Monday, January 30, 2012
Pope Benedict XVI had been speaking of "Faith" in many of his addresses. His "Ratzinger Report" was about the crisis of Faith. "Veritatis splendor" which he c0-authored with Pope John Paul II was about the true and false descriptions of Faith. His "year of St. Paul" was about Faith and its best proponent, St. Paul. His "Year of the Priests" was about the priests relearning their Faith. His "Instrumentum Laboris" was an order to Bishops to check the "Faith" of their priests. And now, the "Year of Faith." He signed it last October 2011; to start on October 2012 and end on November 2013.
There could be two reactions to these repetitious topic on "Faith." Pure boredom or the realization that there is no Faith in the Catholic Church. The latter would make this a very serious topic because Faith is what brings us into the Catholic Church and assures our salvation. The Pope just have to be repetitious.
Besides, Faith is presupposed in many Catholic activities. That is why it is useless to talk to other religions because we would be talking about supernatural Faith while they would be talking not even of natural faith. The same things goes with the useless dialogue with Protestants, we would speak in the supernatural level while they would remain in the natural level. And it would be useless for seminarians to study in the seminaries because understanding what they will learn in the seminary needs Faith because the truths taught are supernatural truths while most seminarians would have only natural faith or none at all. Teaching catechetics would be ineffective unless the teacher has Faith. And Bible teaching and interpretation is possible only for people who have Faith. Family apostolates would be useless unless the parents involved have Faith. So it is with good reason that the Holy Father is proclaiming a "year of Faith" where each one of us, bishops, priests and layman must check if we have Faith or not. .... for as he stated many of us Catholics work on the false presumption that we have Faith.
The devil had been attacking the Church from the very beginning. But the devil's attacks intensified at the 1900 and gradually increased onwards up to the present time. The battle in the spiritual sphere is awesome yet completely unnoticed on the ground. The Popes have gallantly fought for the Church. Pius IX had to fight his battles from exile in Gaeta. Pius X had to face an octopus at the very bosom of the Catholic priesthood....and to make the history short, Pope John xxiii had to battle the spirit of the French Revolution now perfected in Europe, in America and in some degree around the whole world. The Church had been surrounded since the 1900 but we had gallant Popes. The gallantry of Pope Pius IX was even prophesied by Our Lady in Quito, Ecuador, 200 years earlier.
Pope John XXIII surrounded by "Original sin" re-surrected and perfected in "Liberte (freedom from God,) Egalite ( equality with God,) Fraternite (friendship with the world which is emnity with God,)" had to call on the help of an Ecumenical Council, Vatican II, in his words: to increase Christians's commitment to their Faith, to make more room for charity (we need Faith to reach Charity).....with clarity of thought and greatnesss of heart (we need the mind to make the act of Faith and the heart to make the act of Charity). His goal was clearly the attainment of Faith that leads to Hope and Charity.
This was, likewise, the goal of Pope Paul VI, John Paul II and in greater part by Pope Benedict XVI. Pope Benedict issued the Motu Propio "Porta Fidei" last October 2011. And up to now, months after, very few bishops and priests know about it and its appendage, a program of implementation.
The first and most important part of "Porta Fidei" is a description of the dynamics of the Act of Faith. How is the Act of Faith made in detail. The description is not easy because it is a supernatural act aided by grace and so, impossible for all to make. The Motu Propio describes the role of the intellect and the free will in the Act of Faith but describes the actual roles of both faculties in summarized form due to the nature of the document. Then the document gives several Scriptural personages who made great acts of Faith for our examples. An exegesis of each personality in Scriptures will be a big help in aiding the faithful understand the acts involved in making the act of Faith.
Then "Porta Fidei" instructs all Bishop to teach the dynamics of the "Act of Faith" to all priests and they in turn to teach it to all the Faithful. In this way everyone can check if they have Faith or not. The document exhorts the entire Church to do this; the Catholic Bishop's conference is instructed to implement this, the Bishop should implement this in his diocese, and all the parish priests should implement this in all religious organizations, communities and each individual faithful. Absolutely nobody should be left out. This is so important a neglect could mean the damnation of souls. The Holy Father wants all to begin studying the dynamics of the Act of Faith from October 2011 to October 2012. Then to apply what we learn into action from October 2012 to November 2013 hoping that by the feast of Christ the King on November 2013 we are ready for the General Judgment......liturgically speaking.
"Porta Fidei" enumerates only the two general steps in the Act of Faith. One is an act of the intellect and the other is an act of the free will. But both the Bishop and his priests must study the 12 steps that make up the Act of Faith.; four acts of the intellect, four acts of the free will and four acts accomplished by both. The first four acts (2 by the intellect and two by the free will) are directed in knowing and desiring the goal of Faith. The next four acts (2 by the intellect and 2 by the free will) are directed to choosing the means to attain the goal Faith. These means should be learned from Divine Revelation and its proper interpretation that can come only from the Church. After making the goal Faith clear and finding the means towards that goal from Divine Revelation clear....or putting it another way.....after the assent of the intellect and consent of the free will .....follows the order of execution by which we make the Act of Faith. It took 12 steps to make an act of faith on one revealed truth of the Catholic Church. We have to make these 12 steps on all the truths of the Church. So we have to teach the "How" and the "What" as declared by Christ in His Apostolic Commission at the end of the Gospel of Matthew. These steps were never taught in the seminary......or maybe I wasn't listening.
"Porta Fidei" prescinds from discussing the Life of Repentance and the Life of the Moral Virtues that should precede the Act of Faith. Both Bishop and Priest must include both topics in explaining Faith to the Faithful, otherwise they would never reach Faith. The Life of Repentance consists of two steps according to Psalm 50; one is to know one's sin and the other is to keep one's sins ever before the eyes of one's mind. The first is difficult because one cannot know his sins unless he first stops sinning. The thief who continues to steal cannot know his sins and the adulterer who continues in his adultery cannot know his sin. Both must first stop their sins before they can know the sinfulness of their acts. The second is also difficult because great humility is needed to keep one's sins ever before one's eyes. In fact, most confessors advise their penitents to do otherwise, i.e. to forget their past sins.
The four moral virtues by which our acts become moral are natural virtues and so is available to all for development. These virtues are what makes one a gentlemen, as St. Francis de Sales states in his "Introduction to the Devout Life." Otherwise we are as uncouth as galley slaves, Josef Pieper states. Repentance and the four Moral virtues must precede Faith. But the devil had conveniently succeeded in making man unable to repent and conveniently make man forget the necessity of the four moral virtues. Even seminarians are not taught these two steps preceeding Faith. So how can we reach Faith? "Porta Fidei" could be our last chance to make an Act of Faith. This is how serious we must take this Motu Propio of Pope Benedict XVI. It could be our salvation or our damnation.
In his commentary to the Gospel of the 5th Sunday in Ordinary time, St. Thomas of Aquinas states that repentance and Faith is the door that leads to the kingdom of God. No one enters God's kingdom here on earth nor God's kingdom in the next without passing through "Porta Fidei." It was the goal to which Pope John XXIII started Vatican II. Pope Benedict is very clearly delineating the way towards the door. Are we behaving like the wise men who build their houses on rock !!! What if this is his last call before we die.