Faith, the Indispensable Foundation
I had begun writing about the supernatural organism that is rooted in the life of grace, consisting of the infused theological and moral virtues, together with the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Now that I have learned that I will be transferred to Holy Family parish in Burns it looks like I will not have the opportunity to continue with this series. I had only just begun writing about faith, the first of the theological virtues.
Perhaps it is fitting that I conclude on this subject. If I look back over my almost 9 years here at St. Peter’s I would say that the focus of my teaching has been on the life of grace and the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity – I have not had the opportunity to go into depth on the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Yet, more than anything else, my focus has been on faith, the gateway to the whole supernatural life.
Many people want to hear about ‘love’. People clearly need hope in their lives. Nevertheless, I have focused more on faith because without faith love falls to the earth and ends up following destructive paths, while hope goes astray, either taking heaven for granted or resting content with earthly goals.
Actually, it is never a question of love or not love, everyone loves someone or something; some form of love lies at the root of all human desire and therefore all human action. The question is what we love and how we love; the question is the right order of love. Disordered love is destructive of self and others. The slogans ‘love wins’ and ‘love is love’ are meaningless and manipulative. It is not enough merely to ‘love’, but we must love God above all things and our neighbor as ourselves, as Christ would have us do. That requires faith.
Hope must be fixed upon God, union with the God whom we love, eternal life in him; that is a goal that is beyond our natural capacity, a goal that requires the help of God’s grace, and a goal that is by no means assured to us. We require the strength of hope to reach out towards that goal and, with help that God gives, attain it. We need the strength of hope to advance on the path of Christian life and so grow in grace and in virtue. Yet this is impossible without faith, which shows us the true goal of hope and also the way we must travel to get there. Faith is the foundation of things hoped for, the proof of things unseen. (He 11:1)
Very often, these days, the faith of Catholics is taken for granted, but it is precisely here in the matter of faith that we see confusion, discord, and error resulting in the weakness or loss of faith.
Here in The Dalles – and it is not unique to The Dalles – there is a generation of grandparents whose children to a large extent no longer attend Mass and if they believe in some way in Jesus Christ, no longer hold to the Catholic faith, and whose grandchildren are no longer baptized. Meanwhile, the current generation of parents trying to raise their children in the Catholic faith, often find themselves watching helplessly as their children progressively lose the faith starting in Middle School.
There has been in the Church a lot of handwringing, moaning, and criticism about those who have left the Church; there have also been all manner of proposed ‘solutions’, ways to reach out and invite people back, ways to be more accommodating and ‘welcoming’.
Yet these responses seem to partake of the same weakness of faith that leads people to leave in the first place. They seem to view the Church as a sort of ‘club’ that is losing membership and needs to change and restructure to regain its ‘vitality’. Last week I wrote that we live in and have been formed by a world of ‘anti-faith’. In that context, it should hardly be surprising that so many people have lost the faith; what is really more surprising is that anyone believes at all.
In this world of ‘anti-faith’ it is no longer sufficient to get by with vague and hazy notions; ignorance and routine will do only to keep the outward appearances of a comfortable habit. In this world of anti-faith there is a need for clear vision, strong minds, serious knowledge, and total dedication and commitment. Every Catholic really must take responsibility for learning and living according to the faith that has been handed down from the Apostles, otherwise he is likely to lose it, even if he retains some outward appearance, sentiment, or habit of being ‘Catholic’.
Indeed, I have criticized the heresy of ‘modernism’ which is now rampant, precisely because it is a movement of Catholics who have effectively lost the faith, but who have been seeking to ‘re-purpose’ the Church to the detriment of those who still believe.
Rather, hearkening to the words of the Apostle we must contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. (Jude 1:3)
In the words of Pope St. Pius X: “We must repeat with the utmost energy in these times of social and intellectual anarchy when everyone takes it upon himself to teach as a teacher and lawmaker – the City cannot be built otherwise than as God has built it.” (Pope St. Pius X, “Our Apostolic Mandate”) Faith gives us God’s plan.