“Ever since the start of my ministry as successor of Peter, I have spoken of the need to rediscover the journey of faith so as to shed ever clearer light on the joy and renewed enthusiasm of the encounter with Christ.”
— Pope Benedict XVI, from the Apostolic Letter Porta FideiAs people of faith, it’s never a bad idea to listen to the Roman Pontiff. Typically, it’s good spiritual direction to focus our attention on the areas to which he directs our attention. His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI has proclaimed this year as the Year of Faith. It is my belief that our greatest failure as a society is our lack of faith. A faithless society is a hopeless society. It is this fundamental loss of faith and hope in our country that we currently face daily. As a parent of four small children, I see that one of the most essential roles I can play is to arm my children with faith. No matter how hostile society gets toward Christianity, no matter how much they are told Christ is not relevant anymore, faith will carry them through.
Pope Benedict urges the faithful to rediscover faith in our lives, and he has wisely dedicated this year to that end. “Reflection on the faith will have to be intensified,” he said, “so as to help all believers in Christ to acquire a more conscious and vigorous adherence to the Gospel, especially at a time of profound change such as humanity is currently experiencing.” It is faith that penetrates beyond our intellect and leads us to a deeper understanding of Christ. Our intellect is limited, but our faith penetrates our hearts and allows the Gospel to resonate in our lives.
We have all heard the saying “The world can be a cold dark place.” Typically, this is said by a parent to a teenage son or daughter who thinks they know everything. It’s one of those statements made to teach children about the realities we face in the physical world, however, this saying is especially true in the spiritual world.
For children, now more than ever, the world IS a cold dark place. Never before have had kids had such access to evil. Never before have children had the power to access damaging material with only a few clicks on a computer mouse. Never before have they had the opportunity to have alternative beliefs, lifestyles and morality thrown at them. Sadly, I would guess every one of us knows someone who had a child who was just playing around on a computer or cell phone and discovered a cold dark place that begins to cast a shadow of doubt on their faith. Confronted with a world radically different from what they know, they begin to wonder, What is truth?
I myself am not gifted with great intellect. As much as I would like to be able to arm my children with sharpened reason and intellect, it’s just not who I am, however, I can show them that in a darkening world, faith sustains us. When times are tough, and I feel worn down or beaten by the enemy, my limited intellect fails me. However, I know HE has a plan. This simple truth will and does get me through.
Faith, Hope and Charity are the three theological virtues imparted to us in the form of graces so we can discover God. The secret of the great saints of the Church is not merely superior intellect, but that these men and women allowed these virtues and graces to transform them from within. It is for this reason that we honor Saints as extraordinary examples for us to live by, and that the saints sometimes look so shockingly different from the people around us. Some of the saints established and defended the Catholic philosophy that guides us still today, and some were merely uneducated children, who found the courage to say, “I would rather die than allow anyone to separate me from Jesus Christ in words or deeds.” These two radically different examples of sainthood have one unifying thread: FAITH.
We often see the world through the eyes of our youth. What kind of world are we leaving for them? The reality right now can make us feel hopeless, but if we can give our children a true sense of faith, we can arm them to confront the world they will face. If they can begin to see through the eyes of faith, then they can make changes in this world. It is a discussion I have had often with my 12-year-old daughter when we are praying outside an abortion clinic. If she can see through the eyes of faith, and thus live her life as God would have her live it and not conform to the demands of our culture, change will happen. In science, the term natural selection simply states that the strongest survive. If she can allow faith in Christ to guide her actions and be open to life—and to the conception of children one day, if that is her vocation—she can directly end the culture of death. You see, we have two cultures competing to survive. If every pro-lifer is open to life, receives children and gives them the tools to hold to truth—if one culture follows Gods will, “Be fruitful and multiply,” while the other rejects that will, and if the children whose parents were open to life can teach them to have deep faith and adhere to Jesus Christ, that lifestyle wins out. Natural selection in a society can take place as well.
I realize this philosophy on life is very simplistic, but my point to my daughter is that even when the world seems hostile and dark, faith will see you through.
I wish I could offer up 10 ways in which we could all go stock up on faith. It is an expression of the heart that you cannot simply purchase. However, I can tell you something I personally know has helped me: Mary and her rosary. In the rosary we pray for an increase in the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity. In the rosary, the graces we receive allow these virtues to transform our lives. Mary is our example of faith in her response to God: “I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to thy word.” Want to grow in the virtue of Faith? Ask Mary to lead you—she always does the will of God.
Pope Benedict XVI has decided it imperative that the Christian faithful probe the mysteries of Faith to strengthen us and prepare us to wage war against the enemy. He sees that more than ever that the best defense against a hostile world is faith. He’s not a bad person to follow. Lord, please grant that all our brother Knights and their families richly grow in the virtue of Faith this coming year.
Fraternally in Christ,