Lumen Fidei

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Photo courtesy of Charles Clegg

What a wonderful new encyclical from our Holy Father! It came on the last day of the retreat I was on in France, the title of which was, “We walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7) – an amazing climax to be graced with this encyclical.

I plan to read a little bit in depth each day, but for now, I’d love to draw out a few quotations which are relevant for transmission of the faith. Here are my highlights… Please share yours!

First, I love this from the Introduction:

The Church never takes faith for granted, but knows that this gift of God needs to be nourished and reinforced so that it can continue to guide her pilgrim way. The Second Vatican Council enabled the light of faith to illumine our human experience from within, accompanying the men and women of our time on their journey. It clearly showed how faith enriches life in all its dimensions (LF, 6)

We can never be complacent – from cardinal down to brand new catechumen – our faith is a gift, given according to the measure to which we open our hearts (cf. para 22, Romans 12:3). And the faith lights up our experience from within – there is not one moment of my daily experience that God does not wish to light up, to transform. There’s a danger when our lived daily experience is separate from, not touched by the light of faith in our hearts.

Second,

Faith transforms the whole person precisely to the extent that he or she becomes open to love. (LF, 22)

Wow! So straightforward, so simple… We so need to hear this. How dangerous when our faith is strongly knowledgeable, we know the right answers to everything, but our hearts are not softened, opened, docile, tender…

Third, chapter three of the encyclical goes to the heart of my dissertation thesis (submitted last Saturday!). Here are my favourite bits…

The Apostle goes on to say that Christians have been entrusted to a “standard of teaching” (týpos didachés), which they now obey from the heart (cf. Rom 6:17). In baptism we receive both a teaching to be professed and a specific way of life which demands the engagement of the whole person and sets us on the path to goodness. (LF, 40)

The believer who professes his or her faith is taken up, as it were, into the truth being professed. He or she cannot truthfully recite the words of the creed without being changed, without becoming part of that history of love which embraces us and expands our being, making it part of a great fellowship, the ultimate subject which recites the creed, namely, the Church. (LF, 45)

In other words, the whole baptismal structure of the faith means that the faith that we profess (first dimension of Christian life), the sacramental life into which we’re baptised (second dimension) and the response of faith we live (third dimension) are inextricably united.

So, too, is the fourth dimension, prayer:

…the Lord’s Prayer, the “Our Father”. Here Christians learn to share in Christ’s own spiritual experience and to see all things through his eyes. (LF, 46)

And then Pope Francis sums this up… woo hoo!

These, then, are the four elements which comprise the storehouse of memory which the Church hands down: the profession of faith, the celebration of the sacraments, the path of the ten commandments, and prayer. The Church’s catechesis has traditionally been structured around these four elements; this includes the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which is a fundamental aid for that unitary act with which the Church communicates the entire content of her faith: “all that she herself is, and all that she believes” (Dei Verbum, 8) (LF, 46)

That’s enough for today… I recommend getting yourself the Pope app so you can read a little bit the next time you’re on a train / standing in a queue / waiting for your nails to dry🙂 Enjoy!

About transformedinchrist

I live in Southsea and work for the Diocese of Portsmouth. My first love is for catechesis and evangelisation: until January 2013, I worked for a busy, thriving parish in south London coordinating the catechesis - sacramental programmes and adult formation. In November 2013, I completed my MA in catechetics at Maryvale Institute, Birmingham. View all posts by transformedinchrist

One response to “Lumen Fidei

  • Paul Rodden

    Wow! Amazing Encyclical!

    I think my favourite quote is from the marvellous first part of Chapter III, The Church, mother of our faith, para39:

    ‘It is impossible to believe on our own. Faith is not simply an individual decision which takes place in the depths of the believer’s heart, nor a completely private relationship between the “I” of the believer and the divine “Thou”, between an autonomous subject and God. By its very nature, faith is open to the “We” of the Church; it always takes place within her communion.’

    It seems to me that often, what we think we are ‘teaching’, versus the reality and the message we are actually communicating as catechists, are completely at odds with each other in this crucial respect. Sadly, the catechist is normally the operator of a sausage machine and the kids see through it, however ‘nice’ the catechist is. They are objectified by a condition of having to be present and a discursive/cognitive framework, however much we would like to believe otherwise.

    It seems they are not only objectified by the catechetical process, but also, they do not learn how to be ‘Church’ – how to grow close to one another in the Lord. In other words, by the end of the process, they’re still individuals responding to the Gospel, like Evangelicals. They’re confirmed as individuals – Some stay, some don’t. But Catholic catechesis should be an embodied reality, shouldn’t it?

    So, what if catechesis engendered a real communio personarum where they all learned to support each other? Then, they would be Confirmed together and, after Confirmation, or whatever, they would then participate in the congregation as a community deeply supportive of each other because they’ve incarnated the teaching and want to spread that to others outside – whilst also learning from the example of the more experienced Christians around them who know even more what it means to live as communio personarum, and who simply welcome them into the wider community of the parish.

    But unfortunately, in reality, the non-existent ‘We’ of our parish communities is possibly the best proof for the graduates of our programmes that all the catechist was saying was simply idealistic hogwash. Yet, we wonder why they don’t bother sticking at it for long, if at all! Let’s be honest, our parish’s inertia and lukewarmness sucks their young spiritual life out of them in two seconds if they come through catechesis as individuals with any sort of commitment to the Lord – or they become ‘non-denominational’ Christians in the twinkling of an eye.

    Is there any point in catechising if we’re not a ‘We’? What if we read the parable of the sower in this light? The seeds as the neophytes, and the weeds, etc., as descriptions of our congregations? Dare we admit the real state of affairs?

    Is the Church merely a collection of like minds, as in Evangelicalism, or a body, a family? What we mean by ‘faith’ is integral to our ecclesiology.

    ‘The Church, mother of our faith’ makes perfect sense. It’s tempting for catechetical programmes to ‘Protestantise’ the faith, and reduce it to propositions rather than an organic reality. We shouldn’t allow the tail to wag the dog.

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