Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Lights of Reason and Faith

I've said it before: "...I'm a practicing Catholic, so I don't have to check my brain at the door when I enter a church...."

One of the reasons I became a Catholic is that what I believe has to make sense. The logic I found in documents like "Humanae Vitae" made me take Catholicism seriously, but there's a 'warm fuzzy' side to Catholicism, too.



I've learned that the emotional perks are nice when they happen. We also recognize the "dark night of the soul," and that's another topic. Topics. (November 24, 2009August 26, 2009)

Four Hands

I've started reading "Lumen Fidei," the latest encyclical letter. Pope Francis is listed as author, but he says that Benedict XVI started work on it:
"...'It's an encyclical written with four hands, so to speak, because Pope Benedict began writing it and he gave it to me,' Pope Francis said. 'It's a strong document. I will say in it that I received it and most of the work was done by him and I completed it.' "
("Pope Francis Releases his First Encyclical Letter," USCCB)
I put a news release about "Lumen Fidei" at the end of this post.

"A Law of the Mind"

Without reason, I wouldn't know right from wrong.
"Conscience is a judgment of reason whereby the human person recognizes the moral quality of a concrete act that he is going to perform, is in the process of performing, or has already completed. In all he says and does, man is obliged to follow faithfully what he knows to be just and right. It is by the judgment of his conscience that man perceives and recognizes the prescriptions of the divine law:
"Conscience is a law of the mind; yet [Christians] would not grant that it is nothing more; I mean that it was not a dictate, nor conveyed the notion of responsibility, of duty, of a threat and a promise. . . . [Conscience] is a messenger of him, who, both in nature and in grace, speaks to us behind a veil, and teaches and rules us by his representatives. Conscience is the aboriginal Vicar of Christ.50"
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1778) [emphasis mine]
Reason is a light that lets me see how my actions might affect others, and myself. But it's not the only light:
"...There is an urgent need, then, to see once again that faith is a light, for once the flame of faith dies out, all other lights begin to dim. The light of faith is unique, since it is capable of illuminating every aspect of human existence...."
("Lumen Fidei," Pope Francis)
Faith is important. So is reason. I've been over this before:
"Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth...."
("Fides et Ratio," Encyclical Letter, John Paul II (September 14, 1998))

"Man's faculties make him capable of coming to a knowledge of the existence of a personal God. But for man to be able to enter into real intimacy with him, God willed both to reveal himself to man and to give him the grace of being able to welcome this revelation in faith. The proofs of God's existence, however, can predispose one to faith and help one to see that faith is not opposed to reason."
(Catechism, 35) [emphasis mine]

"Human virtues are firm attitudes, stable dispositions, habitual perfections of intellect and will that govern our actions, order our passions, and guide our conduct according to reason and faith. They make possible ease, self-mastery, and joy in leading a morally good life...."
(Catechism, 1804)
Related posts:

"Pope Francis’s First Encyclical Emphasizes Life-Changing Faith"
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops news release (July 5, 2013)

"'Lumen Fidei' says faith like a light illuminating all of human existence Faith lets us see like Jesus, pope says Faith not for the fainthearted, says Pope Francis

"WASHINGTON-'Lumen Fidei' ('The Light of Faith'), the first encyclical of Pope Francis, says that faith is like a light illuminating all of human existence.

"The encyclical, begun by Pope Benedict XVI, his successor Pope Francis said, was released by the Vatican July 5.

"Dated June 29, the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, 'Lumen Fidei,' considers the role of faith from the days of Abraham until modern times.

" 'The light of faith is unique, since it is capable of illuminating every aspect of human existence,' the pope said. 'A light this powerful cannot come from ourselves but from a more primordial source: in a word, it must come from God.'

"Faith heralds the transforming power of belief in Jesus, said Pope Francis.

" 'Faith does not merely gaze at Jesus, but sees things as Jesus himself sees them, with his own eyes: it is a participation in his way of seeing,' the pope said.

"Pope Francis offered his signature down-to-earth comparison.

" 'We trust the architect who builds our home, the pharmacist who gives us medicine for healing, the lawyer who defends us in court,' he said. 'We also need somebody trustworthy and knowledgeable where God is concerned. Jesus, the Son of God, is the one who makes God known to us.'

"Pope Francis noted faith's impact on the family, especially young people.

" 'Faith is no refuge for the fainthearted, but something which enhances our lives,' Pope Francis said. 'It makes us aware of a magnificent calling, the vocation of love. It assures us that this love is trustworthy and worth embracing, for it is based on God's faithfulness which is stronger than our every weakness.'

"The pope also pointed out that faith provides perspective in the search for truth, so that believers do not fall prey to great totalitarian movements on one side and relativism on the other. He warned of 'a massive amnesia in our contemporary world.'

" 'The question of truth is really a question of memory, deep memory, for it deals with something prior to ourselves and can succeed in uniting us in a way that transcends our petty and limited individual consciousness. It is a question about the origin of all that is, in whose light we can glimpse the goal and thus the meaning of our common path,' he said.

"Pope Francis addressed several contemporary concerns, including the environment and development of people.

" 'Faith,' he said, 'by revealing the love of God the Creator, enables us to respect nature all the more, and to discern in it a grammar written by the hand of God and a dwelling place entrusted to our protection and care.

" 'Faith also helps us to devise models of development which are based not simply on utility and profit, but consider creation as a gift for which we are all indebted; it teaches us to create just forms of government, in the realization that authority comes from God and is meant for the service of the common good.'

"He cited faith as a way to unity among peoples.

" 'Faith likewise offers the possibility of forgiveness, which so often demands time and effort, patience and commitment. Forgiveness is possible once we discover that goodness is always prior to and more powerful than evil, and that the word with which God affirms our life is deeper than our every denial. From a purely anthropological standpoint, unity is superior to conflict; rather than avoiding conflict, we need to confront it in an effort to resolve and move beyond it, to make it a link in a chain, as art of a progress toward unity.'

" 'The Light of Faith'('Lumen Fidei') is available from USCCB in print ($6.95) and e-book ($4.95) editions in English and Spanish. More information on ordering can be found at www.usccbpublishing.org or at l 800-235-8722 to order anytime."

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