Lumen Fidei, Part 1: The Light of Faith and Conversion

Benedict francis

Lumen Fidei, The Light of Faith, by Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict, is a wonderful piece of writing that I think is exactly right for us in this time.

It talks about the many ways that faith illumines our walk with Christ in this life, and how that faith leads us to the world beyond. It is about the transforming power of conversion. I was struck over and again while I was reading it by how completely its words seemed to speak directly to my own experience of conversion, from that first abrupt turn to Jesus and throughout the on-going conversion that has been my life since.

This experience of seeing my own walk of faith and my own needs — both intellectual and emotional needs — addressed in papal encyclicals is not new to me. I have been consistently amazed by the power the Holy Spirit infuses into the writings of the various popes to speak accurately of and directly to the broader human condition.

The fact that I saw my own experiences of conversion reflected in Luman Fidei leads me to believe that my conversion and my walk are far more universal than I had ever supposed. There is so much in Lumen Fidei that applies to us as individuals and as Christians in a newly post-Christian world that I am not going to attempt to summarize it in a single post. Instead, I’m going to unpack it a bit at a time and ponder what I learn from it.

Each of you would probably learn something different if you read it. Great spiritual writing is always like that. Ten people can read the Sermon on the Mount and experience 10 different insights. That is because the Sermon on the Mount has so many dimensions and also because the Holy Spirit guides us in our reflections to learn what we need at that time in our lives.

It is the same with this encyclical, or just about any of the encyclicals, for that matter. I encourage you to read it and reflect on it for yourself, then bring your thoughts here to try them out. Mind on mind generates better thinking that just going off alone. I think we can teach one another.

Conversion is not just a one-off, falling-off-a-cliff moment. It can be that, but, if it is real, it is always more than that. Conversion is a process of re-orientation.

The way I’ve always put it is that Jesus doesn’t change what we do. He changes what we want to do.

Lumen Fidei puts it like this:

Faith is born of an encounter with the living God who calls us and reveals his love, a love which precedes us and upon which we can lean for security and for building our lives. Transformed by this love, we gain fresh vision, new eyes to see; we realize that it contains a great supernatural gift, becomes a light for our way, guiding our journey through time … faith is also a light coming from the future and opening before us vast horizons which guide us beyond ourselves towards the breadth of communion.

In other words, God loved us before we were conceived, and has called us to Himself when we were apart from Him. That initial moment of conversion is built on the first spark of faith that allows us to say “yes” to this love. In my case, I said “Forgive me.”

My first conscious experience of God as Another was the instantaneous experience of love and joy pouring into me as soon as I said that. It was God’s answer to my “yes” to Him.

Just as the love of our parents when we are little gives us the security to explore the world and learn about it without fear, this powerful love of God that we can actually feel as a sensation transforms us from the inside.

The fact, the simple fact, that God Is, that He Is a reacting being whose first persona is ecstatic love and joy of a quality we have never known was possible, changes everything else. Faith, which was a spark of desperation when we said that first “yes,” becomes a certainty in the reality of this love.

Faith in Him, in His goodness and His love, teaches us a new kind and level of security. It is security built on a different reality at a different plane than the ones we ordinarily build our lives around.

The foundations and walls of security people try to erect for themselves are made of labor, blood and money. We amass wealth, commission armies, put up buildings and buy locks, all to give us security from the thief, the tyrant and the caprice of life. All these things are open mouths into which we feed our days erecting, maintaining and controlling them in the vain hope that they will keep us safe. Whatever safety they give is predicated on the fact that they themselves also devour our energies and strength. None of them can, in the end, save us from our own weaknesses and mortality.

The security of Christ is built outside of time and without our work. We do not supply it, and we do not maintain it. Time cannot erode it and death does not end it.

Christ light

Faith is the light, shining in the darkness of our narrow existences which illumines this security and lets us experience it. Faith does not create the security of living in Christ. Rather, it lets us experience it to its fullest.

Faith in Christ allows us to see the new path before us. It opens our hearts to the teaching and promptings of the Holy Spirit, which in turn, change us from the inside out. Over time, we are converted to a new way of looking at ourselves, other people and life. We are changed, re-oriented. The things that matter to us change, and the things we do change right along with them.

We become new creatures in Christ.

This is the full experience of conversion, which is on-going, life-long and radical. It is how Christ transforms the world; by transforming each one of us individually.

And it all depends on that first radical turn away from flat, one-dimensional life of no faith, no hope, and doing it all for ourselves. It depends on that initial “yes” of faith.

 

Join the Discussions of the Year of Faith

Click here throughout the Year of Faith, as the Catholic Channel at Patheos.com invites Catholics of every age and stripe to share what they are gleaning and carrying away from this gift of timely focus.

Be Our Defense Against the Devil

 

ArchAngelMichael

St. Michael the Archangel, 

defend us in battle.
Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray,
and do thou,
O Prince of the heavenly hosts,
by the power of God,
thrust into hell Satan,
and all the evil spirits,
who prowl about the world
seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

Catholics prayed this prayer, which has always seemed like a mini-exorcism to me, at the end of mass for a period of about 75 years. 

Pope Leo XIII wrote the prayer in 1884, just a few decades before the Our Lady visited Fatima. He had just finished saying mass. I’ve read several descriptions of what happened next. Basically, the Holy Father was stricken with what appeared to onlookers to be a trance that lasted for a few minutes. When he revived, he recounted a vision he had seen or heard of Satan’s future attack on the Church. 

He immediately went to his quarters and wrote The Saint Michael Prayer and gave instructions that it should be prayed at the end of every low mass throughout the world. This practice ended after the Second Vatican Council in 1964. 

Pope John Paul II encouraged faithful Catholics to pray the St Michael Prayer privately, a practice that I follow. I have even altered the prayer to fit my circumstance. My prayers asking St Michael to help me have been answered many times. I am convinced that St Michael the Archangel stands ready to aid us when we are attacked by Satan, including those times when the devil sends his emissaries on two feet to attack us for him. 

I am glad that Pope Emeritus Benedict and Pope Francis joined together yesterday to consecrate the Vatican to St Michael’s protection. I do not understand exactly what is going on in the Vatican, but, based on the rumblings in the press, it appears that there are troubles of some sort inside those walls, and that it is probably of an evil nature. 

I do know that the Church is under attack all over the world. If you doubt that, hold your nose and spend an hour reading some of the Christian-bashing blogs floating around. Their target, always and endlessly, is the Catholic Church. The Church is vilified and pilloried in private conversations, the press, and public demonstrations somewhere in the world at every minute of the day. At the same time, some of our own priests and bishops have provided kindling for the fires with their behavior. 

Whatever the immediate reasons, I believe that consecrating the Vatican to St Michael’s protection is a wise move. I entrust my own self and the lives of those I love to his protection as part of my daily prayers. I encourage you to do the same. 

From Vatican Radio:

(Vatican Radio) To the joy of Vatican City State workers, Friday morning Pope Francis was joined by Pope emeritus Benedict XVI in the gardens for a ceremony during which the Holy Father blessed a statue of St Michael Archangel, at the same time consecrating the Vatican to the Archangel’s protection.
Following a brief ceremony, Pope Francis addressed those present noting how St. Michael defends the People of God from its enemy par excellence, the devil. He said even if the devil attempts to disfigure the face of the Archangel and thus the face of humanity, St Michael wins, because God acts in him and is stronger:
“In the Vatican Gardens there are several works of art. But this, which has now been added, takes on particular importance, in its location as well as the meaning it expresses. In fact it is not just celebratory work but an invitation to reflection and prayer, that fits well into the Year of Faith. Michael – which means “Who is like God” – is the champion of the primacy of God, of His transcendence and power. Michael struggles to restore divine justice and defends the People of God from his enemies, above all by the enemy par excellence, the devil. And St. Michael wins because in him, there is He God who acts. This sculpture reminds us then that evil is overcome, the accuser is unmasked, his head crushed, because salvation was accomplished once and for all in the blood of Christ. Though the devil always tries to disfigure the face of the Archangel and that of humanity, God is stronger, it is His victory and His salvation that is offered to all men. We are not alone on the journey or in the trials of life, we are accompanied and supported by the Angels of God, who offer, so to speak, their wings to help us overcome so many dangers, in order to fly high compared to those realities that can weigh down our lives or drag us down. In consecrating Vatican City State to St. Michael the Archangel, I ask him to defend us from the evil one and banish him. “
“We also consecrate Vatican City State in St. Joseph, guardian of Jesus, the guardian of the Holy Family. May his presence make us stronger and more courageous in making space for God in our lives to always defeat evil with good. We ask Him to protect, take care of us, so that a life of grace grows stronger in each of us every day. “

Pope Emeritus Benedict: I’m Fine. I Live Like a Monk.

Pope Emeritus Benedict gave a brief interview to a German journalist recently.

The journalist’s description of the Pope Emeritus paints a portrait of someone who is frail but functioning. “I’m fine,” the Pope Emeritus said, “I pray and read. I live like a monk.”

I hope he is happy and at peace in his retirement. The Church and the world needs his prayers.

YouTube Preview Image

Video: Pope Emeritus Benedict’s Return to the Vatican

Pope Emeritus Benedict returned to the Vatican today.

Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict will live a short distance to one another. I’ve read reports that the Pope Emeritus’ brother will probably live in the same building with him. Ironically, even though two popes will be in residence at the Vatican, the Papal Apartment will be empty.

The video below shows his arrival, as well as a retrospective about the day he left the papacy. The video of the Pope Emeritus and Pope Francis praying together are from Pope Francis’ earlier visit with his predecessor.

YouTube Preview Image

Pope Emeritus Benedict Returns to the Vatican

Popes monastery residence where he will retire Credit File Photo CNA 2 CNA Vatican Catholic News 2 12 131 580 0

Mater Ecclesiae Monastery, CNA file photo

Pope Emeritus Benedict will return to the Vatican today. 

According to a CNA article, he will live in the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery, “where he will live a life of prayer and meditation. The monastery contains a chapel, a choir room, a library, a semi-basement, a terrace and a visiting room.

From CNA:

.- Benedict XVI will return to the Vatican on May 2 by helicopter, coming back the same way he left just two months ago when he resigned as Pope.

The return of a former Pope is something that has no historical precedent, making everything a new one for the Vatican’s staff.

Father Federico Lombardi, the director of the Vatican’s press office, told CNA April 30 that “there will be someone there to welcome Benedict XVI” but he is not yet sure who that will be.

The former Pope will arrive by helicopter around 4:30 or 5:00 in the afternoon, and after a brief greeting will head to the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery, where he will live a life of prayer and meditation. (Read the rest here.)

Pope Emeritus Benedict Relieved to Have Weight of the Church Off His Shoulders

PopeBenedictXVI

Pope Emeritus Benedict is “relieved” to be free of the “weight” of the Church, his brother says.

Father Georg Ratzinger told the Daily Telegraph that his younger brother is happy in his retirement. The former Pope Benedict spends his days in prayer, reading and playing the piano. 

He still “suffers the Church,” but enjoys not have the full weight of it “on his shoulders,” Fr Ratzinger said. 

Fr Ratzinger traveled from Germany to Italy for the Pope Emeritus’ 86th birthday. 

It is a miracle that these two brothers still have one another at this age and that they are both able to travel and enjoy their lives, including celebrating birthdays.

I wish them peace and happiness in this twilight of their lives. 

From National Post:

ROME — The former Pontiff, Pope Emeritus Benedict, is “relieved” to be free of the responsibility of running the Catholic Church, his elder brother has said, but he insisted that Benedict was not suffering from illness.

Father Georg Ratzinger, himself a priest, told The Daily Telegraph his younger brother was “very happy” to be living at Castel Gandolfo, the papal summer retreat south of Rome that he moved to after stepping down in February, becoming the first pope to resign in 600 years. Fr. Ratzinger, 88, who travelled from Germany to celebrate Benedict’s 86th birthday on April 16, said his brother “still suffers the problems of the Church, but is really relieved to no longer have the weight of the Church on his shoulders”.

… Speaking by telephone from his house in Bavaria, Mr Ratzinger denied the pope emeritus was suffering from major ailments. “He is now very old, he does not have any particular illness, but he is weakening due to his age,” he said.

 Since relinquishing the responsibility of overseeing the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, Benedict has spent his time praying, reading and playing the piano at Castel Gandolfo, which is situated on the rim of a volcanic lake, surrounded by acres of private gardens and Roman ruins. (Read the rest here.) 

Popes Benedict and Francis: Differences in Style, Continuity in Teachings and Faith

Pope Francis is an outgoing informal man, while Pope Emeritus Benedict is shy and introverted. But don’t let those differences in style confuse you. Both are holy men of fidelity to the truth of our Catholic faith. To learn more, watch the video below.

YouTube Preview Image

Brother Popes in the Year of Two Living Popes

Pope Francis visited the Pope Emeritus for lunch and prayer. 

In this historic year of two living popes, it was heartwarming to see the embrace. Everything went the way you would expect. Pope Emeritus Benedict sat on the non-pope side of the seat in the car and then, when they went to prayer he tried to insist that Pope Francis go forward the altar and pray alone. Pope Francis refused to do this and so the two popes knelt in prayer side by side in a pew. 

This is the first time in 600 years that we have had two living popes. It’s heartwarming to see them behave the way men of God should. 

The Associated Press has details:

In this photo provided by the Vatican paper L'Osservatore Romano, Pope Francis meets Pope emeritus Benedict XVI in Castel Gandolfo Saturday, March 23, 2013. Pope Francis has traveled to Castel Gandolfo to have lunch with his predecessor Benedict XVI in a historic and potentially problematic melding of the papacies that has never before confronted the Catholic Church. The Vatican said the two popes embraced on the helipad. In the chapel where they prayed together, Benedict offered Francis the traditional kneeler used by the pope. Francis refused to take it alone, saying "We're brothers," and the two prayed together on the same one. (AP Photo/Osservatore Romano, HO)

View Photo

Associated Press/Osservatore Romano, HO – In this photo provided by the Vatican paper L’Osservatore Romano, Pope Francis meets Pope emeritus Benedict XVI in Castel Gandolfo Saturday, March 23, 2013. Pope Francis has traveled to Castel Gandolfo to have lunch with his predecessor Benedict XVI in a historic and potentially problematic melding of the papacies that has never before confronted the Catholic Church. The Vatican said the two popes embraced on the helipad. In the chapel where they prayed together, Benedict offered Francis the traditional kneeler used by the pope. Francis refused to take it alone, saying “We’re brothers,” and the two prayed together on the same one. (AP Photo/Osservatore Romano, HO)  less

 

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy (AP) — The two men in white embraced and showed one another the deference owed a pope in ways that surely turned Vatican protocol upside down: A reigning pope telling a retired one, “We are brothers,” and insisting that they pray side-by-side during a date to discuss the future of the Catholic Church.

Pope Francis traveled Saturday from the Vatican to this hilltown south of Rome to have lunch with his predecessor, Benedict XVI, an historic and potentially problematic melding of the papacies that has never before confronted the church.

In a season of extraordinary moments, starting with Benedict’s resignation and climaxing with the election of the first Latin American pope, Saturday’s encounter provided perhaps the most enduring images of this papal transition as popes present and past embraced, prayed and broke bread together.

“It was a moment of great communion in the church,” said the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi. “The spiritual union of these two people is truly a great gift and a promise of serenity for the church.” (Read the rest here.) 

Holy Father Demonstrates Humility and Simplicity on His First Day in Office

PopeFrancis zps63a924c7


Habemus Papem!

 

We have a pope, and our new pope has his own way of doing things. Twenty-four hours after he stood on the balcony and gave us his first blessing as our Holy Father, Pope Francis is already exhibiting an independent streak.

He dressed more simply, refused a Papal limousine, asked for our prayers and (get ready for this) went back to the Vatican hotel where he had been staying before his election to collect his own luggage and pay his bill.

I don’t see these changes as a departure from the papacy as it has been, but as a return of the papacy as a pastoral office that speaks to the world in the name of Christ the Lord that it always has been. Rather than behaving in a manner befitting what the press has termed “Christ’s CEO,” Pope Francis has shown us a Holy Father who has come to serve the Lord, and us in His name.

I think it would be a mistake for anyone to take this gentleness and simplicity as weakness. Pope Francis’ actions demonstrate an unruffled confidence in the Christ of the Gospels that comes from the kind of faith that survives anything the world can throw at it. He is humble, but I predict that we will see that it is the humility of an inner strength born of great faith and holiness.

I’ve excerpted an Associated Press article detailing the Holy Father’s first day in office. You can find the entire article with all the details here.

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis put his humility on display during his first day as pontiff Thursday, stopping by his hotel to pick up his luggage and pay the bill himself in a decidedly different style of papacy …

… He kept the simple iron pectoral cross of his days as bishop and eschewed the red cape … choosing instead the simple white cassock of the papacy.

… “He believes the church has to go to the streets, to express this closeness of the church and this accompaniment with those who are suffering.” Francis’ authorized biographer, 

…Sergio Rubin, said in an interview Thursday with The Associated Press.

… Rubin recalled how the former Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio would celebrate Masses with homeless people and prostitutes in Buenos Aires.

… Francis began his first day as pope making an early morning visit in a simple Vatican car to a Roman basilica dedicated to the Virgin Mary and prayed before an icon of the Madonna.

He also told cardinals he would call on retired Pope Benedict XVI, but the Vatican said the visit wouldn’t take place for a few days.

… Francis, the first Jesuit pope and first non-European since the Middle Ages, decided to call himself Francis after St. Francis of Assisi, the humble friar who dedicated his life to helping the poor.

The new pope, known for his work with the poor in Buenos Aires’ slums, immediately charmed the crowd in St. Peter’s, which roared when his name was announced and roared again when he emerged on the loggia of the basilica with a simple and familiar: “Brothers and sisters, good evening.”

By Thursday morning, members of his flock were similarly charmed when Francis stopped by the Vatican-owned residence where he routinely stays during visits to Rome and where he stayed before the start of the conclave.

“He wanted to come here because he wanted to thank the personnel, people who work in this house,” said The Rev. Pawel Rytel-Andrianek, who is staying at the residence. “He greeted them one by one, no rush, the whole staff, one by one.”

He then paid the bill.

“People say that he never in these 20 years asked for a (Vatican) car,” he said. “Even when he went for the conclave with a priest from his diocese, he just walked out to the main road, he picked up a taxi and went to the conclave. So very simple for a future pope.”

Francis displayed that same sense of simplicity and humility immediately after his election, shunning the special sedan … so he could ride on the bus with other cardinals, and refusing even an elevated platform from which he would greet them, according to U.S. Cardinal Timothy Dolan.

… “I think we’re going to see a call to Gospel simplicity,” said U.S. Cardinal Donald Wuerl.

… Francis’ election elated Latin America, home to 40 percent of the world’s Catholics … On Wednesday, drivers honked their horns in the streets of Buenos Aires and television announcers screamed with elation at the news.

Cardinal Thomas Collins, the archbishop of Toronto, said the cardinals clearly chose Francis because he was simply “the best person to lead the church.”

Reporter Rob Gillies in Toronto, Karl Ritter and photographer Luca Bruno in Rome contributed. (Read the rest here.)

___

Follow Nicole Winfield at www.twitter.com/nwinfield

Pope Emeritus: What Does He Do?

I found this on the fine blog, iCatholicSalmon. Check them out.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X