This content is taken from a Conference given by Fr. Chad Ripperger on the Three Theological Virtues and it is transcribed here by Tony Capobianco.
Permission to transcribe Father’s talk was sought and permission was granted. The copyright remains that of Sensus Traditionis.
© 2019, Fr. Chad Ripperger - All Rights Reserved. © Sensus Traditionis
For the next three nights we’ll discuss the three theological virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity and these are important topics as we’ll see as we go along. They are actually matters of great devotion and if we understand what they are then we can employ them in the right way and use them in a devout way.
Infused virtues which Faith, Hope, and Charity are, they’re all infused virtues, are those which do not have man as their cause. In other words, we can’t do, we can’t attain them on our own like acquired virtues. So for instance, prudence or temperance or fortitude are acquired virtues if we perform the actions, then we can attain these virtues; But not with the case of Faith, Hope, and Charity which can only be gained by God infusing them into us but they can be corrupted and lost, but in a different way than the acquired virtues. With the acquired virtues, If I perform a specific action contrary to my virtue, it doesn’t take away all of my virtue. It just reduces a little bit.
But that’s not the case with Faith, Hope, and Charity. If I perform a single action which negates or is contrary to those virtues they’re utterly corrupted, that is I lose them all in fact. That is true of not just Faith, Hope, and Charity but of all the other infused virtues. They have God as their objects, that is, the virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity deal with God and have a particular way in which we look at God or have a relationship with God. God is their cause. So as a result, we can’t do anything on our own to get them.
Faith is a Theological Virtue and it is called a Theological Virtue because again it has God as the thing about which it concerns and theology is about God, so that’s why we call it a theological virtue, because it’s about God. Insofar as it is a virtue, Faith is a good habit. Faith is an infused virtue given to man by God by which man is able to give assent or to see as true all that God has revealed to us. The virtue of Faith is proportionate to the object Faith, which is the Deposit of Faith. So, the object of Faith, even though it’s God, what God revealed, that is the Deposit of Faith or all the teachings about God and the teachings about creatures which relate to God. So, the Deposit of Faith includes the knowledge that we have about God; the Sacraments, the means of salvation, and things of this sort. That’s what the Deposit of Faith is. And the Virtue of Faith gives me the ability to see that what God revealed is true and it’s proportioned to those things which God taught us.
What does that mean? Well since the things which God taught are supernatural, so is this Virtue of Faith. In other words it’s not a natural virtue, it’s above, it’s beyond our ability to get on our own. God has to give it, but it’s above nature and it means that we can perform supernatural actions with Faith. What is that supernatural act? That is to give assent or to see as true what Christ has revealed and what God has revealed.
Faith is about God, but St. Thomas says that it is also about created things also. But only insofar as they are seen from the point of view of God. Hence, through Faith we look at everything from the point of view of God, which is simple. In other words, you always consider it with respect to God. It’s not complex. You’re just always looking at things from the point of view of God when you look at things through the eyes of Faith.
However the object of Faith is a positive faith on the side of the believer, that’s us, is complex. Since it is expressed, that is, what we believe is expressed through what we call articles or symbols and what these are, these are things which can be expressed in some way. The Articles of Faith are things to be believed. The term symbol is used to refer to the fact that certain things which are to be believed are capable of being put into words which are a kind of symbol or other kinds of symbols which refer to the thing revealed. So, for instance when you see “IHS” it’s the first three letters of Christ’s name in Greek. So there are certain symbols which put, which indicate to us what is revealing the supernatural mystery behind it. Faith helps me to look at the symbols but also at the propositions for instance which we see in the Creed, that is the sentences we see in the Creed and helps me to see that these are true, that what Christ revealed is true. For the person that doesn’t have Faith it doesn’t seem true and he can’t see the truth of it, which we’ll talk about in a little bit.
Faith is the virtue in which we are inclined to believe, that is to give assent to what God has revealed. Assent is an act of the intellect in which the intellect sees or adheres to something that is true. Sometimes Faith is defined as the substance of the things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen. In this definition Faith refers to things in which one must believe, that is in those things revealed by God and to this is given the phrase the substance of things hoped for; for God and eternal beatitude which are things that are revealed are the things that we hope to attain. And so Faith helps me to see those things which I should hope for. The evidence of things not seen refers to two things. The first is to the Faith which moves us to see the truth of what is revealed. Those who do not have Faith cannot see the truth of what God reveals and that is why some people believe what God says and some do not; since some have Faith and some do not. That’s also why some people believe what the Church says and some do not. If they have Faith they will, if they don’t then they simply won’t. The Second refers to things unseen, since eternal beatitude and God, the things of this sort are things which we do not see.
The act of the Virtue of Faith which is to give assent is given the name “belief”. That is when we actually enact our virtue of Faith in an act of giving assent to what we see is true and what God reveals. We call that an act of belief. Faith moves us not only to believe God who reveals the supernatural, so faith not only helps us to believe the things which God reveals; for instance when He revealed you will resurrect at the end, to get your body back, it not only helps us to see that that’s true but faith also inclines us to believe God who reveals these things to us. And so the person of Faith is more inclined to believe what God tells him than someone who does not have Faith. This is important because Faith sets us up as pupils or students in relation to God who teaches.
It is not up to us to determine what we will believe. It’s a very important point. Rather, Faith moves us to conform ourselves to what God has told us and that is a very important point today because too many people, I’m sure that you’ve heard the term “Cafeteria Catholics”, they want to basically believe what they want to believe. However, Faith is not subject to our wants. Faith is a virtue which inclines us to believe precisely what God has revealed to us. This is in fact one of the principle ways in which one can detect a Modernist because Modernists, who lack a supernatural Faith make themselves the standard for what they believe, rather than God and His Church to whom God gave His supernatural teachings. Heretics never have Faith and that’s one of the reasons that they always tend to set up themselves as the standard.
But belief in God refers not just to our intellects but also to our wills, St. Thomas tells us. He says that while Faith makes it possible for us to see the truth of the things revealed. There is not sufficient grounds for giving assent on the basis of what is revealed alone, in other words, it’s not enough that God should reveal this, we need something above and beyond that. Rather God must move our will which in turn moves us intellectually to give assent. In other words, you must choose to believe what God has told you or not. And once you do believe it, then you see the truth of it. The motion of the will which moves the intellect to give assent to a supernatural object or proposition must also be supernatural. God moves our intellect through the virtue of Faith but He moves our will so that we will incline towards accepting what He teaches us and so since this motion must be supernatural because its dealing with something supernatural.
Natural Faith or trust is not enough. Martin Luther reduced faith to a form of trust in God and that’s not enough. It has to be something supernatural. Since the will moves the intellect to give assent to what is true, that is we must choose to believe what God has taught us. We need something supernatural in our wills and this is called actual grace.
The actual grace does other things as well but one of the principle things that it does is move our wills to choose to believe what God has revealed. Since God gives us actual grace, we are free to believe it or not. That is why some people will raise their children in the Faith but the child later rejects it and chooses not to believe it. In this case parents should not feel bad because it’s not their fault as long as they fulfill their duty in raising the child properly. The child bares the responsibility for not believing because God gave them everything that is necessary and it’s up to him to choose whether he’s going to believe it or not. Since the act of Faith is an act of the intellect and Faith involves knowledge because you don’t think without thinking about something.
Knowledge which pertains to Faith concerns those things which God revealed. Well it is true that those who believe what is revealed know what is revealed. In other words, we also can look at something and say well yeah that pertains to the Catholic Faith and that doesn’t. We know that resurrecting on the third day pertains to the Catholic Faith and things like the belief in reincarnation do not. So, somebody that has Faith believes in the resurrection. Some who do not, may or may not believe in reincarnation. There are some who know what is revealed and yet they do not believe it; that is they lack Faith. For example some of the Jews at the the time of Christ, heard Christ reveal certain things and yet they did not believe it. And what this means is that on the site of when God reaches us or tells us something that isn’t enough for us as creatures because of our frailties. God has to give us Faith so that we can see what He has revealed is actually true.
Now we have an obligation to increase our knowledge of God. The Church has always taught us that everybody has an obligation to learn more about their Faith according to their state in life. So, the man who has a lot of money and has a certain amount of freedom for example isn’t tied down by a job or for instance people who are retired have a greater obligation to learn their Faith than people who have to work 80 hours a week just to make a living. But everyone of us have an obligation to learn more about God. And that’s important because the more we know about God, the more we can give firmer acts of Faith, the more we see the truth of what’s revealed. When people struggle with their Faith a little bit, very often that’s a sign that they don’t know it. So, what you have to do is tell them, well you need to learn it and learn it better and then the Faith that you have will kick in and you’ll see, you’ll give a firmer assent to it because you’ll see the truth of what the Church teaches.
We can increase our Faith by performing actions which are in congruity with the virtue of Faith. This means that Faith can be stronger in one individual than another. So, we see this all the time, some people just have a stronger Faith than others. However, Faith is an infused virtue and so we cannot acquire or increase it by what we do. Now I just said we can increase it by actions but that has to be understood in a specific way. What it means is that we perform an action which disposes our soul more to the reception of Faith and then God sees that we’re more disposed to an increase and then He gives us more. The actions we perform do not directly increase our Faith because we are not the cause of the virtue of Faith, only God is. And so, He sees that we are disposed and then He gives us more. Therefore our actions in themselves do not increase Faith, that God rewards us by increasing our Faith.
On the other hand, to reject a single article of the Faith, St. Thomas tells us, which is what we call heresy causes the loss of the virtue of Faith. Every habit is corrupted. Corrupted is a technical term which we use in theology. Corruption isn’t necessarily its definition in theology although in some morals it does but in some kinds of theology it just merely means that a thing goes out of existence. It’s a technical term that was adopted by the philosophers. But when we say that every habit is corrupted by accidents or contrary to the habit, what we mean by that is when I perform an action contrary to the habit that I have, it decreases my habit. For example if one has the habit of talking too much, one overcomes that bad habit by being silent. So, willing to be silent is contrary to talking and so it tends to decrease our habit of talking.
Acquired habits such as talking too much and so on are decreased slowly by performing actions opposite of the vice or in some cases, virtue. So if I have a virtue I can decrease it by performing actions that are not virtuous. But theological virtues, since they are caused not by us but by God, they are destroyed through a single action contrary to the habit. What does that mean? Well it means that through a single act of heresy, if you reject a single thing that the Church or God teaches, you lose the infused virtue of Faith which God has given you. Since the virtue of Faith is that which inclines us to believe and if someone disbelieves that, then the virtue of Faith is destroyed since belief is opposite its action. It’s the action contrary to the act of Faith and so it destroys our Faith. Sometimes we see people who have lost their Faith because they do not believe everything that the Church teaches and yet they practice somewhat decent Catholic lives. St. Thomas says that when we lose our Faith, we only end up having right opinion about certain aspects of the Faith rather than a true Faith or belief. And part of what this means is that when we have the virtue of Faith, we perform actions that are in congruence with it, like going to Confession or saying the rosary or things like that. Even if the virtue of Faith is corrupted these other habits of saying the rosary and going to Confession may not be. And so the person will continue, we’re not talking about the supernatural inclination which God gives us to do these things necessarily, but we can develop natural habits of doing these things and do that isn’t corrupted. So somebody might disbelieve snd they look like they are leading a Catholic life but guess what? They really don’t have the Faith anymore. One heresy, that’s all it takes.
This is a very important point, especially in our age, because it’s not up to us to really determine what we’re going to believe. It’s ultimately up to the Church to propose it to us and this is one of the reasons why the office of teaching of a priest was so important and still is important. Because it’s the priest’s function to teach us precisely what we believe so that we don’t end up losing our soul. In the New Testament it says that without Faith, you cannot be saved. It’s that simple. Now by Faith, Our Lord in revealing the New Testament meant that you had to have the supernatural virtue of Faith to be saved. And that’s one of the reasons why it is so important for us to evangelize and things like that, to get people into the Church. It’s also one of the reasons why those of us who have the virtue of Faith should have a great deal of gratitude. God doesn’t give it to everybody, that’s obviously very clear and even within the Church there seems to be more and more people losing their Faith. But the fact of the matter is that if we have Faith, we should have great gratitude that God is giving us the grace to sustain it and that He even gave us grace at all. Again, not that many people have it. If you look worldwide, remember that people that actually have Faith in precisely what God has revealed, it’s not that many. And it’s very easy for us who have the Faith to look down on people who don’t, but we shouldn’t do that because the fact that we can see this is not something that comes from us, it comes from God. And so we have to be very careful not to abuse the gift that God has given us by looking down at other people. Rather we should be praying for them and doing what we can to bring them into the Church.
Faith requires an adherence to an infallible rule of the Church. That is to those whom the teaching of Revelation has been entrusted. If one does not put one’s rule in the Church and by rule we mean, the standard by which I judge whether I put what I believe is right or wrong, they don’t put it in the Church, that is in the authority of that which has the right to teach which we call the Magisterium. Then the rule finds itself in the will. In other words it’s no longer in what the Church teaches and it’s no longer in knowledge, that is when we understand what the Church teaches, but rather becomes a matter of the reason of the will. And as a result it becomes a matter of our opinion and not what we should truly believe.
God must reveal what is to be believed since Faith concerns knowledge exceeding man and his natural ability to know. We simply cannot know these things on our own. God has to reveal the teachings of the Church to us. We cannot attain these things on our own. Now there are some things that we can figure out through the natural light of reason. First Vatican Council says that we can arrive at the knowledge that God exists without the virtue of Faith because you can do that philosophically. But to know that God is Triune or to know that Christ is incarnate or to know that the Sacraments of the Church are valid and things like this, you have to have Faith. Reason can’t provide it on its own and so God has to reveal it to us because these things are above and beyond us and It is also necessary for us to adhere to this.
Now, you know they used to give this argument which I thought was exceptionally cogent when I first read it. It says there must be an organ of infallibility for Faith. Now it says in the New Testament that without Faith, you cannot be saved. Without infallibility there is doubt because you can never be absolutely certain that what you believe is true or not. So without infallibility there’s always going to be doubt. Doubt excludes Faith, therefore without infallibility you can’t have Faith and therefore without infallibility none of us can be saved. That’s why we have to have an infallible knowledge. God has to reveal to us what this knowledge is, then He has to endow the people to whom He entrusts with it, that was the Apostles and their successors, with the gift of infallibility to make sure that each generation would receive this thing intact, so that we could believe it and so we could be saved. Remember one error and you lose your Faith and you’re not saved. I mean it is possible for me to be saved without Faith in a certain way. That is, God could have mercy on their soul and infuse grace in them and then re-infuse Faith in them but that’s exceptionally rare. It’s not the rule. Normally what God expects is for us to take our Faith, act according to it, and then save our souls as a means of it.
Also remember that Faith is a virtue of things hoped for. The final end of man is to see God face to face. This completely exceeds our ability to obtain on our own. The other thing is that without Revelation, we would not be certain that to see God face to face was really our final end. Well I personally think that once you have Faith, you see that the natural arguments per se that we have God as our final end intellectually to see Him face to face are cogent. Without Faith, I don’t know if you can necessarily see it. The point is for instance, Aristotle got pretty far just on the natural light of reason. He got to the point where you realize there’s one unmoved mover, although there’s some debate about that, and he even figured some things out about God which were quite impressive. However in the end he didn’t understand our relationship with God well enough so he didn’t think that we could have a personal relationship with God in the end because God is out there and we’re down here. Aristotle thought that God couldn’t get involved in our lives because He’s unmoved, He’s unchanging. If He gets involved He’s going to be changing some way.
But Aristotle didn’t understand what the scholastics finally worked out in the Middle Ages. Which is, it’s possible for God from all eternity to will something and it comes. That He wills from all eternity that the effect unfolds in a specific time. So what does that mean? It means that He gets intimately involved in our lives without Himself being changed and that was an important discovery. The point is that if we’re going to know that God is our final end, we need Faith because Faith tells us how to get there. It not only tells us that our end is God but it tells us how to get there. You lead a life according to the Catholic Faith. You have to follow these moral precepts. Then if you do this, then you’ll get to God, which is your final end. But we can only really know that through Faith. Now, we can know some moral things through the natural light of reason but not all of them. Faith is a necessary thing.
Yet there are motives for our Faith in order for us to believe what is revealed. The first is exterior inducements, for example miracles and persuasions and things of this sort. So when we see a miracle, that indicates to us, you know maybe this is true. But St. Thomas says that neither of these are sufficient causes since many see or hear the same thing and some believe and some do not. So, the Jews saw the miracles but they didn’t believe Christ. That’s why we see that without Faith, you’re not even going to recognize that even miracles are miraculous. I mean, I’ve seen people who are exceptionally rationalistic, it doesn’t matter what you say— I’m just going to believe anything about God and then they see a miracle and they’re always trying to search for some irrational rationale, if you will, for it, rather than just accepting that it could be true. But again they may not recognize that it is miraculous precisely because they don’t have Faith.
Another thing which induces us to believe what God has revealed is from an interior cause in which God moves one by grace to give assent. That is God inclines us, not just in our wills but in other ways to believe what He has given us as far as our knowledge of Him is concerned. In this respect God is the cause for Faith insofar as it is a Theological Virtue as an interior inclination for us to believe it. This is very important. Since the virtue of Faith itself and God revealing suffice for us to believe. Miracles in life do not suffice for us to believe even though they do give us a motivation to believe and sometimes they can confirm a person in their Faith and help them a little bit. But the reason that the Church has always been very leery about people putting all their stock in the miraculous and the reason that the Church has always said in themselves they’re (the miracles) aren’t sufficient is because the demons can perform actions which appear to us as miraculous. This is why God had to give the Magisterium of the Church a gift by which they could discern whether something was truly miraculous or not. It’s called the discernment of spirits. When the Church says this is miraculous then we can put our belief in it, yes this is miraculous. But until the Magisterium says this, it’s important that we kind of hold off a little bit. This is one of the reasons why I’ve told people, you know don’t go around chasing every new apparition. Wait til the Church says it’s authentic, then you can do it, otherwise if it’s not then you’re going to be deceived with everybody else and it can affect your Faith as a result if you’re not careful.
You should not pursue the apparitions to strengthen your Faith, rather your Faith should be strong so that when you look at the apparitions, you will recognize what you should do because most of the time there’s an apparition for a reason. Our Lord and Our Lady and the Saints don’t appear for no reason whatsoever. They don’t like showing up just so they can show people, hey here I am. There’s actually a real reason why they show up and usually it’s to communicate something that we’re supposed to do. Faith will help us to see that we’re supposed to do that and it’s the opposite of the way that many people engage in today when they are going around pursuing the miraculous but that’s because their Faith is weak and they should be pursuing or doing things to help increase their Faith. Which we’ll see a little bit later.
So what effects does Faith have on us? I mean not only does it help us to see that certain things are true but there’s other things that Faith causes in us. St. John of the Cross says that a strong Faith causes detachment from created things and from self. The reason this is, is because I see through Faith that my final end, that the real reason that we’re all here is God, not me, not you, not created things. I’m not here to amass wealth and things of this sort. I’m here because of God, to give Him glory. And so, Faith helps us to detach from created things which become exceptionally important when we talk about Charity. St. John of the Cross even says that Faith detaches us and this form of detachment when it becomes very permeated in our lives, causes us to enter into what he calls a dark night. Why? Well because most of us on account of original sin, tend to judge what we should do based upon our feelings or emotions or something outside of us, that’s what we always judge what we should or shouldn’t do. But when a person starts advancing in the spiritual life and the Faith becomes really strong, God strips us of that and then our principles and our standards by which we judge what we should do are no longer there. And so we flounder a little bit and this is a very important time in a person’s life. Not too many people even reach it but some get close. Then St. John says something interesting. He says that not only is Faith the cause of you entering into the dark night, it’s also the principle of guidance to the dark night. Why? Because when I have Faith, then I will be inclined through the virtue of Faith to see what I’m supposed to do. If a person is stripped of all of their natural loves, and they don’t have any motivating principle to continue moving then they’ll just sit and acquiesce that they won’t do anything. In fact that’s even happened to this guy who had a stroke. It actually happened to him and he ended up doing nothing, just sat and vegetated all day long because his motivations were his appetites. But then when that was taken from him as a result he didn’t do anything. But those who are in Faith, when that’s taken from them, the virtue of Faith tells them to continue fulfilling your duties of your state in life. Continue praying. Continue doing good works for people. So it keeps us intellectually recognizing what we’re supposed to do. It guides us through this darkness.
A strong Faith conversely, because it detached us from created things, causes us to be attached to God alone. Through Faith we see that God alone, God alone is worthy of our affections. Only He is the one that I can place all my affections, all my love, everything I desire, everything in Him and it will always be fulfilled. Every other created thing is passing and it simply cannot fill us. Faith helps us to see that, Faith helps us to have a strong attachment to God.
Faith helps to correct our judgement even about created things and how they are to be treated and understood. For example wealth and material possessions... if we don’t have Faith, people who don’t have Faith, get wrapped up into these things because of the inclinations from original sin. You know in a certain sense they shouldn’t be blamed but in another sense they should be blamed. The point is that Faith helps us to recognize that wealth is a means, it’s a means for me to obtaining greater virtue by helping other people and things like that.
The object of Faith also helps us to correct our judgement about ourselves. Through the teachings of the Faith we learn our proper relationship to God, to our family, to our friends, and even our enemies because through Faith we know what the order of Charity is. Charity starts at home for example. We are supposed to love God even above our neighbor for the sake of God, which we will see in two nights from now when we talk about Charity. Faith helps us to know how we’re even supposed to interact with other people, that is, through Charity, through benignity, which is one of the fruits of the Holy Ghost and things like that. There are a variety of different things which Faith teaches us and how we are supposed to relate to others.
Faith directs us to lead a life according to a proper moral code, so that peace is only possible through Faith. Now peace is defined according to St. Augustine as the tranquility of order. Tranquillitas ordinis is the Latin phrase he uses for it, which is a beautiful phrase. It has a certain beauty to it in and of itself. And what this tranquility of order is, is it’s a certain peace or it’s a certain calming that arises because things are rightly ordered. When we do things that are evil, we disorder our own interior faculties and that’s why we don’t have any peace. Because our faculties are going every which direction. But when we lead a life according to the Faith and we have a strong Faith and we come to rest only on God alone, there’s a certain peace that takes over because the faculties come to order and come to recognize that there is only one thing that’s going to make us all happy. I’m referring to our will, our intellect, our emotions, and things like that. It’s God, it’s the only thing.
Faith is necessary for salvation as I already mentioned. Now here’s an interesting thing. Christ had no Faith. Some people think that’s a little odd when you say that, especially in the modern contemporary sphere because people, you hear from time to time, say that Christ was a man of Faith. Christ had no Faith because He had the beatific vision. That is, He already saw things which are unseen to us. He doesn’t need Faith for us to believe what God has revealed as true because He already sees it by seeing God face to face. Yet He is an example of Faith insofar as He taught all things by His words and deeds on what we need to do to be saved. He gave us a great example. Be wary of modern theologians who say Christ had Faith because it is a way of their denying that He had the beatific vision. I’m always a little nervous when I hear that.
Sins against Faith. There are a variety of sins against Faith and we can’t cover them all but I want to give just a few. The first is what we call infidelity. This is said of those who do not accept the Faith because it was never proposed to them. Or it was proposed to them but they never accepted it. So like, the Jews for example, suffer from infidelity if they don’t believe in Christ. Or pagans, we would say suffer from infidelity because of the fact that they simply don’t have the virtue of Faith. And people who, the Faith is proposed to but rejected, it becomes sinful for them to do so and to become culpable.
The next is heresy. And this is a rejection of a truth or truths of the Faith by those that have accepted the Faith or have been baptized. So, heresy is some rejection of what the Church teaches and that’s a grave sin against the Faith.
The other one is apostasy. Now, heresy is the rejection of one or two or a few truths of the Faith, whereas apostasy is the complete rejection of the Faith by someone who has been baptized or who accepted it. So an apostate is someone who accepted it but they completely reject it now.
Then there are sins against the confession of Faith. For example, blasphemy both profanity and vulgarity. Our Lord says you know, do not swear by creation because its my footstool. This is in the Old Testament. So, He doesn’t want profanity, which is using His own name or sacred things in a derogatory way and He doesn’t want you even referring to natural things in a derogatory way because they do manifest His perfections in some way. So it’s a sin against the confession of Faith to commit blasphemy, that is to use profanity or vulgarity.
Then there’s blasphemy of the Holy Ghost which is what most theologians believe is final impenitence. It’s also against Charity but final impenitence is when the person, when God gives them the grace in their final hour, you know come back to me and they say no. That’s final impenitence and that’s a sin against Faith because the person knows they should be saying yes to God but they reject that by saying no to Him.
Then there’s what St. Thomas calls blindness of the intellect. This is when someone engages in their appetites or their emotions to such a degree that it blinds their ability to lift mind upward. In other words, when people become so emotionally attached or repetitively attached to created things, they can’t look upwards because they are always looking down towards created things. Because you have to remember that man is at the pinnacle of material creation. Angels are above us but they are just strictly immaterial. But we’re on the horizon between the material and the immaterial and so as a result we’re the highest in the physically created order. So, anytime we have a desire or have an appetitive attachment to some created thing, that is material thing, we have to look down to it and as a result we become fixated on it and we don’t look up to God, which Faith inclines us to do. And so by becoming attached to created things causes blindness and that’s a sin if we knew, if we wouldn’t start recognizing it.
Failure to educate yourself or to continue educating yourself in the Faith according to your state in life. This is called willful ignorance which is against Faith.
Rash credulity. What that means is that you are being gullible. For example, giving credence to private revelations too easily or believing in the private revelation which has been condemned by the lawful authorities of the Church. So, that’s a form of rash credulity and that’s contrary to the Faith.
Indifferentism. Which is to believe that one religion is as good as another and that all religions are equally true and pleasing to God. Or that one is free to accept or reject any or all religions. It’s against the Faith too because it says right in the New Testament, only through Christ can man be saved. There’s only one name by which people will saved and that’s under Christ. And what that means is that you have to be part of The Mystical Body of Christ to be saved and that’s the Catholic Church. So, there are some people who, I don’t want to quite get into all of that, the ecclesiology of it, but it’s important for us to recognize that we shouldn’t be indifferent to other people’s religion. We should be trying to convert people to Catholicism.
Reading or circulating books or writings against the Catholic Belief or practice in such wise as to jeopardize one’s Faith or even to do it because it’s a sin against Charity to other people to circulate these things which might affect their Faith.
To remain silent when asked about one’s Faith. If someone comes up and asks if you believe in Christ and you say, “I ah have to go get coffee”, no you can’t be doing that. You should profess your Faith, prudence has to be observed of course, but you have to be willing to profess your Faith.
Engaging in schismatic or heretical worship is also listed under the sins against Faith. This is one of the reasons why I’m always nervous when people ask me if they can go to non Catholic masses, even though they might be the Tridentine Rite. I still look at, the Church has always taught and I keep telling everybody that I’ve got a stack of books this high which I have to present somewhat to the seminarians to show, lookit, you can’t engage in schismatic or heretical worship because it’s against the Faith. And it displeases God, by the way, obviously because it’s against Faith.
Joining or supporting Masonic groups or other forbidden societies. You shouldn’t be getting involved in those either.
Okay, so we know the sins. We know what Faith is. How do we increase it? Well, the first is by making acts of Faith. Now what you can do is, you can look in some of these prayer manuals or even in some Missalettes or things like that, they’ll have acts of Faith and you just read it. Or you can read the Creed for example and recognize as true each of the statements and that will help you to increase your Faith. Not that that’s the cause but it disposes you and God can give you more of Faith.
Also by teaching the Faith, for example to one’s children or to one’s spouse or things like that, can also increase your Faith. I know that in my own life that whenever I teach a subject, you know, with the clarity that the Saints have taught, it really does strengthen the person’s Faith because you see how much more clearly and true and how everything fits together.
By studying the teachings of the Church. Many fall into disbelief because they do not know what the Church believes, as I mentioned before and you see people who are kind of on the edge and you say, you know, maybe you should do little more reading about the Faith and they respond, well I really don’t want to and meanwhile they are at home watching large amounts of television. It’s hard to get people to learn more about the Faith but it’s a necessary thing. But when you these things, you see the truth of it and you understand it better and so it’ll help to confirm your Faith. This is why use of catechisms or books by the Saints or writings of the Popes or things of this kind are very useful to that end.
Attend Masses which express the Faith more clearly. This is why I tell people, you know, avoid the Masses where the priest is systematically abusing the rubrics because it’ll tend to give people the idea that you can just be unruly in your relationship to your worship of God, which can affect people’s Faith. You know, only go to those which are going to have a direct impact on helping you to recognize, you know, this is the way God is to be worshipped. That will help you to be, you know, and we say this will help you to see it. They say that they have a phrase, Lex orandi, lex credendi, I’m sure some of you have seen it. What that means is that the law of belief determines the law of praying. In other words, what you believe is going to determine how you pray and vice versa. How you pray, people see that and then that teaches them because it’s largely, I hate to say this but in religious matters it’s largely a matter of monkey-see, monkey-do. But what they do in the liturgy teaches people about how God is to be treated and so that means Who God is. So, if we think that God is, you know, just some pal next to us, even He’s loving and is your friend and things like that, but if He’s just some pal and we reduce Him down to that level and we treat Him that way, then people will think that God isn’t very majestic or honorable or infinite in His majesty as we have to be very careful.
Stop listening to the secular news sources and media which are constantly trying to erode people’s Faith. I tell people, lookit, find news media and various other news sources that aren’t going to work against your Faith. They’re out there, I mean sometimes they are hard to find but they’re out there.
Avoid people who are harmful to your Faith. If you know somebody’s going to just constantly be picking at you, then just get away from them. Sometimes you can’t do that even if it’s in your family but then you should be offering that up and ask God to confirm your Faith so that you don’t lose it or it doesn’t affect your Faith.
You can do prayers of sufferings and good works to offer up for the intention of preaching your Faith. You can do things to ask God to help me to have more Faith and in order for that, you know, I’m going to offer up my suffering for the day so that You increase my Faith.
Develop a devotion to the Holy Ghost for the infused gifts. Such as the gift of understanding. Now the gift of understanding is a gift which God infused in our souls so that we can see by an intuitive grasp, the truth in some Catholic proportion or some Catholic teaching. And so, what happens is, that we have the gift of understanding when a person considers, like when they read some line in the Scripture, they read some line from a catechism, they read some line from the Creed... The Holy Ghost will move their intellect to understand and penetrate and see the truth of that. So you can ask for the gift of understanding.
You can develop a devotion to a Our Lady, who gives all graces. Remember grace is necessary, actual grace is necessary to give assent to a belief and we can ask her to give us the graces. She is the Mediatrix of all Grace. To inquire intellectually, we give greater assent. In other words, this is partly a matter of the will so if we really wanted and we asked her for it, then she can incline us and use that to increase our Faith. And we can also ask her to petition God for a greater Faith on our part.
We can develop a devotion to the Sacred Heart. We read in the Litany of the Sacred Heart, it says, “Heart of Christ, Abyss of all the virtues”, while Christ Himself doesn’t have Faith in His human will, nevertheless He can grant us by His human will every virtue, even the Theological Virtues. Now the Sacred Heart is the human will of Christ and the reason it’s called Sacred is because it’s joined to the divine, the divine nature and it’s Holy and it’s a Sacred thing. But it’s through His will that we were saved in a certain way because, you know, He said, “Lord let this cup pass from Me, but not My will, but Thine be done”. And what He was really saying was, I really don’t want to have to go through this because there’s the natural human inclination to not want to have to suffer and die but He said, “Not My will, but Thine be done”, which was His way of saying my true will rests in wanting to do what You want Me to do. And He voluntarily gave up His life. There is a teaching of the scholastics which says that Christ, even if they would have nailed Him to the cross, scourged Him, and done all those things, everything.. He wouldn’t have died. He alone can offer up His life and He even says that, “I alone lay down My life”, because He can arrange the circumstances where they won’t do things or things just simply won’t happen. So it’s through His human will that we are saved in a certain sense. Obviously it’s through Him offering up His life and giving it. Nevertheless, that can only be done through the human will. And that’s why devotion to the Sacred Heart is so important. Because it’s devotion to the source of our salvation. We also read, “Heart of Jesus in which are all the treasures of wisdom and of knowledge”, wisdom is the virtue by which I contemplate God, the way He is in Himself. And so, through a strong devotion to the Sacred Heart, we tend to become more contemplative. We tend to see God more in terms of the way God sees Himself, rather than the way we would want to think of Him. Also, knowledge is a gift of the Holy Ghost. It’s also a virtue but it’s also a gift of the Holy Ghost which helps us to understand the things of the Faith a little bit better, so we can ask for that. A strong devotion to the Sacred Heart will increase your Faith, that is your knowledge and wisdom. So develop a strong devotion to the Sacred Heart. Employ these other means and you’ll have a stronger Faith. Once your Faith becomes stronger, then your Hope becomes stronger, and your Charity becomes stronger. Which we will take up in the subsequent nights. And in the name of The Father, The Son, and The Holy Ghost. Amen.
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