What We Talk About When We Talk About Faith
by Peter Stanford (Hodder & Stoughton, £14.99)
Though religion implies community, it is easy to forget that religion is also an individual pursuit, with each practitioner possessing their own understanding of faith.
This is what Peter Stanford, a long-time journalist for the Catholic Herald with a love of interviewing, highlights in his new book, which is a collection of interviews with subjects of differing religious viewpoints. He includes interviews from both the pious and agnostic, Christian and Jewish – all in a successful attempt to remind readers that faith, both the word and the concept, means something different to everyone.
Perhaps my favourite of these interviews is with Sr Wendy Beckett, the Carmelite nun best known for her TV art programmes, which saw her explaining the central messages in classical art and what they could tell viewers about human nature.
Sr Wendy notes that while these series were popular with non-religious viewers, for her, they were always acutely religious. She says: ‘’I was talking about God for those who didn’t know him. In talking about beauty and truth, you are always talking about him.’’
Stanford also includes an interview with Delia Smith, arguably England’s most beloved chef. While famous for her cookery books and courses, the Delia we meet among the pages of this book is a spiritual, meditative person, showing us a different, but just as relatable side of her. Delia is beloved because she makes cooking fast, easy and low-stress, and she applies this easy, low-key attitude to her own practice of faith, too.
A churchgoer, she also incorporates an hour of silence into her busy days where she can continue to develop and depend her relationship with God, something that even the busiest of us could fit into our schedules. Reading about the religious practice of this paragon of popular culture reminds us that even when we define our lives by our profession, we can still leave room for religion.
With this book, Stanford inspires us to explore our own individual faith, finding the ways to practice our beliefs that work best for our lives and our needs.
He reminds us that Faith does not have one single definition; it is specific to every person, and he encourages us to find our own Faith using the inspiration and stories from his many interviewees, who are themselves on their own, life-long spiritual journeys.
There is no perfect way to piety; we each can only do our best to remain faithful, and Stanford encourages us to find out what our “best” looks like.