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August 16, 2019 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

Editor’s Note: Regarding a recent discussion in this column of Communism and socialism, and the sway that these collectivist ideologies hold over many Democrat politicians today, D.M. of Virginia sent along an excerpt from Whittaker Chambers’ 1952 book Witness that accurately describes the nature of Communism and its impact on the world over the past century, when its practitioners caused the deaths of more than 100 million people. Chambers was a former Communist who brought down on his head the wrath of the left for exposing the Communist ties of Alger Hiss, who had become a high State Department official and adviser to President Franklin Roosevelt and was a member of the Washington elite in the 1940s.
In describing himself as “an involuntary witness to God’s grace and to the fortifying power of faith” (p. 6), Chambers tried to explain his involvement in Communism in the foreword to his book, which was in the form of a letter to his children (cf. pp. 3-22). Some of what he said is relevant today when many politicians, pundits, and professors are singing the bankrupt song of socialism. You can reasonably substitute the word “socialism” or “socialist” when he says “Communism” or “Communist”:
“I see in Communism the focus of the concentrated evil of our time. You will ask: Why, then, do men become Communists? How did it happen that you, our gentle and loved father, were once a Communist? Were you simply stupid? No, I was not stupid. Were you morally depraved? No, I was not morally depraved….Did you not know that the crimes and horrors of Communism are inherent in Communism? Yes, I knew that fact. Then why did you become a Communist? It would help more to ask: How did it happen that this movement, once a mere muttering of political outcasts, became this immense force that now contests the mastery of mankind? Even when all the chances and mistakes of history are allowed for, the answer must be: Communism makes some profound appeal to the human mind. . . .
“Communists are bound together by no secret oath. The tie that binds them across the frontiers of nations, across barriers of language and differences of class and education, in defiance of religion, morality, truth, law, honor, the weakness of the body and the irresolutions of the mind, even unto death, is a simple conviction: It is necessary to change the world. Their power, whose nature baffles the rest of the world, because in a large measure the rest of the world has lost that power, is the power to hold convictions and to act on them. It is the same power that moves mountains; it is also an unfailing power to move men. Communists are that part of mankind which has recovered the power to live or die — to bear witness — for its faith. And it is a simple, rational faith that inspires men to live or die for it.
“It is not new. It is, in fact, man’s second-oldest faith. Its promise was whispered in the first days of Creation under the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil: ‘Ye shall be like gods.’ It is the great alternative faith of mankind. Like all great faiths, its force derives from a simple vision. Other ages have had great visions. They have always been different versions of the same vision: the vision of God and man’s relationship to God. The Communist vision is the vision of Man without God.
“It is the vision of man’s mind displacing God as the creative intelligence of the world. It is the vision of man’s liberated mind, by the sole force of its rational intelligence, redirecting man’s destiny and reorganizing man’s life and the world. It is the vision of man, once more the central figure of the Creation, not because God made man in His image, but because man’s mind makes him the most intelligent of the animals….Communism restores man to his sovereignty by the simple method of denying God….
“The crisis of Communism exists to the degree in which it has failed to free the peoples it rules from God. Nobody knows this better than the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The crisis of the Western world exists to the degree in which the Western world actually shares Communism’s materialist vision, is so dazzled by the logic of the materialist interpretation of history, politics, and economics, that it fails to grasp that, for it, the only possible answer to the Communist challenge: Faith in God or Faith in Man? is the challenge: Faith in God….Faith is the central problem of this age. The Western world does not know it, but it already possesses the answer to this problem — but only provided that its faith in God and the freedom He enjoins is as great as Communism’s faith in Man.”

Q. A friend doesn’t think it’s worth praying since he doesn’t get the answers he’s looking for. What can I tell him? — K.E., via e-mail.
A. You can tell your friend that God answers all sincere prayers, but sometimes the answer is yes, sometimes it is no, and sometimes it is not right now. If your friend thinks back over his life, he will find that God has in fact answered many of his prayers in the way that he wanted. But on other occasions, He may not have given your friend what he asked for because what he was seeking might not have been in his best interest or in the best interest of a person for whom he was praying. For example, some folks pray to win the lottery, but we know from recent history that getting all that money has ruined the lives of some winners.
Sometimes we pray that a sick child will get well, but they don’t. Does that mean God doesn’t care? Of course not. The God who sent His Son to die a brutal death on the cross out of love for us cares a great deal. But He doesn’t remove all pain and suffering from our lives. He invites us to share that pain and suffering with Him, and He will give us the strength to deal with it. God is able to bring good out of pain and suffering, as He brought salvation out of Jesus’ death on the cross.
Or think about the good that disease or a natural disaster can bring out of people. We know a family who watched their 16-year-old daughter die of cancer, an awful thing to watch. But the many hours spent in her hospital room, praying and singing, laughing and sharing memories, brought that family together in a beautiful way. Of course they were sad to lose their daughter and sister, but as faith-filled believers they knew she was in a better place.
They had prayed hard for her recovery, but when her death came they were glad that her suffering was over, and they looked forward to the day when they would see her again in a world where there will be no pain or suffering or death.
In the July issue of Magnificat, Bishop Robert Barron said that St. Augustine gave the best explanation for why our prayers are not always answered right away. He said that “the great Church Father said that God doesn’t always give us immediately what we ask for; and in fact, He compels us to ask again and again. The reason is that the Lord wants to stretch us, expanding our desire so as to receive the gift He desires to give us. Isn’t it true? If we got everything we wanted, right away and without effort, we wouldn’t appreciate what we’ve received and, more to the point, we wouldn’t really be capable of taking it in. It would be like pouring new wine into old, shrunken wineskins, resulting in a loss of both the skins and the wine.”
The biggest mistake one can make is to stop praying when a particular prayer is not answered in a certain way. Jesus told us in the Sermon on the Mount to “ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matt. 7:7). So we must continue to pray constantly, humbly, and confidently, while at the same time recognizing, as Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane, that when our fervent prayers are not answered as we had hoped, we must say to the Father, as Jesus did, “not my will but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).

Q. Where does the Bible say that it is the sole source of faith? Where does the Bible say which books constitute the Bible? Where does the Bible say that we are saved by faith alone? — N.O.B., Connecticut.
A. As you already know, the Bible does not say any of these things upon which Protestant churches base their beliefs. It was the Catholic Church that listed, at the Councils of Hippo and Carthage late in the fourth century, the 73 books that belonged in the Bible because they were truly inspired by God. And the Letter of James says that we are saved by faith and works, explaining that “faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead,” and that “a person is justified by works and not by faith alone” (2:17, 24).

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Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

Catholic Replies

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