Evidently, knowledge of the content of faith is essential for giving one’s own assent, that is to say for adhering fully with intellect and will to what the Church proposes. Knowledge of faith opens a door into the fullness of the saving mystery revealed by God. The giving of assent implies that, when we believe, we freely accept the whole mystery of faith, because the guarantor of its truth is God who reveals himself and allows us to know his mystery of love.
On the other hand, we must not forget that in our cultural context, very many people, while not claiming to have the gift of faith, are nevertheless sincerely searching for the ultimate meaning and definitive truth of their lives and of the world. This search is an authentic “preamble” to the faith, because it guides people onto the path that leads to the mystery of God. Human reason, in fact, bears within itself a demand for “what is perennially valid and lasting”. This demand constitutes a permanent summons, indelibly written into the human heart, to set out to find the One whom we would not be seeking had he not already set out to meet us. To this encounter, faith invites us and it opens us in fullness.
Porta Fidei 10
Reflection – This passage is among the most beautiful in this apostolic letter. The Pope first links the whole business of the content of the faith—the creed, the dogmas, the Scriputures—to the underlying deeper dynamic of faith. We hand over our lives, accept the Lordship of Christ and the gift of God’s life for us, in a way that is essentially and inextricably united with the assent of the intellect to revealed truth.
In our post-modern world there is a great movement, a sort of centrifugal force towards the separation of things, the fragmenting of reality. Everything is broken up into little bits and we all go foraging to pick up the little bits that suit us. It’s like mosaic work, where ceramic tiles are broken up into tiny pieces that the artist assembles into the picture he or she desires. All of reality is broken up tile, and every one of us is making up our own picture from the fragments.
This fragmented approach to life is simply not the Catholic vision. Our whole Catholic tradition is that reality is a whole, an integrated piece, a seamless garment. Not a mosaic made up of fragments, but an icon written by a sure strong hand. Do not forget that the very word Catholic is from the Greek kata holos—roughly, ‘corresponding to the whole’. Universal, all-encompassing, complete, in other words.
So we cannot, must not, make blanket statements of separation and fragmentation. Well, I believe in Jesus, but the Church I’m not so sure of… well, I like the Gospels, but all these dogmas drive me crazy… well, I like the New Testament, but the Old is so harsh… well, I like the theology of the first millennium, but things went a little crazy after that…
Breaking up the tiles! Making a mosaic! Creating a little picture of Catholicism that corresponds, not to the whole of it, but to the little bits that I like. Essentially, making Catholicism over again in my image, according to my likeness.
We have to be very careful about that, as it is the spirit of the age, and all of us are subject to it to some degree. We do live in a broken, fragmented world, but our Catholic faith is that God has communicated to us the unbroken image, a restored vision of reality and truth that comes to us through the ministry of the Church, itself made up of broken flawed individuals.
Of course, in this it is so beautiful and compassionate that the Pope offers such deep respect and concern for the many people who search and struggle and cannot find their way to the Catholic faith but who nonetheless earnestly desire the truth. This is a holy struggle and a blessed search, and the whole pastoral energy of the Church—of all of us—must be towards putting forth the Catholic vision of life with greater and deeper clarity so that all these good, hungry people might find their way to it more easily.