Tuesday, March 29, 2011
There are many good news for the Catholic Church, like the increase in reported Baptisms in Africa and the entrance into the Church of thousands of Anglicans. Add to this the growth of the Church in Asia. But have we subtracted the number of Catholics who have left the Church and joined other sects? Or those who have remained in the Church but whose faith may be described as uninformed by charity....or in short 'dead faith.' When Cardinal Ratzinger described the problem of the Church as a crisis of faith he meant that the Church has Faith but it is dead or uninformed by Charity and/or just the absence of faith.
Faith, a theological virtue, must be directed to its final object which is Charity by Charity itself. In fact, the sequence or order of the virtues goes thus....we first have the virtue of Charity. Charity which is an act of the free will proposes to the intellect to believe (Faith) in the God it has perceived in simple form. And so the soul begins to have Faith at the promptings of Charity. At the beginning Faith is prompted by very little Charity but Charity nevertheless. It is the theological virtue of Charity that initiates the process of believing. So Charity goes before Faith. And Charity continues to prompt Faith to develop to perfection while charity grows itself to perfection in the process.
While Faith can remain inspite of sin (except sins against faith) Charity disappears with sin. And when Charity disappears, Faith becomes 'dead.' This is the common state of most souls in the Catholic Church. They don't know that their faith is dead. The Liturgical calendar gives us more than 30 Sundays between Pentecost and Christ the King giving us more than 30 signs by which we can know if we have faith or not. How come most do not know? The inability of the clergy to explain faith clearly is the cause, a remnant of the effects of Pelagianism and Modernism.
Let us describe the way to the theological virtues in another way. This time from the viewpoint of the evangelical counsels.
Faith, Hope and Charity are theological virtues given by God with grace. There is nothing a human being can do to get those virtues and this grace. And yet they are necessary for salvation because these are the virtues that lead our souls to God, it's final goal. That is why they are called theological.
Since these are purely God's gifts we just have to wait for them from God. Though the least we can do for God to give us these virtues is to dispose ourselves. To dispose ourselves consist in removing from our souls everything that is contrary to them. This will entail four removal processes. Remove sins, remove doctrinal and moral errors, remove love of good things unnecessary for salvation( like fathers) and removal of good things close to us (like our own will and life). Each removal process will dispose us to receive the grace of repentance and each theological virtues.
The first removal process that will dispose us to receive the virtue of Penance is called life of repentance. This process consist in knowing and removing all our past sins, specially mortal sins. Ash Wednesday teaches us that this is done through a life of prayer, fasting and good works, which is the lesson we learn from the 30 years hidden life of Christ. This is commonly described as living the sacrament of Baptism or putting the sacramental grace of baptism to affect our lives.
But most Catholics lose their sacramental grace without it benefitting their souls. Since baptism cannot be received a second time how do we regain that sacramental grace which is necessary to begin our spiritual building? Through the monastic life. The monastic life is meant to regain the graces received and lost during baptism. Though this grace will now come in the form of actual grace rather sacramental grace. The monastic life is meant to remove all past sins through a life of repentance. The primitive form of the Catholic Church was in the form of monastic communities. It is living the life of repentance that we dispose ourselves for the forgiveness of mortal sins. The forgiveness of mortal sins opens our souls to know the teachings of Christ. It will be slow trial and error until all errors are removed. When all errors are removed then we are now disposed to receive the theological virtue of Faith. We do not necessarily receive it immediately. This is completely up to God when to give us.
Having removed all mortal sins the next removal process consist in removing, no longer sins, but material GOOD things which are not necessary for the salvation of our souls. This is described as the spirit of poverty. St. Peter and Andrew, as they reached Faith, were told to leave nets and boats. There is nothing wrong with nets and boats. In fact, they were allowed by Christ to return to their nets and boats after the resurrection. But before they receive Charity even the slightest love for one's nets and boats can prevent us from loving God above all things. These are part of the "world" that can be the source of temptations, St. Augustine says. After all Eve and Christ were tempted with good things.....food. But when we have charity it is safe to return to nets and boats...and food.
The third removal process consists in removing good things that are closer to us...our loved ones. So Christ told James and John to leave nets and boats (making up the material things) and also their father (making up the things closer to us)_. Christ would complete the list adding: to leave father, mother, brother, sisters, land...etc. This would make up the counsel of chastity. Christ saying if we love 'these relations more than God,' which is common, these becomes impediments to God giving us the virtue of Hope. If this obstacle is removed then we may receive the virtue of hope. Faith and Hope are not given to us unless the places alloted to them is empty of worldly love for things and relatives.
The fourth removal is the removal of the love of self. And laying one's life for one's neighbor is a sign of having removed the love of self. With that gone the heart of man is completely empty of any worldly love. This is the proper disposition to receive the virtue of Charity by which we love God and neighbor assuring our salvation. When our hearts are empty of the love for the world, relatives and self, the Holy Spirit comes into our hearts and becomes the principle of charity by which we love God and neighbor while through us doing great things for the Church.
The Samaritan woman was the personification of the Church as she traveled from a life of sin, through a life of repentance and eventually to faith, hope and Charity. Her charity was shown when speaking to her towns folks they went to Christ and in turn believed, no longer because of what she said but because they have heard Christ, Himself. That Samaritan woman shows how the Church brings souls to Christ through repentance and the three virtues.
Sunday, March 20, 2011
"Crisis of Faith" are words we have often heard before. We, usually, don't mind it. But sometime around 1980 I read about it again in a book, "Ratzinger Report" and read it more seriously this time. The book was authored by the present Pope when he was younger and a cardinal. And he used those words to describe the state of the Church!!! That was a serious statement if we understand what Faith is.
The above statement would mean: nobody is entering the Catholic Church, nobody is going to heaven, nobody knows God and/or Christ, nobody knows the truth.......in short many are going to hell. St. Paul mentioned something to that effect that everything outside of Faith is sin, i.e. if one has no faith he is in the state of sin and everything he does is sin because he does not have the element of goodness that comes with faith. Let us look at the elements of Faith and see what is lacking that is causing the crisis of faith.
The first element of faith is that (1) it is an act of the intellect (2)thinking of its formal goal, God, (3) and the means that lead to that goal (4) as dictated by that final goal, God.
As early as the 1800, thinkers like Belloc and Chesterton had noticed that mankind has ceased to think. He is moved not by his rationality but by his animality. 'That is an emotional moment" had been a common description of great events. In a recent earthquake they spent 2 minutes of silence for the quake victims and described that moment as a very emotional moment. But if I use my head I should ask "what good can two minutes of silence do for those who died?" Essentially nothing. So why do it. People who do emotional things will have difficulty in making an act of faith which is an act of the intellect. The No 1 element of faith is very rare today.
Number 2 is to think of its formal goal which is God. The image of God as its goal must be the true God. Otherwise the proposition on who is God will not elicit an assent of the mind. We can know the God of nature from the firmaments of heaven. This needs thinking with the intellect. And we can know enough to know the God of nature. But God is supernatural and our intellect needs grace to know things supernatural. With the aid of grace we should know the nature of God, His attributes, etc. The more we know about God the greater the intensity of our act of Faith. But the Pelagian heresy had devastated the Church before and until now. Seminarians only use their natural knowledge in studying theology and are unable to recognize the supernatural God. Many had graduated and become priest without having a personal encounter with God. This reflects in their preaching. They never met the person they preach.
Number 3. We must know the means to attain that goal. Aside from knowing His nature and attributes, to know God means knowing what He loves and what He hates which are enumerated in the commandments of Jesus Christ in the New Testament. This is the reason why Christ, in the Apostolic Commission to his apostles commanded them to teach: "ALL My commandments and HOW to observe them." These are the proposition that are the material object of Faith that make up both Moral and Dogmatic Theology. Many know SOME of the commands and most modify the HOW. This is disobedience to the command of God who said: "If you love me keep My commandments." The commandments are the means to the end. We were warned not to add or subtract from them.
Number 4. The proposition or truths divinely revealed by God must be studied with the desire to lead as to God. The propositions that leads to the object of faith must be clearly shown as coming from God and its interpretation must be convincingly from God. Sadly Theology is studied for selfish or natural reason like to pass the test, to get a degree or the more ambitions desire to be a bishop (a desire St. Thomas describes as a sin). The object of Faith which is love of God is often absent.
As we grow gradually through the four steps we must come to a point where the intellect must assent to the truths it has learned. It cannot have an effective assent if the truths are incomplete or incorrect. The intellect can only assent to convincing truths.
Another element of faith is that Faith, as an act of the intellect thinks about general, abstract concepts. And the intellect's assent to these general, abstract concepts must be with the consent of the free will because no part of the person can act without the approval or go signal of the free will. Before an act of faith is made there must be an assent of the intellect to the proposition proposed and the consent of the free will to the propositions assented to by the intellect. It can happen that the intellect may assent to the propositional truth of faith, but the free will can withhold its consent. This is an incomplete act and therefore, there is no faith yet.
The free will, on the other hand, is more attracted to the specific, particular, and emotional desires of the flesh. And presented with these 2 alternatives, the desires of the body and the desire of the intellect, the free will can refuse to consent to the general and abstract truths already assented to by the intellect and consent instead to the specific worldly desires of the flesh. Without this consent of the free will the intellect cannot make that act upon which it had already assented to needed to make an act of faith.
For the intellect to be able to assent to a proposition or statement of truth, the proposition must be clear, believable and devoid of contradiction. Though ALL propositions of the Catholic faith are clear and believable in themselves, it is not so when explained by preachers. And so the intellect cannot give its assent due to lack of believable facts in the proposition.
The assent given by the intellect to a doctrinal proposition is difficult enough to make due to the indolence of the modern generation to think. Add to this the difficulty in thinking because of the enormous amount of external stimuli that hinders thinking and the poor presentation of Catholic doctrinal truths in the form of propositions. But let us suppose that all those requirements are fulfilled, the intellect still cannot make an act of faith without the free will consenting to what the intellect have assented to.
The free will can reject whatever assent made by the intellect on any proposition for no reason at all. The free will is FREE. A very solid argument can aid the free will in giving its consent but not always. No amount of proof that smoking is hazardous to your health can convince the free will to stop smoking as has been happening now.
How come the smoker cannot believe that smoking is dangerous to his health? Most often it is because his intellect knows the medical facts but has not assented to that truth. Many people are like that; they are thinking but they are not assenting to what they know. Their knowledge is lip service not conviction. But if the smoker's intellect assents to the facts on smoking, that assent can not necessarily get the free will to give its consent.
The free will is the faculty that tells the intellect, your assent to the proposition is good. I will give my consent Go and believe in it. The free will commands the intellect to act. And when the intellect acts and believes in the proposition at the promptings of the free will THAT IS AN ACT OF FAITH!
Frankly, how many souls have gone through this process that constitutes the act of faith keeping in mind that the intellect has to go through this process in believing all the doctrines of the Catholic Church. Or let's say just the "apostles creed."
Let's take just one example of a proposition: "I believe in God the Father almighty creator of heaven and earth."
The intellect is presented with this proposition. That there is a God. He is Almighty. He created heaven and earth and, therefore, all things created belong to Him.
This truth is simple and obvious we need no further proofs to make it believable.......just to simplify the demonstration. This truth is naturally simple and obvious that it is easy for the intellect to make an assent to. And so the intellect does so. Here the free will must consent to what the intellect assented to. Being an obvious truth it should not be difficult for the free will to give its consent. Let's say the free will gives its consent and gives the intellect the 'go' signal "go ahead and believe in that proposition." So, with the approval of the free will the intellect goes into action and commands the free will (which is the driving force of the soul) to put into action the act of believing. We can only know if the whole process of believing has been accomplished if the person actually treats everything in the world as owned by God and should be used according to the will of God. He is acting with faith.
If a person uses anything as if he owns it, he is acting without faith. And without faith no one can be pleasing to God. In the 1980's Cardinal Ratzinger noted that the world was undergoing a crisis of faith. In such a crisis, the world can only go down, down, down which no one can stop, which the present Pope noted in his Dec. 20 address. This explains everything that is going on now.