Tuesday, July 21, 2009

YEAR OF THE PRIEST - Meditation 2

Pope Benedict XVI knows that his main job is to confirm 'the brothers in their faith.' Faith is needed to enter the Church. And the Pope must help the Church maintain that Faith which in its initial stages can be lost (as had often happened to the Apostles.) As early as Pope Benedict's pontificate, he had expressed his general plan to re-evangelize Europe in exactly the same way that it was first evangelized by Peter and Paul and later on in the 5th century by St. Benedict of Nurcia.

Last year during the Year of St. Paul (otherwise known as the year of Faith) Pope Benedict encouraged the laymen to repent and believe. Now, the Year of the Priests, he is encouraging the Priests to go all the way, i.e. to repent, to believe, to hope and to love. He made this call during Vespers saying that the priest must tend constantly towards sanctity. Keeping in mind that the contemplative and mystical lives are within the ordinary way towards sanctity, that is a tall order. It means re-learning a whole theological course akin to the "Three stages of the interior life" by Garrigou Lagrange.

Let us look at the game plan of the Holy Father. He first gave us the encyclicals"Deus Caritas est" and now "Caritas in veritate." Then, in between, he declared the "Year of St. Paul" (which was a call to Faith) and the "Year of the Priests" (which is a call to Charity.) And he hinted clearly that both the laity and the priest should first check if they have Faith (or if they have entered the Catholic Church.) How do we find that out? If we put together the two above encyclicals and the two years he declared (the Years of St. Paul and of the Priests) we would see what an act of Faith is.

Faith is primarily an act of the intellect prompted by the will under the influence of grace. Let us first look at faith as an act of the intellect. Then we shall see how the free will prompts the intellect. To make an act of faith the intellect must be focused on two things: first, on its final goal Charity (which is expressed in "Deus Caritas Est;" and secondly, on its immediate or proximate goal Truth (which is the 'veritate' in "Caritas in Veritate.") The mind, made by God to reflect on Himself, must be sure that it has a right concept of God ("Deus Caritas Est".) And the mind must also be sure that its immediate or proximate goal lead to that ultimate goal ("Caritas in Veritate"). Both these are unattainable without the grace of God; we cannot understand the two encyclicals without the grace of God.

Grace is given to us when we are free from all mortal sins. And so before anything else we must repent, putting into practice in our lives the three elements of repentance, namely, Prayer, Fasting and Good Works. This is why the "Year of St. Paul" addressed to lay people puts emphasis on the "pure life" that must be attained through a life of repentance.

After living a life of repentance, we receive the grace that we need to be able to focus our intellect on both our final goal and the means towards that goal. It is like thinking of "Deus Caritas Est" as our final goal and thinking of "Caritas in Veritate" as the numerous proximate goals that lead to our final goal.

When we are able to constantly focus our minds on these two goals (as expressed in the two encyclicals) we have not yet reached Faith. The next step is needed.

The faculty of the soul that moves man to perform a human act is the Free Will (symbolized by the Heart.) The intellect has to convinced the free will to approve its final goal ('Caritas) and the means to that goal (the 'Veritate') that it knows. The free will will then instruct the intellect to make an intellectual assent to both the means (Veritate) and the final goal (Caritas) When the intellect prompted by the free will obeys and makes its assent to the first truth (Veritate) that leads to Charity..... that is an act of Faith....little faith, at first.

But that is only the first truth. There are still many other truths which the intellect must learn. It must follow again the same process of the intellect informing the free will of these truths and wait for it to be prompted by the will to assent to these next truths. This is a long process and must constantly be aided by grace.

When the intellect has learned all the truths (veritate) mainly expressed in the Commandments of Christ now he is ready to summarize all these truths in the one commandment of Christ "To love God above all things" and put it into practice. When he learns and obeys all the commandment of Christ...... this is Charity ("If you love Me keep my commandments.")

Monday, July 20, 2009

YEAR OF THE PRIEST - Meditation 1

1. The Holy Father has just called for a 'Year of Faith,' under the auspices of St. Paul who was the apostle who wrote most eloquently and extensively on Faith. The papal instruction was sent to Bishops to be shared with parish priests and their parishioners. The goal was to ask each Catholic to find out if they have Faith. With the culmination of the Year of Faith many Catholics have not answered this question.

2. The steps towards eternal life may be summarized into four steps; first, to live a life of repentance, secondly, to live a life of Faith. Thirdly, to live a life of Hope and fourthly to live a life of Charity. Faith brings us into the Church, into the Mystical Body of Christ and in some way gives us Hope for our salvation, "he who believes is already saved."

3. During the Year of Faith the Pope is asking us to find out if we have reached the second step, Faith. The Catechism gives a concise definition of Faith and St. Thomas gives a clear and elaborate description of it. But most of us do not have the time to study this.

4. So why don't we just read the 'prayer' of Faith at the end of the Compendium of the Catholic Catechism by Pope Benedict XVI. His prayer goes this way: "Domine Deus, firma fide credo et confiteor omnia et singula quae sancta Ecclesia Catholica proponit, quia tu Deus, ea omnia revelasti, qui es aeterna veritas et sapientia quae nec fallere nec falli potest. In hac fide vivere et mori statuo. Amen."

5. The prayer says :' I believe all and every truth that you (Christ) have revealed because You are the eternal truth.' Do we really know 'all and every truth' Christ has revealed in Scriptures? How many truths are there in Divine Revelation? Putting aside the Doctrinal truths, let us just look at the so-called 'Commandments of Christ.' In Chapters 4, 5 and 6 of Matthew in the so-called 'Sermon on the Mount', aside from the Beatitudes, Christ enumerates around 35 commands. In the entire Gospel of St. Matthew there are more than 80 commands. If we add to this the commands in the Gospels of Mark, Luke and John plus the commands of Christ as described in the Epistles, Acts and Apocaplypse guess how many commands there could be? And we are not supposed to study these commands directly from Scriptures. We must learn and believe these commands as proposed by the Magisterium of the Church. That is practically hinting that we must know how the Fathers of the Church or Tradition interpreted these commands. Does that sound like having a degree on Exegesis and Patrology? Not really. There is a way of learning these in a faster and shorter way which the Holy Father had been hinting since the beginning of his pontificate.

6. Faith is an act of the intellect. It is knowing, with the help of grace all the commands of Christ and how to obey them. But it is chaos if every priest interprets these commands. So Christ gave the role of interpreting these commands to His Church with the Holy Father as its official spokesman. And so Faith is believing with our intellect the teachings of Christ 'as proposed by the Church' through her spokesman, the Pope. And the reason for believing the Pope is because Christ who revealed the truths 'cannot deceive nor be deceived.'

7. The crisis of Faith is caused by ignorance of those commands the knowledge of which is the object of Faith. Some wh0 know 'what' are the commands do not know the 'how'. Knowledge of both is necessary for the act of Faith.

8. The act of Faith is not possible until all the commands of Christ are known by the intellect. That is the only time when the soul can see that put together all the commands make up the command 'To love God and neighbor'. Knowing this the soul can now motivate his Faith with the virtue of Charity. Thus the Pope's 3rd encyclical Caritas in veritate simply states that Charity can only be attained by knowing the truths that lead to Faith.

9. If at the end of the Year of Faith we have not yet known if we have the true faith or not that would be a sign that we do not have Faith. Because with the virtue comes the certainty that we have it.

8. During the year of Faith few were able to find out if they had Faith. Most do not know how to check on it though they could have checked it basing it on the Year of the Liturgy (during the 24 Sundays between Pentecost and Christ the King.) If the people are doubtful if they had Faith who is to blame? The Bishops and priest who were commanded by Christ to instill the knowledge that brings about Faith. So a Year of the priest should be in place....for the priest to find out if they have Faith.

9. So now in the 'Year of the Priest' the Holy Father is calling on all priests, religious, nuns and laymen to go once more through the steps that enable us to enter the Church and find out once and for all if we are inside or still outside the Catholic Church.