More on FAITH
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.