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Listening to and telling the Christian story



Fr. Taylor Colwell - published on 04/25/23

Storytelling is essentially what goes on in the transmission of faith ... But of course, faith is more than just a story.

One of my favorite things to do as a boy was go to breakfast with my maternal grandfather. He would pick me up in his old, gray Ford pickup truck and treat me to biscuits. Along the way, he would tell stories. My favorite came from his years as a Georgia State Trooper, and his Naval service during World War II. There were the times he chased a fleeing vehicle deep into a swamp, braved incoming Japanese planes at Okinawa, and once made a birthday cake for then-Governor Jimmy Carter. 

I see now that these stories did more than entertain: They introduced me to a certain view of the world, with definite values: justice, courage, adventure, patriotism, to name a few. By telling these stories, he drew me in, whether he realized it or not, to the larger story of his life and that of our whole family, community, and region. He gave me a place to stand in the world, a foot in the past that would launch me into the future, a legacy of which I could be proud. 

Storytelling is essentially what goes on in the transmission of faith. We narrate to others, especially the next generation, stories from the past with decisive significance for the present and future. These stories impart a way of seeing reality that shapes us with certain values. They introduce us into the larger story of the Church, the Christian community across space and time. 

Of course, faith is more than just a story. The Christian claim is that God has really spoken in history, first to Israel, and definitively in Jesus Christ. Our faith surpasses merely personal stories, for it possesses a universal truth and meaning. It is decisive in the strongest sense, for our response to it determines our existential fate. 

Yet, Christian faith indeed remains a story, and its unique truth emerges when it is announced and received as such. For those who have embraced the Christian narrative as your own: Be bold in telling your story to others, for “how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard?” (Rm 10:14). For those still seeking a definitive story, I encourage you to listen with an open heart to this story that aims to embrace all people. At least, try it out, and see how it squares with your own.

Of all the stories my grandfather told me, the most important was the one he told less by words than by example: the Gospel of Jesus Christ. May we all listen to and tell our stories with openness and authenticity, and allow this greatest story of all to more fully embrace each one of us.  


This is part of the series called “The Human Being Fully Alive” found here.

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