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HOW WE BELIEVE





FAITH is the edifice of a Christian life. It is, of itself, a mere
shell, so to speak, for unless good works sustain and adorn it, it will
crumble, and the Almighty in His day will reduce it to ashes; faith
without works is of no avail. The corner stone of this edifice is the
authority of the word of God, while His gratuitous grace, our
intelligence and will furnish the material for building. Now, there are
three features of that spiritual construction that deserve a moment's
consideration.

First, the edifice is solid; our faith must be firm. No hesitation, no
wavering, no deliberate doubting, no suspicion, no take-and-leave. What
we believe comes from God, and we have the infallible authority of the
Church for it, and of that we must be certain. That certainly must not
for a moment falter, and the moment it does falter, there is no telling
but that the whole edifice so laboriously raised will tumble down upon
the guilty shoulders of the imprudent doubter.

And of reasons for hesitating and disbelieving there is absolutely
none, once we have made the venture of faith and believe sincerely and
reasonably. No human power can in reason impugn revealed truths for
they are impervious to human intelligence. One book may not at the same
time be three books; but can one divine nature be at one and the same
time three divine persons? Until we learn what divinity and personality
are we can affirm nothing on the authority of pure reason. If we cannot
assert, how can we deny? And if we know nothing about it, how can we do
either? The question is not how is it, but if it is. While it stands
thus, and thus ever it must stand, no objection or doubt born of human
mind can influence our belief. Nothing but pride of mind and corruption
of heart can disturb it.

If you have a difficulty, well, it is a difficulty, and nothing more. A
difficulty does not destroy a thesis that is solidly founded. Once a
truth is clearly established, not all the difficulties in the world can
make it an untruth. A difficulty as to the truth revealed argues an
imperfect intelligence; it is idle to complain that we are finite. A
difficulty regarding the infallible Church should not make her less
infallible in our mind, it simply demands a clearing away-Theological
difficulties should not surprise a novice in theological matters; they
are only misunderstandings that militate less against the Church than
against the erroneous notions we have of her. To allow such
difficulties to undermine faith is like overthrowing a solid wall with
a soap-bubble. Common sense demands that nothing but clearly
demonstrated falsity should make us change firm convictions, and such
demonstration can never be made against our faith.

Not from difficulties, properly speaking, but from our incapacity for
understanding what we accept as true, results a certain obscurity,
which is another feature of faith. Believing is not seeing. Such
strange things we do believe! Who can unravel the mysteries of
religion? Moral certitude is sufficient to direct one's life, to make
our acts human and moral and is all we can expect in this world where
nothing is perfect. But because the consequences of faith are so
far-reaching, we would believe nothing short of absolute, metaphysical
certitude.

But this is impossible. Hence the mist, the vague dimness that
surrounds faith, baffling every effort to penetrate it; and within, a
sense of rarefied perception that disquiets and torments unless
humility born of common sense be there to soothe and set us at rest.
Moral truths are not geometric theorems and multiplication tables, and
it is not necessary that they should be.

Of course, if, as in science so in faith, reason were everything, our
position would hardly be tenable, for then there should be no vagueness
but clear vision. But the will enters for something in our act of
faith. If everything we believe were as luminous as "two and two are
four," a special act of the will would be utterly uncalled for. We must
be able, free to dissent, and this is the reason of the obscurity of
our faith.

It goes without saying that such belief is meritorious. Christ Himself
said that to be saved it is necessary to believe, and no man is saved
but through his own merit. Faith is, therefore, gratuitous on His part
and meritorious on ours. It is in reality a good work that proceeds
from the will, under the dictates of right reason, with the assistance
of divine grace.





Next: FAITH AND ERROR

Previous: WHENCE OUR BELIEF: GRACE AND WILL



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