by Richard Rohr OFM
Like “prayer,” “religion,” and so many other words, the word “faith” means different things to different people. As we recover the lost tradition of contemplation, here are some clarifications for what I mean by “faith” and why, understood in a nondualistic way, faith is not blind assent, or even reasoned assent, but an essential part of spiritual transformation.
Faith points to an initial opening of the heart or mind space from our side. Foundationally, this is all that faith is, but its effects and implications can be enormous. Faith is our small but necessary “yes” to any new change or encounter.
Such an opening or re-opening is necessary to help you make fresh starts or break through to new levels. You normally have to let go of the old and go through a stage of unknowing or confusion before you can move to another level of awareness or new capacity. This opening up and letting go is largely what we mean by faith, and it explains why doubt and faith are correlative terms. People of great faith often suffer bouts of great doubt because they continue to grow. Mother Teresa experienced decades of doubt, as was widely reported after her death. The very fact that the media and people in general were surprised by her experience demonstrates our very limited understanding of faith.
The movement through unknowing is necessary in all encounters, relationships, or intellectual breakthroughs, not just with the Divine. Human faith and religious faith are much the same except in their object or goal. What set us on the wrong path was making the object of religious faith “ideas” or doctrines instead of a person.  Our faith is not a belief that dogmas or moral opinions are true, but a faith that Ultimate Reality/God/Jesus is accessible to us—and even on our side. Jesus was able to touch and heal people who trusted him as an emissary of God’s love, not people who assessed intellectual statements and decided whether they were true or false. Faith is more how to believe than what to believe.
Gateway to Silence:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. —Proverbs 3:5