Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A Dialogue on Story Time!

We are shaking it up this week folks! Due to scheduling conflicts, instead of having a single online dialogue at 7:30pm, we will be having a continuous dialogue here on our blog!  

This article explores the power of stories, but our faith leaders already new that!  What is your favorite religiously or spiritually inspired story, either from a holy text or a personal experience?  What does this story mean to you and how does it inform your faith?

Whether you agree of disagree, we welcome your comments and questions in a respectful manner. Please no profane or offensive remarks.  Try to refrain from stereotyping and remember that values and practices are not the same.  Also, keep in mind that national and cultural differences may not always be the same as religious differences. 

Think about the community and shared experiences we can all gain, across faiths, through the sharing of our stories! Please post!


  1. I deeply reflected upon a recent homily. This past week my priest spoke about the Holy Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. The priest talked about how often people view this act as a means of liberation, a last hope, a magic spell to make it into Heaven after they pass. But in reality, it is about what the Sacrament can do internally that counts. We live these busy lives. We have chaos that surrounds us almost constantly, but the point of life that God created was to see the "beauty and goodness of ourselves, others and God". I thought about that statement for a minute. How could I see all the goodness in other people when I have been done wrong so many times? Regardless of my search for closure and peace in apologizing, some people just do not allow such things to be let go. It was at that point I knew God was listening to my thoughts. The priest continued talking about what a huge impact forgiveness can have on not only our life, but others. If we do not willingly forgive others we are not allowing them to be free from their sin. And the same is true with ourselves. But there comes a point when you need to find that internal peace from God. We have to, as he put it, "name and claim" our weakness and downfalls. And only then can we find true inner peace regardless of what kind of hand the world deals us. It does not take the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick for us to find inner peace. But often, it takes us that long to figure it out. So why wait until then? Why not actively work now to let God take the chaos from our lives and trust in that He will never let us down?

    One of my favorite songs is Losing by Tenth Avenue North. The chorus reads "Oh, Father won't You forgive them? They don't know what they've been doin'. Oh, Father, give me grace to forgive them 'cause I feel like the one losin'." Only He can help us find true internal peace.

  2. My story actually comes from my freshmen year college writing class. The course was called the "Wholly Other" and centered on religious texts and spiritually or religiously inspired writings. We would analyze what people actually defined as "spiritual" or "religious" and how that came across and was interpreted in their writings.

    At the same time, I was going through a very rough patch religiously. I was questioning whether or not I even wanted to continue being a Catholic, because I felt like the Church was nothing more than a big name that didn't actually do anything for me. I didn't feel motivated to go to Mass, and I didn't even see the point in going. If anything, I told myself I felt more spiritual than religious. My reasoning was, "As long as I love God and live right, why do I need to go to Church? Why do I have to show everyone how faithful I am? I know and God knows and that's all that matters." And then Lent came along, and that really didn't help. I wasn't giving anything up and I kept telling myself it was okay; but at the same time, I was feeling very guilty about it.

    Well, back to that class: we were assigned an essay that was worth a significant amount of our grade. Good news was the subject was very broad. The requirements were that we closely examine a religious work of art/music/ film and explain it from the point of view from someone who was a believer.

    For some reason, I really felt like doing my essay on Lent, and made the argument to my professor that a season was a religious work of "art". He found it compelling and let me do it. Now I just had to make it creative.

    I decided to make it in the form of a prayer to God. It was from the viewpoint from a believer struggling through the season, and rationalizing the way she felt and what the season actually meant. Throughout the prayer were bible passages that set the stage for what was coming next in the prayer.

    Basically, if you hadn't already guessed, the person praying was really me. It was my way of kind of admitting to myself how I was feeling, and facing up to the fact that I was being a good Catholic, and no matter how much I denied it, being a Catholic actually meant a lot to me. But I didn't realize it until I actually started writing. And as I worked my way through the assignment, finding the right bible passages to complete my narrative and the essay, I realized I was actually working my way though my faith, finding the right passages to complete my prayer and bring my struggles to God. It was the most unintentionally cathartic experience, and no sooner had I finished the "essay" (but really the prayer) than I felt complete. And I really felt at peace with myself, my faith, and my God.

    I started my prayer with this passage: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” (John 1.1) and I think that is the one that stuck with me the most. After this passage, I followed up with beginning of my prayer with just one word: God. From then on, it was just clear. From that word on, it was just easy. Because after that word, I just knew: He was my everything. And I couldn't be at peace or in happiness until I let Him in and, gave myself to Him wholeheartedly, not just in thought, but in action. And in church.

    And it also didn't hurt that I got an A on that paper. :]

  3. A few years ago, a teacher asked me to compile a prayer book for my classmates. I was never sure why she chose me. Perhaps it was because I was an altar server for my school. Or maybe she recognized that my faith played an integral role in my life. Whatever the reason may have been, I accepted her request.

    Never having compiled a prayer book, I had no idea where to start. As a devout Catholic, I knew the “standard” prayers had to be included but then what? Many of my classmates were not religious, so compiling prayers that had no relevance to them would mean nothing. I needed to find prayers that were unusual; ones that not many people had heard of but were genuine prayers.

    I was amazed at the prayers I found. Prayers for studying, for doing well on a driving test, for going on vacation, etc. I became so involved in the research; I loved it. I visited close to a dozen churches and religious book shops. I contacted various religious people in my community for their favorite prayers. I added prayers I had saved from previous religious classes. Any prayer I could find, I added to the prayer book.

    As I flip through the pages, years later, I am still amazed at how powerful that project was. I uncovered prayers that I never knew about and in turn, my faith was deepened. I realized that my Catholic religion does not just consist of prayers that we are all supposed to memorize or prayers that we “write” from our heart during a major event in our lives. My faith also consists of prayers that deal with the everyday experiences that we all have. By comprehending this, I know whole-heartedly that my faith is focused on the everyday lives of each and every person, a thought so often forgotten in today’s world.

  4. I personally love the story of the woman who was walking alone at night and passed by a man in an alley. She became uneasy when she saw him and began to pray for God's protection. She passed by him unharmed and returned home safely. The next morning she heard on the news that a girl had been attacked in that same alley just twenty minutes later. The woman chose to go down to the police department to help identify the man. After being identified by two people the man eventually confessed. When asked why he did not attack the first woman, he said it was because she was not alone. He had seen two people walking beside her. I just love this story because it reminds me that we never really are alone. I am a person who can be, at times, perhaps a bit too daring, but I like to live my life knowing that God will always protect me, and I should have nothing to fear. Fear can do nothing but hold us back, and I feel only with faith can you really embrace all the wonders of the world.

  5. There is one Bible verse that truly speaks to me in so many ways. Matthew 17:20 reads, "He replied, "Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you."

    So much of my life has been filled with doubtful moments. Where can God possibly be in the midst of this pathetic existence qualified as life? But there is one thing I have always been proud of. Regardless of everything that life has given me, I have always had hope. Hope that life will be better. Hope that the bad will go away. Hope that my dreams will come true someday. Hope that anything is possible. Hope that God hasn't forgotten about me. Sometimes that hope is only as small as a mustard seed. But considering my love for cooking and mustard, a mustard seed is pretty fitting and a pretty powerful flavor in any dish. It might be small, but enough seeds can make quite an impact.

  6. Here are a few other articles that you might find interesting pertaining to the power of stories!

  7. As I grow older I see more and more of who Jesus is in the gospels. He is LOVE. He didn't hang out with all the "holy people" , he hung out with the suffering and marginalized on the outskirts of life; he ate and drank with the sinners, to show them his love and forgiveness. He was always calling out the "self- righteous"; he never condemns, simply calls out for us to come to him for forgiveness and start anew; we can always come back. Why do I ever judge others? I just need to love.

  8. My favorite story is that of the Blind Men and the Elephant. Please see the story on YouTube:
    It is a story that comes from India and is told by Hindus, Jains and Buddhists alike - each claiming it origiates in their texts. I do not think the origin can de definitively determined nor does it matter. It is a GREAT story for Interfaith cooperation. The elephant represents the universal Truth (or God, if you like) that all religions are trying to discern. Each blind man represents the different religions which often argue with each other that each one has the "truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth" while the others are entirely wrong. The sighted man in the story is one who is enlightened and can thus see the "bigger picture" and thus knows that there is no reason for the arguement as each blind man in his limited perception only has knowledge of a small part of the whole. Similarly, I do believe it is a mistake for any of us to think we know the truth about God or the Higher Reality or Ultimate Truth that we try to to connect with through our religions. Unless we become enlightened, we cannot perceive this Higher Truth beyond our parochial vision. To gain a fuller understanding of this Reality, we would do better to communicate with each other (Interfaith Dialogue), share our various visions, explore where we agree, come to understand why we disagree (because we mistake a part of the truth for the whole truth). It is as if we are working on a jigsaw puzzel and each have just a small selection of the pieces. If we do not pool our pieces and work togther we each alone will never see the "big picture"!