If we love God, no sacrifice is too great to offer Him for His pleasure. Millions of martyrs have been glad to give their lives for their faith. During the great persecutions under the pagan Roman emperors, thousands were taken to the arena to be torn by wild beasts. Thousands of others were covered with pitch and lighted as torches. All kinds of human tortures were invented to make the Christians deny their faith. But their pure love of God caused them to be firm and to meet death gladly.
A Catholic sins against faith by infidelity, apostasy, heresy, indifferentism, and by taking part in non-Catholic worship. We may lose our faith by:
(a) not learning well the doctrines of the Church;
(b) willfully doubting truths that have been revealed to the Church;
(c) reading books and other literature against our religion;
(d) attending assemblies of people who are opposed to our religion;
(e) neglecting the practice of our religion.
INFIDELITY is the unbelief of one to whom the truths of faith have been sufficiently proposed, but who nevertheless deliberately refuses to accept them. It also means the ignorance of the Faith by one who has had no chance to learn it, or who does not realize the importance of learning.
Persons, who do not believe in Christianity as a divinely revealed religion, are commonly referred to as "infidels." Infidelity is refusal to believe in anything that cannot be perceived by the senses, or comprehended with the understanding.
But is it not utterly reasonable to have faith in an almighty God, Who knows much more than we can ever hope to know, and Who can do things beyond our understanding? It is necessary that we serve God in the way He requires, not in the way it pleases us to do so. For this reason we must practice the religion revealed by God, and avoid making up our own religions according to our whims and innumerable fancies. Buddhists, Mohammedans, Hindus, Jews, and pagans, are, in the sense of this definition, infidels because they do not believe in Jesus as the Savior of the world. As politically incorrect as that may sound today, it is true and the declaration Dominus Jesus released by the Vatican earlier this month confirms this.
APOSTASY is complete rejection of the truths of the Christian faith by one who has been baptized. A vicious and sinful life often leads to apostasy. No really good man has ever fallen away from the Christian faith.
An apostate denies or gives up his religion through fear or shame, or through worldly motives or human respect, and denies Christ Himself. He is under sentence of eternal damnation, for Christ says: "Whoever disowns Me before men, I in turn will disown him before My Father in Heaven" (Matthew 10:33). It may happen that a Catholic gives up his religion because he had a quarrel with the priest. He crucifies Christ because of a petty disagreement with a mortal. Such a man should ever remember that "he who loses his goods loses much; he who loses his life, loses more; but he who loses his faith loses all."
HERESY is the refusal of baptized persons to accept one or more of the truths revealed by God and taught by the Catholic Church. If this refusal is voluntary and obstinate, there is formal heresy; if it is involuntary, there is material heresy.
A heretic claims to be Christian, but denies one or more truths revealed by God. Members of Protestant denominations are heretics. Much of their heresy, however, is negative, or material; that is, accompanied by no obstinacy of the will; for example, the heresy of a Protestant who has always believed his is the religion ordained by God. That is why it is difficult for them, following Vatican II and many of the concessions Church members made without Council approval, to accept the Church's doctrine of "No Salvation Outside the Church."
INDIFFERENTISM is the error of those who hold that one religion is as good as another and that all religions are equally true and pleasing to God or that one is free to accept or reject any or all religions. Many a Catholic does not want to trouble himself about studying his religion, and gradually loses his faith. This is happening at an alarming rate today. Some blame Vatican II, others blame society. The real blame lies with the persons themselves who have to answer to God for their own actions with no excuses.
A soul is like a plant; it needs to be watered continuously by the truths and practices of religion. Unless it is so nourished, it will sicken and perish. Why should Christ, and after Him the Apostles and after them a long line of Catholics, have suffered so much and resisted persecution so firmly, if it were of no importance what a man believed? It is absurd to suppose that God does not care whether men denounce His Son as an impostor and blasphemer, or worship Him as God.
A Catholic sins against faith by taking an active part in non-Catholic worship, because he thus professes belief in a religion he knows is false. When necessary, for social obligations, a Catholic may be present at a non-Catholic wedding or funeral, but participation in the services is not encouraged.
It is a sin to belong to any society, which is opposed to the Church. Freemasonry, or Masonry, is condemned by the Church. Many charitable persons, who have joined Masonry or the Shriners merely for social or business reasons, do not understand the stand of the Church. Most of them serve only the Third Degree, and hold no spirit of antagonism against the Church; but these good persons do not realize the basic purposes of their organization.
In actual fact, Freemasonry is a religious sect bent upon the destruction of the Catholic Church. It has its own doctrines, priesthood, and ritual; it has its own characteristic morality. For instance, it imposes an oath that requires blind obedience; it does not accept Divine Revelation. "By their fruits ye shall know them," and the fruits of Freemasonry are evident throughout European history. Though the Church has had its dark times in history, always there have been fruits because it is a "good tree" - the True Tree.
Any group that calls itself 'Catholic' is not necessarily loyal to the Magisterium of the Church. Good examples of these are 'catholics' for a free choice, A Call To Action and We are church. Though they claim to be Catholic, the fact they do not embrace ALL the doctrines the Church and her Founder demand simply makes them modern-day Protestants and not in union with Rome. In effect, by their persistent actions with no repentance they have excommunicated themselves from the Church.
A Catholic can best safeguard his faith by making frequent acts of faith, by praying for a strong faith, by studying his religion very earnestly, by living a good life, by good reading, by refusing to associate with the enemies of the Church, and by not reading books and papers opposed to the Church and her teaching.
Acts of faith are prayers said to tell God we believe in Him. Pleasing to God also are prayers of faith, such as the Apostles made to the Lord: "Increase our faith" (Luke 17:5). The more we believe, the firmer our faith becomes, by God's grace.
We should study our religion well, especially the Christian doctrine. If we have any doubts about it, we should consult a good spiritual adviser or confessor. Many have lost their religion by misunderstanding its doctrines.
A strong bulwark to faith is a good life. Never does a just man, living according to the teachings of the Church, lose his faith. To increase in faith, let us go to Confession and receive Holy Communion often, that our spirits may be nourished by divine food.
Those who lead bad lives may easily lose their faith. They try to convince themselves that there is no God, no religion, in order to justify their wickedness, or to silence their conscience. They try to convince themselves that they have control of their own bodies and can therefore justify abortion, sexual promiscuity and all sorts of other sins and perversities. But it doesn't work for there is no justification in violating God's Commandments.
We must take care that the movies, TV programs, cd's, books and magazines we read are neither wicked nor against the doctrines of the Church. The problem today is that there is such a plethora of this that it takes a total commitment to avoiding the near occasions of sin and in this 7-24 society it is very, very difficult to be isolated from these temptations. Yet, the eyes are windows of the soul; through them it may be attracted to good or evil.
We must also refrain from being intimate with enemies of the Church, who speak against it and assail it on all occasions. Let us avoid pitfalls that we may not fall into them. Most political correctness today goes against the Commandments and the will of God. As the Church Militant, we must be on vigil against this takeover by satan and do all in our power to preserve and foster the traditions, teachings and treasures of the Church.
Next Thursday: The First Commandment part five - Religion and Superstition