Faith, education and alienation


How terrible must be the pain and anguish of those that are totally alienated, biologically, culturally and spiritually. The only cure is faith yet how difficult it is to pass on the faith.

Faith is a true gift that comes from the hands on our unknowable God who continues to work in very mysterious ways. What we do know is that faith is passed on by an act of faith. It has its beginning when a friend makes an act of faith in a friend. It is in this act of faith that the gift of faith is received by the other. In the very nothingness of my womb, Faith takes root. Faith is the supreme gift of the creator. Faith is the word that is always just beyond our grasp.

St Paul tells us that faith, hope and love are all gifts that come from the hands of the creator. Yet what is faith but to believe and hope that one can produce love out of our very nothingness.

Faith and hope are terminal gifts that we discard at the end of our days. Hopeful we have transformed ourselves into what the creator’s image of each person.

Faith and hope had as its object love which is the very energy of God which finally will escort us into the total presence of the creator. It can also be said that faith precedes love, as one must believe in oneself before he can come to love oneself.

How can one believe in love or friendship or even the creator if one cannot make an act of faith in oneself? The door of faith in oneself is the door that one must pass through so as to find the exit out of alienation and into life which becomes a
constant seeking. Friendship, growing friendship, deep friendship is the real act of faith.

Those who want to minister to the present critical spiritual pain, away and beyond physical pain must have the time to listen to words, even though sometimes it sounds like the prattle of infants, the very silence seeking words must be heard and the very doubts and even the hopes of the alien must be heard and digested.

In this quiet and sometimes even mute, time is not important. Who counts the
seconds or even minutes that are needed to build up a true friendship. Time is the most precious and scarce gift that we have and so time must be given away so that faith can be re-discovered by the multitudes of modern people.

The spirit is beyond time. The only cure for non-being is non-time. We can measure the time that it takes to form the perfect body of a child in the womb of the mother. Yet how can ever hope to measure the time it takes to give birth to faith.

How much time does the Church spend on treating the symptoms of the present spiritual problem. The real spiritual problem of our day is alienation. When are we going to admit that we do not real know how to cure this non being. We are moving albeit at a snail pace towards the solution. We have turned the page on sin being the beginning and end of the Christian life. We are now reading
from the page of grace.

It could be that the past emphasis on sin was based on keeping law and order within the Church and the state. It could also be that we have rediscovered grace as the law that allows life to become. Or could it be that we have discovered that
non-beings cannot sin. We can preach love forever for as a non-being cannot sin neither can “it” love.

How easy and inhuman have we made the gift of faith! It would seem that all one had to do is make an act of faith in a series of doctrines and one will be saved.
Faith must leap from the very atoms of the cells that make up the very ground of our being. For it is in the very ground of our being that we will discover the fullness of our mystery. The unknowable God.

This God who lives in the innermost part of the void within, from nothing was I born the second time. It was a friend that led me to myself and the creator who lives within his creation. She waited in the nothingness of the void within waiting to be greeted by her creatures.

As you might have guessed by now, I was there. The “incurable” illness of alienation had taken hold of my spirit. The village in Italy that was the womb of my parents was now barren and dead as the villagers left for the city. In the city they built up replicas of their villages. I could not live in the village any longer.

My roots were caught and I tumbled into the world with nothing to hold on to. Literally, I was an empty can making a lot of noise and little or no sense. I suppose that alienation can be cured by insisting to live in the past yet the very past is dying. This cure would be like a ship wreck where the survivors swim back to
the sinking ship to find security. At work, I was nothing.

In my day, the name for a worker was a “hand”, you checked in your mind when you punched the time clock. The employers were paying us for the use of our hands. I was the youngest worker in the plant and so was at the bottom of the ladder. With friends, outwardly I enjoyed the frenzy of life, playing and watching
sports, drinking, dancing as happy and exuberant as any beer ad.

Yet could I disclose to my friends the pain and anguish of non-meaning? I feared the long shout of laughter that would echo from my words. So I lived with the pain and anguish hoping against hope that the void of nothingness would disappear. Yet when the din and decibels of life were silenced, the nothingness of life increased its dull echo. Alone I faced the problem of nothingness.

Suddenly like a planned accident, at the same moment that I was leaving the house, a car squealed its brakes and a friend of mine asked where I was going, I answered that I was going to the corner hangout where the gang of 20 or 25 young men met regularly to while away the time, discuss sports or where we were
going to go for the evening. “Why don’t you come with me downtown to a small meeting of young workers?”

Friends with autos were rather rare in the late 40’s and it was also rare that young workers discussed work. The novelty of such a meeting roused my curiosity, so I jumped into the car and my friend gave me a short summary of a previous meeting where they discussed labour unions.

Much to my surprise and chagrin, I saw that a priest was present and the meeting was opened with a prayer. I muttered under my breath, this is a religious meeting. As I had stopped practising the faith since I left school nearly eight years ago, I felt rather uneasy in the presence of a priest. The image that I held of a priest
was that his job was to get me back to Church.

For a good six months of attending the weekly meetings, I kept thinking that the group was but a trap to get me back to Church. I waited patiently for the trap to be sprung. Yet with each passing meeting, I started to have doubts about the role of the priest, maybe this is real and not a trap. Maybe the words of Cardijn who was the founder of the Young Christian Workers “a young worker is worth more than all the gold in the world” were for real. Maybe the growing friendship between the ten or so members of the group was for real.

Yet my cynicism had only part of me participating in the discussions. The real me was still waiting to be invested.

True, I was carrying out the action that was discussed by the group. Action was the key in the transformation of young workers. Ideas without action are sterile. Through it all, the doubts continued to dance around my growing hope in some type of demonical dance. Yet the growing friendship of the group allowed my
courage to grow so as to enter my nothingness. There the dialogue was

Could all this be for real! Can it be that this priest is really interested in my work? Really interested in me? Or is his interest but the baiting of the trap. He speaks well that he wants to learn from young workers. What could he learn from us, after all he is very well educated, we know very little having left school at fifteen. Could it be that young workers can educate priests. What does he see in me. I think that he believes in me.

He talks rather strange sometime but then he is a graduate from a university. Yet his words start to etch themselves in my consciousness. “young workers are infinitely more important than their production.” Does he really believe this? Does he really believe that I am important? The doubts start to give away to hope. This sub surface dialogue was starting to sprout through the soil of life. It takes time for the seed to die so as to mate with the earth and produce fruit.

Too often, educators believe that they are doing the educating, instead of developing the patient of job, by planting the seed of the importance of life. If the priest has not broached the question of my going back to Church, then the image of the priest must be transformed to one of a person who is truly a friend. What
does he see in me? Cannot he see and feel the nothingness that resides in me?

Yet he is a continual support to my action at work, in the hangout and the family. He must see something in me that I am not conscious of. I cannot remember when exactly that I made the decision to “becoming me.” This was the real day of my birth to consciousness. My parents told me of the date of my first birth, who can ever tell me the exact moment of my second birth.

On reflection, I was not totally alienated as I had a wonderful home but as my parents lived in an Italian village in an urban setting, as part of the Italian culture was a non-alienating reality. Yet this same village was dying and being replaced by the alienating city. So I became an alien cut of from my past.

I remember well my early Catholic education which tried hard to get me to enter their city yet at the same time was killing the Italian culture in me. How much more thought must be given to the entry point. Modern alienating culture from cigarettes to coke spend all their power on this entry point. Its power it total. Yet Catholic education is supposed to end once the student has “graduated.”

Romeo Maione

August 1988