MONDAY
February 7, 2000
volume 11, no. 26

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APPRECIATING THE PRECIOUS GIFT OF OUR FAITH Series         INTRODUCTION

    Every day we present a short point that helps bring into focus the treasures of the Roman Catholic Church that comprise the great Deposit of Faith.

    It is no secret that over the past thirty years fewer and fewer know their Faith and it shows with the declining number of vocations, parish participation and attendance at Holy Mass. We have the new Catechism of the Catholic Church but for the common man, the one brought up on sound bites and instant gratification, it is more of a text book and that in itself prompts them to shy away from such a tome. So what's a loyal Catholic to do in evangelizing to fellow Catholics and understand their Faith? Our answer: go back to basics - to the great Deposit of Faith. We have the Baltimore Catechism which, for unknown and ridiculous reasons, was shelved after Vatican II. We have the Holy Bible but there are so many newer versions that the Douay-Rheims and Confraternity Latin Vulgate in English versions, the ones used for so long as the official Scriptural text authorized by the Church, seem lost in a maze of new interpretations that water down the Word. This is further complicated by the fact there are so few Douay-Rheims editions in circulation though it is available on the net at DOUAY-RHEIMS BIBLE. We have so many Vatican documents available at the Vatican web site and other excellent Catholic resource sites that detail Doctrine, Dogma and Canon Law. We have the traditions, and the means of grace but how do we consolidate all these sources into one where it is succinct and easy to understand? We have the perfect vehicle. It is called "My Catholic Faith", now out of print, that was compiled by Bishop Louis Laravoire Morrow and published by My Mission House. This work ties in Scriptural references, the Sacraments, Dogmas, Doctrines, Traditions, Church documents, Encyclical and Papal decrees to clearly illustrate the Faith in simple, solid and concise terms that all can understand and put into practice. We will quote from this work while adding in more recent events and persons when applicable since the book was written in the late forties during the pontificate of Pope Pius XII. We also quote from the Catholic Almanac published by Our Sunday Visitor for the Roman Curial offices and from Old Testament Confraternity Edition and New Testament Confraternity Edition of the Saint Joseph New Catholic Edition of the Holy Bible.

    Nothing in Holy Mother Church's teaching has changed and therefore we feel confident that these daily "points of enlightenment" will help more Catholics better understand their faith, especially those who were not blessed with early formation of the faith in the home and their parish school. Regardless of where any Catholic is in his or her journey toward salvation, he or she has to recognize that the Faith they were initiated into at the Sacrament of Baptism is the most precious gift they have been given in life. For points covered thus far, click on APPRECIATING THE PRECIOUS GIFT OF OUR FAITH


installment 104:
DIVINE TRADITION part one

    Before the 15th century when printing was invented, the Bible was reproduced by copying in longhand. We should be very grateful to the monks and nuns of ancient times who labored lovingly, making manuscript copies of old documents that had come down from earliest times. Without this loving care, we would not have our Holy Bible today.

    Not all the truths revealed for us by God are found in the Bible; some are found only in Divine Tradition. The Bible itself states that it does not contain all that God revealed.

    "There are, however, many other things that Jesus did; but if every one of these should be written, not even the world itself, I think, could hold the books that would have to be written" (John 21:25).

    The truths of Divine Revelation which have not been written down in Holy Scripture have come to us by the Tradition of the Church, the unwritten Word of God.

    Saint Paul bade the Thessalonians: "Hold the teachings that you have learned, whether by word or by letter of ours" (2 Thessalonians 2:15).

    By Divine Tradition is meant the revealed truths taught by Christ and His Apostles, which were given to the Church only by word of mouth and not through the Bible, though they were put in writing principally by the Fathers of the Church.

    In a wide sense Tradition embraces the whole teaching of the Church, including the Bible, since it is only from the Church that we have the Bible. In a stricter sense Tradition includes only what was handed down orally from the Apostles.

    The Apostles themselves say that there is much that they have delivered to the faithful by word of mouth ( 2 John 12; 1 Cor. 11:2). Among many examples of truths in Tradition, not clearly manifested in Holy Scriptures, are: the exact number of sacraments, the time of institution of some sacraments, the books that make up the Bible, the Baptism of infants, and Sunday observance.

FATHERS OF THE CHURCH

    All the truths of Divine Tradition now have found their way into books. From the first Christian centuries the practices and doctrines of Tradition were preserved by saintly teachers whom we call FATHERS OF THE CHURCH. They were disciples of the Apostles, contemporaries of those disciples, or disciples of the disciples. These holy and learned men instructed the Church in the years of its first growth.

    Chief among the Fathers of the first six centuries (date is of death) are: the Doctors of the Church (see below), and Saints Clement of Rome (99), Ignatius of Antioch (107), Polycarp (155), Justin (165), Ireaneus (202), Cyprian (258), Dionysius (265), Gregory Thaumaturgus (270), Opatus (372), Martin of Tours (397), Gregory of Nyssa (398), Epiphanius (403), Pope Celestine I (432), Vincent of Lerins (450), and Caesarius of Arles (542).

DOCTORS OF THE CHURCH

    Besides the writings of the Fathers, the truths of Divine Tradition may be found chiefly in: (a) writings of the Doctors of the Church; (b) decrees of Popes and Church councils; and (c) the liturgy of the Church as found in the Missal and rituals.

    We call "Doctors of the Church" those ecclesiastical writers, noted for learning and holiness of life, who have by Church authority been proclaimed with that title, and whose feasts have been extended to the whole Western Church. Among the Fathers of the Church, these are honored as Doctors: Saints Hilary (368), Athanasius (373), Ephraem (378), Basil the Great (379), Cyril of Jerusalem (386), Gregory Nazianzen (389), Ambrose (397), John Chrysostom (407), Jerome (420), Augustine (430), Cyril of Alexandria (444), Peter Chrysologus (450), Pope Leo the Great (461), and Pope Gregory the Great (604).

    Among the outstanding Doctors of the Church of the Middle Ages are: Saints Peter Damian (1072), Anselm of Canterbury (1109), Bernard (1152), Thomas Aquinas (1274), Bonaventure (1274), Albert the Great (1280).

    Of later Doctors we have: Saints Peter Canisius (1597), John of the Cross (1605), Francis de Sales (1612), Robert Bellarmine (1621), Alphonsus Liguori (1787) in addition to the three women Doctors of the Church Saints Catherine of Siena (1380), Teresa of Avila (1582 ), and the Church's newest Doctor of the Church Saint Therese of Lisieux (1897) who Pope John Paul II proclaimed a few years ago. Some feel someday John Paul II will become a Doctor of the Church after he is proclaimed a saint.

Tomorrow: Divine Tradition part two

          

February 7, 2000
volume 11, no. 26
APPRECIATING THE PRECIOUS GIFT OF OUR FAITH

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