Cardinal Piacenza on Opening the Door of Faith

"The reality of this gift, which is God Himself, requires the movement of our liberty"

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ROME, MAY 11, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Here is the homily given Tuesday by Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, in the context of the international conference on catechesis sponsored by the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences. The conference focused on "Christian Initiation and New Evangelization."

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[Acts 14:19-28; Ps 144; Jn 14:27-31]

Venerable Brothers and 

Dear friends

I am very pleased to be able to celebrate this Eucharist with you on the day of your Congress and it is certainly notable and providentially significant that the first Reading from the Acts of the Apostles, includes the words that the Holy Father Benedict XVI, used to title his Letter for the initiation of the Year of Faith.   

The Year of Faith will celebrate the fiftieth Anniversary of the convocation of the Second Vatican Council and the twentieth anniversary of the promulgation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church which is an indispensable instrument for the correct hermeneutic of the conciliar Texts. Of course, we cannot forget that it is the Catechism of the Council! In fact we read that the Apostles: “..called the church together and reported what God had done with them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.” (Acts 14:27) 

To open the door of faith to men of every place and time is primarily the task of God Himself! If we lose sight of the ‘primacy’ of God’s Work, whatever effort we employ will be destined to not bring forth the desired fruit. It is God who opens the door of faith to our human brothers and He does it, primarily, through His only Son. He is the ‘door for the sheep’, the unique and universal way of salvation for all men. The image of this God that ‘opens’ His Word of salvation and His Church is beautiful and yet it is a long way from the man contemporary prejudices with regard to the Lord.  

The Church is the place in which that salvation becomes present and active for the freedom of the individual in communion with the one Body which is the Church. The image of the ‘door’ is particularly efficacious as it speaks of an ‘entrance’ into a new dimension, to a reality that man cannot achieve for himself, but is entirely a gift from God. Nevertheless, the reality of this gift, which is God Himself, requires the movement of our liberty. It requires that the threshold of the ‘door’ is open to God, and is crossed by each of us. 

The offer of universal salvation cannot become efficacious without the consent of our created liberty, that makes the necessary step, sustained by grace, to cross the ‘door of faith’. The greatest task of the catechesis of Christian initiation, primarily on the horizon of a new evangelisation, is at least twofold. On one hand catechesis must collaborate with the Lord in ‘opening the door of faith’. It must demonstrate in a profound, reasonable and human way life’s great possibilities and the significance and fulfilment that God offers to men. 

If we do not return to enable all the reasonability, the attractiveness and even the ‘human convenience’ of Christianity and if not all the light of the faith emerges from the ‘door of the faith’, it is very difficult for the Christian perspective to appear fascinating. On the other hand, catechesis is called to support the understanding of the faith, through the knowledge of Revelation, both in its relational aspects and in those that are typically doctrinal. We all well know that crossing the ‘door of faith’ for the first time doesn’t mean that the journey is complete!  

Only an intense formation programme will enable the judgement of our conscience to not turn back and will enable the moral behaviour necessary not to abandon the light we have received. 

After almost fifty years since the initiation of the Ecumenical Vatican Council II we must recognise how moral life, both inside and outside the Church, was terribly weakened by insufficient catechesis. We must recognise how catechetical formation was unable to outline the reason behind the demands of the Gospel and to show, in real life experience, how humanising these demands are. All this is not the fault of the Council! For that reason, catechesis is also always a narratio – a narration. 

The text cited affirms this point recording that the Apostles “called the church together and reported what God had done with them”. This “report[ing] what God had done with them” contains all the catechetical works and programs as it involves not only the transmission of doctrinal truths but also becomes the possibility for the participation in the same faith Event – in the same Event of Christ. However, doctrinal transmission is long way from being a secondary aspect of catechesis as it concretely represents that narratio of the faith, which otherwise would become arbitrary and subjective and therefore no longer credible.

 The Holy Father reminded us during his homily at the Chrism Mass that we are before a “growing religious illiteracy found in the midst of our sophisticated society. The foundations of faith, which at one time every child knew, are now known less and less. But if we are to live and love our faith, if we are to love God and to hear him aright, we need to know what God has said to us – our minds and hearts must be touched by his word.” (Pope Benedict XVI Homily Chrism Mass 2012) 

Catechesis, and above all that of Christian initiation, has the great task of overcoming religious illiteracy, teaching “what God has said to us”! Without allowing ourselves to be paralysed by unending methodological questions! 

Dear friends, the methodological problems were overcome by the Saints who, with their simplicity and life are the most efficacious, living catechesis that God Himself offers to His people. A great example of this was Blessed J.H. Newman and his ‘cor ad cor loquitur,’ with all the intellectual, moral and spiritual commitment that it entails. If we have this awareness, if the door of faith is crossed firstly by us, if we will put the formation of the Priests and catechists in first place, if we will carefully watch over the centres of formation, if we will not be afraid to also utilise new Areopagus, like the internet, to announce the Faith, we shall bring forth fruit.   

We must never forget that meeting Christ demands personal mediation, in order for our fundamental work to be able to flourish and with God’s help, bring forth fruit. We must never forget that “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22) and therefore the effort is constructive for the journey of salvation. Jesus also said to us that “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you.” (Jn 14:27) therefore signalling a radical and surpassing alternative that cannot be cancelled by any naïve optimism. 

Let’s entrust the Blessed Virgin Mary, Star of Evangelisation, with the work of this Congress and, above all, the incessant work of the Church that, with God, opens the ‘door of faith’ to men.  Amen.