Last week, my philosophy professor asked the class what faith means. We were told to discuss this topic in pairs and I remember turning to my partner and saying, “I don’t like this question.”
Now, I want to make it clear that I am a person of faith— I believe in God, in an afterlife, in a spirit that exists within nature. I was brought up in a Roman Catholic family and spent years of my childhood attending St. Joseph’s school (currently Holy Family) in Aston Pa. I now attend Neumann University, a Catholic Franciscan college, and applied to a master’s program at Rosemont, another Catholic college.
As a Christian, I couldn’t understand why I disliked my professor’s question.
Then it hit me, the answer that I had been searching for: I wanted him to ask, “what does faith mean to me?”
Faith, in my opinion, cannot be defined in a single, concrete way. Though religious doctrine can influence an entire community of believers, individuals can bring different contributions because of their own faithful experiences.
Neumann exemplifies the need for diverse religious perspectives, and this is one characteristic of the school that I have admired since I enrolled there. Every student must take two theology courses as part of their core curriculum. Beyond these requirements, though, students have the freedom to express whatever religious insights they value most. Our school has a prayer room for Islamic believers in addition to the chapel where Christian services are held. Atheistic views are also accepted with respect at Neumann University.
Gratitude is a fundamental influence for how I live out my faith. Since I was young, I have gravitated toward the idea that God bestowed dignified grace onto everything that he created. With the mindset that rabbits, flowers, and humans alike possess special God-given qualities, I have learned to view life as a type of grandiose piece of art.
Before enrolling at Neumann, I knew very little about Franciscan values. I knew that St. Francis was said to be the patron saint of animals, rightfully so thanks to his appreciation of nature. Philosophy and theology classes taught me so much more about the interconnected relationship that human beings have with the rest of the world.
Francis believed that everything in nature takes part in a brother-sister relationship. To me, this type of interconnectivity is one of the fundamentally benevolent qualities that is inherent in religious teachings. Through faith, gratitude, and respect for life, we can gain a profound sense of purpose.
Perhaps having faith can be boiled down to the ability to acknowledge that each of us has the opportunity to make the world a better place.
(Samantha Locklear graduates from Neumann University in May 2019. She was a news intern at The Dialog during her final semester).