Catholicism: A journey to the heart of the faith
BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz (The Philippine Star) - February 17, 2019 - 12:00am

The revelations of sexual abuse by church leaders and the recent attacks on the Catholic motivated me to  go on exploratory journey of my Catholic faith. I was born and baptized as a Catholic, raised as a Catholic; and, educated in La Salle schools as a Catholic; and, I continue to practice my Faith as diligently as I can.

Whenever I look for answers to questions that I cannot find in my every day life, I turn to books. For years now, I have kept as a ready reference Catechism of the Catholic Church which was promulgated by Pope John Paul II on October 11, 1992. It was drawn up by the special Commission of Cardinals and Bishops.

It is a very detailed reference book which was described in the Apostolic Letter as the “...new and authoritative exposition of the one and perennial apostolic faith, and it will serve as a ‘valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion’ and as a ‘sure norm for teaching the faith.’” The book is a systematic presentation of the faith and the Catholic. 

I remember that in my college days, I would read the writings of Cardinal Newman, who I understand is about to be canonized as a saint. But, I was more interested in reading the works of existential philosophers like Kierkegard and Sartre. Several decades later, I became immersed in the works of Hans Kung, a Swiss Catholic priest, theologian and author, who is notable for his rejection of the doctrine of papal infallibility. He has written some interesting books including one which attempted to describe what the world’s religions have in common  and proposed drawing up a code of rules of behaviour that everyone can accept.

But I was still looking for a book on my faith that was good enough to read cover to cover. One day, I was browsing in a bookstore and I chanced upon a book with a catchy title: CATHOLICISM: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith. I was not familiar with the author Father  Robert Barron.

Except that it said on the back cover that he was an author, speaker theologian and creator and host of “ Catholicism” a ten part documentary series and study program about the Catholic Faith. I was intrigued by the questions printed on the back cover. What is Catholicism? A 2,000 year old living tradition? A worldview? A way of life? And it said the book would bring”...the mysteries of the faith to life for a new generation.” One of the reviewer said about the book: “Prepare yourself for an entrancing tour of the many facets of Catholicism. From Her art to Her Architechture. Her theological riches, to the inspired personalities that have filled Her pews, the Catholic church is laid bare by a priest who is more than up to the task it is a journey that will leave you full – and then hunger for more.”

It is a 12-chapter book with a very readable writing style without being intellectually shallow. His introduction is titled “ The Catholic Thing.” Talks of two main topics – Incarnation and Jesus. He says that Incarnation is what differentiates the Church from other beliefs. 

“ And Incarnation tells us the most important truth about ourselves: we are destined for divinization...And this is why Christianity is the greatest humanism that has ever appeared, indeed that could ever appear. No philosophical or political or religious program in history  has ever made a claim about human destiny as extravagant as Christianity’s. We are called not simply to moral perfection or artistic self expression or economic liberation but to what the Eastern fathers called “theoisis” – transformation into God. “ 

I really appreciate his poetic message that to truly appreciate and understand the Catholic faith, one needs to use all our senses – to read, look and listen. He says: Catholics see God’s continued enfleshment in the oil, water, bread, imposed hands, wine, and salt of the sacraments; they appreciate it in the gestures, movements, incensations, and songs of the Liturgy; they savor it in the texts, arguments and debates of theologians; they sense it in the graced governance of popes and bishops; they love it in the struggles and missions of the saints; they know it in the writings of Catholic poets and in cathedrals crafted by Catholic architects, artists and workers. In short, all this discloses to the Catholic eye and mind the ongoing presence of the Word made flesh, namely Christ.”

Among the other chapters, there is one called “ Happy Are We, The Teachings of Jesus” which is about a new vision and a new challenge. Another chapter is “Our Tainted Nature’s Solitary Boast: Mary, The Mother of God” which seeks to answer the question – why has she had this staggering impact? Then there is a chapter “The Indispensable Men and the Missionary Adventure” which proposes that there many crucial players in the life of the early Christian movement, but the two indispensable people, the ones without  whom the church never would have emerged and survived are Peter and Paul. Another fascinating chapter is “That Than Which Nothing Greater Can Be Thought: The Ineffable Mystery of God” which presents arguments for God’s existence. I wish I had the space to talk about the other chapters on prayer, the mystical union of Christ and the Church, the Church’s sacraments and worship and about heaven, purgatory and hell. There is even a chapter on Church art and architecture.

The most enchanting passage in the book is a quote from the Catholic writer G.K. Chesterton who compared the church to a house with a thousand doors.

Creative writing classes for kids and teens

Young Writers’ Hangout on March 2, 16 (1:30 pm-3 pm; stand-alone sessions) and an Adult Series session on Creative Nonfiction on March 30 (1:30-4:30 pm)  with Susan Lara at Fully Booked BGC. For details and registration,  email writethingsph@gmail.com.

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Email: elfrencruz@gmail.com

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