In the Bishop Dunn Memorial Lecture given on Tuesday 15 May 2012, at Ushaw College, Durham, the Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, called on all Catholics to think about how best to express their faith in their lives today.
In the lecture, entitled “Faith Finding a Voice”, the Archbishop appealed for dialogue as the most effective way of faith finding a voice. He invited all people of faith to find the good in the other, rather than seeking points of opposition. Drawing on the writings of St Augustine he explained that the best articulation of our faith is to make our entire lives an expression of Christ.
The Archbishop said that our faith should be a guiding theme in the narrative of our own lives. Our own history should be seen as the unfolding gift of life given by God seen from the perspective of our faith in God, marked by the continual presence of the Holy Spirit prompting and guiding us.
We are voices speaking the eternal Word that is Jesus Christ
Marking a distinction between what is said, and who is saying it, Archbishop Nichols explained that our faith must seek to express only the Word of God, the person of Jesus. “It is to him that we wish to give voice, not ourselves. He is the Word, we in all our circumstances are only the voice” said the Archbishop.
Extending St Augustine’s view, Archbishop Nichols pointed to the transient nature of our voice, in contrast to Jesus who is the Word for all eternity. It is crucial that our voice speaks for this day and age, making sense in a dialogue of “today” while maintaining loyalty to the unchanging truth of the Word that our lives express.
Listening to the heartbeat of the age
The importance of “dialogue” was emphasised, and as part of this process, the value of listening. Dialogue is best shaped by different qualities: listening, understanding, and shared empathy. The way of dialogue is the pathway by which faith best finds its voice - seeking points of possible agreement, seeking out the good that is to be found in the other without glossing over real differences.
Finding voice through truth, goodness, beauty
Archbishop Nichols told his audience that there are three pathways through which faith finds a voice – truth, goodness and beauty.
Beauty, the Archbishop said, is the pathway most readily appealing to people today and helps us to see ourselves within a wider perspective, loosening our preoccupation with ourselves and appreciating how our lives are part of a wider pattern. Many have chosen to express the beauty and mystery of faith through works of art, through our churches and homes.
The pathway of goodness is also within reach of each one of us, said Archbishop Nichols.
This is the pathway of charity, faith finding a voice on every street corner, in the kitchen and in the workplace, among friends and strangers, in every part of the broad pathway of life.
The third pathway, of truth, is the most complex at the present time. It needs prayer, raising our minds and hearts to God. And it needs public debate, in which silence, allowing reflection, is a crucial aspect.
Archbishop Nichols concluded that the voice of faith should always articulate hope. “It is within that perspective that human beings can maintain our true dignity, our true poise not matter what we face.” As illustrated by Stephen at his death, peace and forgiveness are the fruits of hope.