By Edmond Nixon C.Ss.R.
I had just driven 200 kilometres for an adult education session in a small country town. I quickly set up in the local School of Arts where the session was to be held. The first arrivals were drifting in. There was a general chit-chat in the air – about weather and cattle and other things rural. And then, more or less out of the blue, Christine said, “If I hear one more priest get up and tell us Jesus came to die for our sins I will scream”.
I realised then the session had started, even if it hadn’t got off the ground officially. In one sense Christine was starting where, if the coming fortnightly sessions went well, I had hoped we might be finishing. Christine had got down underneath the religious words. She had grown to understand that the mystery of faith was far more marvellous than the too-easy explanation of it she had heard all her life.
People living out their faith to the best of their abilities, and in reflection of what that faith could possibly mean, will find their understandings expanding. Perhaps with a little reading on the side, and certainly in their prayer, they come to have certain convictions about God, faith and Church. Adult education assists them in situating these convictions, and possibly offers new language through which to express them.
Some, like Christine, are game to trust what they have come to believe. Others are not. Some become confused when the words they know do not fit the faith they experience. Others have no way of knowing if their struggles in faith are part of the believing Church or not.
Christine was speaking out of her experience as a person, a woman, a wife, a mother, a professional in the district. This was no throw-away remark on her part. No, it was a considered position in faith. It was more than that, it was a Gospel proclamation.
Adult education in the faith is a chance to grow in understanding God’s revelation of himself in human experience. It is a chance to explore our faith in the light of the Gospels and the wider experience of the whole Church, with its teachings and tradition. Adult education in the faith is part of contemporary evangelisation.
Christine, an apostle of Jesus Christ, continues to gather her district unto God. The Gospel remains alive in her hands.