‘Faith finding a voice’ – Bishop Dunn Memorial Lecture by the Archbishop of Westminster
In the Bishop Dunn Memorial Lecture given on Tuesday 15 May 2012, at Ushaw College, Durham, the Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, called on all Catholics to think about how best to express their faith in their lives today.
In the lecture, entitled “Faith Finding a Voice”, the Archbishop appealed for dialogue as the most effective way of faith finding a voice. He invited all people of faith to find the good in the other, rather than seeking points of opposition.
Drawing on the writings of St Augustine he explained that the best articulation of our faith is to make our entire lives an expression of Christ.
The Archbishop said that our faith should be a guiding theme in the narrative of our own lives. Our own history should be seen as the unfolding gift of life given by God seen from the perspective of our faith in God, marked by the continual presence of the Holy Spirit prompting and guiding us.
We are voices speaking the eternal Word that is Jesus Christ
Marking a distinction between what is said, and who is saying it, Archbishop Nichols explained that our faith must seek to express only the Word of God, the person of Jesus. “It is to him that we wish to give voice, not ourselves. He is the Word, we in all our circumstances are only the voice” said the Archbishop.
Extending St Augustine’s view, Archbishop Nichols pointed to the transient nature of our voice, in contrast to Jesus who is the Word for all eternity. It is crucial that our voice speaks for this day and age, making sense in a dialogue of “today” while maintaining loyalty to the unchanging truth of the Word that our lives express.
Listening to the heartbeat of the age
The importance of “dialogue” was emphasised, and as part of this process, the value of listening. Dialogue is best shaped by different qualities: listening, understanding, and shared empathy. The way of dialogue is the pathway by which faith best finds its voice – seeking points of possible agreement, seeking out the good that is to be found in the other without glossing over real differences.
Finding voice through truth, goodness, beauty
Archbishop Nichols told his audience that there are three pathways through which faith finds a voice – truth, goodness and beauty.
Beauty, the Archbishop said, is the pathway most readily appealing to people today and helps us to see ourselves within a wider perspective, loosening our preoccupation with ourselves and appreciating how our lives are part of a wider pattern. Many have chosen to express the beauty and mystery of faith through works of art, through our churches and homes.
The pathway of goodness is also within reach of each one of us, said Archbishop Nichols.
This is the pathway of charity, faith finding a voice on every street corner, in the kitchen and in the workplace, among friends and strangers, in every part of the broad pathway of life.
The third pathway, of truth, is the most complex at the present time. It needs prayer, raising our minds and hearts to God. And it needs public debate, in which silence, allowing reflection, is a crucial aspect.
Archbishop Nichols concluded that the voice of faith should always articulate hope. “It is within that perspective that human beings can maintain our true dignity, our true poise not matter what we face.” As illustrated by Stephen at his death, peace and forgiveness are the fruits of hope.
Centre for Catholic Studies (CCS)
The late Kevin Dunn, Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle, worked with Professor Paul D. Murray (Director of the CCS) to establish the Bede Chair of Catholic Theology and the Centre for Catholic Studies at Durham University. His unexpected death, which occurred shortly before the CCS was officially opened, led the Vice-Chancellor of the University and the Director of the CCS to establish an annual lecture in tribute to his achievement and contribution to learning. The Bishop Dunn Memorial Lecture seeks to engage a wider public audience with: the work of the Centre for Catholic Studies and the intellectual life of the Catholic tradition. It is a chance to connect international students, faculty and related diocesan communities – and people of all faiths and none –with leading theological and pastoral figures from around the Church in a hospitable forum. It is hoped that, as part of the outreach work of the CCS, the Bishop Dunn Memorial Lecture will grow as an event at which those interested to learn more about Catholic faith will be able (re)engage with some of its most prominent figures.
Faith Finding a Voice
The Gospel and Social Teaching: On the Economic Crisis, Human Flourishing, and Church Ministry
The Case for Catholic Theology in the Public Academy: An Opportunity for All
Prof. Paul Murray
The Trinity and the Life of the Church
Prof. Lewis Ayres
Previously, the Lecture has been held in St. Cuthbert’s Church – the University’s Catholic chaplaincy, hosted by Fr Tony Currer. This year, Archbishop Vincent will be offering the Lecture at Ushaw College – this will be the first public event at Ushaw since part of the site has come under the auspices of Durham University. Over 200 people are expected to attend the event.
Ushaw College was originally founded in 1568 in Douai, France, with the intended purpose of training Roman Catholic priests. With the upheaval caused during the Revolution, the College was re-founded on Ushaw Moor, in Durham, in 1808 where it exists today.