covered, I expected queries about submissions, publishers or maybe agents. But the first question was, “Do you think writing is like meditation?” and from that evolved a vigorous conversation about the spiritual aspect of inspiration and creative expression.

The exchange was much more interesting than my carefully prepared notes. Writers felt free to chat about extraordinary experiences: the “dictation” that came out of silence; the organic way stories formed themselves; how a work of fiction could then come true.

They also mentioned the mystery traditions of several world religions and philosophies.

This suggested they had searched for answers for happenings that were beyond rational understanding, and I was reminded of the way it happens in our own Catholic faith – for example the search for miracles as evidence of sainthood.

I suspect if someone had been able to offer these writers logical explanations for the things they couldn’t explain, they would have been very disappointed, and so would I. Writers tend to live in mystery, and we want to believe in miracles.

There was no way of knowing how many of these writers were Christian. Quite a few, I suspect. But it was good to know they were open to the mature teachings of several religions. That showed religious tolerance, the understanding that God speaks to people through their culture, and that at a mystical level, all faiths seem to merge in love and light.

I think our own Catholic faith is strengthened by the evidence that all religions are about God’s love for us and our hunger for that love. Catholic teaching is not something created by men, but is an expression of universal truth.

Mahatma Ghandi

Some of my favourite quotes come from other religions. From Hinduism there is Mahatma Ghandi, who said, “When I see a man doing good, I seek to be like that man. When I see a man doing evil, I look to my own heart.” And the poet Rabindranath Tagore who wrote of death, “The lamp has gone out because the dawn has come.” Then there is the Zen saying, “Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of teachers: seek what they sought.” All of these nourish my Catholic tradition.

Having said that, though, I shall add that the growth of faith needs to be three dimensional. If gleaning from other religions is all I do, then my faith will remain on the surface. I will cover a breadth of information, some of it interesting, but deep down I will remain hungry.

I need also to go deep, deep, into my own Catholic tradition. If I don’t feed my soul with my home faith, it will be malnourished.

We don’t have to go far to see the effect of an undeveloped faith. If we have only depth, we can be narrow, rule-bound and lacking in religious tolerance. If we have only breadth, we’ll be scratching about on the surface, neglecting to feed the soul.

It is that combination of Breadth and Depth that brings us close to the example set by Christ Jesus. 

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