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

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.

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.

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.

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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.

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Pope Emeritus Benedict Returns to the Vatican


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

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.

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

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.)

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Pope Benedict’s New Title? Just Call Him Bishop Emeritus.

Immediately after Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation, reports circulated that he would be bumped back to a cardinal, which I passed along to you. This made sense at the time, because there can be only one pope.

It turns out that the Holy Father will have a new title designed to express his unique position in the Church as a living, but not sitting, Pope. His title will be: “His Holiness, Benedict XVI, Bishop Emeritus of Rome.”

That sounds a lot better — and more accurate — than calling him “Cardinal Ratzinger” once again. That idea made me sad and I am glad it’s not going to happen.

Frank Weathers, who blogs at Why I Am Catholic, has details. Check it out here.


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