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Circular Letter: Fall 2021

“Light for My Path”
(Ps 119:105)

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“The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to Himself. Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 27). Though this desire for God is written on every human heart, it can be obscured and rejected by man. In the indifference and unbelief of today’s society, we sense an oppressive darkness coming over mankind, blinding him to truth and goodness, and leading him ever further from God. Rejecting God, society loses all sense of the meaning and purpose of life, all sense of the preciousness of every human life, all sense of brotherhood and solidarity. Without faith in God, without orienting his life in response to grace toward an eternal communion of love with God, man turns in on himself in a selfish individualism. Concerning such selfishness, Mother Gabriele writes:

One’s own ego is the god, which everything serves. One’s own ego is the sole criterion for the will, and even though it may thereby appear before the world as practical and noble [even “humanitarian”], it is nevertheless a self-will. One’s own ego stands at the center as the sole measuring rod of everything which revolves around this ego. “I think it has to be so. I don’t think this is at all right. I will not tolerate that. …Why I should have to do this? …I – I – I – !” (Formation Letter, Feb. 25, 1971)

Man makes himself, not God, the absolute judge and sole criterion of what is ‘good’ and ‘evil’, ‘true’ and ‘false’, just as in Paradise when man arrogated to himself the right to eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Even in the Church, many “leaders” have adopted the “wisdom of this world,” in opposition to the perennial teaching of Jesus Christ and His Church, the “pillar and foundation of truth” (1 Tim 3:15). We need only consider the working document of the German Bishop’s “synodal way,” which is permeated with a spirit of dissent, relativism and conformity to the spirit of this age (cf. Rom 12:2), for example in the areas of gender ideology, feminism, and the idea of a “democratic” Church, in which doctrine and moral theology are up for a vote.

In contrast to this darkness, confusion and selfishness which the world has to offer, God comes to our aid and offers us the sure light, mainstay and compass for our lives, namely, the light of faith. Only by faith can we know the truth about man and his call to supernatural happiness in communion with God. Only by faith can the world be renewed and saved in all its aspects, social, political, intellectual, moral and eschatological.

Faith is one of the greatest gifts of GOD to man, bringing light, meaning and direction to our lives. For it is based on a truth that does not lead us along false paths or into dead ends; it is based on Truth Itself—GOD and His Eternal Word, JESUS CHRIST. This faith, moreover, gives us joy, for in it we discover the truth of God’s love for us and His loving plan for our happiness!

Young people want to live life to the fullest. Encountering Christ, letting themselves be caught up in and guided by His love, enlarges the horizons of existence, gives it a firm hope which will not disappoint. Faith is no refuge for the fainthearted, but something which enhances our lives. It makes us aware of a magnificent calling, the vocation of love. It assures us that this love is trustworthy and worth embracing, for it is based on God’s faithfulness which is stronger than our every weakness. (Pope Francis, Lumen fidei 53)

In order for it to bear fruit in our lives, faith must be accepted and embraced with fidelity and constancy, lived with love, in the full submission of intellect and will to God and His Church (cf. Vat. II, Dei Verbum 5). “What God requires of us is that we be firm in faith and hope … stable. For faith is a foundation; if it is firm, the entire structure of the Church is firm” (St. Thomas Aquinas, On Colossians 57). Once we have embarked on the journey of faith, it becomes for us a lamp in all our darkness, direction in all our uncertainty, and hope in the face of all hopelessness. So let us seek to understand this great grace ever better, so that we may live ever more fully by this light of faith and be transformed by it into a light for the world around us.

Faith as a personal call

In the Old Testament, Abraham is presented as our father and prototype in faith. The faith of Abraham begins with a personal call, God calls him by name:

The LORD said to Abram: “Go forth from your country and from your kindred and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you… In you all the families of the earth shall find blessing.” (Gen 12:1-3)

God presents Abraham with both a call and a promise. He calls him to a new life, to go out from his old life and the land of his fathers, and He promises him a blessing, a new family: a great nation shall spring from him and find blessing from God through him.

Abraham is asked to entrust himself to this word. Faith understands that something so apparently ephemeral and fleeting as a word, when spoken by the God who is fidelity, becomes absolutely certain and unshakable, guaranteeing the continuity of our journey through history. Faith accepts this word as a solid rock upon which we can build, a straight highway on which we can travel. (Lumen fidei 10)

Further, the call of God gives meaning to Abraham’s life. He comes to realize that his life is “not the product of non-being or chance, but the fruit of a personal call and a personal love. The mysterious God who called him is no alien deity, but the God who is the origin and mainstay of all that is” (Lumen fidei 11). This was the beginning of Abraham’s journey of faith, a leap into the unknown, yet faith was his light, giving him conviction and the assurance that he was on the right path.

The Lord speaks a very personal word to each of us within the heart, He calls us by name, and this requires a response, a following often along unknown paths. Cardinal St. John Newman’s motto, Cor ad cor loquitur, speaks of the Heart of God who has called to the human heart in order to draw it into a communion of love. The Lord does not give us the whole picture, but leads us on a journey. When we follow each call of the Lord in faith, little by little He can reveal Himself and show us the next step in His plan of love for us, the path to follow, the way of holiness. When we respond in faith and entrust ourselves to His word, it leads and transforms us, that we may live a new life with and in Christ, an eternal life which begins and grows already here on earth by grace.

Faith and hope in trials

The Psalmist prays, “I kept my faith, even when I said, ‘I am greatly afflicted’” (Ps 16:10). The God who created man is a God who loves, and He calls man to follow Him in His mysterious plan of love, even in the darkness and trials of faith.

Faith is not a light which scatters all our darkness, but a lamp which guides our steps in the night and suffices for the journey. To those who suffer, God does not provide arguments which explain everything; rather, His response is that of an accompanying presence… In Christ, God Himself wishes to share this path with us and to offer us His gaze so that we might see the light within it. (Lumen fidei 57)

In other words, faith sustains us in trial in this fashion: by faith, we know that God walks with us; in Christ, He is in us and suffers in and with us. Through these trials, through offering them up in union with Christ, man grows in faith and learns to trust that God will always deliver us. Over the many years of faithfully following God’s call, even in trial, the faith of Abraham grew so strong that, when asked to sacrifice his only son, the son of the promise through whom he was to become “a great nation”, he “reasoned that God was able to raise even from the dead, and he received Isaac back as a symbol” (Heb 11:19), a symbol of Christ, God’s own Son, who would indeed die in our place, and who rose from the dead, thus offering life to us all. Without faith in the promise, without surrendering himself in trial to the God who called him, Abraham would not have received the promise. “Hoping against hope, he believed [GOD], and [only] thus became the father of many nations” (cf. Rom 4:18). Thus, faith involves trusting that God will fulfill His promises, even though He may lead us along dark and mysterious ways.

Faith and hope go hand in hand, and strengthen one another. In biblical terms, faith is the “substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen” (Heb 11:1). That is to say, faith is the first beginning of the fulfillment of the promise for which we hope, the first pledge and deposit of eternal communion with God which awaits us, but not the full vision or possession. Hope, then, helps us to persevere in faith, to wait, to trust God and surrender ourselves to Him. The Second Vatican Council speaks of St. Paul’s notion of the “obedience of faith”, which is not only a submission of the intellect, but also of the will, “by which man commits his whole self freely to God” (Dei Verbum 5); he entrusts his whole life, his whole future into God’s hands. Though this can be challenging, especially in the face of suffering,

…by contemplating Christ’s union with the Father even at the height of His sufferings on the Cross (cf. Mk 15:34), Christians learn to share in the same gaze of Jesus. Even death is illumined and can be experienced as the ultimate call to faith, the ultimate “Go forth from your land” (Gen 12:1), the ultimate “Come!” spoken by the Father, to whom we abandon ourselves in the confidence that He will keep us steadfast even in our final passage. (Lumen fidei 56)

The idols which draw us away from faith

While Abraham is for us our prototype and “father in faith”, the history of Israel is many times over an example for us of infidelity, of not believing or trusting in God. When Moses delayed on Mount Sinai, for instance, the Israelites said to Aaron, “Come, make us a god who will be our leader; as for the man Moses who brought us out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has happened to him” (Ex 32:1). Not being able to “bear the mystery of God’s hiddenness” or “endure the time of waiting to see His face” (Lumen fidei 13), they turned to “idols”, to the work of their own hands, which they could see and touch and manipulate at will.

An idol is always an escape, a running away from one’s duties or from following the law of God. Every person knows his own idols. Man looks to and trusts in his own means for “salvation” and happiness, and follows after the desires of his own ego, which is never satisfied and always changing course. Once he has lost the orientation of his life which comes from faith, from looking to and obeying God, waiting for His promise in His peace, then man is divided by the multiplicity of his desires or “idols”. “His life-story disintegrates into a myriad of unconnected instants…passing from one lord to another. Idolatry does not offer a journey but rather a plethora of paths leading nowhere and forming a vast labyrinth” (Lumen fidei 13). Faith, to the contrary,

…tied as it is to conversion, is the opposite of idolatry; it breaks with idols to turn to the living God in a personal encounter. Believing means entrusting oneself to a merciful love which always accepts and pardons, which sustains and directs our lives, and which shows its power by its ability to make straight the crooked lines of our history. Faith consists in the willingness to let ourselves be constantly transformed and renewed by God’s call. [It is] …a sure path which liberates us from the dissolution imposed upon us by idols. (Lumen fidei 13, emphasis added)

Putting on Christ in the Spirit

Breaking away from idols, that is, moral disorders in the human heart, is not easy, nor is it something we can accomplish on our own. For salvation comes not from man, but from the one Savior, Jesus Christ. “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that those who believe in Him might not perish, but might have eternal life” (Jn 3:16). Salvation by faith comes through accepting God’s gift. As St. Paul explains, “By grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (Eph 2:8). Thus, not even the act of faith can be made by our own effort alone; it can only be humbly received through our cooperation with grace. By accepting the gift of faith and Baptism, believers become a “new creation”, they “put on Christ” and become “sons in the Son”. This is the beginning of our transformation from within, a transformation into Christ, the love of God Incarnate.

Through faith, man opens himself for Christ, so that more and more “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2:20). The new life of grace is the first deposit, the first gift in the Spirit which grows as we grow in childlike faith and love. “May Christ dwell in your hearts through faith” (Eph 3:17).

The self-awareness of the believer now expands because of the presence of Another; it now lives in this Other and thus, in love. Life takes on a whole new breadth. Here we see the Holy Spirit at work. The Christian can see with the eyes of Jesus and share in His mind, His filial disposition [toward the Father], because he or she shares in His love, which is the Spirit. (Lumen fidei 21)

The Holy Spirit becomes “the interior Master of life according to Christ, a gentle guest and friend who inspires, guides, corrects, and strengthens this life” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1697).

Faith working through love

From faith comes hope, and from hope comes love. These three go together. If we have the heart of a child, who looks to his Father with faith and trust, we will also be filled with love for God and our brothers in Christ. The new life we receive in Baptism reaches maturity only when faith becomes living, that is, “a path and praxis leading to the fullness of love” (Lumen fidei 26). While love is seen by the world today as the intensity of an emotional experience, God teaches us charity by giving us His only Son in order to save mankind. “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as expiation for our sins. …No one has ever seen God. Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us, and His love is brought to perfection in us” (1 Jn 4:10, 12). In giving us His Son in the Spirit, the Father gives His very Self, empties Himself, as it were, out of love. This love of the God was manifested by Jesus’ death on the Cross and continues today to be present among us in the Most Holy Eucharist.

The Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist is the Sacrament of Faith. On account of its mysterious nature, many disciples stumbled and no longer believed or followed Jesus (cf. Jn 6:66). But it is also the Sacrament of Love, for it is both a gift of Christ in His Self-giving love and a call to love as Jesus loves us: “This is My Body which has been given up for you. Do this in memory of Me.” And as the Sacrament of Love, the Holy Eucharist is therefore a Sacrament of Unity:

Union with Christ is also union with all those to whom He gives Himself. I cannot possess Christ just for myself; I can belong to Him only in union with all those who have become, or who will become, His own. Communion draws me out of myself towards Him, and thus also towards unity with all Christians. We become “one Body”, completely joined in a single existence. Love of God and love of neighbor are now truly united: God Incarnate draws us all to Himself. (Pope Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas est 14)

Thus, Jesus Himself gives us the strength to love our neighbor with His own love. Because faith teaches us the true meaning of supernatural love, knowing that this originates in God and is ordered to God, through it all human relationships can become stable and lasting, based on the truth, justice and peace that come from God. Beginning with the family, faith strengthens unity at all levels of society by teaching man to go out from his self-centeredness and selfishness for God’s sake and to live for the other, in other words, to seek the common good. For by faith, the Christian knows that we are all brothers with a common Father in heaven, and a common call to beatitude. Thus, every life has dignity and meaning because it belongs to God and is called to eternal union with God. In this knowledge, the Christian has a great gift to offer society and an obligation to work for the building of a just society at every level, beginning with personal relationships in his own family up to and including working for just laws in government. The more we open ourselves through faith for love, the more we will be transformed by it and become a light of stability, peace and faith for the world around us.

The Angels and the life of faith

The Christian is led by the indwelling Spirit in the new life of faith. At the same time, the Holy Spirit is Lord of the Angels, and man is entrusted to their charge. “From infancy to death human life is surrounded by [the Angels’] watchful care and intercession. ‘Beside each believer stands an Angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life’” (CCC 336, citing St. Basil). Already immersed in the Beatific Vision of God, the Angel is light; he bears the light of God. Thus, he can bring us light regarding the truths of faith, about God and His will for us. While “faith comes through hearing”, through the preaching of the word, it is the Angels who gracefully touch the heart, moving man to accept and believe the word. The Angel himself is an object of our faith, for we do not see him. But if we believe and entrust ourselves to him, he can lead us more efficaciously and strengthen our faith in God. In this way, we will learn to love and trust him, like a brother. “Every day, every hour we can thoughtlessly fall aside and miss the way. For this reason, GOD gives us the Angel at our side, so that at all times we may have his light as our guide” (Mother Gabriele, Pentecost Letter 1964).

The faith of St. Joseph

While Abraham is aptly named our “father in faith”, St. Joseph can also, with even more reason, be called our father in faith. Being a man of silence, a man of the interior life, he was open for the divine light through the Angels and was thus able to penetrate more readily into the truth of God’s mysteries and will. In the face of Mary’s being with child, for example, he did not react impulsively, but like Mary (cf. Lk 2:19), he surely first pondered all these events in his heart, taking the time to pray in order to find the just response. In this, he gave the Angel the opportunity not only to direct him in the will of God, but also to enlighten him in faith: “Joseph, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this Child has been conceived in her” (Mt 1:20). In this small phrase are found some of the most fundamental truths of Christian doctrine: the Divine Sonship of Jesus, the Most Blessed Trinity, the virginal Divine Motherhood of Mary. Unlike the Apostles, he was not called to proclaim these mysteries; he was called to guard them, to hide and veil Mary and the Child so that the Divine Plan of salvation could be fulfilled unhindered.

Although he was the head of the Holy Family, St. Joseph’s leadership was a following, a being silent, listening for and obeying the call of God with all the readiness of faith. With what faith he gave up any thought of his own plans in order to dedicate himself wholly to the Divine Mission entrusted to him. By faith, he rose in the middle of the night at the call of the Angel and left with the small Child and His young Mother without questioning or demanding time to gather provisions. Once in Egypt he waited and trusted, some seven long years, for the call of the Angel to return to his own land. Although of royal stock, the rightful heir of David, St. Joseph did not exercise any outward power or authority in the world. He served the world better by being a humble, hidden, trusting instrument in the hand of God in the economy of salvation. Just as Abraham by faith became the father of all who believe, so too the faith of St. Joseph bore universal fruit, as he became through faithful, loving service of Jesus and Mary, the Father and Protector of Holy Mother Church.

Faith of Mary

Far above all others, of course, stands the faith of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Believing, she conceived the Word in her Heart before conceiving Him in her womb. Believing, she gave birth to the King of Kings in a stable. Believing, she humbly served, without looking for any outward recognition in the world. Believing, she received the Lord in her Heart once again in the Holy Cenacle. Believing, she stood beneath the Cross and watched the torture and slow death of her only Son and God, forgiving all with Christ’s own love. She alone never doubted the Resurrection and waited confidently to see HIM again. She believed and prayed for the coming of the Spirit, and became the pillar of faith for the newborn Church, interceding for all with a faith to move mountains and transform hearts from stone to flesh. She is our Mother in the Faith, the Mother of the Church, the Mother of all. To her we entrust our faith, our families, our very selves. May she be thanked and blessed by all generations, she who believed that what the Lord spoke to her would be fulfilled (cf. Lk 1:45, 48).

~Sr. M. Basilea

Lord, Almighty GOD,

It is Your will to make us eternally happy.

But it is also Your will that here in life we should prove ourselves

in faith, in hope, in love.

Therefore, place at our side Your Angels of faith,

that they may sustain us in the darkness of trial!

Place at our side Your Angels of hope,

to help us reach Your Heart in the strength of unshakeable trust!

Place at our side Your Angels of love,

who teach us to see and detect Your love in everything.

YOU defeat the hostile powers in us and around us, not we.

YOU know Your hour to help us. So also may

YOU be praised forever and ever. Amen. (Mother Gabriele, Fall Letter 1967)

 

 

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