The Catholic Quest Part 2: The Gift of Faith in relation to the Church and Angels

Angel of GodThe Quest continues! Today marks the second post in a series of an exploration of Catholic doctrine and theology. You may wish to refer to my last post to get a gist of what these posts are about. Just to remind you, I am going through the Youth Cathechism for the Catholic Church called YOUCAT. And, as always, the disclaimer is that this is a discussion and exploration, not a Catholic bashing post! Now that’s out the way, onto the subjects in question – the gift of faith in relation to the Church and Angels.

The gift of faith in relation to the Church

The Catechism makes it quite clear that faith is a gift that comes from God alone (See this part of the Catechism in more detail). Yet, in pretty much the same breath, the Catechism then says that a Christian receives faith from the Church:

What does my faith have to do with the Church?

No one can believe alone and by himself, just as no one can live alone and by himself. We receive the faith from the Church and live it out in the fellowship with the people with whom we share our faith.

Faith is the most personal thing a person has, yet it is not a private matter. Anyone who wants to believe must be able to say both “I” and “we”, because a faith you cannot share and communicate with would be irrational. The individual believer gives his free assent to the “we believe” of the Church. From her he received the faith. She was the one who handed it down through the centuries and then to him, preserved it from falsifications, and caused it to shine forth again and again. Believing is therefore participation in a common conviction. The faith of others supports me, just as the fervor of my faith enkindles and strengthens others. The Church emphasises the “I” and the “we” of faith by using two professions of faith in her liturgies: the Apostles’ Creed, the creed that begins with “I believe” (Credo), and the Great Creed of Nicaea-Constantinople, which in its original form starts with the words, “We believe” (Credimus)

It is probably because of my upbringing in Calvinistic Methodism that I do not understand this statement completely. I believe and agree with everything in the question and the answer; faith is both personal and corporal. Yet to what extent do we receive our faith from the Church?

If someone announces that a friend has a gift for me, and I heed the message, go to my friend and receive the gift from him/her, who do I receive the gift from? The friend who is giving the gift, of course. Yet what the Catechism seems to be saying (at least in my current opinion) is that when a body of people called the Church tells me about a gift (called salvation), and that I am to go to someone named Jesus to receive it, it is actually the Church who passes the gift to me, even if it comes from a different recipient.

In effect, it’s like picking up your parcel from the sorting office. The Church has kept it for safe keeping to pass to you (to protect from falsification and heresy).

I kinda get this, and understand a bit more now that I’ve written it down… but all I’ve ever known is the fact that it is Jesus alone who gives us the gift of faith, and it is the Holy Spirit himself who maintains that faith and preserves it from falsification and heresy. (1 Corinthians 12:3). The Church, despite it being an institution ordained by God and given authority by Jesus Christ, is still imperfect. It still has to fall back on the authority of Jesus Christ and where faith is concerned, it can only come through Jesus.

I don’t think that this teaching is a heresy, as I understand what the catechism is saying, but I think it needs fleshing out, and needs further explanation. The text as it is seems contradictory.

So my conclusion on this part:

  • It is Jesus alone who gives faith, and it is the Holy Spirit who facilitates this.
  • A Christian does not receive the faith from the Church, per se. However, the Christian receives faith from Jesus that has been guarded by the church (with the divine help of the Holy Spirit) and passed on in accordance with Jesus command and call to discipleship in Matthew 28:19.

My question is this:

Does the Catholic Church agree with my conclusions or does it see itself as more important than that? By this, I mean “Does the Church feel that it has been given sufficient power from God to give the gift of faith as some kind of “reseller” of it? Do they receive the faith from God and claim it as theirs to pass on?”

I hope I’ve made those questions clear. If not, please tell me and I will try to explain in a clearer way!

Angels

The second area of study and exploration for this part of the quest is Angels. Here’s the statement in the catechism up for discussion:

Can we interact with angels?

Yes. We can call on angels for help and ask them to intercede with God.

Every person receives from God a guardian angel. It is good and sensible to pray to one’s guardian angel for oneself and for others. Angels can also make themselves noticeable in the life of a Christian, for example, as bearers of a message or as helpful guides. Our faith has nothing to do with the false angels of New Age spirituality and other forms of esotericism.

OK, so I believe that there are angels, and I believe that we all have a guardian angels as it mentions in Psalm 91:11-12:

For He shall give His angels charge over you,
To keep you in all your ways.
In their hands they shall bear you up,
Lest you dash your foot against a stone.

But I don’t believe that they are able to intercede with God for us and our friends, and therefore we should not ask them to. The primary functions of angels are to bring messages (as the Catechism rightly says) and to point people toward God and set examples by worshipping him. I cannot think off the top of my head any other functions of an angel, and I can’t think of any instances in the Bible where angels are recorded interceding for people (yet there is one reference in the Apocrypha for this. Is it cynical to think that the reason Catholics are encouraged to pray to angels because of this one verse in the Apocrypha?).

As far as I understand it, there is one intercessor between God and man, and that is Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5).

My conclusion to this part:

  • I go along with everything that the catechism states about angels apart from the exhortation to pray to angels so that they may intercede for us to God.
  • God gives angels the work that he would have them do, and their tasks are quite clearly stated or exemplified in the Bible – explicit intercession for the people they watch over is not one of them as far as I can see.

And the question for this part is:

Do you have anything you wish to comment on, add or correct me on, especially if you’re Catholic?

~~~

Really looking forward to your replies! Please make every effort to share this post and get people involved. Also, please note that you can now comment via Facebook below this post and it will share the post with friends for their input too!

Stay tuned for more Catholic Quest soon!

 

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Dean Roberts

Dean is a Minister in the Anglican Church. Currently he is Curate in the parishes of Bedwas, Machen, Michaelston-y-Fedw and Rudry in South Wales. He was born and bred in Wales, is married to Megan, and has two dogs called Taliesin and Melyn, and two cats named Sinsir and Hâf. He graduated from Cardiff University with a BA Hons. in Theology & Religious Studies, and has studied for an MA in Theology, Ministry & Mission at Trinity College Bristol. He also holds a Cert.RSCM from the Royal School of Church Music. He loves playing music, walking, reading, blogging and horse riding as well as going to the cinema and theatre. Read More @ http://deanroberts.net/about