The Archaeology of Faith  
Book Reviews
 
The Archeology of Faith: A Personal Exploration of How We Come to Believe
by Father Louis J. Cameli
 

 
Reviewed by Eileen Quinn Knight, Ph.D.
 


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In the preface, Father Cameli states the focus of his book: “to stand before faith in all its complexity and richness”; “to look at faith in different ways”, to move a “little closer to a more genuine understanding and richness of faith”. He does not disappoint the reader in any way.  This is a beautifully written and insightful book about his faith journey as well as pebbles we can lay down to mark our own faith journey across time.

In Chapter one, as the author begins his faith journey he calls us to explore the archeology of our own faith in its development and many layers that we can discover or uncover. The fact that all four of his grandparents came from the same town in Italy makes us long for this clarity of family.  Each chapter gives us some understanding of a layer that he has uncovered and the richness of what this layer says to him about his faith.  The description of the Cuprae Fanum as a precursor of Mark Chapter 28:19a where Jesus exhorts: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” helps us to realize the beginnings of this exploration in regard to what our faith life means. The stories of Emidio as well as the story of the abbey of San Martino give us an opportunity to know and love the faith of our past as well as begin to figure out our own layers. 

The reader continues on this pilgrimage of faith with an introduction to the Franciscans and the faith of the twelfth century. Francis, similar to our present Pope, revitalized the intensity of the faith at this time by paying attention to those in pain and marginalized. The Franciscans revitalized the community as they preached, they showed us how the word of Christ calls us to generosity of spirit and a deep and abiding personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Francis prayed that the community would develop the relationship with Jesus Christ and pour it into the lives of those they meet so they could be driven by a rich faith life. The author subsequently refers to the work of Teilhard de Chardin who “affirms the integrity of the human and divine project in Jesus Christ.”

In the next section of the book, the author gives us the richness of his own personal recognition of faith in the community of his family. He describes the importance of the faith community and the richness of the faith when he was brought for Baptism.  His family understood the fullness of faith now and in the past.  Fr. Cameli relates how his faith was enriched through the faith of the nuns and priests who touched his life and when, in fourth grade, he chose the gift of “personal and freely accepted faith”. His next layer of faith was of an intellectual nature  in which he investigated the relationship between the human and the divine. In prayer and in study, the will of God became evident to him.

Father Cameli tells us the story of Mother Teresa and her struggles with her faith in working with the marginalized and poor as St. Francis did.  The author invokes us to believe that this faith struggle is a difficult one for many of us who both live in a part of the world where this struggle is difficult and where this struggle is not as difficult.  The book purports that each of our faith lives have elements of struggle, challenge and belief.  We need to look at the layers and figure out how to nourish and support our faith life. Then, we as readers, can realize the importance of helping our faith grow. He gives us questions at the end of each chapter to help us embed the important aspects of faith he is attempting to lie down for us. His continual reference to the Gospels gives us a foundation of belief and reflection.

From reading this book, we know Jesus who is transforming us with His graces throughout our lives. As a pilgrim we know that our faith evolves across time.  It is a joyous as well as a difficult journey.  Christ is always there for us in this consistent transformation.