Faith Is…More Than A Feeling
Through faith, God's grace is working upon our souls, leading us on the path to eternal salvation.
In the last 40 years we've seen a tremendous loss of faith in the Western world and this isn't just a vague concept. We all know people, often within our own families and people that we love, who no longer believe and have left the practice of the faith. This is troubling.
Faith is not just a feeling or an experience. The written word of God tells us that faith is a knowing. It's assurance, it's conviction, it's evidence, it's deeply human, it's realization of what is not seen, and of what is beyond our ability to perceive through our senses.
Through faith, God's grace is working upon our souls, leading us on the path to eternal salvation.
Full Audio Transcript
00:02 Well, it's good to be back. Last weekend I was away in Connecticut to do the wedding of my oldest nephew. He met a met a very nice girl at Catholic University and they're both, they both live in the DC area where their auditor's a for KP and g, both both accountants, and it was just great to middle the way it was in Connecticut because that's where her family was originally from, but it's just great to see a young, intelligent couple wanting to found their, their married lives on Jesus and a to do all, all the, all the Catholic things. Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen, the realization of what is hoped for, the evidence of what is unseen.
00:51 The written word of God tells us that faith is a knowing. It's a certain knowing, it's assurance, it's conviction, it's evidence, it's realization of what is not seen, of what is beyond our ability to perceive through our senses. Now, much of my academic and spiritual work, intellectual and spiritual work has been spent thinking about the faith and one more specifically kind of its connection with mental health in terms of anxiety and depression. And I specialize my theological studies in what's called fundamental theology. And I taught fundamental theology for five years at Mount Angel Seminary. And then for another seven years at the Gregorian University in Rome that that very first Jesuit University, how fundamental theology studies, faith studies the act of faith, the reasons for believing the relationship between faith and reason between faith and science, um, and I, and as result also atheism and agnosticism. And we also study about how the faith is transmitted through time.
02:05 The bear bear smears wonder to the fact that Jesus Christ, the event of Christ is 2000 years ago. How does that event get to me now? And so we study also the, whether we call it the transmission of revelation, how faith is transmitted from generation to generation through sacred scripture and sacred tradition. What drew me to this area of theology was was tied up with my vocation to the priesthood, especially the diocesan priesthood, the parrot parish priesthood, living with families, elbow to elbow, hardworking people in their daily lives. Because the fact is that in the last 40 years we've seen a tremendous loss of faith in the Western world and this just isn't a concept we know within our own families, people that we love, that don't believe or that have left the practice of the faith and this troubles me. It should trouble all of us and I wanted to spend my life helping people come to faith to cultivate their faith, to live their faith because faith is the path to eternal salvation and as thinking people, we should wonder why this has happened, that has to do this loss of faith that has taken place even within the Catholic Church for the first decades after the second Vatican council and in the wake of the sexual revolution of the 1960s whose terrible destruction, we have all felt we should pay attention to that, to think about that.
03:53 How my thoughts have become more focused recently is I was asked to contribute a chapter to a book that's going to be published probably in the next year or so about theology, about the nature of theology. There were 15 of us theologians in Australia, the United States in England who were asked each to contribute an essay to this book and I was asked to to contribute an essay on the relationship between theologians and non theologians and as I had been thinking about this said I w I'd thought to myself, you know, what is the relationship between theologians and non theologians? Not much. Right. When was the last time you read a theologian or something that a theologian said that really affected your life and the pro? The the what I what I see the problem that that is here not only with this rift between theologians and non theologians but also with this loss of faith that we've experienced in the last 40 years. There's many factors for that, but one of which is that we've had a wrong understanding of what faith is. That faith that people tend to think that faith is something purely subjective, a feeling, a religious sentiment as fire market called it or simply unexperience and therefore that faith is not something rational, not something reasonable, not something that we can argue about and debate and discuss.
05:20 And when we do that, when we, when we, when we don't understand, faith is something that is reasonable, we lose something profoundly human about believing, right? What do, what makes us distinctively human is our capacity to reflect rationally on the world. And, and the faith is this, that, that, that, that faith is something reasonable. And we've heard it from Carl Marks down to the present age, that faith is a crutch for unintelligent, uneducated people who simply want to feel good about themselves, a terrible world rather than what faith really is that we just heard from, from the word of God himself. Faith is the assurance of what is hoped for, the conviction of things that are unseen.
06:14 And really what we're experiencing. What you experienced in the last 40 years and this loss of faith in the Western world is actually the fruit of a trajectory that's been going on for 500 years. Right. A lot. Unless we study philosophy, we don't, we're not really aware of that, but we're actually in the full flowering of a bad idea that was 500 years old and leased and it was just has its roots in the Protestant reformation and even inside the church in a, in a certain philosophical thinking called nominalism, we won't go into that right now. However, just to realize is that bad ideas just state and they create, um, you know, bad ideas don't just stay bad ideas, bad ideas ruin people's lives when they're followed and we are in the fruit of a very bad idea, especially about faith. That is something irrational. It's a feeling, it's an emotion. It's simply an experience. That's not to say that there isn't emotion and feeling and sentiment with faith. Absolutely. But in its essence, faith is something cognitive. It has to do with what is most deeply human about it.
07:25 And here, it's good to, to remember and to notice that there are people coming to the faith today. Incredible stories of conversions and sometimes precisely because they are thinking. One such example, recent example is the conversion of Dr Robert Kirland. You can read his, uh, his, uh, full conversion story at several places on the Internet, but he's a, he's a net, uh, now retired professor of physics from Harvard and Carnegie Mellon. OK. Professor of physics at Harvard and Carnegie as a smart guy. And he recounts how he came to faith in Jesus Christ through his mind. Uh, he, he says he was raised a secular Jew and describes himself in his youth as an agnostic. And His passion was the hard sciences, especially astronomy. And he believed that the hard sciences could explain everything about the world. And this is what he writes. He says, it wasn't my Jewish background that kept me from pursuing a more personal faith in God. Rather, the stumbling block was my belief that science could explain everything when needed to know about the world. I regarded the universe with awe and wonder as possibly the creation of a deity, but such a deity would not be a living God.
08:48 Now later in adulthood, he read a book who moved the stone by Frank Morrison, and this book presented the the the reasons and the evidence for Jesus' resurrection. And after reading the book, he concluded, and I'll quote him here, he said, it seemed to me that an impartial jury exposed to his arguments would find that the biblical accounts of the resurrection were true beyond a reasonable doubt, and that if the Gospel account of the resurrection was worthy of belief, then the rest follow in particularly the words of Jesus giving the keys of the kingdom to Peter. Thus founding the Catholic Church. And in his whole process, Dr Kurland said, was one of rational decision making with the evidence that he found before him. And he went from believing in a deity to belief in a personal God, to finding the fullness of that personal God in the Catholic Church. He also recognizes the the crucial role his marriage played in his conversion of being married to his wife who was a cradle Catholic and his conversion took time, but I want us to pay attention to the fact that here's a very intelligent physicist who truly set out to seek and to discover the truth about the world, to think about the universe, to think about the limits of the hard sciences, to think about the claims of faith and come to that conclusion that he did.
10:20 Faith is the realization of what is hoped for, the conviction, the evidence of things unseen. What faith is is the work of God's grace upon our minds. We can also say of our soul and what is the highest part of our soul is our ability to think and to will. That means our intellect and our will. Our ability to, to think and to choose and what what. The way faith works is that when I consider the claims of faith that God's grace works on my mind, works on those capacities of my soul. That brings about this knowledge of seeing the truth of what, of what is being proposed. So for example, I could look upon Jesus of Nazareth and I see not simply a man, but I see God incarnate to look to, to, to look upon God and not just to see some deity, but rather a trinity of, of Divine Persons United at one divine nature.
11:26 Or to look upon the sacred host after the consecration of the seed. Not simply what it looks to be a way for a bread, but rather the body and blood of Jesus Christ. That's, that's the power of God's grace working upon our, our souls to be able to come to this knowledge. So faith is not an opinion, it's not wishful thinking. It is a realization. It's a conviction. It's a type of knowledge that is certain. And what this does is it creates habit in us the habit of virtue, of believing, of giving my ascent to the truths of the faith and not just my mind, but it also something that involves my whole life. And so in this way, the knowing of faith differs from the knowing, say of mathematics or physics. It's more like knowing your spouse when your spouse says I love you, and then does things to demonstrate that love.
12:27 In other words, faith, it's a relational knowledge. Why? Because it's a knowledge that comes through God's authority and who can neither deceive nor be deceived. And because of that. So what, what do we need to do is that we need relationship and we need to exercise our faith. Do I convert Shu is like a, it's like a muscle that if I don't use it, it atrophies and can and can go away. I need to exercise the virtue of faith, the habit of believing whereby it grows, it becomes deeper and encompass more and more and more of my life. And so how do we exercise it? Well as we want to listen to what our Lord said in the Gospel, to be vigilant, to be intentional about exercising our faith. And so we want to think about our faith. We want to learn about it and we want to practice it by putting it into action. That's what, that's why faith and works go together is that and the works. We especially think of the works of mercy, of doing good for others, and the more we exercise our faith, the stronger it gets. Now, a good example of a good opportunity to exercise our faith is what's going on right now. The celebration of holy mass without faith. This just seems like kind of an absurd exercise. Some nice words, weird gestures, crazy vestments.
14:05 Faith is what what allows us to see what is actually happening here. However, sometimes we think, well, mass is so boring. I don't get anything out of it, but I'm willing to bet that if we've experienced mass as something boring, it's because we're not exercising our faith to see what's really happening here. That the father, the son, and the Holy Spirit are present in this church that in a few minutes, Jesus Christ, the son will be truly present on this altar offering himself to the father and the Holy Spirit, and that will be with him. So can we see the Holy Spirit descend like fire upon the gifts of bread and wine? Can you see Jesus Christ himself pronouncing the words of consecration? Can you realize calvary around us while holy mass is being offered? Can we see the billions of angels and saints singing the Heavenly Song of praise or the holy souls in purgatory being cleansed and the purifying fire of divine love and see their relief whenever mass has been offered?
15:16 It helps us to realize that when we come to mass, what we see when we see each other, we're actually the smallest part of the, of what's actually going on and it's it. Faith is our ticket of entry and yes it can be hard to see, to have faith when all I hear around me says there's nothing going on here because we live in an age of unbelief and of rebellion against God and yes are fallen human nature can be sluggish to recognize what is happening. We can have moments of life where our, where the light of faith gets obscured and darkened in our soul, especially in times of suffering you don't in our great image for this is Peter. When the Lord invites him to walk on water. When Peter is looking upon Jesus, he can do the impossible, right? Faith allows him to walk on water, what he paid. When he looks at the storm, what happens? He sinks. I did the Lord in this mercy raises him up. And that's us. When the, in the storms of life, Jesus wants us to look upon his face in faith and helps us to walk on water in the midst of whatever storm might be going on.
16:38 And part of faith is, um, is sitting knowing how faith is transmitted through time. We did mentioned that at the beginning. So how is it that we have access to the event of Christ? So we have two things. Holy Scripture and tradition and sacred tradition as interpreted by the magistarium. So sacred tradition and sacred scripture together give access to Jesus Christ. And so another facet of the loss of faith that we've experienced in the western world in the last 40 years has been an explicit rejection of tradition as something meaningful. And we do this to our own peril. Why? Because tradition is the access point. Without tradition, our connection with Christ is jeopardized. Even the Bible itself is a fruit of a tradition of, of a hand, of a handing on through, through time, by, by, by witnesses. It's interesting that, I'm just, a couple of weeks ago, there was an article, the Huffington Post, and it was entitled, behold the millennial nuns. It's kind of an interesting title, the millennial nuns, and it was written by Eve Fairbank's who describes herself as a nonbeliever and she was very curious at the fact that, I don't know if we're aware of this, but actually there's a resurgence going on in the United States of young women becoming none.
18:16 Uh, by the hundreds, uh, there's a, there's one particular community in Ann Arbor, Michigan. At the year 2000, they had seven nuns. They have over 150. Now. The average age of their community is 26, right? This is, this is going on [inaudible] at different places around the country. And so this, uh, this reporter, fair banks, she was fascinated by it. Like the millennials would be coming, women, millennial women would become nuns. And so she interviewed a bunch of them and there was a common theme through all of them about why they were choosing this life. And this common theme was tradition is that is that they wanted to give their lives to something that was meaningful, challenging and true. And that's something that had roots to it, that were, that could weather the storms of our present age. It they didn't want some water down Catholicism that doesn't hold anybody in faith but rather the fullness of the faith that that is relevant to every age. And that is passed down to us through the tradition. So without strong roots, we cannot stand firm in the faith in the fierce secular winds that buffet us each day.
19:37 And so what poles our young people to the faith is that faith is something reasonable. That is something to think about that is meaningful, that is challenging and that has roots to it. And this was actually the intention of the second Vatican council that, that the, the, the second Vatican council, which proposed no new teaching in the church but rather was a repurposing of the faith in the modern world, was to bring to bear the fullness of holy scripture and tradition to the modern world. In fact, uh, it was the document of Vatican too called Dave verbatim, which we're in which the council reaffirmed that true sacred tradition is the primary way of how faith is passed from one generation to the next and saw it as a way of engagement. And so there's nothing about the council that downplayed the importance of tradition, but as rather by being rooted in Jesus and, and how he gets to us through sacred scripture and sacred tradition, that tradition was not a threat to being relevant because the farther he goes, faith in Jesus Christ is always relevant to us.
20:54 And it's not that that tradition is simply something that is stagnant or, or ossified rather tradition. Is that something that is living? It's living because it is the life of the church. And so the tradition develops and grows over time. It doesn't become something else, but more like how the acorn grows into the oak. And as, as the church goes through time, we are led by the Holy Spirit to the fullness of that understanding that has always been revealed. So tradition is that simply something old fashion, but is the, is a living instrument, a vehicle of transmission of the faith. And so that's what, that's what we want to do when we are cultivating our faith. We want to do here at our parish is cultivating a culture of faith around us by thinking about our faith, by learning about it, by activating it through our daily prayer, for, through the reception of the sacraments, especially the holy Eucharist and confession through the, through, uh, good works and especially our outreach to those in need. So that everything that we do at the, at our parish is either is either helping to cultivate that faith or helping people to take, cultivate the faith and take it to where they need to go in their families or, or at work or in their schools.
22:19 So whether that be religious education or youth group. We're going to have confirmation this year, our adult education, we're actually going to have a, what's called a theology Tuesday. We're going to have our Tuesday evening mass followed by a talk in the parish center. Uh, our pastoral council has been been thinking and reflecting and discussing this past here. So we're at the point now, we're ready to roll out our new, our three year plan for the parish that we hope to roll out to you in a couple of weeks here. That will be on the website of all the ways in which we can build, continue to build a culture of faith here at the parish. And part of cultivating our faith is through the symbols of faith. You know, as part of the richness of our Catholic heritage is the symbolism. Because as you know, say a picture's worth a thousand words.
23:06 Symbols are very compact ways of conveying a lot of information in a very sh in just a glance. Um, these help, these symbols help us to see and to understand, to reaffirm, to help us to see what is going on here and what one important symbol that we Catholics have is they ultra crucifix. And I've, I've written about it in the, um, in the bulletin you can read about more about it in the bulletin, but you see the altar crucifix that helps us to, to understand what is happening here in the sacrifice of the mass that we are all being brought to calvary and we see how that the host is elevated and how the Lord's body and come to us through his sacrifice of the cross. And that powerful symbol helps to orient our, our attention to draw us in into the mystery that is being celebrated.
23:57 Dr Curlin, going back to his conversion story, mentions how the churches tradition helped him to come to faith in the real presence he was in his RCA days. He says he was struggling with the doctrine of the real presence and his faith in the Eucharist came about through sacred music. He had the first experience of eucharistic adoration and during benediction there's that. There's that him we always sing called the Tonto marigot and there's that line in the Tonto. Marigo prestep fetus [inaudible] centrum effectively, which means this faith will supplement the deficiency of the senses. That phase will give me what my senses cannot perceive and he said, I knew enough of my high school Latin that when I heard that speen Sung, when I sang it, the light went off. That the faith that the Lord is going to give me the faith to be able to see what my physicist mind and senses cannot proceed and he said this, he says there it was my eyes filled with tears as I realized that the wave for before me was indeed the body of Christ, the mystery beyond science and philosophy, my faith. Faith is the realization of what is hope for the conviction of what is unseen. Now, if we do this, if we think about our faith, we learn about it, we grow in it, we exercise it through good works and through prayer. Then that faith will grow in us and this is it. We will create this culture of faith and what that will do when they s people see the faith in us alive and burning. They too can catch fire.