Christ stilling the waves

The Trumpeteer

THE CATECHISM, TALK THREE

TALK 3

WHAT IS FAITH?

In our chaotic world, where not many can think logically, and where emotions dominate everything, it is important to know what Faith is.

A.9 Faith is a supernatural gift of God, which enables us to believe without doubting whatever God has revealed.

Q 10 asks the following: Why must you believe whatever God has revealed?
A. I must believe whatever God has revealed because God is very truth, and can neither deceive nor be deceived.

Monsignor Gilbey is insistent, unlike many priests today who teach the catechism, and catechists, that Faith is a gift. He also says that we must believe the whole of what the Church teaches, and cannot accept some things, and not others. This is exceptionally compromised by the whole ecumenical discussion these days, as a sense of what the Church is, and how it is understood is fraught with danger, and the various bland expressions of “Well we all believe in the same God.”, and “As long as you are good person, God understands”, without specifying what constitutes good. It usually means that the people are nice and friendly, but are most probably living quite immoral lifestyles. I think that the God of the liberal Anglican and liberal Protestant bears little resemblance to God as understood by the Eastern Orthodox Churches, and the traditional Protestant Churches. Sadly even sectors of the Catholic Church, mainly clerical and religious, are very shaky in this area. However the orthodox Catholic will find himself and herself ;/.lin hot water with the Orthodox when it comes to indulgences, purgatory, and Papal Infallibility.

I think we should let the good Monsignor inform us of what a gift is.

The whole value of that word is that it emphasizes an act of will, the intellect having been insufficiently prepared to allow the will to act freely. It is the will which moved by Grace determines the mind to believe. I have already said that there are two ways in which we resemble Almighty God: by having a mind to know and by having a will to realise or carry into effect. All the supernatural virtues, Faith, Hope and Charity, depend on acts of the will; and the Catechism emphasises this by describing them as gifts of God. For a gift is something essentially involving acts of the will on the part of two persons. What I am obliged to give you, what you are obliged to receive, is not a gift at all. A gift is of its very nature a free thing. I choose to give you a book or a picture of my free will. You are absolutely free to accept or refuse it.

The very nature of a gift involves a free act of the will: and so it is with Faith: it needs to be freely offered by Almighty God. Certainly it needs to be freely accepted by the individual. It cannot be forced.

And there you see the need for more than an act of the intellect. Our intellects, faced with their proper evidence, are not free. You cannot possibly follow a whole line of reasoning and accept every successive step without accepting the conclusion. The mind must go as far as the conclusion. You cannot accept the validity of the hypotheses of a mathematical proof and of each successive step in the proof and then say, “Oh, no, I will not accept the conclusion.” The intellect is not free to do that. It has reached the conclusion already. Now, an act of Faith is completely different from that. Since Faith is a gift from Almighty God, it is within our power to accept or to refuse it. That is why Faith is a virtue.

Accepting the conclusions or reason cannot be a virtue because you have no alternative. You may be praised for the diligence or application which have enabled you to use your reason well. But for reaching the conclusions to which reason leads you, you cannot be praised, for there is no choice in the matter.(p.16 We Believe)

Even miracles are not much good here, because you can explain them away if you feel that science at some future date will be able to explain them. As science appears to be the solution to everything then surely the agnostic, and the atheist, and the unbeliever will be vindicated by future scientific discoveries. As Monsignor Gilbey points out:

You would not have been compelled to believe in the divinity of Christ by witnessing phenomena which you could not explain. The phenomena may be overwhelmingly persuasive. But they cannot in the nature of things be compelling. You cannot prove a mystery.(p.17 We Believe)

He then goes on to say that an act of Faith must be reasonable. It cannot be unreasonable; it cannot be illogical, however mysterious it might seem. With all the phenomena “ which tend to indicate that revelation is true, the will is still free to accept or refuse the credibility of God’s revelation to mankind.”(p.17)

Monsignor Gilbey then goes on, in his typical dry and humorous way, to recount how individual catechetics worked in the old days. Sadly it does not work like this now, or very rarely.

The purely expository nature of a course of instructions such as these is well illustrated in the tart reply of a tired priest at the end of a hard day to a convert who said, “You surely don’t expect me to believe that do you?” The priest answered, “Madam, I don’t expect you to believe anything. You asked what the Church teaches and I’m telling you.” A revealed religion can be taught only didactically. (p.17 We Believe) .

That is something so easily forgotten. The Faith is not about having Café Courses, or taking part in the RCIA, whose creator Christiane Brusselmans apparently committed suicide, which people conveniently try to forget, and who sadly was a typical product of the supposed Vatican II ethos. Ronald Rolheiser in his sympathetic obituary slightly misses the point. Suicide is suicide. If the sister took an overdose by accident, that is not suicide. One can kill oneself for all manner of reasons. What constitutes the sin is despair or any reason that goes against the Divine prohibition against suicide. If the person is mad then there is no problem. Since Vatican Ii an anthropocentric slant in Theology has had disastrous effects in catechetics. The Faith is not about putting Man at the centre of the Universe, it is about Man worshipping God with all his heart, mind and soul, and then loving his neighbour as himself. It is about man being saved by the grace of God, which comes from the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ. To do this Man has to know who God is, and what God has done for him, and what our response must be to God. The problem with the Church today is that there is a lot of egalitarianism, assertions of freedom, and talk of democracy, but very little humility. There is a lot of false humility with everyone telling everyone how wonderful they are, and extolling others gifts, and implicitly extolling their own. That may be somewhat harsh, but it is what I have found in my 33 years as a religious, and my 26 years as a priest. We must be aware that one of the unfortunate fruits of the Council was that it put Man at the centre, and God somewhat offstage, or even in the prompt box.

Questions 10-12 deal with believing whatever God has revealed. Why? because God does not deceive nor can he be deceived. The Church teaches about God and the Faith because Christ gave the Catholic Church Divine authority to do so.

Thus we believe all that the Church teaches, because she has the mandate to teach the Faith from her founder Jesus Christ. So the word “whatever” is of crucial importance.

Monsignor Gilbey sums it up very well in the following passage:

People often think that becoming a Catholic entails, let us say, 25 successive propositions. No, becoming a Catholic entails the acceptance of only one: namely, that the Catholic Church is God’s revelation. With that acceptance comes the consequent acceptance of the whole of the Church’s teaching in one single act. The act of acceptance is the same for a philosopher as for a peasant (p. 18, We Believe)

An act of Faith is an act of the will, and the Faith can be lost by an act of the will, and it would seem that invariably it is.

Here are nos. 10 to 12 in full.

10. Why must you believe whatever God has revealed?
I must believe whatever God has revealed because God is the very truth, and can neither deceive not be deceived.

11. How are you to know what God has revealed?
I am to know what God has revealed by the testimony, an authority of the Catholic Church.

12. Who gave the Catholic Church divine authority to teach?
Jesus Christ gave the Catholic Church divine authority to teach, when he said, ‘Goo therefore, make disciples of all the nations’. (Mt. 28:19)

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