Why Stability in the One True Faith is important

“The whole principle of our doctrines has taken root from the Lord of the Heavens above” (St. John Chrysostom, Homily 1, “On Isaias”).

On the occasion of receiving the Doctorate in Sacred Theology, at the University of Paris, in 1252, St. Bonaventure of Bagnoregio, one of the two primary Doctors of the Church, gave a historical sermon on the Magisterial Authority of Jesus Christ, which remains, to this day, one of the most eloquent and theologically complete exposition of the Catholic Faith on the topic.  In what is now commonly referred to as n. 15, of that Sermon, the Seraphic Doctor has this to say:

From the aforesaid, therefore, there appears, the order by which and the author by whom one arrives at Wisdom. — For the order is, to begin from the stability of the Faith and proceeds through the serenity of reason, to arrive at the savoriness of contemplation; which Christ hinted at, when He said: I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. And in this manner is fulfilled that verse of Proverbs 4:6: The path of the just as a splendid light goes forth and grows even unto the perfect day. To this order did the Saints hold, attentive as they were to that verse of Isaiah, according to the other translation: Unless you will have believed, you will not understand. This order the philosophers ignore, who neglecting the Faith and totally founding themselves on reason, could in no manner arrive at contemplation; because, as St. Augustine says in the first book On the Trinity, « the sickly keenness of the human mind is not fixed in such an excellent light, unless it be cleansed through the justice of the Faith ».

From time immemorial, it has been an intrinsic and infallible truth of the Catholic Faith, that by faith is a man-made pleasing to God,* a faith founded upon the assent of the mind to revealed truth, accompanied by an act of repentance from all wickedness.  It is St. Paul, himself, who taught us that without faith it is impossible to please God. (Hebrews 11:6).  And in this dogmatic teaching of the Apostle of the Gentiles, one can easily discern a profound commentary on the words of Our Lord and Master:  God is a Spirit, and those who worship Him, must worship Him in spirit and in truth. (John 4:24)

Worshiping God in truth, requires, obviously, first of all, that man knows the truth regarding God; and this truth is the truth God has revealed about Himself, partially in the writings and teachings of the Prophets of the Old Testament, fully in the self-revelation of Himself when He became Man, known to faith and history as Christ Jesus, faithfully and clearly in the teachings of the Apostles, of whom we have the letters of St. Paul, St. Peter, St. James, St. Jude, and St. John, and the Gospels of the Evangelists, St. Matthew, St. Mark, St. Luke and, again, St. John.

Down through the ages, in the fulfillment of the words of Christ, Thou art Peter, and upon this Rock I will build My Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against Her. (Matthew 16:18), and, again, I have prayed for you Simon, that your faith may never fail, and so that when you are converted, you may strengthen your brethren. (Luke 22:31), the Roman Pontiffs have at times used their divinely conferred authority, to strengthen the whole Church in the Faith of Christ, that is, the faith which Christ taught.  They did this in letters, at councils, and in promulgating decrees and other documents, wherein they specified with precise terminology, what is to believed, and what is not to be believed, so that the faith of all Christians might find stability and unity in the profession of the same authentic doctrine which Christ taught and which He handed down and willed to be kept, through the Apostles, in the Catholic Church, until the tend of time.

Stability in the faith, therefore, is nothing to be ashamed about; rather it is something of which every faithful Catholic should glory, knowing as he does that this is a necessary blessing, without which a man founders in a sea of error, especially in those times of life or in those ages in which the fallen spirits wage more openly their war against the righteous.

Stability in the One True Faith, without which it is impossible to be saved, requires, consequently a loyalty to the One True Faith, which was given by Christ and passed from the Apostles in the Church, through the Magisterium, faithfully, unchanged, for tewnty centuries.  Hence, fidelity to Christ requires that every Catholic hold fast to this historic deposit, and that thus, if in any aspect of the life of the Church, there has been a falling away from this Holy Faith, that he dedicate himself to restoring what was lost in practice.

Lost in practice, because in truth, the Church has never lost Her Faith, regardless of how many clergy, religious, or even Bishops, might abandon it or its practice. Lost in pratice, not in the whole Church, but in many members of Her, because the Holy Spirit is always at work inspiring some members to keep what He Himself wishes restored in the Church, even if the vast majority have forgotten or abandoned His inspirations and handiwork.

Hence it is a good and holy thing to be a restorationist, in this sense; and those who say otherwise, have been deceived by the world, the flesh, or the Devil.

But faithfulness, does not mean legalism.  A legalist sees only laws, and not the truths upon which they are founded, or the end for which they were instituted.  A legalist, for example, who is faithful to Vatican II, might forget that it was merely a pastoral council, that it intended above all the salvation of souls and the conversion of the world to Christ.  A legalist who remains loyal to the Council but forgets these greater truths, might insist upon the Council even to the destruction of the faith, of the salvation of souls, or to driving away souls from the Church; or worse, to confirming the enemies of Christ in their hatred for the Faith.

A VICE DIRECTLY CONTRARY TO STABILITY IN THE FAITH

Directly contrary to the stability with which the Catholic believer is blessed, is the vice and curse of impulsiveness.

Impulsiveness is that vice of consenting to violent movements of passion, emotion, feeling or sentiment, which assail a man from within his own soul.  A man poorly trained in the use of his reason, easily falls to such movements, confusing the movement for a free act which comes from himself; and giving himself up to it, such that he considers it an inspiration in the general sense of a worthwhile thought; or worse, an inspiration in the specific sense, as something from God.

In truth, many such violent movements come from the effects of original sin in the soul and body; still others come from the fallen spirits which are ever afoot to harm souls. Such movements are more frequent in souls beholden to some sinful and vicious preoccupation with things, with some sort of idolatrous devotion to wordly values or goals. They are most frequent in souls which glory in their own impulsiveness, or who think that such impulsiveness comes from God, which last stage of this vice is the worst of all, since no one in good conscience can escape noticing, that the God of Truth is a God of order, not disorder, peace non violence.

Impulsiveness occurs when a man does not submit his reason and judgement to faith; fails to examine his conscience, omits humility which would cover his mind with a suspicion about such instantaneous outbursts.  Since a humble man knows that of himself he is nothing but dung and capable of evil; he knows well that instantaneous violent movements within him, DO NOT COME FROM GOD.  He eschews impulsiveness, as a vice which leads to imprudent destructive action.

If a man, however, is stable in the One True Faith, he has a stable norm for mortifying his inner self; and from this comes the strength of will and reason to recognize impulsiveness for what it is, a vice, and to combat it with humility, self-reflection, and self-criticism.

In this way, as St. Augustine says, Faith leads to the purification of the mind and heart; and in this way the light which has come to us in Baptism, the light of faith, grows from the faintest dawn to the full day of holiness (Proverbs 4:6).

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*  When we say, that a man is made pleasing to God by faith, we speak of “faith” as a theological virtue and in regard to the order of instrumental causality, since, obviously, it is God who by giving us faith as a free gift, justifies us; that is God works faith in those whom He calls to salvation, and by faith conforms the mind of the believer to His own mind.  Justification, however, is thus not by faith alone, as Luther taught, because there is necessary for justification, that (1) a man be disposed to accept God’s teaching and the movements of the Holy Spirit in his soul, (2) that hear the word of God preached to him, (3) that he believe the Gospel message contained therein and all that Christ and the Apostles and Prophets taught, (4) that He love the God who has thus revealed Himself, (5) that he hope in fulfillment of what God has promised in Christ Jesus’ Resurrection and teaching, (5) that he purposefully and firmly resolve to accept Baptism in the Name of the Most Holy Trinity, and in particular (6) do so in penance of all his sins and vices, because a man who believes without repentance, has believed in vain. After Baptism, if a man sins, he has the blessing of the help of Christ Jesus offered in the Sacrament of Confession, which Christ taught and instructed the Apostles to give to repentant sinners, when He said: Receive the Holy Spirit, whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven them, whose sins you hold bound, are held bound! He who hears you, hears Me; and he who rejects you, rejects Me! The 12 Apostles in ordaining Bishops and priests established the Catholic Hierarchy, which extends down through time to our day, and which forms that 1 true Church which is known to men as the Catholic Church.

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