Sunday, October 6, 2013

3 Reasons - The Light of Faith

I'm joining up with Micaela and whoever else is sharing the many ways that the Catholic Church nourishes her children. And I encourage you to join in, because reflecting on what is important to you about your faith is a valuable activity, and one which will strengthen your faith.

This past week our parish has been focusing on Lumen Fidei (The Light of Faith), which as our priest pointed out is the only encyclical written by two popes. For the non-Catholics who might be reading this post (family? are you there?) an encyclical is a letter written to everyone, not to a specific group. So, for instance, in the Bible Paul's letters to specific churches are not encyclicals, whereas Peter's, John's and James' are. Throughout the ages Popes have written encyclicals to clarify or emphasize various aspects of the faith, just as the New Testament apostolic letters do.

Since I am a new Catholic (2010) I had never read an encyclical before Lumen Fidei and I was completely blown away when I read it. The wisdom! the encouragement! the challenge! Every bit as nourishing as the letters in the Bible. Although encyclicals are not considered equal to the letters in the Bible because they weren't written by the original apostles, they are written by Popes and therefore have the gravitas of authority and the accumulated wisdom stored in the Church. They also refer to biblical passages (as does the Catechism) to put the teaching into context and confirm its truth.

Here are three things from Lumen Fidei that spoke deeply to me. Since each paragraph in an encyclical is numbered to make it easier to refer to, I will cite the numbers where these quotes are found.

[1] Paragraph 29: "Hearing emphasizes personal vocation and obedience, and the fact that truth is revealed in time. Sight provides a vision of the entire journey and allows it to be situated within God's overall plan; without this vision, we would be left only with unconnected parts of an unknown whole." Paragraph 30: Faith appears as a process of gazing, in which our eyes grow accustomed to peering into the depths."

This is a summary from a whole section on hearing and seeing and how faith is built up differently through the two. I loved this because it confirms something that God has been impressing on me about my own experience of faith. I'm so much a person of vision: that is the primary way that God communicates with me (through images, not words) and it's the strength that I've relied on in my service to others [the vision of the entire journey]. Yet listening is different, more personal: listening for God's voice guiding me, admonishing me, encouraging me. I eagerly seek out quietude (one reason I love adoration so much) where I can simply gaze at God and listen to what He has to say to me.

[2] Paragraph 31: "Saint Augustine, commenting on the account of the woman suffering from hemorrhages...says, 'To touch him with our hearts: that is what it means to believe'. The crowd presses in on Jesus, but they do not reach him with the personal touch of faith, which apprehends the mystery that He is the Son who reveals the Father."

Yes! To touch Him with our hearts - what a perfect description of faith. It's not believing with the mind that saves us; it's believing with the heart. We must ask God for the ability to discern the difference lest we end up like the goats who did many acts of service in God's name but never knew Him.

[3] Paragraph 34: "Truth leads to humility, since believers know that, rather than ourselves possessing the truth, it is truth which embraces and possesses us. Far from making us inflexible, the security of faith sets us on a journey; it enables witness and dialog with all."

There are two treasures in here that I see. One is that (as other parts of the letter go into in more detail) faith is a gift of God and that our works won't save us. ALL is from God, ALL we possess we receive from Him. The other treasure is that the stronger our faith grows, the less we fear dialog and acknowledging that truth is often embedded in strange places. That is one of the main reasons why the pharisees wouldn't accept Jesus - because the Truth came in a "strange" package, one that didn't fit into their concepts. And it is a requirement of true evangelism: being able to listen, and to acknowledge the dignity and value of the other person, no matter how far from the truth he may be. We are all God's creation, and God loves us all.

A final note: somehow I had expected encyclicals to be VERY long and boring. Instead, I find that they are like my favorite books of the Bible - pertinent to my life and strengthening for my faith. I'm looking forward to reading more of them!


  1. This is so encouraging! I admit I've never read a whole encyclical either, and now I'm motivated to do so.

    I particularly like the images of how vision and hearing are so important to our faith, and how respecting the dignity of people can lead us to find truth in unexpected places. What a treasure of wisdom!

    Thanks for linking up again. I always love reading what you have to share.

  2. Isn't Pope Francis just the greatest! We are so blessed to have such a dynamic leader. Lumen Fidei is full of wisdom. I enjoyed reading the quotes you chose and your thoughts on them.

    1. Thanks, Anne, for your kind words, and thanks for visiting. I read your blog faithfully!


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