In the correspondence following Bishops’ Boots, Iona invited me to write about the process of conversion. Gee! Thanks, Iona. I am tackling this as a blog post rather than a Catholic Herald column because my views are tentative – I will feel happier or unhappier about them depending on the contributions to the discussion. It is possible that I might one day write a column on the subject, but that could depend on what you have to say.
We know that many circumstances can surround the gift of faith. For some, such as myself, it came with our mothers’ milk. For others it may have been a book, or a valued friend, a long process of research or a chance happening. For my wife, it was a moment in the Brompton Oratory when she realised that the Mass she was witnessing was not a prayer meeting validated by the congregation (as she had seen the C of E Communion) but an objective occurrence which the congregation were humbly attending.
I leave aside the exceptional cases of direct and dramatic occurrences, such as those described in William James’s Varieties of Religious Experience. I don’t deny that they may be genuine, but they obey different rules.
So I must, somewhat artificially, simplify the process.
I want to start with the atheists about whom Pope Francis spoke. You will remember that he assured us that since everyone was redeemed by Christ, everyone could do good. He didn’t specifically mention Professor Dawkins but, since he is also redeemed, he is included too. Let’s anatomise this.
For such an atheist to do good he must in some real sense be living out the redemption – that is, grace must be playing a part. It doesn’t matter whether we use a technical label like actual grace or not, the action is through God’s gift. It must also involve love – either for self, or for neighbour, or for the good of some group of mankind. It must not wholly be to obtain advantage of some kind, such as reciprocation, nor simply the result of instinct. Of course these non moral factors may play some part at a natural level, but it does require an element of free choice to do good.
But to whom? We know the scriptural answer to that: if we do good to the least of his brothers we are doing that good to Christ. Despite his ignorance, the atheist has actually done good to Christ-in-his-neighbour. His recognition of Christ in disguise is an act of supernatural faith. Were he to commit his life to such an attitude, while remaining trapped in non-culpable ignorance, he is as ready for Heaven as anyone with the label Christian.
But of course we must take the matter further. We might imagine our atheist beginning to wonder about what he has done. What is this love he has expressed which he can’t explain away by the methods of science? What is this free will which he has employed? That too can’t be explained in material terms. What is the source of this objective sense of right and wrong which leads us to approve and disapprove? And perhaps that lurking question, which can only be partially stifled in the human mind, comes to the fore. What’s it all about, Alfie? Is there a purpose to it all?
He can search for answers in a myriad ways but we would like to feel that it is eventually in Christianity that he finds an answer which truly satisfies him. He has built on his primitive faith and encountered the fuller truth.
There are some points which may be derived from this skeletal description. The first is that faith does not start with the Church. It starts with the individual’s search, and the individual’s recognition and acceptance of God. We remember that in matters of conscience the voice of God speaks directly to us. And this fundamental faith is a response to that same voice. It is then that the recognition that God has founded a Church within which that faith can fully flourish may come.
Secondly, the born Catholic will imbibe the truth of the Church at his mother’s knee. But it is only with his developing understanding, that he takes personal responsibility for his faith. This may be a gradual process, but the Sacrament of Confirmation marks the formal point at which the faith which he has accepted through his parents becomes his own. By the same token, were he later to decide that he could not accept the Church as the answer to his fundamental search, he would be bound in conscience to leave it. The interior voice of God, in so far as he can best discern it, takes precedence over all.
What is this internal voice of God? I have never heard God speaking inside me. So I suppose it is when I stop and listen, humbly, to my own true self. In finding that – made as I am in the image of God – I find him. Goodness! he was there all the time. I just wasn’t looking.
Pope Benedict, as Cardinal Ratzinger, described this as anamnesis. It means recollection. So it is not a process of finding God outside ourselves, it is finding and recognising God within ourselves. Benedict writes:
“This anamnesis of the origin, which results from the godlike constitution of our being, is not a conceptually articulated knowing, a store of retrievable contents. It is so to speak an inner sense, a capacity to recall, so that the one whom it addresses, if he is not turned in on himself, hears its echo from within. He sees: “That’s it! That is what my nature points to and seeks.”
If you want a really good account of someone who gave up on God and then rediscovered their faith, there are a few examples. A book called The Rage Against God is one, another was a brief column in the Herald which mostly focused on how the person came to realise that the picture painted by atheists about what religion means is an extremely twisted one shaped mainly by emotion.
Many accounts I have read seems to include some element of overcoming an emotional fear of both believers and the existence of God.
I find that I am only gradually taking in what Pope Francis said about atheists being subjects of the Redemption, and therefore able to do good. While I have always believed this to be so, the explicit statement seems to me to indicate a real psychological change in the Church’s outlook.
We can see ourselves no longer as a somewhat exclusive group of ‘saved’ people, in contrast to the great unwashed who, through rejecting Christ’s message, spurn the offer which alone can bring them salvation. Even less can we be patronising about those who have committed themselves to forms of religion which we hold to be false or wanting in some way.
If love is the criterion, and love of neighbour equals love of God (as St John taught in his epistles) then we are all in the same boat. And that’s awkward because it means that an unloving Catholic is in a worse state that a loving atheist.
But there remain difficulties on which I need help. Scripture appears to be quite definite on the requirement to belong to Christ’s Church. There is no salvation without accepting him, we cannot enter into the kingdom of Heaven without baptism. Does Scripture in the last analysis not mean what it says?
And, if we argue that the Church is the fullness of truth providing multiple forms of additional help – through, for example, the sacraments, are we to suppose that those outside the Church (including the atheists) are denied such help, notwithstanding their good will?
I am very pleased to hear Pope Francis being so explicit, as there are so many millions now and tIhroughout history who have never had the chance to know Christ and His Church, or to know in a way to which they can relate, fully, and clearly presented. When Christ said “Other sheep I have which are not of this fold,” surely it was these people, the good among them, to whom He was referring, and He would have other ways, than the sacraments of giving them His grace.
Maybe I did not hear all of the Holy Fathers comment on atheists,but as I understand it, the good that they do must be in line with Christian beliefs. It is no good calling abortion for women-who feel they ‘must have one’ .or doctors prescribing abortifacants, or the morning after pill given or mercy killing-I think it opens a big can of worms.
I do think Pope Francis was not explicit enough.
We are here to convert ,and obviously not judge, but it is better not to underestimate the teachings of Holy Mother Church.
My comment on Bishops Boots July 17th 11.46 still stands. ‘on Love’
It would be most helpful if you were to indicate where in scripture you gain the impression that there is no salvation outside of the Church.
If an atheist destroys souls, they will have to answer for it like we all do! in Purgatory.
Have we misunderstood each other, Mike? Without going into Scripture analysis I would have thought the references are pretty obvious.
John 14.6 gives us “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
John 3 gives us “Jesus replied, ‘Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again. How can someone be born when they are old?’ Nicodemus asked. ‘Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born’. “Jesus answered, ‘Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. ‘”
Luke 19 (to the disciples he sends out) “He that hears you hears me; and he that despises you despises me; and he that despises me despises him that sent me.”
John 20 (to the apostles)“Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them: and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.”
Paul 1Cor The Church as body of Christ – one organism, many members.
There are plenty of others, such as “there shall be one flock and one shepherd” – quite sufficient for the Church to conclude “extra ecclesiam, nulla salus.”
I am with you, Vincent, on all you say.
The scripture quotes you mention can so easily encourage those of us who “have” the faith to feel exclusive. My faith, like Quentin’s, came with my mother’s milk, and so I may have “had it easy”, Perhaps a greater holding to account may be the result of this rather than how it may be for someone who has fought their way into the faith.
I believe that Our Lord died for the entire human race, and one of our most important prayers must be for the salvation of all souls. For what it’s worth, I was taught as a child that all people, at some point in their life, are offered a ghoice for or against God. They won’t necessarily see this in terms of God, but as a right or wrong choice in the way of life determined by their own beliefs and understanding. Philosophically, this may be seen as “salus in ecclesiam”.
However we look at it or discuss our understanding, it must certainly be true that the “non-faith” majority of the human race is not cast into the outer darkness.
All I know and that is- If I had not been a believer when I was a teenager I would most probably have slept with every male teenagers in London I had plenty of boyfriends-then packed them up in a week!!!!!!!!..
What prevented me, well it was not frightened of going to Hell, It was love of God and our Blessed Mother. Most of my friends seemed to be having a good time
It is not only Catholicism that makes us faithful but other faiths too who believe in God. I think)
John L., I was taught similarly, but I think the idea of being given just one opportunity in life to choose God, and respond to Him, is rather extreme, and needs some modification.
For “cradle Catholics” it presumably means a particular time of decision, as a mature adult, to accept the teachings we received and lived as we grew up. In some cases this will be a very particular moment, and for others much more gradual, even perhaps by default. I do think it often depends on the personality of an individual and how intellectually curious he or she may be, or if loyalty to one`s roots is a genetic characteristic, which comes close to being a cultural rather than a religious decision.
People outside the Church will also have their own life changing opportunities, instant or gradual, according to their personalities and circumstances, but I am sure the door is always open to those who have previously refused. God Who forgives sinners seventy times seven could not condemn one wrong choice for the whole of eternity could He?
Fair comment, Singalong, and I agree with you. I don’t regard the opportunity as “instantaneous”.
The Parable of the Prodigal son would be relevant too.
We have had some excellent comments so far, but it will help me to get a broader range. Do people concur with my description or do they see the process of faith/conversion differently.?
Have people had personal experiences of encountering faith? Or know of other’s experiences? I feel I need a little ‘colour’ by way of personal anecdotes. And it may well be that actual examples will help our understanding.
It is difficult to put into words for me as I suppose like all cradle Catholics it is ones whole life. What I am.. What makes me- me. Knowing nothing else. It a second skin-like clothed in it. It is where I fit in like a piece of jigsaw puzzle.
I will try to give it some deeper thought!
I do believe as most of us do that God sent His only Son to tell us about Himself.
So that the ways as written in the Old Testament about God were made clear in the Truth of what He is really like by His Love for us. We needed a Saviour. Hence the Christian Church. Can you imagine how we might still be looking through a dimly lit mirror.Not seeing too clearly, or like a stained glass window from the outside-needing a Light on the inside.to see the full picture.
Quentin, I am glad that Iona has been able to contribute something descriptive, as I find myself at a complete loss to offer anything you might find helpful in terms of your question. I remarked earlier that I was a cradle Catholic, and I suppose that when I left home and went to work in a different part of the country I made a conscious decision to continue the practice of my Faith. Perhaps it wasn’t conscious – it may have been the result of many years of habit. I was educated by the Dominicans at primary level, and then at a Grammar School run by the Irish Christian Brothers, I have always maintained that so many years daily religious instruction did not necessarily make me a better person, but it left me with no excuse for ignorance. Since then my Faith has been a long, slow development, and I retain the hope that it may be fruitful, but it is certainly not spectacular. I would “like” an experience like St Paul,on the way to Damacus, if only to wake me up from my complacency, but I imagine that is an experience for the very few As we are reminded, the net result for me is not a sparkling Faith that moves mountains, but I have to rely entirely on Our Lord for salvation.
For these and all my other sins… Sorry, I got a bit carried away there!.
I suspect that many Catholics are also in my boat.
I must agree with JohnL.
With a Protestant (Agnostic) father and a Catholic mother I was undoubtedly a “Cradle Catholic” and was educated by the Jesuits.
It never really occurred to me to do anything other than continue to practice the faith and to believe the tenets of the Creed.
I was sure, however, that I would never consider marrying a non-Catholic and I was fortunate enough to marry a lovely simple Catholic girl. We have two children both of whom remain practising Catholics.
I have only begun to think (worry?) about the Faith since I started following this blog for the last 5 years – and in particular this last post.
I hope that I am simply one of the ‘ordinary’ sheep in the flock.
Horace, I would be sorry if the last post worried you. I tried to make it clear that I was attempting to do a skeletal analysis of the process of faith — seeing it as a recognition of the truth. The ‘real life’ process may be a very different experience — particularly for people like you and me who were cradle Catholics. We confirm the faith we have received, sometimes by a conscious conclusion, but often by confirming it by the life which we lead. In my case, as a young man I continued to practise, but I was aware that my faith was on a ‘back-burner’. But, like you, a good marriage was a big factor in bringing me closer to the fullness of faith.
Good point, Horace. I, too, have a good Catholic wife, whose support is invaluable. I guess this is one of the many things I take for granted in Faith and should perhaps think more about it.
“Do people concur with my description or do they see the process of faith/conversion differently.?”
Sorry to say Quentin but your ‘description’ isn’t really a description as far as I can see so its impossible to agree or disagree with. One of the interesting things about ‘cradle’ catholics seems to be their almost total inability to see the world from a genuinely atheistic perspective. None I know think as you suggest.
My own experience of conversion is dramatic in nature but I don’t really think that the colouring tells us much. The journey to life might begin with some form of blind questing after but it by no means has to. People get converted by all sorts of means in all sorts of places…this is because of course the initial overture is divine in origin. Really we should tackle the subject simply and directly in order to get anywhere.
Vincent – scripture is a bit ambiguous as regards conditions for salvation. I am thinking of Jesus’s parable about the two sons, one of whom said to his father “Yes, Father. I will go and work in your vineyard” – but didn’t; while the other refused his father’s request verbally, but did in fact go and work in the vineyard.
I was brought up in an agnostic household, but was attracted to the “trappings” of Catholicism from quite an early age. For example, I remember seeing a Corpus Christi procession (it is with hindsight that I judge this was a Corpus Christi procession, – had no idea what it was called, or what it was about, at the time) and being very impressed by it, possibly in a quite superficial way, – there were girls about my own age, dressed in white and sprinkling handfuls of petals around, and I would have liked to be one of them. There was a Catholic church not far from where I lived, and in those days most churches, RC or C of E, were open most of the day, and I often went in out of curiosity. The RC church seemed to have a Presence in it, – which might just have been down to the lighted candles. In my teens and into my early 20s I was definitely searching, – read a lot about different faiths, discussed religion with friends who were church-goers, but couldn’t reach any conclusion. I had a Catholic boyfriend for a time, and went to Mass with him a few times, but in discussion with him I always played Devil’s Advocate. Had a few exploratory discussions with the RC Chaplain at the Uni I was studying at. The only two Christian Churches that I felt I might take seriously were the RC Church and (at the opposite end of the spectrum) the Quakers. At a later date (by which time I was married and had two children) I was attending yoga classes and we were encouraged to try meditation. A few weeks into daily meditation practice, I was struck by the thought that I should investigate the RC Church seriously – though I hadn’t thought of it seriously for years – and although I tried to dismiss the thought, it kept coming back until eventually I felt obliged to contact the local RC priest and said I thought I might like to become a Catholic. It still took quite a while before I felt able to take the plunge. And indeed, I still feel the pull of the agnostic/cynical viewpoint (have a lot of fellow-feeling with Quentin’s Advocatus Diaboli!)
Oh, and another little twist, – when I had finally made the decision, and started telling family members, it turned out that I had been baptised in early childhood, without my parents’ knowledge let alone consent, by an elderly relative who had trained as a RC priest but never actually became one. This was in the presence of my Anglo-Catholic aunt, who felt very strongly that he shouldn’t have done it, and never of course mentioned to my parents that he had.
Iona, thank you for this splendid account.
Among the several things you say, two stood out in my mind. First, your attraction to ceremony. You are by no means alone in this; it was certainly a factor in my wife’s curiosity about Catholicism. It teaches us that, although external show of religion is out of fashion nowadays, it can have a real value. And I can remember the big ceremonies, for example High Mass on a big feast day, leaving me very satisfied and impressed.
The second was that meditation, even though it was secular or perhaps related to Eastern religious values, was a turning point. Did you feel that the effects of steering you back into your real self was what motivated you to move from, say curiosity, to coming seriously to terms with your need to find a deeper way of life?
Not sure that I can answer that with any certainty.
Whether focusing on a mantra in meditation, or on a simple visual design, or a flower, or a candle flame, I think the ultimate aim was to empty the mind completely. Possibly, when I did that (even if very partially and inadequately) there was then enough space for the still small voice to make itself heard. Insistently and persistently. (Does that answer your question?)
Some Catholics frown on yoga practices, but my experience definitely leads me to say “don’t knock it”!
As I understand it (and I am no expert, though others on the blog may be) Christian meditation involves emptying of oneself so that God may come in. So it fits closely with your experience. We are told not to look for specific results, but to leave that to God.
I greatly admire Eastern meditation; it is a gift from Buddha (and others no doubt) to all of us.
I think that Baptism with its effect of Grace and the working of the Holy Spirit on ones soul would be more the reason why a person is motivated to move towards the religious Life than Eastern Meditation The Holy Spirit was doing the guiding from one to the other!.
Corpus Christi Feast Day in June was very popular before Vatican 2 as all the devotions which have somehow dwindled over the years..
If anything it brought my late husband closer to the Blessed Sacrament,as he always held one corner of the Canopy when it took place through a Village in the Cotswolds Nympsfield- where Blessed Dominic Barberi who introduced it to the UK and had spent some time and celebrated the first Mass at a nearby Priory.My husband felt highly honoured to do that every year, as the Real Presence was a stepping stone to his conversion,it took 40 years 3 years before he died.. Even my grandsons would scatter the flowers in front of the Blessed Sacrament. The local Anglican Minister carried it once and all his parishioners came. What a wonderful Ecum.emical occasion.
It was a wonderful occasion to have the Processions and also the May Procession of Crowning Our Blessed Mother.
These are things that still happen but rare. It is my opinion that we are expected to be more ‘mature Catholics ‘ and do away with childish things and be more involved in the Liturgy. But why can’t we have BOTH
The public Processions are meant to be an ‘witness’ of our Faith and love of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.
We have discussed meditation many times on SS and as I don’t really understand it to disagree with it,as I expect most people who don’t find it beneficial feel the same.
Maybe you or Quentin would help me to understand and explain why you would want to empty your mind and of what?Then fill it again with what?
I can rest my mind when I go to sleep or lying in the Sun or resting in Church,listing to soft music,feeling the power of the Real Presence. Is that what you both mean?Would one call that meditation?
Also how does certain positions in Yoga help one mind?I would find that a strain on my muscles.
That does not mean I am knocking it.
Does it help, St. Joseph, if I put it this way? Think of yourself really listening to someone who has something they need to say. In order to listen fully, you would need to empty your mind of all distractions, and all tendencies to interrupt, so that you can really take in what they are trying to communicate.
Christian meditation, the experts tell me, is emptying the mind of all its buzz and clutter so that we can truly be open to listen to God. Of course there are lots of different ways of praying, but perhaps just listening to God is an important one.
If you have a moment, read a short description of meditation by John Main OSB who, going by what his friends tell me, was a truly remarkable man.
I should add, St. Joseph, that meditation may not be everyone’s cup of tea. I think that God approaches us in all sorts of ways — perhaps according to our different temperaments. I only write about meditation so that people may try it. But in the end we all need to pray in the ways which we find bring us closer to God.
Goodness, if I’d known non-Catholics could join in, I might have asked!
But probably I wouldn’t have, as I was aware from an early age that my parents “didn’t do God”.
St. Joseph – when I was going to yoga classes I was given to understand that the basic reason for practicing the different postures was to keep the body healthy so that it did not distract you (e.g. with aches and pains) when you were meditating.
Sitting in the Lotus Pose (cross-legged, with each foot resting on the opposite thigh and the soles of the feet turned upwards) would only be recommended for meditation if it was comfortable enough to be undistracting. Presumably, if you start young enough when your joints are very mobile, you can be comfortable in the Lotus Pose. I never could, nor did I attempt it for meditation.
I don’t think resting the mind (e.g. by sleeping or listening to soft music) is at all the same as emptying it in meditation. But “feeling the power of the Real Presence”: – that might well be experienced in meditation, if it’s something that comes to you rather than something you are actively promoting. – I’ll try and explain a bit better, but need to think about it first.
I will never understand how emptying ones mind to nothing -we find God, when we have already found Him,as Christians, are we not emptying Him out too. If I sit and think of nothing at home I fall asleep,knowing that God is with me at all times in the Spirit..even when I am awake.Why would I or anyone .want to empty Him out.
That is what I don’t understand.
St. Joseph. if you re-read what I said you will see that I am not talking about emptying one’s mind of God, but of emptying it of all the distractions which prevent us from listening to God. However, it may well be that you have found more satisfactory ways of prayer for you. Meditation is not obligatory!
St. Teresa (the Avila one) said we can find God among the pots and pans in the kitchen.
Thank you Iona, I know exactly what you mean.
IQuentin Thank you.
I do now understand what your meaning of meditation is.
Reading your answer to Horace and reading John L’ s post, I know we have different experiences in our Catholic Faith and how we live it.
I have not had the same experience as someone marrying a good Catholic, although a good man.
I have had to fight and defend the teachings of Holy Mother Church for myself and my children,until my late husband was able to understand what it is all about and by me not putting pressure on him. He knew his responsibilities marrying a Catholic, but obviously would try to put his own definition and convince me otherwise. So as far as sitting and meditating and closing my mind to things around me I needed to be alert at all times!. Also practice my faith through active works and not be lost to my duties as a mother-not saying that those who do meditate do that.
I find the Eucharist and Devotions my acts of contemplation also doing work in pro life issues and NFP..
Just a little note regarding the comments on an earlier post of Mary and Martha.
Perhaps Mary had chosen the better life,but Martha’s mistake was complaining about hers,I think that is why Jesus passed the remark
I think we do everything with love. Or should.Whether it be scrubbing the floor or giving out Holy Communion.
There are many ways to please the Lord or to bring Him to the people.
Martha was serving Jesus, Mary was listening to Jesus.
That does not mean that Martha never listened,the problem was she was complaining.
Someone has to do the serving!.That should be done with a good heart,especially when it is HE.The example is His Mother. That is why commented to MH when he said She would have grumbled too.I don’t think She would.
Jesus said ‘Who is my Mother.She is the example to follow.
When you- also Horace- and John L speak about your lives -they are fortunate to have wives that they say they had. Thank God for it I am sure they do. Some males are not that fortunate,.
As another cradle Catholic, I sometimes find that the enormity and the full impact of some of our beliefs is dulled and lessened by its very familiarity. I have heard about the Incarnation and our Redemption so often and for so long that it is easy, in a way, to take it for granted, and not to realise how amazing it is that our God and Creator is doing this for us, or how it came about that a small group of people without any worldly power or influence were able to launch His Church into the worldwide force it became.
One gift which I hope I do not take too much for granted is the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, although I do not think it is possible to understand it fully. As well as receiving Our Lord in Holy Communion, I find an hour of Adoration when the Host is in the monstrance on the altar very profound and helpful, and would recommend it to anyone who is hesitant to commit their time.
I find the atmosphere in churches, however beautiful or magnificent, without the Blessed Sacrament, very different, prayerful maybe, but something is missing. And then, sometimes I wonder, is part of that my imagination, if I did not know, or if I were blind, would I notice a difference? In High Anglican churches with their sacrament reserved and a red lamp burning, there must be some special presence of God, and communication with Him.
If people only knew what you know and we as Catholics should know we would be there at every opportunity we could get.
We would have the Churches open all day and make some provisions to be kept open!
I have to say this and I don’t mean to offend you. but—
Eastern meditation may be Buddha’s gift to us as you say,
But Jesus’ in the Real Presence is Gods Gift to us.
I seem to think that the Anglican Church believe in the Host as a Sacrament and not Transubstantiation .as we believe as RC.
Jesus is Present Body Blood Soul and Divinity in His Glorified Body as He was when He Resurrected from the dead and appeared to His Apostles. then Ascended into Heaven.He is as present there as He is ,whether He is in the Monstrance or Tabernacle.
I noticed in Walsingham in the Anglican Shrine there is Exposition of the Sacrament But we should not confuse that with what we believe.
I am sure you know, but for those who don’t..
Singalong – yes, an hour of adoration in front of the Blessed Sacrament is like nothing else. It takes me about 40 minutes before my mind simmers down enough to appreciate it. (I may talk about meditation, but can’t say I do it much). When I’m in London I try to get to the convent at Tyburn where there is Perpetual Adoration, always with one or sometimes two nuns kneeling in front of the Blessed Sacrament, and passers-by dropping in.
I expect you will have known this.But I didn’t until a read a leaflet which I still have.
Defence of the Seven Sacraments by Henry V111, King of England. Defender of the Faith.
It is rare, inasmuch as it has probably been printed but twice in 200 years.It is a royal book,by reason of its kingly author.It is Catholic because no Catholic could write a more orthodox treatise on the subjects explained by King Henry V111 .
He expounds such crucial dogmas as the primacy of the Bishop of Rome,indulgences,the mystery of the Real Presence and the Mass, the Sacraments of Confession, divorce etc. And all this he has unfolded in as Catholic a manner as St Thomas,or St Francis de Sales,or St.Alphonsus Liguori could have done. 486 years ago, King Henry clearly discerned between deceit and truth in his fierce refutation of Martin Luther’s novel doctrines on the Sacraments. Pope Leo X granted him the title ‘Defender of the Faith.This masterpiece is supplemented with
over one hundred quotations from the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Churc which Pope Benedict XV1 gave to the Universal Church in 2005.
It is still available
“…Have we misunderstood each other, Mike? Without going into Scripture analysis I would have thought the references are pretty obvious…..”
Things are always obvious to the person who already knows what he is looking for…..go quietly through those scriptures-think about them in terms of what they simply say and then explain why you think they support the claim of no salvation outside the church….try and forget your prior assumptions Vincent, I wasn’t asking you about your core beliefs. Point clearly to anything in those scriptures which says a person can only come to salvation within the church-I can’t see it.
We could, I suppose, do some careful Scripture analysis – had we but world enough and time. Or we could settle for the fact that the Church, which owns and so interprets Scripture, teaches that there is no salvation outside the Church as a result of its understanding of Scripture.
“We could, I suppose, do some careful Scripture analysis – had we but world enough and time. Or we could settle for the fact that the Church, which owns and so interprets Scripture, teaches that there is no salvation outside the Church as a result of its understanding of Scripture…”
I don’t think it does Vincent-if you mean the Roman Catholic church then it definitely no longer teaches that doctrine. This is not fact and your claiming it so does not make it so…sorry but this is important.
On the contrary, the doctrine is still alive and kicking – see Catechism q 846. Of course, as I was taught as a child, ‘invincible ignorance’ is allowed for. How high the bar of invincibility has been set has varied over time. 846 (described as a positive re-formulation) is just the latest. The ways which God uses for those in invincible ignorance are known only to God (848) thus, by implication, mysterious exceptions to a universal rule.
I guess the point is that the redemption won by Jesus Christ applies to everyone simply because it must. Any other interpretation detracts from the reality and the authority of the cross. The crucifixion and the resurrection, in similar manner to the fall, mark a seismic shift for the entire human race. This means that for anyone who wills there is now a way back home. The journey home is marked by signs, symbols hindrances and helps. The church is the first evidence of home and marks our solidarity as we, the people of God , return to our father who has come out lovingly to greet us and who first waved to us from atop the barren hill calling out to us so that we might know our welcome and so summon courage for the journey. Like Elijah lying exhausted in the desert God sends us angels, sacraments and fellow disciples as helps to strengthen us for the long road back. Knowing that, like sheep , we are prone to stray or get caught up in thickets God places in our world hints and signs which point towards him until we get a clearer view and can begin to walk unaided. In practical terms this means that individuals gradually make their way to God as best they can according to their condition and environment. Salvation outside the church is a process of awakening. A bit like getting married I guess where there is a whole lot of behind the scenes activity before the formal day of sacraments. One could argue that salvation only takes place inside the church simply because Jesus Christ IS in many ways the beginnings of the church. One would need to consider in a bit more depth what is meant by ‘the church’ I have walked with a couple of dozen people on this journey and have come to the following conclusions:
There isn’t much difference between Christians and non Christians in terms of their make up. I meet plenty of atheists who are a lot nicer people than me, often kinder, more thoughtful and moral. They tend to think along similar lines and are led to faith either by: personal suffering leading to enquiry, a deep personal sense of ‘something else’ being needed which leads them or changes in the external life which bring them into contact with Christians-eg going to university, getting a new job, meeting a christian boy or girl they fancy etc etc. Then typically the path to sacramental life unfolds slowly or fast with ups and downs, it is a path we are all still on, it is the road out of selfishness into community. As the process of conversion becomes more visible then the individual or family will encounter the’ formal’ church where hopefully they are instructed and hopefully cemented in more firmly to the body of Christ-able then to lead others and to show the way, to shine as beacons in their own lives. This is in fact what happens and is probably something to do with why 3 million people tipped up at the party in Rio. May I suggest that everyone reading this thread take the opportunity to engage with a non Christian friend-ask them their view on these things- tell them about the blog and that you need their opinion!!
Mike. I find your description very helpful. I notice that you use the word “awakening”. To me this implies a realisation or a recognition of truth — which is at the heart of faith. We may of course come to this by way of many different circumstances. Ratzinger uses the concept of ‘recall’ because we realise the truth as conforming to our deepest selves.
You have thought that out very well.
I would not have liked to have believed that my late husband would not have been able to go to Heaven if he had not become a Catholic.
He became a Catholic because he knew God better.
“It follows that the separated Churches and communities, as such, though we believe they suffer from the defects already mentioned, have been by no means deprived of significance and importance in the mystery of salvation. For the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as means of salvation which derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Catholic Church.” Decreee on Ecumenism VaticanII, Unitatis Reddintegratio 21.11.1964
The catechism is great but it is not the whole picture as I am sure you are aware
Not much to be gained by pursuing this point further — may I say that I subscribe wholeheartedly to the quote from ‘Unitatis’. But there were many who deplored what they saw as unfaithfulness to Tradition.
Are you speaking about the Catholic Church, when one is outside Her?
My husband was a Methodist-although not practising since he was 13,do you believe that he would be destined for Hell.. Surely his good works would earn him his salvation..
All good comes from the Church,perhaps that is what the meaning is,’ outside’ the Church because that would be called evil. works..
It would probably be more difficult for Catholics ,as we know and can not claim to be ignorant. As Quentin mentioned in his post or words to that effect
Maybe the reason for Vatican 2 to be relaxed or appear to be for some liberals..
I think there would be quite a lot of ‘point’ in it myself but that’s up to you Vincent. If you read carefully the catechism from 838 to 848 you might gain the overall sense a little better. and the difficulty of the subject. You still haven’t by the way clarified what you mean by ‘church’ but I guess you mean the visible Roman Catholic Church. In my view to over emphasise the particularity with regard to salvation is to edge ever closer to presumption and the careful caveats of the catechism simply underline this dilemma.
A Post by Fr. Dwight Longenecker on his Blog is interesting and relevant. He reviews a book on the subject of how many will be saved: What Vatican 2 Actually Teaches and its Implications for the New Evangelisation, by Ralph Martin
Certainly worth reading, Singalong. As it happens, I am planning a post on Thursday which relates to this, but with a somewhat different approach. We should all have fun!