We are what you once were.
We believe what you once believed.
We worship as you once worshipped.
If we are wrong now, you were wrong then
If you were right then, we are right now.
Almost every one knows of some individuals who have gone through fire and water in order to become Catholics. Recently a book published by a non-Catholic inquiring why it was that so many men distinguished for intelligence and culture has gone over to the Church of Rome. Chesterton, Ronald Knox, Benson, Kinsman, and others such, men of altogether superior mind and cultivation have renounced the affiliations of a lifetime in order to embrace the Faith which some Catholics lightly discard. That Faith which has the soundest intel-lectual and ethical basis of any creed in the world, has from the very beginning won the allegiance of the best thinkers and the loftiest characters of mankind. Yet today we see some Catholics give up that Faith as if it were of little or no account. The religion of Christ has given to the world all that is really worth while in it. The greatest scholars have been and are attracted to it. The noblest men of history have sacrificed their very lives for it. Many of our forefathers became impoverished or exiled for it. Yet we sometimes see it discarded by the descendents of these very people who so heroically suffered for it. What causes a Catholic to lose the Faith Several reasons may be assigned why this pearl of great price is thrown away.
A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. A superficially educated man is a detriment to any profession or creed. Through knowledge of any subject makes one careful. Partial knowledge tends to rashness. It sometimes happens that a superficially educated catholic is persuaded by the false logic or data of a superficially opponent, Josh Billings once said : The trouble with most facts is that they ain't so. It is safe to say that ninety per cent of the statements made so positively against religion, are not true.
A educated Catholic might be led astray by such mis-statements whereas if well-educated he would know how to refutes them. The average man would pay no attention to them, because his common sense would tell him that the Church numbers among her adherents some of the greatest philosophers and scientists in the world, and that he is safe in their company. Moreover he knows that the Church has Christ's guarantee, and that is sufficient for him. Take the matter of Evolution for instance. Many of the positive pronouncements of evolutionists during the past quarter of a century are being gradually refuted by scientists themselves. No scientist of distinction today believes that evolution is a fact, and yet it was given out as a scientific dogma until very recently. At most it is now held to be a theory. And even as a theory many former evolutionists have discarded it. However that does not prevent a lot of superficial scientists from teaching it as a fact in college halls, and affirming it as such popular magazines. The pity of it is that some Catholics who wish to be considered learned swallow whole what these shallow dogmatists proclaim, and refuse to listen to the Church guaranteed by Christ to teach truth and truth only.
Great scholars and scientists like Pasteur, Fabre, Mendel, and Wasmann find no opposition between Faith and Science. But the superficial mind is carried away by every specious argument of a so-called scientist. France was asked to proclaim who was the greatest man in the entire history of the nation. Its answer was Pasteur. He was a great scientist and devote Catholic. When men of his type find no surrender of intelligence to be guided by the Church, surely the average man is wise in being so guided. Foch, the outstanding military genius of the World War, is as distinguished for his Faith as for his soldier qualities. The average man shows more wisdom by thinking with these sincere and learned men, than does the superficial man, who, trusting to his own mediocrity, is led astray by the glamour of false science.
It is well for the superficially man to reflect that the greatest intellects of all time have been faith full children of the Catholic Church. If there have been greater intellects than those of Augustine and Aquinas history does not record them. Both these intellectual giants are canonized saints. Enough has been said on this matter to show that anyone who lost the Faith because of intellectual difficulties, does so, not because of the misapplication or lack of it. A religion which can at-track to itself from a hostile camp such men of intelligence as Newman, Manning, Chesterton Ward Knox and Benson, surely should satisfy the most exacting test of intelligence.
Loss of the Faith, therefore which purports to come from intelligent inquiry, is rather a reflection On the inquirer than a judgment on Faith. It has been said by non-Catholics that the Catholic Faith, if granted its first principals, is the most logical and consistent system of thought known to mankind. The first principals are true. The first principals are those of Jesus Christ the Son of God. Away with all religion if Christ was wrong! But Christ was right. And the world was right when guided by His truth and wrong when not guided. Russia is proof today. The World Wars proof today. The present lawlessness in our country is proof. It is back to Christ or on to ruin.
Another reason for the loss of Faith is the prevailing atmosphere of religious indifference with which we are surrounded. Unless one faithfully keeps up the practices of Faith it will weaken and die in the poisonous environment of present day worldliness.
Faith teaches us that although we must live in the world we must not live for it. This world is not the goal of man but the starting point. We have not here a lasting city, Scripture assures us. The world, however, proclaims that it, and it alone, is man's concern "Let us eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die" has been the motto of worldlings from the beginning. But the Bible tells us that after death comes judgment. Hence it is that there is bound always to be opposition between the world and Christ. Christ stands for the spiritual and the eternal , the world for the material and temporal. What we seek, feel and touch makes a strong impression on us. Things seen are mightier than things heard. If we see a man shot down bay an assassin it makes more impression on us than to read of ten men so assassinated. Yet the assassination of ten is in itself just as real, and much more serious. It is because the world is is always near at hand alluring us, and deceiving us that unless we keep faithful to the practices of Faith we shall be seduced by the world. Religious practices make us think in our heart, not superficially.
Religion if practiced keeps our last end before us and holds us to the right way. Neglect therefore of the practiced of Faith. Faith needs nourishment as well as any thing else. Faith may die of neglect just as a child may. Some people starve the Faith and then wonder that they have lost it. It was a wise Church that, under God's guidance, established so many means of vigorous the life of Faith. Rather it was the wisdom of God, who entrusted to His Church the Sacraments and other divine helps for the nourishment and well-being of the faithful. If a man drops Sunday Mass, and regular Confession, and Communion it is only natural that soon he should lose the Faith. "Neither cast ye your pearls before swine" said our Saviour. God is not going to force Faith on those who do not think it worth while to take care of it. Hence the neglect of the practices of Faith is religious suicide. Nowadays too many, alas, are taking their own spiritual life.
In the present condition of the world it is hard even with fidelity to religious duty to live right. Without this fidelity it is an impossibility. And when one does not live right Faith is not long vanishing. "What shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" So spoke Jesus Christ who gave His life that we may have life, not this present life, which is a living death, but true life, eternal life, a share in His own blessed life forever. The Catholic who thinks he can hold the Faith and neglect the practices of Faith is like a man who fancies he can cross the Atlantic without ship or food. A third reason why some lose the Faith is human passion. Dante graphically describes man's pilgrimage on earth as beset by three beasts, the lion of pride, the leopard of lust and the panther of greed. One of these beast attacks every man on the road from time to eternity. The journey from earth to heaven is not made in a Pullman. Life is probation. We are her to demon-strate by deed not by word whether or not we are worthy to associate with the all-holy God as members of the divine family in that home He has prepared for them that love Him. Only God's lovers will be of His eternal household. This life is the period given to us in order that we may show if we are lovers of God. Our Lord has specified what constitutes love for Him. It is not doing extraordinary things but doing His will in all things, little and great. Hence He bids us in the "Our Father" to say "Thy will be done." man likes to do his own will, to be a law to himself. God wants us to do His will, to obey His law. Hence He makes doing His will the proof of our love for Him. "If you love me keep my commandments."
God did not become man to make us rich or famous or to live comfortably or long, or to give us anything acquirable by human effort, but to give us eternal life. "If thou wilt enter into life keep the commandments." He was referring to the life which is real life, that which knows no end, no sorrow, no pain; that life which is unending joy, immeasurable happiness, inexpressible peace.
"Eye hath not seen nor ear heard not hath it entered into the mind of men to conceive what God hath prepared for them that love Him." God's estimate of our love is based on our fidelity to His commandments; If you love me keep my commandments." God commands us to be chaste, to be just, to be truthful. If loving God consisted in desires, or professions o piety, or in doing only what we found pleasant or profit-able He would have countless lovers. But the test He has adopted for our love is doing His will. At times our pleasure conflicts with duty. His will is that we discharge our duty. Passion may tempt us into forbidden fields of lust. God will declares "Thou shalt not comment adultery." Confronted by the leopard of lust we must put it to fight or be its victim. Wealth may beckon us on to its embrace even though in acquiring it we may have to be dishonest, unjust, cruel. It is the panther of greed challenging us in the ascent up the mountains of God and unless we slay it, we shall be slain by it. And then thee is the lion of pride, that majestic beast that so many victims among the exalted. Pride of place, pride of power, pride of intellect. The highway of life is strewn with the victims of this pretentious beast.
Human passion, human weakness, human vanity, human greed, are some of the enemies of man which occasion the loss of Faith. Once a person has made himself the slave to any vice he not only loses balance but also vision. He does not see things in perspective. He ovetr emphasizes whatever serves his desires. Consequently the things of the spirit lose their value for him. Etern-ity is clouded by the mists of vice, and the vile things of earth alone appear to be desirable. By degrees the victim of sin worships himself instead of God. It is "My will be done" not "Thy will be done." One's dominant vice becomes a deity and the victim worships at its shrine. Whether it be pride, greed, lust that grips a man, he is, while in the grip, a subject of Satan's not of Christ's.
The church of God knows man's weakness. It was because Christ realized the strength of pass-ion that He instituted the sacrament of Penance. But if man turn aside form the sacraments how can he free himself from sin? And if a man abide in sin it is almost impossible not to lose the Faith. Hence, it is that some lose the Faith because they have given themselves over a career of sinful indulgence. The Man whose wealth is ill-gotten will find it comfortable to persuade him-self that Faith is a figment of a weak imagination. The Man who disregards chastity will find it desirable to crowd the chastisements of sin out of his mind, and to persuade himself that Faith is a myth. The man who holds power unjustly will not relinquish it readily, and because Faith condemns him, he persuades himself that Faith is not the thing for successful and strong men. Faith has never been abandoned because it is not sublime, but because it is to sublime.
They who lose the Faith do not replace it with anything higher, better, more efficacious for vir-tue, or more consoling in the vicissitudes of life. No one ever lost the Faith because his ideals were too high, but rather because they were too low. No one ever lost the Faith whose life was made more virtuous by the loss The saints are the heroes of Christianity. They were the children of the Faith. The world was better for their presence in it. No man who lived up to the Faith was ever an evil influence inn the world. Rather in proportion as he lived according to the Faith was he a source of light and strength to all those who came within the circle of his influence. So if it be asked why some people lose the Faith the answer is that Faith is a divine gift which if not treasured and cared for will be seized by the lion of pride or the panther of greed or the leopard of lust. Superficial knowledge, human weakness, and finally vice are some reasons which may be assigned for the loss of Faith. Another reason may be given for casting aside the pearl of great price. It is the respectability and number of those outside of Faith. This reason is really included under that of superficial knowledge or of pride. However as it is subtle temptation it may be advisable to give it separate consideration.
When one sees the wealth, distinction, influence, and social standing of a large part of those who are outside the Faith, one wonders if all those people can be in error. Doubtless the same question arose when the Apostles and their handful of followers preached the Gospel in Rome. Everybody who was anybody there was a pagan. The aristocracy and wealth of Rome were arrayed against the lowly Christian. Yet the lowly Christians were right and the lordly Romans wrong. In Jerusalem Christ was opposed by the leaders of the people and the society of that day. They represented the wealth and the aristocracy of Israel. They were many whereas Christ and His disciples were few. The humble Christ was right, the haughty Jews were wrong. A majority is not always right. Christ was a minority.
The respectability and numbers of Protestants are doubtless a temptation to those of the Faith. But Faith, like every virtue, is subject to temptation. If there were no temptation regarding Faith there would be little merit in believing. In fact if our Faith were not tried by temptation it might not be manifest whether or not we had Faith. Every one may pass as brave if no danger threaten. One's honestly is not evident if one has never had an op-portunity of stealing. Temptation does not make but shows the thief. Danger does not make but marks the coward. So Faith, if there were on temptations regarding it, would not be put to the test. Our chastity is tempted, our Faith also is tempted. But temptation only serves to make our Faith glorious and meritorious. Faith is God's most precious gift to man. It has for its purpose to raise us up to companionship with Him. " I will espouse thee to me in faith." By it we may become partakers of the divine nature. The millions of martyrs realized the value of Faith by dying for it. We may show our appreciation of it by living by it, and if need e by dying for it.
GOD AND MYSELF
By: Fr. Martin J. Scott S.J.