Video

Necessity of Instruction in the Catholic Faith: Part 3


In this talk we will reflect upon the theme “the Faith”.

The Roman Catechism says: “In preparing and instructing men in the teachings of Christ the Lord, the Fathers began by explaining the meaning of faith. Following their example, we have thought it well to treat first what pertains to that virtue. Though the word faith has a variety of meanings in the Sacred Scriptures, we here speak only of that faith by which we yield our entire assent to whatever has been divinely revealed.

About the necessity of Faith the Roman Catechism says: “ That faith thus understood is necessary to salvation no man can reasonably doubt, particularly since it is written: Without faith it is impossible to please God. For as the end proposed to man as his ultimate happiness is far above the reach of human understanding, it was therefore necessary that it should be made known to him by God. This knowledge, however, is nothing else than faith, by which we yield our unhesitating assent to whatever the authority of our Holy Mother the Church teaches us to have been revealed by God; for the faithful cannot doubt those things of which God, who is truth itself, is the author. Hence we see the great difference that exists between this faith which we give to God and that which we yield to the writers of human history.” (The Roman Catechism, Introduction)

The Roman Catechism explains the meaning of the phrase “I Believe”:

“The word believe does not here mean to think, to suppose, lo be of opinion; but, as the Sacred Scriptures teach, it expresses the deepest conviction, by which the mind gives a firm and unhesitating assent to God revealing His mysterious truths. As far, therefore, as regards use of the word here, he who firmly and without hesitation is convinced of anything is said to believe.

Faith Excludes Doubt

The knowledge derived through faith must not be considered less certain because its objects are not seen; for the divine light by which we know them, although it does not render them evident, yet suffers us not to doubt them. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath himself shone in our hearts, that the gospel be not hidden to us, as to those that perish (cf. 2 Cor. 4: 6.3)

Faith Excludes Curiosity

From what has been said it follows that he who is gifted with this heavenly knowledge of faith is free from an inquisitive insane curiosity. For when God commands us to believe He does not propose to us to search into His divine judgments, or inquire into their reason and cause, but demands an unchangeable faith, by which the mind rests content in the knowledge of eternal truth. And indeed, since we have the testimony of the Apostle Paul that God is true; and every man a liar (cf. Rom. 3: 4), and since it would argue arrogance and presumption to disbelieve the word of a grave and sensible man affirming anything as true, and to demand that he prove his statements by arguments or witnesses, how rash and foolish are those, who, hearing the words of God Himself, demand reasons for His heavenly and saving doctrines? Faith, therefore, must exclude not only all doubt, but all incredulous desire for demonstration.

He who says, “I believe,” besides declaring the inward assent of the mind, which is an internal act of faith, should also openly profess and with alacrity acknowledge and proclaim what he inwardly and in his heart believes. For the faithful should be animated by the same spirit that spoke by the lips of the Prophet when he said in the Psalm: “I believe; and therefore did I speak” (Ps. 115: 10), and should follow the example of the Apostles who replied to the princes of the people: “We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4: 20) We should be encouraged by these noble words of St. Paul: “I am not ashamed of the gospel. For it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth” (Rom. 1: 16); and likewise by those other words; in which the truth of this doctrine is expressly confirmed: “With the heart we believe unto justice; but with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

From these words we may learn how exalted are the dignity and excellence of Christian wisdom, and what a debt of gratitude we owe to the divine goodness. For to us it is given at once to mount as by the steps of faith to the knowledge of what is most sublime and desirable.” (Rom 10: 10) (Roman Catechism, I Part, 2, 1-5)

Saint Thomas Aquinas explains the nature and effects of Faith, saying: “The first thing that is necessary for every Christian is faith, without which no one is truly called a faithful Christian. Faith brings about four good effects.

The first is that through faith the soul is united to God, and by it there is between the soul and God a union akin to marriage. “I will espouse thee in faith.” (Osee 2: 20), says God through the Prophet Osee. When a man is baptized the first question that is asked him is: “Do you believe in God?” This is because Baptism is the first Sacrament of faith. Hence, the Lord said: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” (Mark 16: 16) Baptism without faith is of no value. Indeed, it must be known that no one is acceptable before God unless he has faith. “Without faith it is impossible to please God” says the Letter to the Hebrews (Heb. 1: 6) St. Augustine explains these words of St. Paul, “All that is not of faith is sin,” (Rom. 14: 23) in this way: “Where there is no knowledge of the eternal and unchanging Truth, virtue even in the midst of the best moral life is false.”

The second effect of faith is that eternal life is already begun in us; for eternal life is nothing else than knowing God. This the Lord announced when He said: “This is eternal life, that they may know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent.” (John 17: 3) This knowledge of God begins here through faith, but it is perfected the future life when we shall know God as He is. Therefore, St. Paul says: “Faith is the substance of things to be hoped for.” (Heb. 11: 1) No one then can arrive at perfect happiness of heaven, which is the true knowledge of God, unless first he knows God through faith. “Blessed are they that have not seen and have believed.” (John 20: 29)

The third good that comes from faith is that right direction which it gives to our present life. Now, in order that one live a good life, it is necessary that he knows what is necessary to live rightly; and if he depends for all this required knowledge on his own efforts alone, either he will never attain such knowledge, or if so, only after a long time. But faith teaches us all that is necessary to live a good life. It teaches us that there is one God who is the rewarder of good and the punisher of evil; that there is a life other than this one, and other like truths whereby we are attracted to live rightly and to avoid what evil. “The just man liveth by faith” says God through the Prophet Habakuk (Hab. 2: 4) This is evident in that no one of the philosophers before the coming of Christ could, through his own powers, know God and the means necessary for salvation as well as any old woman since Christ’s coming knows Him through faith. And, therefore, it is said in Isaias that “the earth is filled with the knowledge of the Lord.” (Isa. 11: 9)

The fourth effect of faith is that by it we overcome temptations: “The holy ones by faith conquered kingdoms” saus the Letter to the Hebrews (Heb. 11: 33) We know that every temptation is either from the world or the flesh or the devil. The devil would have us disobey God and not be subject to Him. This is removed by faith, since through it we know that He is the Lord of all things and must therefore be obeyed. Saint Peter writes in his First Letter, “Your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, goeth about seeking whom he may devour. Whom resist ye, strong in faith.” (1 Peter 5: 8) The world tempts us either by attaching us to it in prosperity, or by filling us with fear of adversity. But faith overcomes this in that we believe in a life to come better than this one, and hence we despise the riches of this world and we are not terrified in the face of adversity. “This is the victory which overcometh the world: our faith”, says the Apostle John (1 John 5: 4). The flesh, however, tempts us by attracting us to the swiftly passing pleasures of this present life. But faith shows us that, if we cling to these things inordinately, we shall lose eternal joys. “In all things taking the shield of faith”, admonishes us Saint Paul (Eph. 6: 16) [15] We see from this that it is very necessary to have faith.

We now can resume the four effects of the Faith:

  1. Union with God.
  2. The beginning of eternal life in us.
  3. The right direction of our moral life.
  4. The victory over the temptations.

Faith is “the evidence of things that appear not.” But someone will say that it is foolish to believe what is not seen, and that one should not believe in things that he cannot see. I answer by saying that the imperfect nature of our intellect takes away the basis of this difficulty. For if man of himself could in a perfect manner know all things visible and invisible, it would indeed be foolish to believe what he does not see. But our manner of knowing is so weak that no philosopher could perfectly investigate the nature of even one little fly. We even read that a certain philosopher spent thirty years in solitude in order to know the nature of the bee. If, therefore, our intellect is so weak, it is foolish to be willing to believe concerning God only that which man can know by himself alone. And against this is the word of Job: “Behold, God is great, exceeding our knowledge.” (Job 36: 26) One can also answer this question by supposing that a certain master had said something concerning his own special branch of knowledge, and some uneducated person would contradict him for no other reason than that he could not understand what the master said! Such a person would be considered very foolish. So, the intellect of the Angels as greatly exceeds the intellect of the greatest philosopher as much as that of the greatest philosopher exceeds the intellect of the uneducated man. Therefore, the philosopher is foolish if he refuses to believe what an Angel says, and far greater fool to refuse to believe what God says.

Then, again, if one were willing to believe only those things which one knows with certitude, one could not live in this world. How could one live unless one believed others? How could one know that this man is one’s own father? Therefore, it is necessary that one believe others in matters which one cannot know perfectly for oneself. But no one is so worthy of belief as is God, and hence they who do not believe the words of faith are not wise, but foolish and proud. As the Apostle Paul says: “He is proud, knowing nothing.” (1 Tim. 6: 4) And also Saint Paul says: “I know whom I have believed; and I am certain.” (2 Tim. 1: 12)

Finally, one can say also that God proves the truth of the things which faith teaches. Thus, if a king sends letters signed with his seal, no one would dare to say that those letters did not represent the will of the king. In like manner, everything that the Saint Apostles believed and handed down to us concerning the faith of Christ is signed with the seal of God. This seal consists of those works which no mere creature could accomplish; they are the miracles by which Christ confirmed the sayings of the apostles and of the Saints.

If, however, you would say that no one has witnessed these miracles, I would reply in this manner. It is a fact that the entire world worshipped idols and that the faith of Christ was persecuted, as the histories of the pagans also testify. But now all are turned to Christ–wise men and noble and rich–converted by the words of the poor and simple preachers of Christ. Now, this fact was either miracle or it was not. If it is miraculous, you have what you asked for, a visible fact; if it is not, then there could not be a greater miracle than that the whole world should have been converted without miracles. And we need go no further. We are more certain, therefore, in believing the things of faith than those things which can be seen, because God’s knowledge never deceives us, but the visible sense of man is often in error“ (The Catechism of St. Thomas Aquinas, prologue; see also Summa Theologica II-II, Q. 2, 3, 4).

The Roman Catechism teaches us that we have to distinguish the natural knowledge of God in virtue of the natural light of our reason and the supernatural knowledge of God by virtue of the suprenatural lihht of the Divine gift of Faith.

The knowledge of God is more easily obtained through Faith than through reason.

“There is a great difference between Christian philosophy and human wisdom. The latter, guided solely by the light of nature, advances slowly by reasoning on sensible objects and effects, and only after long and laborious investigation is it able at length to contemplate with difficulty the invisible things of God, to discover and understand a First Cause and Author of all things. Christian Faith, on the contrary, so quickens the human mind that without difficulty it pierces the heavens, and, illumined with divine light, contemplates first, the eternal source of light, and in its radiance all created things: so that we experience with the utmost pleasure of mind that we have been called, as the Prince of the Apostles says, out of darkness into his admirable light, and believing we rejoice with joy unspeakable (cf. 1 Peter 2: 9).

Justly, therefore, do the faithful profess first to believe in God, whose majesty, with the Prophet Jeremiah, we declare incomprehensible (cf. Jer. 32: 12). For, as the Apostle says, “God dwells in light inaccessible, which no man hath seen, nor can see” (1 Tim. 6: 16); as God Himself, speaking to Moses, said: “No man shall see my face and live.” (Ex. 33: 20) The mind cannot rise to the contemplation of the Divinity, whom nothing approaches in sublimity, unless it be entirely disengaged from the senses, and of this in the present life we art naturally incapable.”

The knowledge of God obtained through Faith is clearer

“But while this is so, yet God, as the Apostle Paul says, “left not himself without testimony, doing good from heaven, giving rains and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.” (Acts 14: 16) Hence it is that the philosophers conceived no mean idea of the Divinity, ascribed to Him nothing corporeal, gross or composite. They considered Him the perfection and fullness of all good, from whom, as from an eternal, inexhaustible fountain of goodness and benignity, flows every perfect gift to all creatures. They called Him the wise, the author and lover of truth, the just, the most beneficent, and gave Him also many other appellations expressive of supreme and absolute perfection. They recognized that His immense and infinite power fills every place and extends to all things.

These truths the Sacred Scriptures express far better and much more clearly, as in the following passages: “God is spirit” (John 4: 24); “Be ye perfect, even as also your heavenly Father is perfect” (Math. 5: 48); “All things are naked and open to his eyes” (Heb. 4: 13); “O the depth of the riches of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God!” (Rom. 11: 33), “God is true” (Rom. 3: 4); “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14: 6); “Thy right hand is full of justice” (Ps. 47: 11); “Thou openest thy hand, and fillest with blessing every living creature” (Ps. 144: 16); and finally: “Whither shall go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy face? If I ascend into heaven, thou art there; if I descend into hell, thou art there. If I take my wings early in the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea” (Ps. 138: 7-9), etc., and “Do I not fill heaven and earth, saith the Lord?” (Jer. 23: 24)

The knowledge of God obtained through Faith is more certain

“These great and sublime truths regarding the nature of God, which are in full accord with Scripture, the philosophers were able to learn from an investigation of God’s works. But even here we see the necessity of divine revelation if we reflect that not only does faith, as we have already observed, make known clearly and at once to the rude and unlettered, those truths which only the learned could discover, and that by long study; but also that the knowledge obtained through faith is much more certain and more secure against error than if it were the result of philosophical inquiry”.

The knowledge of God obtained through Faith is more ample and exalted

“How much more exalted must not that knowledge of God be considered, which cannot be acquired in common by all from the contemplation of nature, but is peculiar to those who are illumined by the light of faith? This knowledge is contained in the Articles of the Creed, which disclose to us the unity of the Divine Essence and the distinction of Three Persons, and show also that God Himself is the ultimate end of our being, from whom we are to expect the enjoyment of the eternal happiness of heaven, according to the words of St. Paul: “God is a rewarder of them that seek Him.” (Heb. 11: 6) How great are these rewards, and whether they are such that human knowledge could aspire to their attainment, we learn from these words of Isaias uttered long before those of the Apostle: “From the beginning of the world they have not heard, nor perceived with the ears: the eye hath not seen besides thee, O God, what things thou hast prepared for them that wait for thee.” (Is. 64: 4)

Necessity of Instruction in the Catholic Faith: Part 2


FOR WHAT END ARE WE ON THIS EARTH?

We are upon this earth in order that we may glorify God, and so win for ourselves eternal happiness. The glory of God is the end of all creation. All creatures on the earth are created for this end, that they may manifest in themselves the divine perfections and God’s dominion over His rational creatures, that is, over angels and men, and that He may be loved and praised by them. Even the material world, and creatures not possessed of reason animals, trees, plants, stones, metals, etc., all praise God after their own fashion. “The Lord has made all things for Himself” (Prov. xvi. 4). It is therefore, misleading and ambiguous to say that man is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself. Man is created not for himself, but for the end, that he should proclaim the majesty of God. He must do so whether he wills it or not. The construction of the body of man, the lofty powers of his soul, the rewards of the good, the punishment of the wicked, all proclaim the majesty of God, His omnipotence, wisdom, goodness, justice, etc. Even the reprobate will have to contribute to the glory of God (Prov. xvi. 4). In the end he will show how great is the holiness and justice of God. Man, from being possessed of reason and free will, is through these enabled in an especial way to give glory to God. This he does when he knows, loves, and honors God. Man is created chiefly for the life beyond the grave. In this life he is a stranger, a wanderer, and a pilgrim. “We have not here a lasting city, but we seek one that is to come” (Heb. xiii. 14) . Heaven is our true country; here we are in exile.

Hence we are not upon earth only to collect earthly treasures, to attain earthly honors, to eat and to drink, or to enjoy earthly pleasures. He is like a traveller who, attracted by the beauty of the scenery, does not pursue his journey, and so allows the night to overtake him. We are not made for earth; we are made to look upward to heaven. The trees, the plants point upward to heaven, as if to remind us that it is our home.

For this reason Our Lord says: “One thing is necessary” (Luke x. 42), and again “Seek first the kingdom of God and His justice, and all other things shall be added unto you” (Matt. vi. 33.) Unhappily, too many forget their last end, and fix their hearts on money, influence, honor, etc. They are like the kings of that heathen country who, although they reigned but for a year and after that had to go and live on a barren island, spent all their time in luxury and feasting, and did not lay up any provision for the future on the island whither they were bound. He who does not think on his last end is not a pilgrim, but a tramp, and falls into the hands of the devil as a tramp into the hands of the police. He is like a sailor who knows not whither he is sailing, and so wrecks his ship. Our Lord compares such to the servant who sleeps, instead of watching for his master’s coming (Matt. xxiv. 42).

HOW ARE WE TO ATTAIN TO ETERNAL HAPPINESS?

Eternal happiness consists in union with God, through the exercise of the intellect contemplating God and the will loving Him. If we wish to attain it, we must begin to draw near to it in this life. We must seek to know and love God. But love of God consists in keeping His commandments (John xiv. 23). From this it follows that:

We shall attain to eternal happiness by the following means:

  1. We must strive to know God by means of faith in the truths He has revealed to us.

Our Lord says: “This is eternal life, that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, Whom Thou hast sent” (John xvii. 3). That is to say, the knowledge of God brings man to eternal happiness.

  1. We must fulfil the will of God by keeping His commandments.

Our Lord says to the rich young man: “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments” (Matt. xix. 17).

By means of our own strength we can neither believe nor keep the commandments; for this we need the grace of God. Even Adam and Eve in a state of innocence needed the help of grace. He who travels to a distant country, besides his own exertions needs money for the journey. The farmer cannot cultivate his land without the aid of sunshine and of rain. Man, too, has a special weakness by reason of original sin. This makes grace the more indispensable. The blind man needs a guide, the sick man strengthening food. We are like a man who through weakness has fallen to the ground, and has no power, of himself, to rise. He must look around for one to aid him. So Our Lord tells us: “Without Me you can do nothing” (John xv. 5). As the sun is necessary to the earth, to enlighten and warm it, so is grace necessary to our soul.

We obtain the grace of God through the means of grace instituted by Jesus Christ.

  1. We must therefore avail ourselves of the means of grace; of which the chief are holy Mass, the sacraments, and prayer.

The means of grace are a channel through which grace is conveyed to our soul. Faith is the road which leads to heaven, the commandments are like sign-posts by the way, the means of grace the money for the journey. “The way that leads to life is narrow and thorny; the way that leads to destruction is broad, and many are they who go in thereat” (Matt. vii. 13).

It is also true that he who desires happiness must have religion.

Religion consists in a knowledge of God and a life corresponding to the will of God. Religion is not a matter of feeling; it is a matter of the will and of action, and consists in following out the principles that God has laid down. Mere knowledge does not constitute religion, else the devil would have religion; the service of God is necessarily included in it. We do not call a man a baseball player or cricketer because he knows the rules and nature of the game; practice is also required.

It is also true that he who desires to be happy must strive to be like to God.

Man becomes like to God when all his thought and action resemble the divine thought and action. The commandments of God are a mirror, in which we recognize whether our actions are like or unlike those of God.

III. CAN WE ATTAIN PERFECT HAPPINESS ON EARTH?

  1. Earthly goods, such as riches, honor, pleasure, cannot by themselves make us happy, for they cannot satisfy our soul; they often only make life bitter, and invariably forsake us in death.

Earthly goods deceive us; they are like soap-bubbles, which reflect all the colors of the rainbow but are really only drops of water. Earthly joys are like artificial fruit, beautiful to behold, but disappointing to the taste. Earthly pleasures are like drops of water; they do not quench the fire of the passions, but only make it burn more fiercely. Man can no more be happy without God than a fish can live out of the water. Hence St. Augustine says: “Unquiet is the heart of man until it rests in God.” No sensible or material goods will nourish or satisfy the soul. Hence Our Lord says to the Samaritan woman; “He who drinks of this water will thirst again.”

Riches will no more satisfy the soul than salt water will quench thirst. In the days of the early empire of Rome, when riches and sensual pleasures abounded, suicide was most widely prevalent. Earthly possessions are a continual source of anxiety; he who rests in them is tormented by them, like a man who reposes on thorns. As the fresh waters of the rivers are changed into the salt waters of the sea, so all earthly pleasures sooner or later turn to bitterness. Forbidden pleasures soon bring misery after them, like the forbidden fruit. They are like bait that has a hook concealed within it. Earthly goods all forsake us when we die: “We brought nothing into the world, and certainly we cannot carry anything out of it” (1 Tim.vi. 7). Formerly, when the Popes were crowned, a handful of tow is kindled, and while it blazes up the choir sing: “Thus passes the glory of the world.” As the spider spins a web out of its own bowels and in a moment the broom sweeps it all away, so man labors for long years to obtain some honor, or possession, or office. Some obstacle comes in the way, death or sickness visits him, and all the labor is gone for naught. As the glow-worm shines in the night, but in the light of day is but an ugly insect, so the delights of earth are brilliant during the night of life on earth, but under the light of the Day of Judgment will show themselves vain and worthless.

Earthly goods are given to us only that through them we may attain to eternal happiness.

Every creature on earth is intended as a step to bring us nearer to God. As in the workshop of the painter, brushes, colors, oils, are all destined to serve to the completion of the picture, so all things in the world are intended to contribute to our eternal happiness in heaven. Not to use earthly things for this end is to lose the hope of eternal happiness; but to make them our end and to be dependent on them no less deprives us of the end for which we were created. Earthly goods are like the surgeon’s instruments; if they are ill-employed, they kill instead of curing. We must therefore use them only in so far as they help us towards the attainment of our last end. When they hinder us we must cut ourselves free from them. We must not serve them, they must serve us.

Only the Gospel of Christ is capable of giving us a partial happiness on earth, for he who follows the teaching of Christ is certain to have peace in his soul.

This is why Christ says to the Samaritan woman: “He that shall drink of the water that I shall give him, shall not thirst forever” (John iv. 13). And again: “He that cometh to Me, shall never hunger” (John vi. 35). The teaching of Christ can alone satisfy the heart of man. The reason of this is, that earthly sufferings do not render unhappy the man who follows Christ.

He who follows Christ will have to endure persecution; but these persecutions can do him no harm.

St. Paul tells us that “All who will live godly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution” (2 Tim. iii. 12). Christ Himself says: “The servant is not above his master” (Matt. x. 24). That is, the servant of Christ has no claim to a better lot than his Master Christ. We must expect the men of the world (that is, those who seek their happiness in this life) to regard us as fools, to condemn us and to hate us (1 Cor. iv. 3, 10; John xvii. 14; xv. 20). To be loved and praised by the world is to be the enemy of Christ. The principles of the world are in contradiction with those of Christ, and the world regards as a fool him whom Christ declares blessed (Matt. v. 3, 10).

Yet Christ tells us: “Every one that heareth My words and doeth them, shall be likened to a wise man, that built his house upon a rock” (Matt. vii. 24).

He who trusts in God builds on solid ground. The patriarch Joseph derived advantage, not harm, from being persecuted; the pious David was persecuted, first by Saul, and then by his own son Absalom. From his own experience he was able to say: “Many are the afflictions of the just; but out of them all the Lord will deliver them” (Ps. xxxiii. 20). All the saints of Christ have been persecuted, but God has turned to good the evil that their enemies thought to do them. “If God is with us, who can be against us?”

Hence perfect happiness is impossible on earth; for no man can entirely avoid suffering.

No one can escape sickness, suffering, death. The world is a valley of tears; it is a big hospital, containing as many sick men as there are human beings. The world is a place of banishment, where we are far from our true country. In the world good and ill fortune succeed each other like sunshine and storm. Prosperity is the sure forerunner of adversity. In life we are on a sea, now lifted up to heaven, now cast down to hell. Society is always sure to be full of all kinds of miseries, whatever efforts may be made to improve the condition of mankind. Vain indeed are the hopes of the the ideological and political programs of commonists and social democrats who dream of gradually abolishing all evil and misery from the world. (cf. Rev. Francis Spirago, The catechism explained. an exhaustive exposition of the christian religion, with special reference to the present state of society and the spirit of the age. a practical manual for the use of the preacher, the catechist, the teacher, and the family)

Saint Francis of Sales speaks in his book «Philothea» about the purpose, for which we are created.

«God has placed you in this world not because he has some need of you, for you are completely useless to him. It was only to use his goodness for you, by giving you his grace and his glory. For this he has given you the understanding to know him, the memory to remember him, the will to love him, the imagination to represent to yourself his blessings, the eyes to see the wonders of his work, the tongue to praise him … and so for your other faculties.

Since you have been created and placed in this world for this purpose, all actions contrary to it must be rejected and avoided. Actions which do not help this purpose in any way must be despised as useless and irrelevant. Think of the unhappiness of worldly people who pay no attention to all this, but live as if they are convinced that they are created only to build houses, plant trees, store up wealth and be occupied with trifles.

1.Be filled with shame and rebuke yourself for your wretchedness which has been so great in the past that you have seldom or never thought of all this. Alas, you will say, what was I thinking about, my God, when I was not thinking of you? What was I remembering, when I was forgetful of you? What did I love, when I was not loving you? Alas, I ought to have nourished myself on truth, but I was filling myself with vanity. I was serving the world which is made only to serve me.

  1. Detest your past sinful life and sat to yourself: I turn away from you, vain thoughts and useless reasonings. I reject you, hateful and foolish memories. I give you up, false and disloyal friendships, wasted and wretched occupations, unprofitable pleasures and burdensome satisfactions.
  2. Turn yourself back to God and say to Him: You, my God and my Saviour, from now on you will be the object of my thoughts. No more will I turn my mind to thoughts displeasing to you. My memory will be filled, each day of my life, with the greatness of your loving-kindness so tenderly shown to me. You will be the joy of my heart and the delight of my affections.

Thank God who has made you for such an excellent purpose and say to God: You have made me, O Lord, for yourself, that I may enjoy forever the immensity of your glory. When shall I be worthy of this? When shall I bless you as I ought? My God, I humbly ask you, to accept my desires and my resolutions, and to give me your blessing, that I may be able to realize them by the merits of the blood of your Son shed upon the Cross» (I Part, 10).

Saint John Marie Vianney explains in one of his catechetical instruction the purpose and end for which we are created: “There are many Christians who do not even know why they are in the world. “Oh my God, why hast Thou sent me into the world?” “To save your soul. ” “And why dost Thou wish me to be saved?” “Because I love you. ” The good God has created us and sent us into the world because He loves us; He wishes to save us because He loves us. . . . To be saved, we must know, love and serve God. Oh, what a beautiful life! How good, how great a thing it is to know, to love and serve God! We have nothing else to do in this world. All that we do besides is lost time. We must act only for God, and put our works into His hands. . . . We should say, on awaking, “I desire to do everything today for Thee, O my God! I will submit to all that Thou shalt send me, as coming from Thee. I offer myself as a sacrifice to Thee But, O God, I can do nothing without Thee. Do Thou help me!”

Oh, how bitterly shall we regret at the hour of death the time we have given to pleasures, to useless conversations, to repose, instead of having employed it in mortification, in prayer, in good works, in thinking of our poor misery, in weeping over our poor sins; then we shall see that we have done nothing for Heaven. Oh, my children, how sad it is! Three-quarters of those who are Christians labor for nothing but to satisfy this body, which will soon be buried and corrupted, while they do not give a thought to their poor soul, which must be happy or miserable for all eternity. They have neither sense nor reason: it makes one tremble.

Look at that man, who is so active and restless, who makes a noise in the world, who wants to govern everybody, who thinks himself of consequence, who seems as if he would like to say to the sun, “Go away, and let me enlighten the world instead of you. ” Some day this proud man will be reduced at the utmost to a little handful of dust, which will be swept away from river to river, from Saone to Saone, and at last into the sea.

See my children, I often think that we are like those little heaps of sand that the wind raises on the road, which whirl round for a moment, and are scattered directly. . . . We have brothers and sisters who are dead. Well, they are reduced to that little handful of dust of which I was speaking. Worldly people say, it is too difficult to save one’s soul. Yet nothing is easier. To observe the Commandments of God and the Church, and to avoid the seven capital sins; or if you like to put it so, to do good and avoid evil: that is all. Good Christians, who labor to save their souls and to work out their salvation, are always happy and contented; they enjoy beforehand the happiness of Heaven: they will be happy for all eternity. While bad Christians, who lose their souls, are always to be pitied; they murmur, they are sad, they are as miserable as stones; and they will be so for all eternity. See what a difference!

This is a good rule of conduct, to do nothing but what we can offer to the good God. Now, we cannot offer to Him slanders, calumnies, injustice, anger, blasphemy, impurity, theatres, dancing; yet that is all that people do in the world. Speaking of dances, St. Francis of Sales used to say that “they were like mushrooms, the best were good for nothing. ” Mothers are apt to say indeed, “Oh, I watch over my daughters. ” They watch over their attire, but they cannot watch over their hearts. Those who have dances in their houses load themselves with a terrible responsibility before God; they are answerable for all the evil that is done – for the bad thoughts, the slanders, the jealousies, the hatred, the revenge. . . . Ah, if they well understood this responsibility they would never have any dances. Just like those who make bad pictures and statues, or write bad books, they will have to answer for all the harm that these things will do during all the time they last. . . . Oh that makes one tremble!

We must reflect that we have a soul to save, and an eternity that awaits us. The world, its riches, pleasures, and honours will pass away. Let us take care, then. The saints did not all begin well; but they all ended well. We have begun badly; let us end well, and we shall go one day and meet them in Heaven.” (Instructions on the Catechism, I, 1)

Being in trials and persecution Saint Thomas More nevertheless always kept in his souls the truth about the true purpose and end of man being on earth. He said: “God made the Angels to show Him splendor——as He made animals for innocence and plants for their simplicity. But man He made to serve Him wittily, in the tangle of his mind! If He suffers us to fall to such a case that there is no escaping, then we may stand to our tackle as best we can, and yes, then we may clamor like champions.”

We know the conversation of Saint Thomas More with his wife during his imprisonment. Alice, his wife, tried to persuade him not to give up her, their children, their country, and his life, which he might still enjoy for many years to come. As she harped on this, More said to her, “And how long, my dear Alice, do you think I shall live?” “If God will,” she answered, “you may live for twenty years.” “Then,” said Sir Thomas, “You would have me barter eternity for twenty years; you are not skillful at a bargain, my wife. If you had said twenty thousand years, you might have said something to the purpose; but even then, what is that to eternity?

If a person would possess all the richnesses of this world, lacking however the faith, he would be indeed, the poorest person on earth. And if a person would lack material richnesses being materially indigent, but possessing the faith, that person would be the richest one in the world.

We conclude with the known expression of Saint Irenaeus of Lyons, a Father of the Church from the second century, who wrote these profound words about the end and the purpose of human being on earth: “The glory of God is a living man; and the life of man consists in beholding God” (Adversus haereses, 4, 20:7).

Necessity of Instruction in the Catholic Faith


We speak in this talk about the necessity of a sure and integral knowledge of the Catholic Faith.

The Instruction in the true and full catholic Faith is indispensable in order to live rightly the Christian life. I would present first a synthesis of an important Encyclical on the instruction in the Faith. We are talking about the encyclical called “In Dominico agro”, which Pope Clement XIII wrote in the second half of the eighteenth century, in 1761. It was at a time when the so-called “Enlightenment” reached the peak of the diffusion of its incredulity, extreme rationalism and religious relativism. In fact, there was no enlightenment, but rather an obfuscation. The so-called “Enlightenment” was a product of the inspiration of the Satan, who is the anti-light per se. It was on the eve of the French Revolution. Since then started the triumphant march of the darkness of incredulity, of rationalism, of religious relativism and ultimately of religious ignorance.

In our times there is reigning an astonishing ignorance among the faithful, and even among priests and bishops regarding the full and integral Catholic Faith. The life of the Church is characterized by an enormous ambiguity and a lack of clarity regarding the doctrine of the Catholic Faith.

The Catechism of the Council of Trent, which is also called the Roman Catechism, was for all the Catholic generations of the past four centuries one of the clearest and surest tools for the instruction in the faith both in catechism classes and in preaching. We have to rediscover this proven catechetical treasure and use it with spiritual benefit.

We follow now some of the main affirmations of the Encyclical of Pope Clement XIII: The souls in the Church constitute the Lord’s field, for the tending of which God placed the bishops and the Pope as overseer. There is, indeed, nothing which demands as much vigilant care and unremitting labor in this Lord’s field than guarding the good seed of the Catholic teaching which the Apostles received from Jesus Christ and handed on.

If in laziness bishops and even a pope neglected this care and labor, the devil, the enemy of the human race, will sow weeds while the workers sleep. Saint Paul strongly encourages all the shepherd of the Church to protect the faith that the saints handed on to us (cf. Judas 3), telling Timothy to preserve the sacred trust: “guard the good deposit entrusted to you.” (2 Tim. 1: 14), because dangerous times were coming (2 Tim. 3: 1). Saint Paul even says, that evil and deceitful men would exist in the Church of God (cf. 2 Tim. 3: 13).

Now I would affirm: How much these words of Saint Paul apply to our times, where insidious tempters who infiltrated even in high clerical ranks use their sacred office to try to infect the unwary minds of the faithful with errors which are hostile to evangelical truth.

It often happens that certain unworthy ideas come forth in the Church which, although they directly contradict each other, plot together to undermine the purity of the Catholic faith in some way. Errors in faith are ultimately caused by the deceit of the devil. When they have artfully colored their lies, they easily clothe themselves in the likeness of truth while very brief additions or changes corrupt the meaning of expressions, which the Church constantly used.

The faithful–especially those who are simple –should be kept away from dangerous and narrow paths upon which they can hardly set foot without faltering. The sheep should not be led to pasture through trackless places. Nor should peculiar and unsure ideas–even those of Catholic scholars–be proposed to them. Rather, only those ideas should be communicated to the faithful, which are definitely marked as Catholic truth by their universality, antiquity, and unanimity. It is written in the Book of Exodus (19: 12) that the crowd cannot go up to the mountain upon which the glory of the Lord came down, and if whoever crosses the boundaries to see will die. Therefore, the teachers of the people in catechism and preaching should establish boundaries around them so that no word strays beyond that which is necessary or useful for salvation. The faithful should obey the advice of the Apostle Paul not to know more than is necessary, but to know in moderation (cf. Rom. 12: 3).

Over two millennia almost all Roman Pontiffs devoted their efforts to cut short with the sword of anathema the poisonous buds of growing error. The popes did even more: they cut away certain developing ideas which either could prevent the Christian people unnecessarily from bearing a greater fruit of faith or could harm the minds of the faithful by their proximity to error. So the Council of Trent condemned those heresies which tried at that time to dim the light of the Church and which. A General or Ecumenical Council of the Church by its nature has to lead the Catholic truth into a clearer light as if the cloud of errors had been dispersed. Documents of an Ecumenical Council should therefore avoid at maximum ambiguity or unclearness in their affirmations.

In the Roman Catechism only that teaching is expressed, which is common to the whole Church and which is far removed from every danger of error. This Catechism transmits the Catholic teaching openly and carefully to the faithful according to the precept of Christ the Lord who told the apostles to proclaim in the light what He had said in the dark and to proclaim from the rooftops what they heard in secret (cf. Math. 10: 27).

There can be a situation in the Church, where the light of the truth is not so bright, as it is the case in our days. As a consequence, truth cannot be so clearly known and error can easily be mistaken for truth because of its appearance of truth. In such a situation of darkness error can be distinguished from truth only with difficulty.

The false teachers in the clerical ranks who are wolves in sheep’s clothing attract people by the promise of more abundant pastures of wisdom and knowledge. Many people would come to those pastures because, as Holy Scripture says, “stolen waters are sweeter and hidden bread more delightful” (Song 1: 6). Therefore, the Church always proposed that only what is necessary and very useful for the salvation of souls be clearly and plainly explained in the Catechism.

Pope Clement XIII makes an observation, which is mostly applicable to our time. There are priests – and our days even a growing number of bishops – who because of their love of novelty almost wrested traditional catechisms from the hands of the faithful. They substituted them by new catechisms which were doctrinally unclear and highly ambiguous and even containing errors.

The faithful were scandalized at finding that they were no longer united by the same language and topics. On the other hand, contentions arose from different ways of transmitting Catholic truth and disunity of spirit and great disagreements from rivalry while one declared he was a follower of Apollo, another of Cephas, and another of Paul (cf. 1 Cor. 3: 4). Nothing can eliminate more disastrously the fruits which the faithful should gain from the Christian Faith than doctrinal disagreements and ambiguities.

Thus, in order to remove these evils from the faithful, we must return to that proven and sure content and method of the traditional catechism from which some, setting themselves up in as wiser as the constant Tradition of the Church, have insolently led the faithful away from the true path. Pope Clement XIII affirms: We think that the Roman Catechism should be offered to the priests again so that just as it once strengthened the Catholic faith and strengthened the minds of the faithful in the Church’s teaching which is the pillar of truth (cf. 1 Tim. 3: 15), it may now turn them away from new ideas which neither antiquity nor unanimity recommend.

At this very difficult time for the Church, the bishops, and in first place the pope, must have care and diligence to provide a very suitable aid to remove the deceptions of wicked ideas and to spread and establish true and sound teaching. In the past the Roman Pontiffs wanted that the Roman Catechism should be considered as the norm of Catholic faith and Christian discipline in order that unanimity might exist also in the method of transmitting doctrine.

It is of the utmost importance that priests who have the office of communicating Christian teaching to the faithful be not only men endowed with theological knowledge, but more importantly, men who manifest humility, zeal for sanctifying souls, and charity. The totality of Christian practice does not consist in abundance of words nor in skill of debating nor in the search from praise and glory but in true and voluntary humility. The Apostle James condemns those teachers who disfigure the true doctrine and seek their own advantage with these words: “If you are jealous and have contentions in your hearts, do not boast and be liars against the truth. This kind of wisdom did not come down from on high. Rather, it is earthly, animal, diabolical. Inconstancy and every wicked deed accompany jealousy and contention. The wisdom which comes from on high is first of all chaste. Then it is peaceful, modest, persuasive, agreeable to good things, full of mercy and good fruits.” (James 3: 15-17)

It was particularly Pope Saint Pius X who stressed very much the importance of a sound and integral formation in Catholic doctrine. In one of his encyclicals he says: “The enemy has, indeed, long been prowling about the fold and attacking it with such subtle cunning that now, more than ever before, the prediction of the Apostle to the elders of the Church of Ephesus seems to be verified: “I know that . . . fierce wolves will get in among you, and will not spare the flock.” (Acts 20:29) Those who still are zealous for the glory of God are seeking the causes and reasons for this decline in religion. Coming to a different explanation, each points out, according to his own view, a different plan for the protection and restoration of the kingdom of God on earth. But it seems to Vs, Venerable Brethren, that while we should not overlook other considerations, We are forced to agree with those who hold that the chief cause of the present indifference and, as it were, infirmity of soul, and the serious evils that result from it, is to be found above all in ignorance of things divine. This is fully in accord with what God Himself declared through the Prophet Osee: “And there is no knowledge of God in the land. Cursing and lying and killing and theft and adultery have overflowed.” (Osee 4:1-2) It is a common complaint, unfortunately too well founded, that there are large numbers of Christians in our own time who are entirely ignorant of those truths necessary for salvation. And when we mention Christians, We refer not only to the masses or to those in the lower walks of life, but We refer to those especially who do not lack culture or talents and, indeed, are possessed of abundant knowledge regarding things of the world but live rashly and imprudently with regard to religion. It is hard to find words to describe how profound is the darkness in which they are engulfed and, what is most deplorable of all, how tranquilly they repose there. They rarely give thought to God, the Supreme Author and Ruler of all things, or to the teachings of the faith of Christ. They know nothing of the Incarnation of the Word of God, nothing of the perfect restoration of the human race which He accomplished. Grace, the greatest of the helps for attaining eternal things, the Holy Sacrifice of Mass and the Sacraments by which we obtain grace, are entirely unknown to them. They have no conception of the malice and baseness of sin; hence they show no anxiety to avoid sin or to renounce it. And so they arrive at life’s end in such a condition that, lest all hope of salvation be lost, the priest is obliged to give in the last few moments of life a summary teaching of religion, a time which should be devoted to stimulating the soul to greater love for God.  And so Our Predecessor, Benedict XIV, had just cause to write: “We declare that a great number of those who are condemned to eternal punishment suffer that everlasting calamity because of ignorance of those mysteries of faith which must be known and believed in order to be numbered among the elect.” (Instit., 27:18)

No reason for wonder that the corruption of morals and depravity of life is already so great, and ever increasingly greater, not only among uncivilized peoples but even in those very nations that are called Christian. The Apostle Paul, writing to the Ephesians, repeatedly admonished them in these words: “But immorality and every uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as become saints; or obscenity or foolish talk.” (Eph. 5:34) He also places the foundation of holiness and sound morals upon a knowledge of divine things – which holds in check evil desires: “See to it therefore, brethren, that you walk with care: not as unwise but as wise. . . Therefore, do not become foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” (Eph. 5:15-16) And rightly so. For the will of man retains but little of that divinely implanted love of virtue and righteousness by which it was, as it were, attracted strongly toward the real and not merely apparent good. Disordered by the stain of the first sin, and almost forgetful of God, its Author, it improperly turns every affection to a love of vanity and deceit. This erring will, blinded by its own evil desires, has need therefore of a guide to lead it back to the paths of justice whence it has so unfortunately strayed. The intellect itself is this guide, which need not be sought elsewhere, but is provided by nature itself. It is a guide, though, that, if it lacks its companion light, the knowledge of divine things, will be only an instance of the blind leading the blind so that both will fall into the pit. The holy king David, praising God for the light of truth with which He had illumined the intellect, exclaimed: “The light of Thy countenance, O Lord, is signed upon us.” (Ps. 4:7) Then he described the effect of this light by adding: “Thou hast given gladness in my heart,” gladness, that is, which enlarges our heart so that it runs in the way of God’s Commandments.” (Encyclical Acerbo nimis, 1-3, from 15 of April, 1905)

The authors of the Roman catechism explain the need of an authoritative Catholic Catechism, saying:

“While the preaching of the divine Word should never be interrupted in the Church, surely in these, our days, it becomes necessary to labour with more than ordinary zeal and piety to nourish and strengthen the faithful with sound and wholesome doctrine, as with the food of life. For false prophets have gone forth into the world, to corrupt the minds of the faithful with various and strange doctrines, of whom the Lord has said: “I did not send prophets, yet they ran; I spoke not to them, yet they prophesied.” (Jer. 23: 21) In this work of the false prophets, to such extremes has their impiety, practiced in all the arts of Satan, been carried, that it would seem almost impossible to confine it within any bounds; and did we not rely on the splendid promises of the Saviour, who declared that He had built His Church on so solid a foundation that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (cf. Math. 16: 18), we should have good reason to fear lest, beset on every side by such a host of enemies and assailed and attacked by so many machinations, it would, in these days, fall to the ground.

­There is no region, however remote, no place, however securely guarded, no corner of Christendom, into which this pestilence of false teaching has not sought secretly to insinuate itself.” How up to the date are these words, written more than four hundred years ago!

The text of the authors of the Catechism continues saying, “For those who intended to corrupt the minds of the faithful, knowing that they could not hold immediate personal intercourse with all, and thus pour into their ears their poisoned doctrines, adopted another plan which enabled them to disseminate error and impiety more easily and extensively. Besides those voluminous works by which they sought the subversion of the Catholic faith ­ to guard against which (volumes) required perhaps little labour or circumspection, since their contents were clearly heretical ­ they also composed innumerable smaller books, which, veiling their errors under the semblance of piety, deceived with incredible facility the unsuspecting minds of simple folk.” Again, how apt are these words in applying them to our time and to the situation of the crisis of faith in the life of the Church in the past decades. How many texts and words from priests and bishops are veiling their errors under the semblance of piety or under the expressions like the “hermeneutic of continuity” or the “paradigm swift” or the “development of doctrine” and so on.

The authors of the Roman catechism speak then about the ends and the aims of the religious instruction.

The first end is the knowledge of Christ: “The first thing is ever to recollect that all Christian knowledge is reduced to one single head, or rather, to use the words of the Apostle, this is eternal life: That they may know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. A teacher in the Church should, therefore, use his best endeavours that the faithful earnestly desire to know Jesus Christ, and him crucified, that they be firmly convinced, and with the most heartfelt piety and devotion believe, as says Saint Peter “that there is no other name under heaven given to men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4: 12), for “He is the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 2: 3), as says Saint John in his First Letter.

The second aim of religious instruction is the observance of the Commandments. Saint John says: “By this we know that we have known him, if we keep his commandments” (1 John 2: 3). From this follows the next consideration, intimately connected with the preceding. That is to say, the important truth that we must not waste our lives in ease and indolently, but that we are to walk as Christ walked, and pursue with all earnestness, justice, godliness, faith, charity, patience, mildness. For, as the Apostle Paul says, “Christ gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and might cleanse to himself a people acceptable, a pursuer of good works.” (Tit. 2: 14-15)

The third aim of religious instruction is the love of God. Our Lord and Saviour has not only declared, but has also proved by His own example, that the Law and the Prophets depend on love (cf. Math. 22: 40), and, according to the Apostle Paul, charity is the end of the commandment, and the fulfilment of the law (cf. Rom. 13: 8.10).

Therefore, we have to recognize the love of the infinite goodness of God towards us. Burning with a sort of divine ardour, we may be powerfully attracted to the supreme and all­perfect good. To adhere to God, the supreme good, is true and solid happiness, as is fully experienced by him who can say with the Prophet in the Psalm: “What have I in heaven? and besides thee what do I desire upon earth?” (Ps. 72: 25)

This, assuredly, is that more excellent way pointed out by the Apostle Paul when he sums up all his doctrines and instructions in charity, which never falleth away (cf. 1 Cor. 12: 31). For whatever is proposed by the religious instruction, whether it be the exercise of faith, of hope, or of some moral virtue, the love of our Lord should at the same time be so strongly insisted upon as to show clearly that all the works of perfect Christian virtue can have no other origin, no other end than divine love.” (Roman catechism, Prologue).

The entire Instruction in the Catholic Faith consists of the following themes, which are at the same time are necessary and which build up the sum of the Catholic Faith. The authors of the Roman catechism say: “All the doctrines of salvation can be reduced to these four heads: The Apostles’ Creed, the Sacraments, the Ten Commandments, and the Lord’s Prayer. The part on the Creed contains all that is to be held according to Christian faith, whether it regard the knowledge of God, the creation and government of the world, or the redemption of man, the rewards of the good and the punishments of the wicked. The part devoted to the Seven Sacraments teaches us what are the signs, and, as it were, the instruments of grace. In the part on the Decalogue is described whatever has reference to the law, whose end is charity. Finally, the Lord’s Prayer contains whatever can be the object of the Christian’s desires, or hopes, or prayers. The exposition, therefore, of these four parts, which are, as it were, the general heads of Sacred Scripture, includes almost everything that a Christian should learn.” (Roman catechism, Prologue)