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You (Still) Gotta Have Faith, Part I

February 20, 2012

I thought I would bring back this post, because, well, there is a lot going on these days.  Not just in the world – where politicians are scrambling for a toehold, and Catholics are being mandated what is or is not to be believed as matters of conscience and Faith, or sectarian violence is begetting more sectarian violence, or even whether or not Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is actually Dr. Strangelove (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dr._Strangelove for you younger readers).  Personally there is a lot as well – my oldest daughter is going through RCIA (for which, as I observe her and field her questions, I have an even more growing respect and understanding for her growth as a pretty good person).  And I have a colleague who joined us this year as well – who finds himself at the crossroads (and crosshairs) of his professional life – with a lot of unknowns ahead – as do we all.  As a volunteer for RCIA – Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults – at my parish, I thought it would be fun to dive into, and cultivate some knowledge.  I wrote this post originally post Christmas last year and I thought I would bring it back for a second pass – mostly for the benefit of the two aforementioned students, but hopefully all will have a little fun learning.  So, as we approach Ash Wednesday, and contemplate the What – as in what am I offering up for Lent – let us revisit the Why.

If one were to ask my cradle-Catholic friends, schooled by Sisters for a dozen years, the question, “What is Faith?”, their blank-stared, Rote-conditioned, Pavlovian response would be right off their Baltimore tattoo on their forearm:

Question # 465: Faith is a Divine virtue by which we firmly believe the truths which God has revealed.

(Baltimore, meaning the Catechism transcribed for this country in 1885 from the old English Penny Catechism, which came from the Catechism of the Council of Trent. Baltimore was the first Diocese in the United States, where all the Catholics were shipped to ‘Mary Land.’)

Over one hundred years later, Pope John Paul II would promulgate the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  In it one finds, “Faith is the theological virtue by which we believe in God and believe all that he has said and revealed to us, and that Holy Church proposes for our belief, because he is truth itself” (CCC 1814).  Very nice.  This recent Catechism is very organized, and starts off right away with The Profession of the aforementioned Faith – which is the foundation why we are even meeting at least once a week as Church at all.  I will state it verbatim from the book:

Paragraph 26 starts, “We begin our profession of faith by saying: “I believe” or “We believe” (which Credo has been correctly translated as just ‘I believe’ now).   Before expounding the Church’s faith, as confessed in the Creed, celebrated in the liturgy, and lived in observance of God’s commandments and in prayer, we must first ask what “to believe” means.”  Here comes what today’s reflection was for me: “Faith is man’s response to God, who reveals himself and gives himself to man, at the same time bringing man a superabundant light as he searches for the ultimate meaning of his life.”  Ooh, Cradles?:  “Why did God make you?” Robots:

Question # 150: God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in the next.

I, of course jest in camaraderie, because in the military I found that some of the best, in-grained learning is through repetition.

The Cradles give a great answer: God made me to know, to love, and to serve Him.  “The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself.  Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for” (CCC 27).  If you have thrown or heard the words, “Second Vatican Council” with disdain, I implore you to actually read the documents. They will knock your socks off.  From the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes (Joys and Hopes), the Catechism explains further:  “Human Dignity rests above all on the fact that humanity is called to communion with God.  The invitation to converse with God is addressed to men and women as soon as they are born.  For if people exist it, is because God created them through love, and through love continues to keep them in existence.  They cannot live fully in the truth unless they freely acknowledge that love and entrust themselves to their creator“ (Guadium et Spes 19).  Paragraph 19 continues, “Many however, of our contemporaries either do not at all perceive, or else explicitly reject, this intimate and vital relationship with God.  Atheism must therefore be regarded as one of the most serious problems of our time” (GS 19).

(Continued…)

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