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Communicating Faith

John Sullivan

Publication Year: 2012

This book enriches appreciation of the many ways that Christian faith is communicated. It casts light on the sensitivities, skills, and qualities necessary for the effective communication of faith, where justice is done both to the "seed" to be sown and to the "soil" being cultivated.

Published by: The Catholic University of America Press

Title Page

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pp. vii-ix

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pp. xi-xii

Several individuals and groups deserve my thanks for their diverse but crucial contributions to this work. First, there is my colleague at Liverpool Hope University, Associate Professor David Torevell. David has helped me over the last few years through some deep conversations as we supported each other in articulating what we...

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pp. xiii-xxvi

As the Benedictus for January 26, the day that I write this, the morning prayer of the church offers the following words: “Proclaim the Gospel, insist on it in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, and exhort, do all with patience and in a manner that will teach men.” In order to carry out this demanding instruction, Christians need knowledge and understanding of holy scripture and of their faith, as well...

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Part 1. The Grammar of Faith

These two chapters bring out the breadth of the task of communicating Christian faith. They imply that a multidimensional approach is required to do justice to the nature of human beings. They also provide typologies or templates against which other, more specific accounts of communicating faith in particular settings, described in later chapters in this book, might be considered, lest such...

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1. From Formation to the Frontiers: The Dialectic of Christian Education

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pp. 3-15

Christian education requires two major movements, if it is to develop healthily, if it is to remain Christian, and if it is to be really educational. The first of these movements is formation. The second is what I shall call “work at the frontiers.” There is an order of precedence, both logically and chronologically. Formation has priority, but work at the margins is also necessary. Furthermore, formation does not have to be completed...

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2. Forms of Faith and Forms of Communication

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pp. 16-30

A piece of advice to examinees that may still circulate in those places where people sit written, unseen examinations, is to begin by questioning the question. If this focuses the student’s mind on what it is that he or she is really being asked to do, the advice is obviously sound. But I have read scripts where it has been taken to its illogical—...

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Part 2. Baselines

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pp. 31-34

In the chapters of Part 2 there is scope for greater flexibility, intimacy, and attention to individuality in communicating faith than in some of the other settings explored later on in this book. In the home and in the parish the quality of the way of life shared and the tone of voice adopted will be much more important than the content...

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3. Communicating Faith in the Home: The Pedagogical Vocation of the Christian Household in Late Modern Society

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pp. 35-49

There is, for many a parent, something rather chilling about being reminded of the ways in which our post-Freudian culture recognizes the complex manner in which we are formed by childhood. The Catholic psychiatrist Jack Dominian has developed a whole scheme for understanding marriage and adult relationship, based on what we know of...

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4. Communicating Faith in the Parish: Maintaining a Presence, Care, and Mission

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pp. 50-65

The parish is a privileged location for communicating faith. Busy with keeping long-standing activities alive, it needs to step back and reflect on the limits and opportunities it has for making the faith that sustains us known in this familiar setting. For the purpose of this chapter, four presuppositions are made about how the parish is perceived and about its nature. First, the experience most people have of the church is in their...

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5. Sacramental Preparation: Uneasy Partnership

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pp. 66-80

Most education goes on quietly and out of the general gaze; while its contours may be fiercely disputed among practitioners, for the main part it occupies a relatively low profile in public discourse at the local level. However, within the Roman Catholic (henceforth, “Catholic”) community, there is one dimension of specifically...

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6. Burning Hearts: Scripture and Adult Faith Formation

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pp. 81-96

This chapter will examine how faith is communicated through adult education within the Catholic tradition and, specifically, using a case study, in a scripture study group held in St. Dominic’s parish in the Archdiocese of Glasgow, Scotland. This chapter will begin with a brief overview of the approaches to adult faith formation within the Catholic Church in Scotland and, in particular, in the Archdiocese of...

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Part 3. The School Context

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pp. 97-100

In many countries the churches have made a major investment in schools as a key institution for witnessing to and communicating their faith. In the UK context, Anglican and Catholic church-state relations differ significantly. This influences how Catholic schools perceive their roles and how these schools are perceived by others outside that church. Sullivan articulates how a Catholic worldview...

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7. Text and Context: Mediating the Mission in Catholic Schools

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pp. 101-116

The tasks of teachers in Catholic schools are many. They have to attract the interest of their pupils in what they think is important. Then they invite pupils to go beyond attention and to be ready to participate. By witnessing to and modeling how the various aspects of the curriculum can make a difference in our lives, teachers should challenge pupils to grow, learn new skills, deploy new concepts, become informed...

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8. The Challenges of Postmodernity

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pp. 117-131

“I’m postmodern; I live in a postmodern age.” So speaks many a person who is familiar with the term, normally meaning very modern, up-to-date, or simply “With it.” What the term actually means depends on the context. It can mean “very modern” when applied to science, because in this context, to be very modern means holding...

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9. Communicating Faith through Religious Education

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pp. 132-148

This chapter aims to look at how faith can be communicated through religious education within the specific context of Catholic schools in Scotland. This will be achieved by a critical review and reflection of the history of religious education within the post-Vatican II era and through the application of insights gained from a series of extended expert interviews with Bill Horton, recently retired advisor...

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10. Leadership and Transmission: Empowering Witnesses—An Ignatian Perspective

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pp. 149-164

A few years ago I was asked to speak to a group of committed Catholics about young people, the faith, and Catholic secondary schools. The premise of their conversation was as follows: the primary purpose of Catholic education is faith formation; fewer and fewer young people attend Mass on Sundays; therefore, Catholic education is a failure! I was at pains to point...

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11. Questioning for Faith Commitment

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pp. 165-180

The goal of Christian religious education is Christian discipleship. The basis for this claim is to be found toward the close of St. Matthew’s Gospel, where Jesus directs his followers to go and make disciples, teaching them to observe all that he has commanded them (Mt 28:19). The church has no option than to do likewise. This raises the question as to the nature of Christian discipleship. A scanning of the...

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Part 4. Higher Education

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pp. 181-184

The following three chapters focus on the university as a setting for communicating faith (and for communicating about faith). Two concentrate on pedagogical considerations, while one advocates a particular line on the complex and contested relations between theology and religious studies. In “Plasticity, Piety, and Polemics,” Sullivan suggests three desirable qualities or features of teaching...

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12. Plasticity, Piety, and Polemics: Communicating a Faith Tradition in Higher Education

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pp. 185-198

In this chapter I bring out the tensions that underlie three tasks that are too often treated in isolation from one another, but which I believe should be held together as regulating parts of the teacher’s intentions. These tasks should be considered as intimately connected and mutually qualifying aspects of effective religious teaching in an academic setting. The first task is that of adapting to the needs...

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13. Thick and Thin: Personal and Communal Dimensions of Communicating Faith

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pp. 199-213

As Maximus the Confessor once said, “We who plague people with words are many nowadays, while those who teach or are taught by actions are few.”1 This observation captures a profound disconnect between words and actions in our contemporary learning environments. However, the problem runs deeper, stemming...

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14. Windows into Faith: Theology and Religious Studies at the University

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pp. 214-228

In examining course offerings in theology and religious studies at the university, we need to focus on the terms, assumptions, and historical contexts in which our questions are raised. In writing as a Roman Catholic I define theology as an ecclesial activity. By this I mean that theology is faith seeking understanding, and faith takes place in a communitarian context that is accountable to the Bible,...

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Part 5. International Perspectives

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pp. 229-232

In the missionary nature of the church, witness remains central. As a vicar general of a religious congregation, Frances Orchard was asked to focus on religious congregations as major agencies deeply engaged in communicating faith. Such religious carry out their work across many countries and in deeply contrasting situations. This means that the triple task of understanding, living out, and...

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15. Charism and Context

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pp. 233-247

Communicating faith, as stated in the 1990 encyclical letter Redemptoris Missio, requires a diversity of activities arising from the variety of circumstances in which that mission is carried out. First, there is the mission Ad Gentes, where “missionary activity addresses peoples, groups and socio-cultural contexts in which Christ and...

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16. Communicating Faith in Africa: Yesterday and Today

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pp. 248-260

This is how Jesus passed on to his disciples the mission he has received from his Father: he asked them to carry forth the mission to the end of the world. From these verses it is clear that Jesus entrusts his disciples with a mission and that this mission is fourfold: to go all over the world, to make disciples, to baptize them, and to teach them...

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17. Communicating Faith in Ireland: From Commitment through Questioning to New Beginnings

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pp. 261-276

Communicating Christian faith, within the particular context that is Ireland today, is, it seems, a complex process that raises many issues worthy of exploration and investigation. Wherever one lives, be that in North America, Europe, or Asia, for example, reflection on communicating faith in other local churches can contribute...

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18. Communicating the Catholic Faith in the United States

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pp. 277-292

Communicating Christian faith, within the particular context that is Ireland today, is, it seems, a complex process that raises many issues worthy of exploration and investigation. Wherever one lives, be that in North America, Europe, or Asia, for example, reflection on communicating faith in other local churches can contribute...

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19. Communicating Faith in Contemporary Europe: Dealing with Language Problems In and Outside the Church

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pp. 293-308

Communicating the faith seems to have become more difficult than ever in Europe. From an age-old overall Christian continent, Europe recently seems to have entered a post-Christian era. Discussion about the Christian roots and character of Europe at least reveals that the role of Christianity on the old continent is no longer taken for...

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Part 6. Aspects of Communication

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pp. 309-312

Part 5 ended with Boeve showing the challenges posed to faith communicators by features of contemporary culture. Part 6, while not forgetting these challenges, looks favorably on the promising opportunities opened up by close engagement with aspects of culture, with particular reference to art, literature, and film...

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20. “The Attempt Was All”: The Endeavor of Aesthetics in the Communication of Faith

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pp. 313-327

In this chapter I outline how the novel Atonement, by Ian McEwan, and its film adaptation offer important ideas about the expression and communication of faith through aesthetic means.1 I take “faith” here to mean the ongoing desire and disposition to live according to Christian values, especially those expressed through the life and ministry of Christ. The word “atonement,” chosen here as the single word title...

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21. Communicating Faith and Online Learning

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pp. 328-343

This chapter focuses on communicating faith through online learning. It reflects my experience as both a practitioner and researcher of online adult religious education across varied programs, including undergraduate theology and religious studies, adult faith formation in the community, and initial and ongoing formation for lay, diaconal...

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22. Education and Religious Faith as a Dance

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pp. 344-358

How are we to understand the relationship between religious faith and education? What are the dynamics at work in the process of educating people in matters of faith? What are the key factors that ensure that this process is educational? In addressing these three questions I make certain assumptions. First, I assume there is a multiplicity of legitimate ways that one might understand the relationship between religious faith and education. My contribution here can offer, at best, merely...

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23. Communicating Faith and Relating in Love

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pp. 359-368

Through communication people express emotions and needs, establish identity, build community, exchange goods, construct a range of social structures, embark on projects, and transmit values. Through communication they also seek meaning, interpret behavior, celebrate key moments, and reach out to others. These all entail some form of sharing and connection. Communication is not so much...

Works Cited

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pp. 369-392


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pp. 393-394


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pp. 395-405

E-ISBN-13: 9780813219226
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813217963

Page Count: 405
Publication Year: 2012