Monday 25th May 2015

Home » Our Catholic Faith » Currently Reading:

The Characteristics Of Faith

February 28, 2014 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

By DON FIER

Part 3

Last week, we saw that faith and understanding go hand-in-hand. Although mankind does not possess the capacity to intellectually grasp many of God’s infinite mysteries and truths, he was created with a nature that aspires toward truth, beauty, and goodness. With regard to faith, the human person has a natural desire to seek to understand what he comes to believe through faith. This innate tendency is indeed good, for a more penetrating knowledge leads not only to deeper faith but also to a greater and more profound love of God.
We saw also that faith and reason never contradict each other, that although faith is above reason there can never be a true discrepancy between the two. If such ever appears to be the case, one or both have been misunderstood — for God, who is Truth, is the Source of each and cannot contradict Himself.
We now turn our attention to another fundamentally important characteristic of faith: It must be free. In fact, the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) unambiguously teaches that to be human, “man’s response to God by faith must be free” (CCC, n. 160). The Second Vatican Council’s Declaration on Religious Freedom Dignitatis Humanae (DH) instructs us with compelling clearness that “it is one of the major tenets of Catholic doctrine that . . . no one is to be forced to embrace the Christian faith against his own will” (DH, n. 10).
Why is this so vitally important? Simply put, it would be a violation of man’s free will, an affront to his very dignity as a human person, if he were forced to believe through coercion or threats.
For as Dr. Peter Kreeft puts it, “what can be coerced is fear, not faith” (Catholic Christianity, pp. 21-22). Authentic love cannot truly be present if it is through fear that one believes.
The Catechism goes on to emphasize that faith is necessary to attain salvation. In St. Mark’s Gospel, Jesus proclaims that “he who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16). Again in St. John’s Gospel, Jesus says that “he who believes in the Son has eternal life; he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God rests upon him” (John 3:36). These are but two of numerous instances in Sacred Scripture where our Lord and Savior unmistakably makes known to mankind that each person’s freely given “response of faith” is not an option, but a necessity if one is to attain the ultimate goal for which we all were created — union with God in Heaven.
Dignitatis Humanae makes the connection between the freedom of one’s response in faith and its necessity in the following way: “God calls men to serve Him in spirit and in truth, hence they are bound in conscience but they stand under no compulsion. God has regard for the dignity of the human person whom He Himself created and man is to be guided by his own judgment and he is to enjoy freedom….[Christ’s] intention was to rouse faith in His hearers and to confirm them in faith, not to exert coercion upon them. He did indeed denounce the unbelief of some who listened to Him, but He left vengeance to God in expectation of the Day of Judgment” (DH, n. 11).
One is reminded of the parable of the wheat field in which weeds were sown. Both those who received the word of God with faith (the wheat) and those who rejected it (the weeds) were allowed to grow together until harvest time at which time they were separated and judged accordingly (cf. Matt. 24-30).
So we know that “believing in Jesus Christ and in the One who sent Him for our salvation is necessary for obtaining that salvation” (CCC, n. 161), and that faith is “an entirely free gift that God makes to man” (CCC, n. 162). But at the same time, we must realize than man can misuse his freedom — by defining his own misguided and false definition of happiness, man is capable of losing the priceless gift of faith. St. Paul makes that very point in his letter to Timothy when he implores him to “wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting conscience, certain persons have made shipwreck of their faith” (1 Tim. 1:18-19).
Does not what St. Paul warns of seem to be prevalent in modern-day society where so many appear to outright reject God’s saving message? The parable of the sower who went out to sow his seed comes to mind. The seed (the word of God) is offered to all to believe and act upon, but man can freely choose to refuse (see Luke 8:5-15). How often that seems to happen in our secularized culture, and for so many futile, irrational, and fleeting reasons!
The Catechism, however, has good news even in this life for those who persevere and are steadfast in their faith: “Faith is already the beginning of eternal life” (CCC, n. 163). The distinguished fourth-century Doctor of the Church St. Basil the Great tells us: “When we contemplate the blessings of faith even now, as if gazing at a reflection in a mirror, it is as if we already possessed the wonderful things which our faith assures us we shall one day enjoy” (De Spiritu Sancto, chapter 15, n. 36). St. Paul tells us in Sacred Scripture: “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood” (1 Cor. 13:12).
In other words, through our faithful response to the word of God during our sojourn on earth, a foretaste of the joys of Heaven is possible. Within the innermost recesses of our soul we can experience a deep sense of peace that is a prelude of what is everlastingly in store for us in Heaven. This is despite “our experiences of evil and suffering, injustice, and death, [which] seem to contradict the Good News” (CCC, n. 164).

Periods Of Darkness

This seeming contradiction provides an excellent stepping-off point to briefly examine the phenomenon of interior darkness in the life of faith. Faith, as may be said of the other virtues, is not a feeling. It is an act of belief in truths revealed by God which requires assent of the intellect and the command of the will aided by the movement of divine grace. We know of great saints of the Church (e.g., St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Gemma Galgani) who experienced extended periods of darkness, of the total withdrawal of sensible feelings of faith. They demonstrate that interior darkness, even to the point of feeling complete abandonment by God, can be experienced in the midst of heroic faith.
As expressed in Come Be My Light (the private writings of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta as compiled by the postulator of her cause for sainthood, Fr. Brian Kolodiejchuk, MC), “Interior darkness . . . has been a common phenomenon among the numerous saints throughout Church history who have experienced what the Spanish Carmelite mystic St. John of the Cross termed the ‘dark night’” (p. 22).
Consider the following excerpt from a letter that Mother Teresa wrote to her archbishop:
“There is so much contradiction in my soul. Such deep longing for God — so deep that it is painful — a suffering continual —and yet not wanted by God — repulsed – empty — no faith — no love — no zeal. Souls hold no attraction — Heaven means nothing — to me it looks like an empty place — the thought of it means nothing to me and yet this torturing longing for God. Pray for me please that I keep smiling at Him in spite of everything. For I am only His — so He has every right over me. I am perfectly happy to be nobody even to God” (ibid., pp. 169-170).
As related in Come Be My Light, Mother Teresa did not sensibly feel the presence of faith for approximately 48 years except for one brief one-month period. Yet her heroic witness and the joy she continually radiated demonstrated the exact opposite: She not only possessed but tremendously increased in faith, hope, and charity during these dark years.
Let each of us pray for and aspire to attain the response of faith of this remarkable foundress of the Missionaries of Charity.

+    +    +

(Don Fier serves on the board of directors for The Catholic Servant, a Minneapolis-based monthly publication. He and his wife are the parents of seven children. Fier is a 2009 graduate of Ave Maria University’s Institute for Pastoral Theology. He is doing research for writing a definitive biography of Fr. John A. Hardon, SJ.)

Share Button

Comment on this Article:

Untitled 3

Pope FrancisAn Open Letter To His Holiness Pope Francis      Given the controversy and confusion surrounding the 2014 Synod on the Family, the staff of The Wanderer and its supporters thought it appropriate to address Pope Francis with an open letter . . .

Ireland has voted to legalize gay marriage, both sides say

DUBLIN (AP) — Irish voters have resoundingly backed amending the constitution to legalize gay marriage, leaders on both sides of the Irish referendum declared Saturday after the world’s first national vote on the issue. As the official ballot counting continued,…Continue Reading

Vatican’s eco guru champions Occupy Wall Street thugs

May 22, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) — Jeffrey Sachs wears many hats. He is known as the architect of the UN Millennium Development Goals, and the proponent of the upcoming UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). His new book, entitled, (what else) The…Continue Reading

Boy Scouts president: We need to allow open homosexual leaders

May 22, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Boy Scouts of America president Robert Gates says the youth organization must change with the times and allow open homosexual men to serve as Scout leaders. Gates, the former U.S. Secretary of Defense and CIA…Continue Reading

Federal Court Forces University of Notre Dame to Obey Pro-Abortion HHS Mandate

A federal appeals court has denied a request by the University of Notre Dame to get out of having to comply with the pro-abortion HHS mandate that is a part of Obamacare and requires businesses and church groups to pay…Continue Reading

The Reception of Holy Communion in the United States

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the close of the Second Vatican Council. Pope Francis has decided to mark the occasion with the “Year of Mercy.” Despite much happy-talk and positive papal press, it is a time of foreboding in…Continue Reading

‘Eleven Christians Killed Every Hour,’ Says Irish Bishop

According to Bishop John McAreavey, the Chair of the Council for Justice & Peace of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference, statistics show that the situation of Christian persecution in the world is far more dire than most people understand. The…Continue Reading

Africa’s experience of family life must be heard at synod, Pope tells Togo’s bishops

Pope Francis received Togo’s bishops in audience on May 11 as part of their quinquennial ad limina visit to Rome. The West African nation of 6.8 million is 20% Muslim, 15% Protestant, and 14% Catholic, with approximately half of the…Continue Reading

The eco-encyclical won’t commit the Church to unsettled science

By the time the environment encyclical of Pope Francis is released, it will be anti-climactic. Not anti-climate change to be sure, as the Holy See is certainly enthusiastic about the issue. Actually, it is against climate change, but enthusiastic about…Continue Reading

“America’s Changing Religious Landscape.”

The Pew Research Center just released its latest study on “America’s Changing Religious Landscape.” The subtitle tells the story: “Christians Decline Sharply as Share of Population; Unaffiliated and Other Faiths Continue to Grow.” For our purposes, I want to focus…Continue Reading

Vatican cardinal sees no change in family teachings at synod

VATICAN CITY (AP) — A senior Vatican cardinal predicted Saturday that there will be no change in the Catholic Church‘s practice and teaching about marriage, divorce and the reception of Communion at an upcoming meeting of bishops on family issues. Cardinal…Continue Reading

Synod Leader: Don’t Expect Changes in Catholic Church Policy

Hungarian Cardinal Peter Erdo, who is playing a key role in the Catholic Church’s upcoming Synod of Bishops on the family, said there will be no changes in church policy coming as a result of the summit. There has been…Continue Reading

Germany’s bishops vote to allow Church employees to publicly defy Catholic teaching

WURZBURG, Germany, May 6, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) — On April 27 in Würzburg, the German bishops approved with more than a two-thirds majority a reform of the Catholic Church’s Labor Law in Germany, allowing some Church employees to publicly defy Church…Continue Reading

Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our new website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for over 145 years in our weekly print edition. Now we are introducing the online daily version of our print journal.


  Our daily version offers only some of what we publish weekly in print. To take advantage of everything The Wanderer publishes, we encourage you to subscribe to our flagship weekly print edition, which is mailed every Friday or, if you want to view it in its entirety online, you can subscribe to the E-edition, which is a replica of the print edition.
 
  Our daily edition includes: a selection of material from recent issues of our print edition, news stories updated daily from renowned news sources, access to archives from The Wanderer from the past 10 years, available at a minimum charge (this will be expanded as time goes on). Also: regularly updated features where we go back in time and highlight various columns and news items covered in The Wanderer over the past 145 years. And: a comments section in which your remarks are encouraged, both good and bad, including suggestions.

 
  We encourage you to become a daily visitor to our site. If you appreciate our site, tell your friends. As Catholics we must band together to rediscover our faith and share it with the world if we are to effectively counter a society whose moral culture seems to have no boundaries and a government whose rapidly extending reach threatens to extinguish the rights of people of faith to practice their religion (witness the HHS mandate). Now more than ever, vehicles like The Wanderer are needed for clarification and guidance on the issues of the day.

Catholic, conservative, orthodox, and loyal to the Magisterium have been this journal’s hallmarks for five generations. God willing, our message will continue well into this century and beyond.

Joseph Matt
President, The Wanderer Printing Co.

Untitled 1

A Powerful Weapon: 15 Quotes on the Holy Rosary

We live in evil times. I hardly need elaborate the multitude of crises that fill the globe. Sadly, many are being swept away by this flood of evil and are succumbing to an overwhelming anxiety and discouragement. But no matter how tempting it is, we must not shrink back. We must pray and fast with a living faith and a firm confidence—and there is no better way to…Continue Reading

12 Ways to Become a Committed Catholic Man

There is a Catholic “man-crisis.” Large numbers of men who were baptized Catholic have left the Church and the majority of those who remain are “Casual Catholic Men”, men who do not know the Catholic faith and don’t practice it. This large-scale failure of Catholic men to commit themselves to Jesus Christ and His Church has contributed to the accelerating…Continue Reading

Today . . .

Pope Francis: the gift of the Holy Spirit renews the earth

pope786

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis against the backdrop of St Peter’s Basilica and dressed in scarlet vestments, celebrated Mass on Pentecost Sunday. In his homily, the Holy Father began by focusing on Sunday’s readings saying that, “the word of God, tells us that the Spirit is at work in individuals and communities filled with the Spirit. Expanding on this theme of the Spirit, Pope Francis said that, in the Gospel, Jesus promises his disciples that, when he…Continue Reading

Pope Francis: Labour must be free, creative, participatory, and mutually-supportive

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis spoke to the Italian Christian Workers Associations (ACLI) on Saturday in the Vatican on occasion of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Association. In his speech to the Italian Christian Workers Associations – also known as the ACLI – Pope Francis exhorted those present to support a culture of dignified labour. He denounced the ‘god of money’ at the heart of our global economic system, promoting a culture of…Continue Reading

At the General Audience Francis asks that fathers and mothers take back their full role as educators

2015-05-21 L’Osservatore Romano “It is time for fathers and mothers to return from their exile – for they have exiled themselves from bringing up their children – and to fully resume their educational role”. This was the Pope’s declaration at the General Audience on Wednesday morning, 20 May. Continuing his series of catecheses on the family, he spoke to the crowds – many of them families – about the importance of parents as educators. The…Continue Reading

Pope’s appeal for World Day of Prayer for Church in China

(Vatican Radio) At his General Audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis made a special appeal for prayer for Catholics in China.   The Holy Father’s appeal comes ahead of Sunday’s feast of Our Lady, Help of Christians, celebrated throughout the world on May 24. Chinese Catholics have a special devotion to Mary, Help of Christians, whose feast day is marked with special devotions and pilgrimages, especially to the National Marian Shrine of Sheshan in Shanghai. In…Continue Reading

Intense Conflicts . . . Is The Catholic Church In Germany In Danger Of Apostasy?

By MAIKE HICKSON For several weeks now, the German Catholics — bishops and laymen alike — have been in debate and disagreement over Catholic moral teaching and its continuing validity for Catholics today. After the German Bishops’ Conference came out on April 16 with its report to be sent to Rome for the upcoming October…Continue Reading

The Obama-Boehner-McConnell “Fast Track” To A Poorer America

By TERENCE P. JEFFREY (Editor’s Note: Terence P. Jeffrey is the editor-in-chief of CNSnews.com. Creators Syndicate provided this column. All rights reserved.) + + + President Barack Obama is negotiating a multilateral trade agreement with the governments of 11 nations. These include Malaysia and Vietnam — as well as Japan, Brunei, Australia, Singapore, New Zealand,…Continue Reading

What If We Didn’t Have A Constitution?

By ANDREW P. NAPOLITANO What if we didn’t have a Constitution? What if the government were elected by custom and tradition, but not by law? What if election procedures and official titles and government responsibilities merely followed those that preceded them, and not because any of this was compelled by law, but because that’s what…Continue Reading

Culture Of Life 101 . . . “Aren’t Homosexuals Born That Way?”

By BRIAN CLOWES (Editor’s Note: Brian Clowes has been director of research and training at Human Life International since 1995.) + + + The most powerful weapon in the homosexual special rights arsenal is the victim status. A close second is the allegation that homosexuals are “born that way.” If scientists can show that homosexuality…Continue Reading

The Passing Of The Word “God”

By DONALD DeMARCO The Word of God will never pass away. But the word “God” continues to pass into oblivion. In some quarters the word is said to be discriminatory and offensive. Therefore, it must be removed. Atheists can be very touchy these days. Take the case of Alain Simoneau of Saguenay, Quebec. This nonbeliever…Continue Reading

The Wanderer Interviews His Eminence Raymond Cardinal Burke . . .

burk10

By DON FIER Part 1 (Editor’s Note: Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, who previously served as Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura in Rome from June 2008 until November 2014, recently visited the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, Wis. Prior to that he served as Archbishop…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

A Leaven In The World… Social Networks, Addiction To Images, And Custody Of The Eyes

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK A follower on my Facebook page recently messaged me about a sordid situation arising from an association based on a Facebook “friendship.” She “friended” a man who then used her account to gain access to her daughter. What started out as a hope to meet someone who may become a real friend ended in inappropriate…Continue Reading

An Apologetics Course… The Order Of The Universe Proves God’s Existence

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA Part 3 Let us put our thinking cap on, and reason: Whenever you see something whose parts are arranged in order, following a specific logical pattern, you know that someone did it. Furniture in a living room, chess pieces on a board, books in a library. Orderly arrangement cannot be explained except as being due to…Continue Reading

The Church — Body Of Christ

By DON FIER As we considered “People of God” as an image of the Church last week, an important and underlying principle inherent to its biblical symbolism emerged: God wills to make us holy and save us not as separated, isolated individuals, but as a people. He wills to sanctify and redeem mankind “by making them into one people gathered…Continue Reading

Catholic Replies

Editor’s Note: Writing in the Sunday bulletin of the Church of St. Michael in New York City, Fr. George W. Rutler talked of the “web of contradiction [that] becomes more entangled in our day when politics are complicated by moral inconsistencies.” He cited three examples: “First, the birth of Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana occasioned celebrations, as the birth of any…Continue Reading

Truths Beyond Comprehension

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER The Solemnity Of The Most Holy Trinity (YR B) Readings: Deut. 4:32-34, 39-40 Romans 8:14-17 Matt. 28:16-20 In the first reading today, we hear Moses addressing the people of Israel after their Exodus from Egypt and after they had spent much time in the desert. Moses marveled, and rightly so, that God had entered into human…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Charles Lwanga And Companions

By CAROLE BRESLIN The Catholic Church in Africa has experienced unprecedented growth in the past century. In 1900, shortly after the martyrdom of Charles Lwanga and companions, there were two million Catholics in Africa. When Pope Benedict XVI visited Africa in 2009, the Catholic population was 158 million. Once again the Church has witnessed that the blood of martyrs is…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Philip Neri

By CAROLE BRESLIN Throughout the history of the Church when great persecutions and heresies have been promoted, there were also great saints who underwent persecution in their attempts to protect the Deposit of Faith. Such was the case in the early 16th century, when the Catholic Church was suffering her greatest crisis to date with the Protestant Revolt. During this…Continue Reading