Article 28: Catechism of the Catholic Church Series
Father John G. Hillier
We have all had interesting encounters when visiting hospitals. It was my first visit to Roosevelt-Saint Luke Hospital in New York City on the afternoon of April 19, 2010. In the tiny waiting room there was a man sitting across from me dressed in a black tee-shirt and black leather vest with a “cross” erring dangling from one of his ears. He reminded me of a motorcycle enthusiast or a professional wrestler. What especially drew my attention were the Christian themes he had tattooed on his arms and hands. In addition to the huge crucifix on his upper left arm with a giant “eye” above it depicting the “gaze of God” and the theological virtues (faith, hope and love) spelled out in large letters on his hands, there were also several scripture references written on his wrists and forearms including citations from Isaiah, the Gospel of Saint John, and the letters of Saint Paul to the Corinthians & Philippians. Noticing that I was curious about the theme of his “body art” he asked: “How are you doing, Padre?” I asked him whether he had acquired his tattoos before or after his infirmity. (He was walking with the assistance of a cane and I overheard him speaking to his wife about upcoming surgery he was scheduled to have to help alleviate his pain). He told me that he gradually got his tattoos following his treatment for drug addiction. He explained that when times are hard and his pain is unbearable he is tempted to return to his “old ways.” The tattoos serve as a vivid reminder to remain steadfast in his new way of life.
Like the man with the tattoos, the implications of professing faith in one God “and loving him with all our being has enormous consequences for our whole life (too)” (ccc 222). The message of the Church, the Catechism tells us “is true and solid, in which one and the same way of salvation appears throughout the whole world” (ccc 174). The Catechism continues: “For though languages differ throughout the world,” and cultures differ, and the manner in which people approach politics, and even religious customs differ, “the content of the [Catholic] Tradition is one and the same” (ccc 174).
For example, the Catechism tells us, “Churches established in Germany have no other faith or Tradition, nor do those of the Iberians, nor those of the Celts, nor those of the East, of Egypt, of Libya, nor those established at the center of the world. . .” By this it means, among other things, that the faith or Tradition of the “Catholic Church” worldwide enjoys the four marks of the Church (i.e. One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic). As well, “the Church’s message is true and solid, in which one and the same way of salvation appears throughout the whole world” (ccc 174). Many are drawn to the Catholic Church because of the consistency and continuity of this “objective faith”. Some however distance themselves from considering the message of the “whole” Church because they feel that their “subjective faith” is not given a fare hearing, or worse, is not accepted as credible. Such has been the case, especially over the past 40 years following the SecondVatican Council, as certain “Catholics” prefer a more “buffet version” (sometimes called “cafeteria catholicism”), of the Catholic faith.
Article 222 of the Catechism suggests that a more “prayerful approach” would help us become more positively disposed to the faith which Christ offers us through his Church. It states: “Believing in God, the only One, and “loving him with all our being has enormous consequences for our whole life.”
“… coming to know God’s greatness and majesty” (ccc 223).
“… living in thanksgiving” (ccc 224).
“… knowing the unity and true dignity of all men” (ccc 225).
“… making good use of created things (ccc 226).
“… trusting God in every circumstance, even in adversity (ccc 227).
The final paragraph in this section of the Catechism summarizes well what it means to believe in God, the Most Blessed Trinity, and to love him with all our hearts. It means, to repeat the words of the Catechism, “trusting God in every circumstance, even in adversity” (ccc 227). A prayer composed by St. Teresa of Avila wonderfully expresses this trust:
“Let nothing trouble you.
Let nothing frighten you.
God never changes.
Patience obtains all.
Whoever has God wants for nothing.
God alone is enough.”
Another saints name we seldom hear is that of Saint Nicholas of Flüe, patron saint of Switzerland. The words of this 15th century Swiss hermit and ascetic, quoted in this section of the Catechism, also capture the proper “prayerful” perspective for all of us to internalize as we reflect on the faith with which we have been blessed:
“My Lord and my God,
take from me everything
that distances me from you.
My Lord and my God,
give me everything
that brings me closer to you.
My Lord and my God,
detach me from myself
to give my all to you” (ccc 226).
Such are the implications of believing in One God!