By Christopher Mohammed
What is the first thing we think about when going to church?
Is it how long Mass will be?
Or what season are we in the Church calendar?
Or what is the reason for my coming to Mass?
As a young Catholic, I often ponder that question and what my reason might be. We are often taught in our Catholic doctrine about the Bible, the Catechism and the rites and rituals of our Catholic Church. But what does it mean to truly believe in this literature? Is it based on sound reason, grounded in truth?
The simple fact is that to the casual onlooker, and by extension the younger demographic, we aren’t sure what all of it means.
Pope Benedict XVI in his encyclical Dues Caritas Est explained how he interpreted what it meant to embrace Christian love. A foreign concept to most, he explained a two-part assessment of how God offers love to humanity and the ensuing relationship between that love and the realism of human love. Furthermore, he deals with the subsequent ecclesial application of the commandment of love of neighbour.
This message by Pope Benedict includes two fundamental truths: that love is necessary for humanity’s existence and the involvement of Church in the expression of this love.
Church is loosely translated from the Greek word ‘ekklesia’, which is defined as ‘an assembly’ related to a body of believers unified by this love and not the physical structure; St Paul in Romans 16:5 remarks, “Greet the church that is in their house.”
Everything therefore alludes to some unfathomable truth, of the importance of church in order to understand this magnanimous subject; this dynamic living love (church) can be further broken down into its constituent components, namely reason and my favourite word ‘faith’.
Philosophy and Theology
According to Merriam-Webster, faith can be described as belief in the existence of God. Do we describe faith then by a definition, or is it some emotive or enlightening thought that is relative to the person in question?
I postulate, in my journey of understanding that as the Catholic Church confirms; faith is a misnomer without another equally important theological virtue being simultaneously applied, i.e., charity/action.
Faith must subsist with action and therefore, correspond to the Pope’s message of love of God.
As a young Catholic, experiencing the current climate of the pandemic, I often wondered how we may bridge the disparity of how we, ‘the Church’, express this faith, i.e., contrasting the older generation and the budding young Catholics between pubescence and young adults.
What might invigorate these young people? Could it be charismatic praise and worship, offering vigour and youthful exuberance? Or might a more contemplative/deeper connection between daily life and doctrine be more suitable? Should emphasis be placed on retreats and sessions to address the many burning questions which may have them confused or lost? We have the answers, why not share them?
For the older generation, who likely has a stronger foundation, this expression of faith might heavily focus more on lectio divina, attending Mass, going to church novenas, or listening to the homily given by a priest or deacon.
I believe the future of the church is a fusion of the two demographics with a heavy reliance on the sacred tradition, and for us to truly understand we must learn and grow as formed Catholics.
Hence for us to ride the wave of our current situation, whether it be the pandemic, our socioeconomic conditions, or even the “is God real” question, we must consult our rich literature both from a secular and religious perspective to answer these doubts.
Theologians of acclaim such as St Thomas Aquinas and St Augustine give a religious basis and entwine philosophy and dogma to evoke a rational response to these uncertainties.
However, in the current age of secularism, it has changed our perspective leading us to view theology as boring, hence a slightly different approach, emphasising philosophy is merited to give deeper, substantive content in the journey of understanding of faith.
Pascal and Anselm of Canterbury are two such philosophers, with one known for his work in mathematics and the wager used in apologetics, and the other known for his dynamism in his application of reason, to grasping faith with a simple yet profound quote “faith seeking understanding”.
Anselm, in particular in his work in the Proslogion, made a thought-provoking ontological argument that is still debated today, which simply put, is that the existence of God is a “being than which no greater can be conceived” .
This quote is one that even the sceptical mind would have to stop and reflect on, and hence fuel intellectual conversation and further growth in comprehension of faith.
This will help in our understanding of what our beliefs constitute and furthermore, elaborate on the human condition by which we lay the foundations for these beliefs. It is in so doing that we unite our faith through learning and not only express our faith in the physical means, but understand the reason for doing so.
Philosophy and theology are intimately linked to the rational understanding of God and allowing oneself to live out what truly constitutes God’s love for us and our love for each other.
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