Information, of itself, will not lead to faith. Formation, which is important, will take the
person a stage further but transformation
cannot be taught or implanted, it can only
be caught. It comes when the individual
comes to insight and grasps the matter
for herself or himself.
Rev Eugene Curran CM, DMin
who conducted our 3 Day Novena
"Insight comes as a release to the tension of inquiry".
So wrote the great Jesuit scholar, Bernard Lonergan, in his book "Insight". In that book, he looked, in exhaustive depth, at how adults come to understanding.
His second great observation was that the place from which to begin any journey seeking knowledge or insight is the place in which you now stand. It is in this place that you come to realise what it is that you need to know and that will help you to make the choices about what you need to know and understand next. That is why, in adult education, it is so important to draw on the life experience of the people in the group. Children come to knowledge for the first time and much of their learning will be based on repetition but adults, though they may not have an opportunity to reflect on matters deeply, will still have a 'working model' from which they operate. For example, you may not have given a lot of thought to what the Church means when it talks about 'Justice' but you will, nonetheless, have built up some ideas of what Justice is or should be.
It all seems very simple but, in fact, it is radically different to how we have understood faith formation for many years. Often, adults were treated simply as grown-up children. They were given facts and it was assumed that facts, in themselves, would be enough.
A student of Lonergan, Tom Groome, observes that, in education in the faith, there are three stages;
1) Information; the imparting of knowledge, usually of an intellectual kind, which enables people to come to a greater understanding of the topic.
2) Formation; facilitating people in their process of coming to understand themselves as people of faith, people-in-community.
3) Transformation; the process by which people, as individuals or as groups, apply what they have learned to their own lives and the living out of their faith.
Information, of itself, will not lead to faith. Formation, which is important, will take the person a stage further but transformation cannot be taught or implanted, it can only be caught. It comes when the individual comes to insight and grasps the matter for herself or himself.
It is worth noting that all of these ideas are echoed in significant documents of Vatican II; The Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium), on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes), on the Apostolate of the Laity ( Apostolicam Actuositatem) and also in more recent documents; on Evangelisation (Evangelii Nuntiandi) and on the Laity (Christifideles Laici). All of them emphasise this need for an adult faith development that is based not only on the imparting of facts and information but which leads to the transformation of individuals and communities.
The eight weeks of the course in faith developement given by the Ember Team are based on these ideas. Ember has been involved in the work of parish faith development for many years, both through Parish Missions and courses like this one. Equally, Ember can draw on work in All Hallows College and, especially, on the work of Pathways (formerly called 'Preparing for Ministries') which is geared to the work of the developement of the ministries of lay people. Our hope is that, in these exercises, we can impart some information which will be useful and necessary, facilitate the exchange of ideas and understanding and, then, be open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
Rev Eugene Curran CM, DMin
Director of Pathways Programme,
Chair of Research Board
All Hallows College,
Grace Park Road,