YOUCAT Series 5 – What We Believe: Man Responds to God
Questions 20 to 24
This section covers aspects of belief and faith as a response to God’s offer of friendship to us.
Starting off with question twenty. A fabulous example of how one is to respond to God when he speaks to us is Blessed Mother Teresa, as her words quoted from here testify,
A sacrifice to be real must cost, must hurt, [we] must empty ourselves. The fruit of silence is prayer, the fruit of prayer is faith, the fruit of faith is love, the fruit of love is service, the fruit of service is peace.
The YOUCAT then proceeds to explain what faith, so accurately thought of above, actually is.
Two aspects of this explanation of faith stand out to me.
The first is that faith is absolutely certain – would a Christian not state their beliefs because they might change with time? No, that is what an agnostic would do, is it not? Christians know the truth and can state it here, now and forever – although hopefully they will gain a more in-depth faith with time.
How many people privatize their faith because of this reason?
Secondly, the parachutist analogy in question twenty-one – it basically boils down to trust doesn’t it.
We live in a society that is in many ways void of trust.
When religion is taken out of politics, because it conflicts with others’ agendas, people’s thinking on issues becomes distorted. Instead of these qualities being due to persons because they are made in the image and likeness of God, which is, in fact, the basis of human dignity and hence human rights, the values are given to thoughts and actions, leading to devastating consequences, as Pope Benedict XVI clearly states,
History has shown us how dangerous and deleterious a state can be that proceeds to legislate on questions that touch the person and society while pretending itself to be the source and principle of ethics. Without universal principles that permit a common denominator for the whole of humanity the danger of a relativistic drift at the legislative level is not at all something [that] should be underestimated (cf. “Catechism of the Catholic Church,” no. 1959). The natural moral law, strong in its universal character, allows us to avert such a danger and above all offers to the legislator the guarantee for an authentic respect of both the person and the entire created order.
As an example, someone might say to you, ‘I respect your beliefs, will you respect mine?’
If you said, ‘yes’, wouldn’t you be accepting that those beliefs are ok?
To understand how this ever so subtle play on language, and indeed other common factors found in our age, lead to an erosion of moral standards in society read, A Refutation of Moral Relativism by Peter Kreeft:
Moral practice has always been difficult for fallen humanity, but at least there was always the lighthouse of moral principles, no matter how stormy the sea of moral practice got. But today, with the majority of our mind-molders, in formal education, or informal education—that is, media—the light is gone. Morality is a fog of feelings. That is why to them, as Chesterton said, “Morality is always dreadfully complicated to a man who has lost all his principles.” Principles mean moral absolutes. Unchanging rocks beneath the changing waves of feelings and practices. Moral relativism is a philosophy that denies moral absolutes. That thought to me is the prime suspect—public enemy number one. The philosophy that has extinguished the light in the minds of our teachers, and then their students, and eventually, if not reversed, will extinguish our whole civilization.
This relativism (remember the reflection question from last time?) robs the world of truth – for everything is seen as being true.
In the document titled On The Way To Life (which for anyone interested in catechetics is real gold). Just go to the RE and Catechesis section to find it.
In the section titled ‘Truth-trust’, it gives more insight on how this affects society:
People come to live in a society in a purely instrumental way that erodes any possibility of living towards a ‘common good’. Politics is forced into a position of inflating the goods in which it can offer in order to gain popular support and then generating cynical disengagement from the democratic process which it fails to deliver. These tensions and contradictions within the cultural and political force of modernity touch all institutions, including the Church.
So, in a world where everything is true – relativistic in other words, nothing really can be true and therefore, no-one can trust anybody.
The irony is that when people say they are being tolerant, respectful, etc (like what is so common in arguments these days), they can be being the very opposite! I highly recommend reading this piece called True and False Tolerance for further insight on this concept;
The prevalent idea of tolerance is connected to relativism: “each one has his truth”; “each individual is autonomous”; “the self is the source of meaning.” To be tolerant in this view is to cling to the opinion that everything is a matter of opinion and of equal opinions at that. Each person must take his bearings from his sovereign subjectivity, and no one has the right to put forth a universal standard. To affirm that a particular proposition is true by itself, apart from mere opinion, is considered an attack on tolerance.
What does this reign of universal tolerance, or dogmatic relativism, in fact mean? It has as its effect the undermining of all authority and vital knowledge, depriving all meaning from liberty and toleration. It finally destroys liberty and tolerance themselves. Taken to its logical conclusion, the reign of opinion means the end of all intellectual and moral authority, whether it be the great minds whose dialogue forms culture or the institutions — Church, family, school — that traditionally have transmitted rules of conduct. The reign of opinion means the attenuation of every form of knowledge. In the kingdom of opinion, there is no place for knowledge that engages oneâ€™s being.
Consequently, the phenomenon discussed above makes believing in God very difficult because everything is the truth and you can’t trust anything – I hope you can see the connection.
Therefore, for Catholics it is so important to see through relativism and to show other people the value of having an objective set of beliefs. In other words, believing in definite rights and wrongs that come from a source outside of ourselves, namely, God.
As Cardinal Burke puts so eloquently,
When reason is not purified by faith in the political realm, … the powerful and influential of the time exercise a tyranny which violates the fundamental rights of the very people whom political leaders are called to serve.
… Religious faith … also serves to evangelize and bring hope to men and women today who are “lost in the unreal and destructive world of moral relativism and, therefore, tempted to despair.
For the sake of brevity I’ll leave the other characteristics of faith, as listed in Q. 21, for a discussion in the comments section. If readers would like to contribute their thoughts that would be great!
Moving on to Q. 22…
Many people have never thought much about what is outside the visible world, and still those who do may feel that it is a bit superstitious, to say.., pray to Saint Anthony when you have lost your keys, or something similar. On the contrary, Catholics should have a deep connection to the invisible. For more information I have put a link here to an article that explains how a Catholic has a sacramental imagination, one that thinks of the spiritual in a completely Christocentric way. An abstract from it is below:
We must stress, of course, that Catholic imagination is, in the deepest sense, a response to the imagination of God. Christ, the Word incarnate, crucified and risen, is God’s way of imagining our humanity. To believe, is to be caught up into such all creative imagining: `The Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory… full of grace and truth’ (Jn 1:14). By becoming flesh, the Word has entered into human imagination. In that light, we begin to live in a universe of grace. It means having a sense of the fundamental goodness in creation. Our world can never be totally corrupt, because God has created it and made it his own. That is the crucial point: If God could so enter our human world, if God has owned this world as his very own in Christ, then the whole of creation can be seen as one great sign of God’s presence and love. And, in the resurrection of Jesus, we believe that the transformation of all creation has begun. Hidden within the struggle and dying of our history there is always the hope of rising with him. The whole of creation is shot through with the great cosmic mystery of Christ: `all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together’ (Col 1: 16-17).
Furthermore, the following two links are great additional reading for question twenty-three, on faith and science and question 24, on faith and the Church.
I’ve added some direct citations from these as well so you can get an idea of what they’re about:
The popular view that science and religion are engaged in an endless debate is a misunderstanding that arises from a limited picture. When creation and evolution clash in a courtroom, the daily news fills up with stories suggesting there is some profound conflict between science and religion. What does not make the daily news is the research of the majority of scientists on topics that do not come into contact with religion.The same is true of the work of theologians and biblical scholars investigating topics in fields unrelated to science.
Dear young friends, as the Successor of Peter, let me urge you to strengthen this faith which has been handed down to us from the time of the Apostles. Make Christ, the Son of God, the centre of your life. But let me also remind you that following Jesus in faith means walking at his side in the communion of the Church. We cannot follow Jesus on our own. Anyone who would be tempted to do so “on his own”, or to approach the life of faith with kind of individualism so prevalent today, will risk never truly encountering Jesus, or will end up following a counterfeit Jesus.
I’ll leave you with a funny thing I read quoting Cardinal Pell from WYD 2011, ‘Young people are in the Church to set it on fire. Old people are there to make sure it does not burn down.’
• What does the term ‘secularism’ mean?
• Can you think of ways that will help you not privatize your faith?
 Papal Address to Pontifical Academy for Life
Posted on January 11, 2012, in Apologetics, Catholicism, Christianity, Jesus, Youcat, Youcat Study Group and tagged Faith, Mother Teresa, Politics, Relativism, religion, Science, Trust, Truth, World Youth Day. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.