The idea that Catholics can believe different things is a novelty! Diversity in the Faith is not Catholic. It’s not apostolic. There is an insistence in the Creed that we all believe the same thing; we all hold the same coin by adhering to the Creed and understanding it the way the Church teaches – not the way we “think” it should be understood, not the way you “feel” it should be understood: “Well, I feel this way about that Article of the Faith.” You know, that doesn’t cut the mustard. It’s how the Church teaches it; how the Church understands this Article of Faith, that we should receive it as coming from God – as the Church teaches. Therefore, our Faith should be one – it should be the same. This is primarily what unites us to one another, and to God. And because it truly unites us to God, the faith is holy. Before I get into the Creed itself, I’d like to dovetail a little bit regarding something that John Vennari said this morning, about a definition of Faith. This is a very similar definition, that is from the Summa Theologicae of Saint Thomas Aquinas. I just want to read this to bring out one or two particular points about what is entailed in the faith. This comes from the Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913; the old Catholic encyclopedia. This is a definition quoted from the Summa Theologicae of Saint Thomas Aquinas. A definition of Faith: “The act of the intellect assenting to a Divine Truth owing to the movement of the will, which is itself moved by the grace of God.” That’s quite a lot, and I’m only going to touch upon a couple of things here. First of all, it’s an act of the intellect – assenting to Divine Truth – owing to the movement of the will – which is itself moved by the grace of God. Clearly, when we’re making an act of faith, a supernatural act of faith, grace is required. We might be able to reason – I would imagine most adults would be able to figure this out – that there is one God. The proofs of St. Thomas Aquinas bear this out. Reason alone can attain to the fact: there is one God. That is not an act of faith: believing it on rational grounds is not an act of faith. When I believe there is one God, because God revealed there is only one God, as the Church teaches, then I am making an act of faith in the God who has revealed it. That requires grace to elevate my intellect and my will to assent or consent to that Truth, for the reason that God revealed it: not because I can figure it out. For example, if I think it makes sense that Christ founded a Church and we’d all come together occasionally for social purposes and have a good time, on Sundays and so forth. That is a rational approach to the understanding of the Church. But understanding the Catholic Church as a Divine institution – because God has revealed it to be such – requires the assistance of grace. A supernatural act will always require grace. It’s not an act based merely on reason alone. The Catholic Encyclopedia also mentions, in discussing what an act of faith is, that it has an objective and subjective mode. I’ve been speaking about the faith mostly in an objective mode – that is a body of Truths that anybody can take up in a book and read. These are the objective body of Truths, a deposit of Faith. That’s the object. There is a subjective dimension to Faith as well. It was the subjective side of the faith which generally used to be the only problem before the Council – because what used to happen is pretty much all the priests, bishops, and popes were already on the same page with the deposit of Faith. The only problem they may have had is how clear they were in explaining this or that point of the faith. Usually the only problem back then was the fact that some people might have had a difficult time assenting: because they couldn’t understand the faith, or they had a hard time getting motivated to make an act of faith. The difficulty then would have been on the subjective side: on our side. Having a problem on the subjective side might sound like: “ I have a hard time believing that, I need help. I need assistance. I need grace.” Prayer would be needed in order to arrive at an act of faith in the truths that the Church teaches. Unfortunately, what’s happened today is that there has been so much emphasis on the subjective dimension – or the difficulties of coming to an act of faith – that the objective bodies of Truth have completely been obliterated. Today you might find people in the hierarchy saying: “Well, you know, it doesn’t really matter what you believe, so long as you believe it sincerely. So long as you believe with all your heart, that’s what’s really important. It doesn’t really matter what you believe, it’s just whether what you do believe is believed from your heart, if you really feel it.” There are legitimately two poles, and they both have to come together. We want to make sure that when we read the Catechism and accept the faith, it’s not just merely a head-game. It’s not just: “Oh yeah, God exists somewhere out there. Yes, I can figure out that there is a God.” No, that is not an act of faith. That’s not the will assenting to the Truth because God has revealed it. Rather, when I believe in God – and this is bringing us right back to the first article of the Creed – when I believe in God, I don’t just believe that God exists, I believe through Him and with Him because I’m being assisted by grace. And in order to be assisted by grace, I need to be in Him. Remember St. Paul said, we can’t say that Jesus is Lord except in the Holy Spirit. We can’t really say, “Jesus is Lord” and mean it with our minds and our hearts – obviously we can say that verbally off the top of our heads – but we can’t say that and mean it without the assistance of the grace of the Holy Ghost.
by Father David Phillipson
The Fatima Crusader | Issue 116