Sunday, April 17, 2016

Borrowing the Faith of Old Men

A friend and I were talking this evening, touching on the belief that Mary intercedes for us, that Christ's Body & Blood are truly present in the Eucharist & whether or not Purgatory exists. She has the same faith background as me (Assemblies of God), claims no denominational affiliation these days and has always challenged my decision to become Catholic. Why DO I believe Catholicism? I find myself asking that question almost as frequently as she does.

I believe because the early church fathers, those disciples of the disciples (Ignatius, Clement, Polycarp, Justin Martyr, etc.) believed. My friend made the comment that I was "borrowing the faith of old men". It was an interesting observation because, well, it was true & I'd never quite thought of it that way before. She seemed to imply "borrowing" was disingenuous... but I'm reminded of Jesus' words to Thomas in John 20:29: “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”. Its true that I can't prove Mary is alive & interceding for me. I can't prove Christ's Real Presence in the bread & wine. I can't even google Purgatory & get directions. And yet, I still believe. Why? 

Sometimes my prayers get answered. Sometimes I feel Christ's love in the Eucharist. Purgatory seems intellectually reasonable most of the time. But belief is like love... I don't always feel it. It doesn't just happen. The certainty doesn't magically & indelibly appear one day. Belief, like love, is a deliberate action. Sometimes its easy & sometimes I just have to stand my ground despite the absurdity of it all. And if I'm honest, it feels absurd more often than not. So why believe? Why not call a spade a spade & move on? Because I can't. When I make the choice to believe, something changes within me. Choice ignites faith.

My ability to believe is most certainly based on the belief of others. The faith of old men (the testimony of the Fathers) and the saints who came after them has been documented and transmitted down through the ages. I borrow their faith because I seem to have so little of my own. In fact, I'm not sure I'll ever have my "own" faith... Haven't we all borrowed it from someone, somewhere? How else could we have come to believe?

 

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