“[If] you do not listen to Theology, that will not mean that you have no ideas about God. It will mean that you have a lot of wrong ones— bad, muddled, out of date ideas.” —C. S. Lewis

From all appearances, the importance of religion in the U.S. has dramatically declined in recent years. According to the prestigious Pew Research Center’s 2014 Religious Landscape Study, changes in religious affiliation have affected all regions of the country, and many demographic groups.


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Several months ago I wrote about hope, which grew from my reflections on the meaning of hope and how it differs from optimism. As I’ve continued to reflect on hope and optimism, I’ve found my thoughts turning to the subject of faith.

As a professed Secular Franciscan, I feel a special affinity for St. Francis of Assisi, who espoused the simple virtues of Humility, Generosity, Reverence, Service, Respect, Prayer, Joy, and Love. The teachings of this gentle monk guide my daily life, including my approach to the ETMS. As I consider the subject of faith, the teachings of St. Francis inspire me.


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In every spiritual tradition exists the foundational precept of loving-kindness. In my life, I find no greater joy than to be working in loving- kindness, serving God above all else. But how do we discover what God’s will is for us?


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Optimism can be defined as the non-empirical belief that positive circumstances will result from uncertain or even negative circumstances—in other words, it is the expectation that good things rather than bad things will generally happen. On the surface, that sounds like a positive way to live. But there’s a significant flaw in viewing the world optimistically. What happens when reality doesn’t live up to our optimistic expectations? Optimism claims, “Everything will be all right!” But what if everything isn’t “alright”?


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In my work, I connect daily with people who have received a diagnosis of cancer or other significant illness. For many, the diagnosis of a life-threatening illness brings life into crystalline focus, making clear what is most important. I believe that a chronic illness, such as cancer, is an invitation to attend to our true nature and to bring our focus into the present moment. This is the essence of the great spiritual teachings of the world, which encourage us to live not in the past or the future, but in the now.


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Anointing has been a sacred ritual for thousands of years in many different religions and ethnic groups, as a means of spiritual refreshment and physical invigoration. In the Orthodox tradition, the sacramental act of pouring aromatic oils onto the body, most often the head, is also called unction, and is primarily administered for physical and spiritual ills, although everyone is anointed during Holy Week. In this act of blessing, the aromatic oil used is believed to have both spiritual and physical healing qualities.


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