The Holiness of the Church (3): The Virtue of Faith-1
St. Thomas Aquinas and the four great doctors of the Latin Church
Faith appears as the first of the virtues which, should distinguish those who have lived heroically in the Catholic Church. Since God has revealed Himself, the belief and defense of what He has told us can only be the basis of all religious life and the heroism of all virtue. Likewise, supernatural truths must direct all the actions of a saint.
Sacred Scripture often tells us that faith is the principle of all justice. The just live by faith, says St. Paul (Rm. 1:17). Jesus Christ also reveals that anyone with just a “grain” of faith can move mountains (Lk. 17:5-6 and Mk. 11:22).
If, in the Old Testament, Abraham is presented as the model of such a virtue, to the point of becoming the ancestor of all believers in the Trinity and in the Incarnation, it behooves us to dwell on the saints of the Roman Church, to show how it is only within the Church that such a virtue can exist and be exercised heroically.
Faith can be “heroic” in two ways: in how we profess it outwardly, avoiding anything that might cast a shadow over our beliefs, and even guarding ourselves from the appearance of endorsing errors that are contrary to them; and in way in which it is deeply rooted in us, directing all our actions and evaluations according to revealed truths. This is called “the spirit of faith.”
The External Profession of Faith
Faith, the interior adherence to the revealed truths of God, manifests itself outwardly in the lives of the saints, by the defense of the integrity of the faith, and the care of orthodoxy. Because a person cannot have faith in someone if he does not believe everything He reveals.
We will speak of the profession of faith in martyrdom in a particular way by addressing the heroic virtue of strength. We are interested here in what is more particularly linked to faith as such.
First of all, the saints hated heresy, that is, the manipulation of revealed truths, and fought it vigorously as an unacceptable evil. In speaking of the holy doctors of the Church, who defended the truths of the faith, the Ambrosian missal says that “after having reduced the chaff of heretics to ashes, they gathered together the pure wheat of Catholic dogma into the barn of the 'Church.’”
This defense was produced among the saints essentially in two ways: first by the writings and work of theological investigation and refutation of heresies, to the extent that the Fathers and Doctors produced within the Catholic Church an exposition of doctrine so complete that it exceeds the wisdom possible to men; then through concrete actions to eradicate the propagation of errors.
The Transmission of Apostolic Doctrine by the Holy Fathers: A Moral Miracle
One could qualify as a moral miracle the fact that the first Fathers of the Church, except on incidental questions, faithfully transmitted to us a unified doctrine, in spite of their remoteness and the apparent absence of a single theological and doctrinal formation such as it would develop centuries later.
This is the first sign of the existence of the Apostolic Tradition, spread throughout the whole Church precisely because it was born from the first preaching of these twelve disciples of Christ, that the work of the Holy Spirit could alone to maintain intact and recognizable in so many different places and contexts, despite the difficult centuries of persecution and pressure from authorities favorable towards heresy, such as in the time of Arianism.
It is certainly not a question of denying the presence of heresies since the birth of the Church. Indeed, the moral miracle resides in the fact that the great bishops have maintained the same faith by recognizing themselves as part of the unique Catholic Church throughout all these centuries, echoing the apostolic preaching.
There is St. Irenaeus (+ c.202), who separated Catholic truth from the dangerous Gnostic doctrine, which could distort the apostolic religion; of St. Cyprian (+258), who clearly and in advance refuted the heresies that would come much later; and the great doctors of the fourth century (St. Ambrose, St. Augustine, St. John Chrysostom, St. Basil, et al.) who, after Arianism, made the doctrine on the Trinity and the Incarnation shine in the East and in the West. There is a impressive continuity in the preaching of truths and a clear distinction of Catholic Christianity from heresies.
The Holy Doctors of Medieval and Modern Times: The Gift of Intelligence
If patristic preaching shows the work of the saints in transmitting what the Apostles taught, giving the Catholic Church the certainty of being linked, through them, to the very work of the Savior, in a way that no sect can imagine, the scholastic theology of the great medieval saints shows how much holiness contributed to developing, without altering it, the knowledge of Revelation.
It was difficult to think of intervening in the essentials of the works of the Fathers without betraying them, or without altering their doctrine. Here too, only the intervention of the Holy Spirit was able to arouse the great saints who developed the what is called Scholastic theology: St. Anselm, St. Bonaventure, and above all St. Thomas Aquinas.
By developing, in line with the Fathers, the philosophical and natural foundation of reasoning and being, the medieval holy doctors raised a theoretically insurmountable barrier against the alteration of doctrine. Indeed, to spread their ideas, the modernists first had to demolish Thomistic and Scholastic teaching in the Church on all sides, so as to leave a large part of the clergy defenseless.
Even today, it is extremely difficult to oppose the modernist heresy without a formation indebted to St. Thomas and to the philosophy that he and other saints honored within the holy Church, in an almost prophetic way.
A moral miracle is how God, through Aquinas and the great medieval doctors, provided a complete philosophical antidote to the erroneous elements that modernity sought to introduce into human thought centuries before.
(Source : DTC – FSSPX.Actualités)
Illustration : Francisco de Zurbarán, domaine public, via Wikimedia Commons