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USCCA Highlights, Chapter 4

Chapter 4
 
The role model: Isaac Thomas Heckler, 1819-1888
 
Isaac Heckler seems to be a perfect role model for our “Year of Faith” in 2013.  He was born in New York City of first generation German parents.  He wasn’t raised with any particular religion, though there is some evidence his mother was Methodist.  His turn toward religion came as an adult.  Isaac was concerned about the plight of the working class, much like Karl Marx had been and Pope Leo XIII would articulate in his seminal encyclical on the working class in 1891, Rerum et Novarum.  He tried his hand at politics, but found it to be too corrupt, so he turned to faith.  In 1844 at the age of 25, he was baptized.  The following year, he joined the Redemptorists and went to Belgium to study.  He was ordained five years later and two years after that, returned to the USA to try to evangelize Americans.  He was a great lecturer and spoke to crowds in New York, Boston, Detroit, Chicago and St. Louis and other cities.  Six years after his return to the States, a dispute rose between the superiors of the Redemptorists and their American counterparts, so Isaac and four others traveled to Rome to try to solve the problems.  The meeting did not go well, and they were dismissed from the order.  The Pope at the time, Pius IX, however, sympathized with the five and suggested they start a new order, one which would see its primary task as evangelizing and missionary work.  Shortly thereafter,  Isaac Heckler became the founder of the Paulist Fathers, whose primary role would become evangelization, especially through the print media.  Isaac was all about knowing one’s faith and sharing it with others.  That is what the “Year of Faith” is all about.
The teaching: bringing about obedience to the faith…..
 
The Teaching: faith is our response to God's revelation:
 
The lesson this month from Chapter 4 of the USCCA is about submitting to the grace of faith.  Thus far in the USCCA, we have looked at our universal desire for God (Ch. 1), Revelation (or what God’s chooses to tell us, esp. in the Scriptures – Ch. 2), and handing on that faith to others (Ch. 3).  This month, in Ch. 4, by examining what obedience to faith actually means, we can discover our response to Revelation.  It is about reflecting on the absolute “Yes” that Abraham offered when God told him to pack up and move and that he would make him the Father of many nations.  It is about giving one’s “fiat” like the Blessed Virgin did when she was but a young girl confronted by the Angel’s news of the Incarnation.  Soren Kierkegaard, a Danish philosopher and theologian of the 19th century, wrote a classic text entitled: Fear and Trembling.  The entire book is about Abraham’s remarkable faith.  Most of us, Kierkegaard would say, are “knights of infinite resignation”: we believe what we can see and reasonably understand, but when we come to the cliff of faith and we need to assent and jump off into the arms of a loving God, many of us balk.  Abraham had such enormous faith.  He became a “knight of faith” and readily jumped into the arms of God every time.  Our Lady, against all odds, readily gave her consent to be the Mother of God.  Even though she didn’t understand, there was no hesitation in her young teen-age voice when she offered her “Fiat”.
 
The Catechism (USCCA), taking its cue form Acts 16:31, lists the qualities of faith: Faith is a relationship, both personal and communal.  It is not just a private act; every week, we join our hearts and minds together with our fellow worshippers and become the Body of Christ.  We cannot do that alone.  Faith seeks understanding (St. Anselm’s definition of theology).  Faith is a friend of reason.  Faith is necessary for salvation.  Faith is a gift of grace and a gift from God.  Faith is a free, human act.  We cannot just “think” faith and simply intellectually assent; we have to act on it.   
 
The lesson this month recounts what submission to the faith meant in Apostolic times: whatever the Apostles declared to be revealed, “a Christian was bound to take without doubting…..If the Apostles spoke, he had to yield an internal assent of the mind…..immediate, implicit submission of the mind was, in the lifetime of the Apostles, the only, the necessary token of faith.  No one could say: ‘I will choose my religion for myself, I will believe this, I will not believe that’…..No, either the Apostles were from God or they were not…to believe a little, to believe more or less, was impossible.”
 
American Modern Culture:
 
The culture in the Unites States has strongly been influenced by the enlightenment period or the Age of Reason.  That was an 18th century period when transcendental thought and revelation was dismissed.  Only sense experience and rationality were permitted, and people looked forward to the promises of science.  A type of “Deism” emerged, when people believed in a God, but pretty much dismissed any ideas that we can know anything about this God.  Revelation was dismissed.  In the 21st century, some of that Deism has morphed into a secularism that is almost anti-religion.  An age of relativism has set in, where some are convinced that human beings construct truth and each human being constructs their own truth, so “your truth is as good as my truth”, etc.  The Church, however, has never been afraid of rationality or intellectual inquiries.  God created both faith and reason and they were meant to go hand in hand.  Rationality cannot explain everything.  Senses can be deceived.  Things exist even though we cannot see them; sounds exist even though we may not always hear them, and the larger questions, such as “Who are we? Why are we here?  Where are we going?  Why is there such evil in the world?  Why do we die? still point us toward the transcendental character of the origins of humanity.  We are no mere accident.  Faith is needed to understand where science and rationality fall short.  Faith is needed to start the discussions that awaken our hearts to true understanding.  Besides listening to the Scriptures, one of the best ways to understand the place of faith is to be open to discussing our faith with others, and learn how rationality actually supports our faith.
 
USCCA Reflection Question
 
In what ways do you find it difficult to be open about your faith in public situations?  How have you been able to apply your faith to family issues, community development, and political decisions?
 
Doctrinal Statements:
 
Faith is a gift from God.  
Faith is a free, conscious, human act.  
Faith is a way of knowing, just as reason is, though it is different from reason.
Faith is a supremely personal ac: “I believe,” but it also a communal act: “We believe”.
Faith is necessary for salvation.  “Believing in Jesus Christ and the One who sent him for our salvation is necessary for obtaining that salvation (CCC, #161).
 
Meditation and Prayer:
 
The Apostles’ Creed
I believe in one God, 
the Father Almighty, 
the Maker of heaven and earth, 
of all that is, seen and unseen.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only son, or Lord.
He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit
and born of the Virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
Was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended into hell.
On the third day he rose again.
He ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy, catholic Church, 
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting.   Amen.
 
*****
 
Faith has the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  (CCC, 146; Heb. 11:1)

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