The Mystery of Faith


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The Mystery of Faith explores the essentials of Christian belief and the ancient spiritual practices that enable us to live and flourish in the light of God’s grace. John-Francis Friendship draws on the riches of the Christian tradition and his own experience of Religious life to introduce practices that guide our daily living as God’s people.



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Published 30 September 2019
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EAN13 9781786221827
Language English

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This is a book grounded in both knowledge and experience. It will be a valuable resource for all who
want to explore the riches of the Christian faith.
Fr. Kevin Smith, Priest Administrator, Shrine of our Lady of Walsingham
This is an important book and would be useful reading for every teacher or Headteacher in our church
schools and indeed for all Governors. For clergy it will be a useful book to recommend and to use as a
resource when teaching the basics of the faith. Just as schools are discovering and returning to a
knowledge-based curriculum so as churches we need to recognise the basics that every Christian should
understand and know. John-Francis brings the wisdom and sensitivity of a life time of spiritual direction
and ministry to others to the task and presents the faith wisely and with great charm.
The Rev. Richard Peers, Director of Education, Diocese of Liverpool
The author weaves teachings drawn from scripture and the saints with reflections on his own life and
ministry, creating an approachable and profound guide to the Christian faith. This is a book for the person
seeking a faith rooted in tradition and open to the challenges of real life.
Br Christopher John SSF, Minister General
Fr John-Francis has the gift of the story teller. His reminiscences make complex ideas simple. This is the
perfect introduction to Christianity for the general reader.
Fr Mund Cargill Thompson SCP, Vice Rector (Evangelism), Society of Catholic Priests.
John-Francis draws on the “wisdom of the ages” to introduce faith in an accessible and engaging way.
And he also draws on his own long experience as Franciscan, priest, and spiritual director to ground this
tradition in the reality of one life. Questions and suggestions for reflection help the reader to apply what
they read to their own journey of faith, whatever their starting point.
Sr Helen Julian CSF, Minister General
John-Francis draws on a life-times reflection as a pilgrim on a faith journey. His own journey has taken
him from living in community, encouraging vocations, to pastoring a community as a parish priest. Now,
as an experienced spiritual director and retreat conductor, his teaching and pastoral ministry combine in
this accessible introduction to the Christian Faith. In the same vein as Michael Ramsey’s lovely book
‘Introducing the Christian Faith,’ this book is both simple yet profound and allows the reader to be
immersed in the great traditions of the Church, whilst making connections with the world around us. As
Jesus himself says, “Every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a
household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”
Fr Carl Turner, Rector, St. Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue, New York, USAThe Mystery of Faith
Exploring Christian Belief
John-Francis Friendship© John-Francis Friendship 2019
First published in 2019 by the Canterbury Press Norwich
Editorial office
3rd Floor, Invicta House
108–114 Golden Lane
London EC1Y 0TG, UK
Canterbury Press is an imprint of Hymns Ancient & Modern Ltd (a registered charity)
Hymns Ancient & Modern® is a registered trademark of Hymns Ancient & Modern Ltd
13A Hellesdon Park Road, Norwich,
Norfolk NR6 5DR, UK
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced,
stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted,
in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical,
photocopying or otherwise, without the prior permission of
the publisher, Canterbury Press.
The Author has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as
the Author of this Work
Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Anglicized Edition,
copyright © 1989, 1995 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of
Christ in the USA. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication data
A catalogue record for this book is available
from the British Library
978 1 78622 180 3
Typeset by Regent Typesetting
Printed and bound in Great Britain by
CPI Group (UK) LtdThis book is dedicated to
Mary of Walsingham,
Mother of Jesus
who, having been encountered by an angel,
pondered in her heart,
and gave birth to the Word.Contents
Foreword by Nicholas Holtam, Bishop of Salisbury
Notes on the ‘Heart’
The Apostles’ Creed
1. Source of All Being
In the beginning
Mystery, metaphor and myth
God is … Light and Love
God is …
God as Mother
Encountering the Other
2. Creator of Heaven and Earth
Christian ecology
In the image of God
Original Sin
The call to holiness and the gods of our age
Dictators and demagogues
The Mystery of the Trinity
For reflection and discussion
3. The Image of the Invisible One
Seeing God in Christ
Jesus, the ‘Word’ of the Father
Seeing and believing
Christ is the ‘image’ of God
4. Son of a Virgin
Full of grace
The New Eve
Let it be to me
Mother of God
The Sorrowful Mother
The Blessed Virgin
The Angelus
5. As One Who Serves
You are my Beloved Son
The Temptations
Life in the Beatitudes
Miracles and healings
Transfigured by glory5a. Jesus Said
For reflection and discussion
6. The Passion of Christ
Christ suffered
What to make of suffering
The Sacred Triduum
Christ died
Losing life
Rotten apples
The Lamb of God
Redemption and salvation
Christ descended to the dead
7. Rising, You Restored Our Life
8. Humanity Taken into Heaven
9. Judged by Our Loving
Success and failure
God’s judgement
For reflection and discussion
10. The Go-Between God
Creative Spirit
Revealing Spirit
Liberating Spirit
Life-giving Spirit
Gifts of the Spirit
Our spirit
Being fully human
For reflection and discussion
11. The Soul’s Desire
A Hidden Treasure
A cry of gratitude
The Body in Prayer
Sign of the Cross
The Rosary
Everyday Contemplation and Mindfulness
Heart prayerMeditation and contemplation
Seeing God in all things
Holy hour
Use your imagination
English spirituality
The goal of our praying
For reflection and discussion
12. Abide in Christ
The Body of Christ
It’s only a crutch
Holy and catholic
Belonging, aloneness – and brokenness
The Sacraments
Baptism and Confirmation
The Eucharist
The Bible
The ‘Biblical Cycle’ and the cycle of the Church’s year
The Old Testament
The Psalms
The Apocrypha
The New Testament
The Religious Life
For reflection and discussion
13. Mirrors of God
What is a saint?
Called to be a saint
Holy living
Our friends in heaven
Holy places and pilgrimage
Venerating the saints
Asking for the prayers of Mary and the Saints
14. Be Reconciled
Making your confession
For reflection and discussion
15. We Rise in Him
After we die
The Last JudgementThy kingdom come
Spirit, soul and body
16. Life in Christ
What do you seek?
Peace and anxiety
Baptismal Life
Jesus and God’s Will
Faith and politics
Jesu, thou art all compassion
Abiding in the Heart of Jesus
Following Christ
Rule of Life
Finally …
For reflection and discussion
1. What is Spiritual Direction?
2. Some Ways of Developing Our Prayer
3. Suggestions for Using this Book
4. Good Friday Night Liturgy of the Deposition and Burial of the Lord
Further Information
Further Reading
Acknowledgement of SourcesA c k n o w l e d g e m e n t s
I’m very grateful to Canterbury Press for inviting me to write this book and for the confidence and
assistance offered by Christine Smith and her colleagues. It’s the fruit of many years exploring Faith and
the consequence of the help people have shown me on that journey. It’s also a reflection of my interest in
evangelism stemming from my years in Franciscan Religious Life, when I was involved in many parish,
school and diocesan missions, and I hope it will be of some use to those exploring the vast richness of the
Christian Faith.
Thanks to Anna Cole, Sue Dunbar-Silk, Fr Edmund Cargill-Thompson, John and Sue Heath, Chris
Marlowe, Br Christopher John SSF and the Revd Jackie Turner for their helpful comments. To members
of the congregation of All Saints, Blackheath for their observations, and to the Revd Dr John Cullen,
Bishop Martyn Jarrett, Nicola Mason, Fr Simon Robinson SMMS and Sr Helen Julian CSF for their
detailed critique.
After having had to put up with me writing one book I’m enormously grateful to my partner, Chris
Marlowe, for his generous support as I attempted to explore and express some of the riches of the
Christian Faith which, I trust, might be of use to the Church.F o r e w o r d
I have never felt more urgent about the importance of the Christian Gospel for the world. I am getting
older. I have seen in others the pressure of the time of their lives running out. John-Francis must have been
feeling something of this as he set down this account of the fundamentals of the Christian faith. But I mean
more than that. I was born in the 1950s into the post-war optimism of a world in which things could only
get better. The twentieth century ended hopefully with a growing internationalism, the fall of the Berlin
wall, an acceptance of our God-given diversity and the end of apartheid in South Africa. In 2001 this
changed on 9/11 and our present century is proving very much more complex to navigate. Religious faith,
which the secularists of the twentieth century thought would die out, has gained a new lease of life-giving
identity, meaning, purpose and potency for better as well as for worse.
The political pressure in the UK following the Referendum in 2016 to leave the EU is very disturbing.
It won’t end when we have successfully changed the relationship with our immediate neighbours in the
European Union. We will need to rediscover what it means to be English/Scottish/Welsh/Northern Irish,
many of us from other parts of the world as well, British, European even if not part of the European
Union, and global citizens on this fragile earth.
All over the world a new nationalism has been emerging in which people are wanting to assert their
identities in smaller, more distinctive cultural, ethnic and political units. Patriotism is good because in
order to belong everywhere we need to belong somewhere, and it is good to love our country. But the
love of the particular is to teach us the love of everywhere and everyone in this wonderfully diverse earth.
Charity begins at home but does not stop there.
In our world, we are encouraged to choose whatever best suits us from the range of alternative facts.
Truth no longer counts for much because it can be difficult to establish. It seems acceptable for political
leaders to put themselves and their country first as if the rest of us don’t matter. In response to the greatest
migration of people since World War Two, countries are turning in on themselves and building walls to
keep people out. We are telling stories to each other that are fearful and anxious. We think the gifts of
creation are ours to keep rather than to use and steward for the good of all.
Of course, we need to take care to distinguish our context from the text of the Christian faith, but it
does feel deeply urgent for us to learn again what it is to love God and love our neighbour as ourselves
and care for the earth, our common home. According to St Paul, faith, hope and love last for ever. Truth,
peace and justice are the values of the kingdom of God which Jesus said is very near. These are what
really matter, and they are accessed through the riches of Christianity.
St Augustine, writing in similarly turbulent times at the end of the fourth century, said that people travel
to see the world and pass over the mystery of themselves without a thought. He could have been writing
for us. John-Francis sets out here the fundamentals of Christianity in such a way as to establish and deepen
the faith of those seeking greater understanding. I warmly welcome this book because it will help you to
know the riches of Christianity and to better follow in the way of Jesus Christ. It is a deeply urgent task,
never more important.
+ Nicholas Holtam
Bishop of Salisbury