Year of Faith: The Door of Faith is the Way Out of the Iron Cage of Modernity
ensemble of these components.
Faith is not content alone. It is not merely knowledge of those intellectual propositions that one might find in the Catechism of the Catholic Church or in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. One can read and know what's in these documents and never have faith, though these documents do contain the content of the faith.
Faith is not act alone. Faith believes, but it believes in something and in someone. That we believe in both someone and in something is what distinguishes the Catholic Church's understanding of faith from the Protestant understanding of faith, which is more a concept of trust in God (a fiducial faith) than an assent to God and the truths revealed by Him. Though the Catholic understanding of faith includes the fiducial component, it is much broader and comprehensive that mere trust in a promise.
Faith is therefore both content and act, an "act by which we choose to entrust ourselves fully to God, in complete freedom." Porta fidei, 10. There is a "profound unity between the act by which we believe and the content to which we give our assent." While "knowing the content to be believed" is necessary for salvation, it is "not sufficient" for salvation "unless the heart, the authentic sacred space within the person, is opened by grace that allows the eyes to see below the surface and to understand that what has been proclaimed is the word of God." Porta fidei, 10.
The entire content must accepted as the word of God. There is no such thing a cafeteria Catholicism, where we pick and choose what pleases us. This is not faith in the revealing God who can neither deceive nor be deceived; this is egotism, a form of idolatry of self. If you are a cafeteria Catholic you will be eating prison food in the "iron cage."
Importantly, faith is both a personal and a communitarian act. The Catholic Church understands faith as communitarian in addition to personal. This means that the faith is not what you and I make it, but it is our individual acceptance of a common faith. That's why in the Mass we pray: "Look not on our sins, but on the faith of your Church (fidem Ecclesiae tuae) and graciously grant peace in our days."
For a Protestant, faith is just a personal commitment to Jesus, and it is more or less free of any connection to the Church and in many cases even doctrinal content. But the wresting of the individual act of faith from the faith of the Church makes the Protestant faith inherently unstable. It is a doctrine-less attachment to God that sees the Church as surplusage.
For a Catholic, however, there is no such thing as an act of faith outside the Church because "the Church . . . is the primary subject of faith." Porta fidei, 10. It is a falsehood to believe that one's faith has no relationship to the faith of the Church. "'I believe' is the faith of the Church professed personally by each believer . . . 'We believe' is the faith of the Church confessed by the bishops assembled in council or more generally by the liturgical assembly of believers." Id.
Our act of faith is, in fact, our personal incorporation or participation in the act of faith of the Church. "'I believe' is also the Church, our mother, responding to God by faith as she teaches us to say both 'I believe' and 'we believe.'" Porta fidei, 10.
The act of faith is one of confessing, a "confessing with the lips." This necessarily implies "public testimony" as well as a public "commitment." "A Christian," the Pope states, "may never think of belief as a private act." Porta fidei, 10.
Catholics cannot be closet Christians. You don't get out of an "iron cage" by entering into a closet.
If a Christian "may never think of belief as a private act" as the Pope avers, then certain things follow.
First, those in the "iron cage" of secularism who claim to be Catholic Christians and claim they are "personally opposed" to [here insert any of the Church's moral absolutes], but then profess that such shall not affect their public personae are bereft of real belief. I will not name names and point fingers, but we all know who these are. Alas, their name is legion. Pope Benedict XVI makes it clear, however: a privatized, compartmentalized faith is no faith at all.
It is, in fact, a confession of unbelief, of practical apostasy. Such Catholics have abandoned either the content of the Faith, disowned the act of Faith, or both. "Faith," after all, "is choosing to stand with the Lord"--and not to abide by your political philosophy, your constituents, or your political party--"so as to live with him." Porta fidei, 10.
So here is the first purpose of the Year of Faith. The Church and all her members are asked to contribute to the renewal of the Church through a deeper conversion to the Lord and through witness offered by their lives. We are to believe, and to believe more. "Believers, so Saint Augustine tells us, 'strengthen themselves by believing.'" Porta fidei, 7.
Let us cry out to the Lord with the words of the father of the young boy possessed by the spirit which made him mute. "I believe! Help thou my unbelief." (Mark 9:24)
Credo! Adiuva incredulitatem meam!
Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas. He is married with three children. He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum. You can contact Andrew at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: year of faith, porta fidei, secularism, secularist, modernist, Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Newman, Andrew Greenwell
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