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A Pastoral Exhortation CBCP - INTEGRAL FAITH FORMATION: TOWARDS MATURITY IN CHRIST

Posted by biblicalapostolate on January 28, 2013 at 2:45 AM

INTEGRAL FAITH FORMATION: TOWARDS MATURITY IN CHRIST

(A Pastoral Exhortation of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference ofthe Philippines)

 

Beloved People of God:

Introduction

The Year of Faithwhich our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI opened in Rome on October 11, 2012will end this year on the Feast of Christ the King, November 24, 2013. The HolyFather said that the Year of Faith would be “a good opportunity to usher thewhole Church into a time of particular reflection and rediscovery of thefaith.”(1) It is “a summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord,the one Savior of the world.”(2)

For us in the Philippines,the Year of Faith is foundational for a nine-year “Era of New Evangelization.”In our Pastoral Exhortation to open the Year of Faith, “Live Christ, ShareChrist,” we, your Pastors, said that the nine-year period of intenseevangelization in our country will culminate in 2021 with the 500th anniversaryof the Christian faith in the Philippines.


Therefore, this year2013 we begin the Era of New Evangelization with the first of the nine-majorpastoral priorities of the Church in the Philippines – Integral FaithFormation.(3)

A. Commencing the Era of New Evangelization

1. The PCP-II Visionand Mission ofa Renewed Church

In 1991 the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines(PCP-II) envisioned a renewed Church, a participatory community of authenticdisciples of Christ, a Church of the Poor, a Church-in-mission. In 2001 at theNational Pastoral Consultation on Church Renewal (NPCCR) we declared that toachieve the vision we would “embark on a renewed integral evangelization,” a mission that PCP-II haddescribed in terms of the New Evangelization of Pope John Paul, “new in itsardor, methods and expressions.”(4) It is to fulfill this mission of renewedintegral evangelization or New Evangelization that we drew up the nine majorpastoral priorities of the Church in the Philippines.

Given a fresh andpowerful impulse by the Year of Faith, we focus this year on the first of thepastoral priorities – Integral Faith Formation.

2. The Meaning andNecessity of Faith.

What is faith? “Faith is first of all a personal adherence ofman to God. At the same time, and inseparably, it is a free assent to the whole truth that God hasrevealed.”(5) As personal adherence to God, faith is one’s totalsurrender to the love and wisdom of God. It is the entrustment of oneself toGod in total dependence on him. It is the free offering of one’s mind and heartto God. “Faith is our adherence to theTriune God, revealed through Jesus Christ our Lord. It is our friendship withChrist and through Christ with the Father, in their Holy Spirit.”(6)By faith we freely commit ourselves entirely to God.(7) This is what we reallymean when we say, “I believe in God.”

On the other hand, asa free assent, faith is the virtue of saying “yes” to the truth that Godteaches in the Sacred Scriptures and in the living tradition of the Church.This is what we express when pray the Act of Faith:

“O my God, I firmlybelieve that you are one God in three divine persons, Father, Son and HolySpirit. I believe that your divine Son became man, and died for our sins andthat he will come again to judge the living and the dead. I believe these andall the truths which the Holy Catholic Church teaches because you have revealedthem, who can neither deceive nor be deceived. Amen.”

The Act of Faithexpresses a religious and intellectual assent to all the truths that God hasrevealed.

Faith then involves the total person, his heart and mind. It“touches every part of us: our minds (believing),ourwills (doing), and our hearts (trusting).” (8)

Without such faith, wecannot be saved. Once again the CCC teaches us: “Believing in Jesus Christ andin the One who sent him for our salvation is necessary for salvation.”(9)Without faith it is impossible to please God. Without faith no one will everattain eternal life.(10)

3. Positive andNegative Qualities of our Faith Today

But not every one whosays “I believe” will be saved. The question then is: Is it real faith? Hencewe need to look into the kind of faith that we have. Is our faith one thatpossesses the mind and heart? A faith that flows into daily life such that ourprivate and public life demonstrates our being true disciples of the Lord?

In truth our Filipinofaith is deep and simple. We are not embarrassed to perform religious rites,like making the sign of the cross, or to display religious articles invehicles. Many even dare to follow religious practices in places where thefaith is banned. And yet our faith is largely uninformed, prone to ritualismand pietism, tending towards the externals of prayer and sacraments withoutunderstanding their meaning. And most of all our faith is separated from life;we do not practice our faith, putting it aside when it comes to crucialdecisions regarding, for instance, money or power or popularity. This is why inour predominantly Christian country poverty, social injustice and lack ofintegrity are glaring while dishonesty and corruption continue with impunity.

4. The Impact ofSecularism on Filipino Faith

Yet another powerfulsocial force, a secularist and materialist spirit, is impacting our faith.Beginning in Europe with the Age of Reason and Enlightenment in the 17th and18th centuries, the secularist and materialist spirit has gradually butdecisively taken over the developed world, resulting in the ignoring of God,the loss of faith, the weakening of divine authority and the authority of theChurch. Secularism and materialism have created their own values, contradictingand rejecting the universal values of the Gospel as taught by the livingtradition of the Church.

The tools of socialcommunication disseminate the secular ideology of developed countries. This hasresulted in a type of faith that adheres selectively to some doctrines of theChurch but rejects others as incompatible with changing modern times, withdemocracy and religious pluralism. We see examples of the inroads of secularismand materialism in the setting aside of moral values and rejection of religiousauthority in the debates that led to the unfortunate passage of theReproductive Health Bill. We also see the influence of the secular spirit inlegal attempts to redefine the limits of human freedom, the beginning of humanlife, and the nature of marriage and family.

In these difficult times we hear and heed the words of the Lordthat we are in thisworld but we are not ofthisworld.(11) Our faith impels us to cherish and defend beliefs and values thatare countersigns to those of this world.

5. The Need forIntegral Faith formation

The weaknesses of ourfaith and the challenges facing it summon us to renewed integralevangelization, to new evangelization with new fervor, new methods and newexpressions. This is the rationale for integral faith formation. It is aprocess that seeks and leads to maturity in faith, a faith that is informed andlived, a faith committed to the mission of announcing the Gospel of Jesus,including participation in the work of justice and social transformation.

B. Lord, increase our faith!

1. Knowing andDeepening our Faith – Conversion

The process towards amature faith begins with realizing that one’s faith is weak, is not alwaysconcerned with essentials but with externals of religious practice andobligation, does not lead to total personal commitment to the Lord, and is notalways ready to say “yes” to God’s will – in brief, that faith is not lived. Weneed conversion and renewal. The Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelizationconfesses:

We firmly believe thatwe must convert ourselves first to the power of Christ who alone can make allthings new…. With humility we must recognize that the poverty and weaknesses ofJesus’ disciples, especially of his ministers, weigh on the credibility of themission…. We know that we must humbly recognize our vulnerability to the woundsof history and we do not hesitate to recognize our personal sins.(12)

The realization ofweakness and sinfulness leads the believer to a great desire to know the faith,to be informed about it and to deepen it. The cry of the disciples for helpthat they may more closely follow Christ and be patterned to his way ofthinking, acting and behaving, relating and valuing is also our plea: “Lordincrease our faith!”(13)

At the basic level weneed to know what we believe in. If you are asked what you believe in as aCatholic, simply recite the Apostles Creed, a true summary of the fundamentalarticles of Catholic belief. The Apostles Creed is further elaborated in theNicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, or simply the Nicene Creed – a result of thefirst two universal councils of the Church in the years 325 and 381.(14)

Today we have acomprehensive systematic and organic synthesis of the content of our faith inthe Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1991. This universal Catechism iscontextualized into our Filipino situation by the Catechism for FilipinoCatholics, 1997. Moreover, the social doctrine of the Church which elaborateson the commandments of God in the CCC is now systematically organized in theCompendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church (CSDC), 2004.

With the SacredScriptures in one hand and the Catechism of the Catholic Church in the otherhand, supplemented by the CSDC and CFC, a Filipino Catholic has the fundamentaltools of knowing and deepening the faith. Admittedly one is not expected tostudy all these books. Guidance by catechists and religious teachers would benecessary.

2. Personally KnowingChrist

But it is not enoughto have an intellectual knowledge of the faith. What is absolutely imperativeis a personal, loving knowledge of the Lord Jesus. He is the center of ourfaith. A personal knowledge of Jesus is the adherence of the heart, a personalentrustment to Jesus, friendship with Jesus. An uncompromising religious assentto the teachings of God as authoritatively interpreted by the living teachingauthority of the Church can only flow from a passion for Jesus, Teacher andShepherd.

3. Celebrating ourFaith – the Liturgy

Faith is God’s precious gift to us. We have to celebrate thisdivine grace by thanking, praising, and adoring the Lord. Nowhere can this bemost properly done than in the Liturgy, the prayer of the Church. For it is inthe Liturgy, especially in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, the memorialof the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ, that thanksgiving, praise,worship and the offering of one’s self to God is done in the very action ofChrist the High Priest. It is Christ who offers his own sacrifice in theEucharist through the hands of the Priest. It is Christ who is present andactive in the other sacraments of the Church. Hence we celebrate our faithprincipally through the Liturgy. The catechism teaches us: “When the Churchcelebrates the sacraments, she confesses the faith received from the apostles –whence the ancient saying: lex orandi,lex credendi…. The law of prayer is the law of faith: The Churchbelieves as she prays.”(15) We celebrate our faith as well when we read theScriptures and when we pray. In all these, the Spirit of Christ helps us andChrist himself is present.

C. Living our Faith – Charity as Faith in Action

When we know our faithand understand its meaning especially for our salvation, it becomes imperativefor us to live it through a truly moral life, a life of fidelity to God’scommands. It is most tragic that a grace so priceless such as faith would notbe lived from day to day. Faith has to be a norm and guide of life, its energy,inspiration and light.

To live a truly morallife is to be faithful to the 10 commandments of God. The first threecommandments express our love of God and the last seven express our love ofneighbor. This is why the Lord summarized the 10 commandments into just two:“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul,with all your mind and with all your strength…. You shall love your neighbor asyourself.”(16)

A genuine moral life is, therefore, a life of genuine charity.Charity is faith in action. When we received faith from the Lord at our Baptismand became members of the family of faith, we promised to believe in God and toreject all forms of evil. This promise was a promise to live a truly morallife, to be Christians not only in name but also in deed. Pope Benedict XVIurges us to pray that our “witness of lifemay grow in credibility. To rediscover the content of the faith that isprofessed, celebrated, lived and prayed, and to reflect on the act of faith –is a task that every believer must make his own.” (17)

D. Spirituality – Discipleship of Believers

To strive to live atruly moral life is to journey on the way of discipleship. A life of faith andcharity is a life of discipleship, a life of being united in mind and heartwith Jesus, the Teacher and Lord. This is spirituality in its depth. (18)

By its very namespirituality refers to life in the Spirit. It refers to the pattern of Jesus’own life of being Spirit-led and Spirit-driven as we see in the first chaptersof St. Luke.(19) Hence to be holy or to be spiritual is to live in theSpirit,(20) to abide in the Spirit, to walk in the Spirit, to be filled withthe Spirit (21) as St. Paul is wont to say. Only when we are imbued with theSpirit and follow the Lord Jesus in discipleship can we live an authentic morallife, a life of faith and charity.

The result is alifestyle directed by the values and attitudes of the Gospel, the values of theBeatitudes, a lifestyle that consists of a mind-set and behavior that arefocused on charity and justice, inspired by faith.

The spirituality of aliving faith is maintained and nourished by prayer, personal or liturgical,individual or communal, devotional and popular or official. Prayer links faithand action. Even as prayer flows from faith, prayer also sustains a livedfaith.

E. Sharing our Faith – The Witness of Life

Faith is not a gift thatwe keep selfishly to ourselves. It is a gift to be proclaimed, communicated,and shared. This is why Jesus bequeathed to the Apostles, the fathers of faith,a final mandate:

“Go, therefore, andmake disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and ofthe Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that Ihave commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of theage.”(22)

While every believerhas the duty to proclaim the faith, most everyone is not called to do so in theway of catechists, religious educators, religious men and women, and theclergy. But everyone is called to share the faith by the witness of a goodChristian life.

A few are called byGod to witness to Jesus by the offering of their very life as martyrs of thefaith. This is why we are incalculably blessed with the canonization of oursecond martyr, San Pedro Calungsod, last October 21, 2012. Being a young laycatechist, he proclaimed the Lord Jesus by teaching others to know and acceptthe faith. By becoming a martyr like San Lorenzo Ruiz he gave the ultimatewitness of his life.

It is first of all bythe silent witness of a truly moral Christian life, a life of faith and charitythat we share our faith with others. This requires a life of fidelity to God’swill in the midst of daily challenges and daily work at home and at work. Itrequires fidelity to our God given responsibilities in the family, in theneighborhood, in the Church and in the wider society.

Our Holy Father PopeBenedict XVI confirms this truth of Christian witness:

The renewal of theChurch is also achieved through the witness offered by the lives of believersby their very existence in the world. Christians are called to radiate the wordof truth that the Lord Jesus has left us.(23)

Applying the sametruth of witness to the whole Church, the recent Synod on the NewEvangelization stated:

It is thereforeprimarily by her conduct and by her life that the Church will evangelize theworld, in other words, by her living witness of fidelity to the Lord Jesus, byher witness of poverty and detachment, and by her witness of freedom in theface of the powers of this world, in short, the witness of sanctity.(24)

We reiterate thistruth which is also a challenge for all of us — it is by the witness of a trulymoral life, the witness of a life of faith and charity, that we can eloquentlyand credibly proclaim and share our faith in the Lord Jesus.

F. Call

1. In the light ofthis year’s focus on integral faith formation, we call upon dioceses, theircatechists, religious educators, lay leaders, men and women Religious, andclergy to design and implement a long term program of faith formation forfamilies, youth and children, using and adapting the CCC, CFC, and CSDC forthis purpose.

2. We call uponschools, catechetical institutes, Basic Ecclesial Communities and other faithcommunities, religious organizations and movements to do the same.

3. We assign the CBCPCommissions with faith formation components to take the lead in this importantproject and provide assistance to the dioceses when necessary.

Conclusion – ThePrayers and Inspiration of Mary, Mother of Faith

As we end thispastoral exhortation, the Blessed Virgin Mary, Woman of Faith and Mother ofFaith, is our guide and inspiration. She listened to the word of God, reflectedon it, strove to understand the mystery that the word announced, and from thedepths of her faith she said “yes” to God’s will. Her “Let it be done to meaccording to your word” became the daily norm of her life of faith and charity.May our Mother assist us to increase our faith.

We conclude with somewords from the hymn “Live Christ, Share Christ,” the official hymn for the500th anniversary of our Christian faith in our shores:

The gospel is our blessing but also our mission.

To the poor and the children we bring his salvation

To the rest of the world his message of compassion

To all of humanity his challenge of conversion!

We are blessed, we are loved

We are called, we are sent,

We will teach, we will serve

We are Christ’s, we are Church!

 

For and on behalf ofthe Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:

 

+JOSE S. PALMA, D.D.

Archbishop of Cebu and

President, CBCP

27 January 2013

 

______________________________

 

End Notes

1. Porta Fidei, no. 4.

2. Ibid., no. 6.

3. In order to achieve the vision of Church that the SecondPlenary Council (PCP-II) envisioned in 1991, the Council called for “renewedintegral evangelization.” For this purpose the National Pastoral Consultationon Church Renewal (NPCCR), 2001, identified nine pastoral priorities, namely:integral faith formation, renewal of the laity, active participation of thepoor, the family as the focal point of evangelization, the parish as acommunion of communities, renewal of clergy and religious, active participationof the youth, ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue, and mission ad gentes.

4. See Vision-MissionStatement of the Church in the Philippines,1992; Pope John Paul II, Discourse to XIX Assembly of CELAM, Port au Prince,1983.

5. The Catechism ofthe Catholic Faith (CCC), no. 150.

6. Catechism forFilipino Catholics (CFC), 1997, no. 124; see also PCP-II, no. 64, 66.

7. See Dei Verbum, no.5; cited by Pope Benedict XVI, Verbum Domini, no. 25.

8. CFC, no.128.

9. CCC, no. 161; seeMk. 16:16; Jn 3:36; 6:40ff.

10. See Mt.10:22; 24:13; Heb. 11:6.

11. See Jn. 17:11-17.

12. Message of theSynod of Bishops on the New Evangelization.

13. Lk. 17:5.

14. See CCC, no. 195.

15. CCC, no. 1124.

16. Mk. 12:30-31; seealso Dt. 6:5.

17. Porta Fidei, no.9.

18. For a spiritualityof discipleship, see Final Statement of IV FABC Plenary, “The Vocation andMission of the Laity in the Church and in the World of Asia,” Tokyo, 1986, no.4.8 “Lay Spirituality”; see also Final Statement of V FABC Plenary Assembly,“Journeying Together toward the Third Millennium, Bandung, 1990, no. 9.0,“Spirituality for Our Times.”

19. See Lk. 1:12; 3:4,14.

20. See Rom. 8:9-11.

21. Eph. 5:18.

22. Mt. 28:19-20.

23. Porta Fidei, no.6.

24. InstrumentumLaboris for Synod on New Evangelization #158

 

 

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