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Scots Catholic

Calling Scotland's 841,000 Catholics to unite as one voice


(Light of Faith)

Through this feature Scots Catholic aims to bring to 'light' the recently released encyclical letter of Pope Francis and Pope Benedict XVI and deliver it to you in bite-size chunks. This, we hope, will assist us in digesting exactly what the Pope is saying and allow us to ponder his message.

It is a fascinating document and it is written in a real spirit of faith and devotion to God.




Introducing the 'light of faith' and the role of the Pope

'The light of faith is unique, since it is capable of illuminating every aspect of human existence. A light this powerful cannot come from ourselves but from a more primordial source: in a word, it must come from God.'

'The Second Vatican Council enabled the light of faith to illuminate our human experience from within, accompanying the men and women of our time on their journey. It clearly showed how faith enriches life in all its dimensions.'

'The successor to Peter, yesterday, today and tomorrow, is always called to strengthen his brothers and sisters in the priceless treasure of that faith which God has given as a light for humanity’s path.'

'In God’s gift of faith, a supernatural infused virtue, we realise that a great love has been offered us, a good word has been spoken to us, and that when we welcome that word, Jesus Christ the Word made flesh, the Holy Spirit transforms us, lights up our way to the future and enables us joyfully to advance along that way on wings of hope.'


Chapter 1 – We Have Believed In Love

Abraham – our father in faith

‘If we want to understand what faith is, we need to follow the route it has taken, the path trodden by believers, as witnessed first in the Old Testament. Here a unique place belongs to Abraham, our father in faith….Abraham does not see God, but hears His voice.’

‘In the Bible, faith is expressed by the Hebrew word emunah, derived from the verb aman whose root means “to uphold”. As St Augustine explains: “Man is faithful when he believes in God and his promises; God is faithful when he grants to man what he has promised”.’

‘The God who calls Abraham is the Creator, the one who “calls into existence the things that do not exist” (Rom 4:17), the one who “chose us before the foundation of the world….and destined us for adoption as his children” (Eph 1:4-5).’

‘For Abraham, faith in God sheds light on the depths of his being, it enables him to acknowledge the wellspring of goodness at the origin of all things and to realise that his life is not the product of non-being or chance, but the fruit of a personal call and a personal love.’

‘The great test of Abraham’s faith, the sacrifice of his son Isaac, would show the extent to which this primordial love is capable of ensuring life even beyond death.’


Chapter 1 – We Have Believed In Love


The Pope, referring to modern society says: ‘In place of faith in God, it seems better to worship an idol, into whose face we can look directly and whose origin we know, because it is the work of our own hands. Before an idol, there is no risk that we will be called to abandon our security, for idols “have mouths, but they cannot speak” (Ps 115:5).’

‘Idolatry, then, is always polytheism (worship or belief in multiple deities/gods), an aimless passing from one lord to another….Those who choose not to put their trust in God must hear the din of countless idols crying out: “Put your trust in me!”

‘Believing means entrusting oneself to a merciful love which always accepts and pardons….by constantly turning towards the Lord, we discover a sure path which liberates us from the dissolution imposed upon us by idols.’


Chapter 1 – We Have Believed In Love

A Faith Centred in Christ

‘Christian faith is centred on Christ: it is the confession that Jesus is Lord and that God has raised him from the dead (cf Rom 10:9).’

The Pope, in referring to the Old Testament, notes: ‘Christ is the definitive “Yes” to all the promises made in the Old Testament.’

‘In the love of God revealed in Jesus, faith perceives the foundation on which all reality and its final destiny rest.’

‘Jesus offered his own life for all, even for his enemies, to transform their hearts.’

‘It is faith in a God who is so close to us that he entered human history.’

‘If we want to understand what faith is, we need to follow the route it has taken, the path trodden by believers, as witnessed first in the Old Testament. Here a unique place belongs to Abraham, our father in faith….Abraham does not see God, but hears His voice.’

And the last word in today’s bite-size Lumen Fidei goes to St Paul who, in his first letter to the Corinthians, wrote: ‘If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile’ (1 Cor 15:17).


Chapter 1 - We Have Believed in Love

Words of Warning and Encouragement from St Paul

In today's bite-size Lumen Fidei Pope Francis encourages us to look to St Paul and to avoid any thoughts that goodness comes from anyone but God.

The Pope writes 'Paul rejects the attitude of those who would consider themselves justified before God on the basis of their own works. Such people even when they obey the commandments and do good works, are centred on themselves; they fail to realise that goodness comes from God.'

The Pope then further emphasises this by quoting Paul who said "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me." (Gal 2:20)

The Pope uses St Paul's letters again, ths time to encourage us to proclaim the faith. He writes: 'Faith is not a private matter, a completely individualistic notion or a personal opinion: it comes from hearing, and it is meant to find expression in words and to be proclaimed. For "how are they to believe in him of who they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a Preacher?" (Rom 10:14).

The Pope then uses one other quote from Paul, summing up what is meant in the paragraph above: 'St Paul: "one believes with the heart....and confesses with the lips." (Rom 10:10)


Chapter 2 - Unless you Believe you will not Understand

Faith and Truth

‘In contemporary culture, we often tend to consider the only real truth to be that of technology….Yet at the other end of the scale we are willing to allow for subjective truths of the individual, which consist in fidelity to his or her deepest convictions, yet these are truths valid only for that individual and not capable of being proposed to others in an effort to save the common good….But Truth itself, the truth which would comprehensively explain our life as individuals and in society, is regarded with suspicion.’

‘The question of truth is really a question of memory, deep memory, for it deals with something prior to ourselves and can succeed in uniting us in a way that transcends our petty and limited individual consciousness.’


Chapter 2 - Unless you Believe you will not Understand

Knowledge of the Truth and Love

'In the Bible, the heart is at the core of the human person, where all his or her different dimensions intersect: body and spirit, interiority and openness to the world and to others, intellect, will and affectivity.

If the heart is capable of holding all these dimensions together, it is because it is where we become open to truth and love, where we let them touch us and deeply transform us.'

'[Today] love is seen as an experience associated with the world of fleeting emotions, no longer with truth. But is this an adequate description of love? Love cannot be reduced to an ephermal emotion. True, it engages our affectivity, but in order to open it to the beloved and thus to blaze a trail leading away from self-centredness and towards another person, in order to build a lasting relationship; love aims at union with the beloved.'

'Here we begin to see how love requires truth. Only to the extent that love is grounded in truth can it endure over time, can it transcend the passing moment and be sufficiently solid to sustain a shared journey.

If love is not tied to truth, it falls prey to fickle emotions and cannot stand the test of time. True love, on the other hand, unifies all the elements of our person and becomes a new light pointing the way to a great and fulfilled life. Without truth, love is incapable of establishing a firm bond; it cannot liberate our isolated ego or redeem it from the fleeting moment in order to create life and bear fruit.'

'Love and truth are inseparable.'


Chapter 2 - Unless you Believe you will not Understand

Faith as Hearing and Sight

‘To believe is both to hear and to see.’

The Pope, suggesting science has only taken us so far, says: ‘Yet our longing for the vision of the whole, and not merely of fragments of history, remains and will be fulfilled in the end, when, as St Augustine says, we will see and we will love.’

The Dialogue between Faith and Reason

‘The gaze of science thus benefits from faith: faith encourages the scientist to remain constantly open to reality in all its inexhaustible richness. Faith awakens the critical sense by preventing research from being satisfied with its own formulae and helps it to realise that nature is always greater. By stimulating wonder before the profound mystery of creation, faith broadens the horizons of reason to shed greater light on the world which discloses itself to scientific investigation.’


Chapter 2 - Unless you Believe you will not Understand

Faith and the Search for God 

‘Whoever would approach God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.’ (Heb 11:6)

‘We can see from this that the path of a religious man passes through the acknowledgement of a God who cares for us and is not impossible to be found.’

‘[A] religious man strives to see signs of God in the daily experiences of life, in the cycle of the seasons, in the fruitfulness of the earth and in the movement of the cosmos.’

‘God is light and he can be found also by those who seek him with a sincere heart.’

‘The more Christians immerse themselves in the circle of Christ’s light, the more capable they become of understanding and accompanying the path of every man and woman towards God.’

‘Anyone who sets off on the path of doing good to others is already drawing near to God, is already sustained by His help, for it is characteristic of the divine light to brighten our eyes whenever we walk towards the fullness of love.’


Chapter 3 - I Delivered to you what I also Received

The Church, Mother of our Faith

‘Those who have opened their hearts to God’s love, heard his voice and received his light, cannot keep this gift to themselves.’

‘It is through an unbroken chain of witnesses that we come to see the face of Jesus. But how is this possible? How can we be certain, after all these centuries, that we have encountered the ‘real Jesus’? We come from others, we belong to others, and our lives are enlarged by our encounter with others. Even our own knowledge and self-awareness are rational; they are linked to others who have gone before us….the words by which we make sense of our lives and the world around us, comes to us from others, preserved in the living memory of others.’

‘Faith’s past, that act of Jesus’ love which brought new life to the world, comes down to us through the memory of others – witnesses – and is kept alive in that one remembering subject which is the Church.’

‘The Church is a Mother who teaches us to speak the language of faith.’

‘In St John’s Gospel Jesus speaks of the Holy Spirit saying it “will remind you of all that I have said to you”.’

‘Those who receive faith discover that their horizons expand as new and enriching relationships come to life.’


Chapter 3 - I Delivered to you what I also Received

The Sacraments and the Transmission of Faith

‘What was handed down by the apostles – as the Second Vatican Council states – “comprises everything that serves to make the people of God live their lives in holiness and increase their faith. In this way the Church, in her doctrine, life and worship, perpetuates and transmits to every generation all that she herself is, all that she believes”.’

‘The sacraments communicate an incarnate memory, linked to the times and places of our lives, linked to all our senses; in them the whole person is engaged as a member of a living subject and part of a network of communitarian relationships.’

‘In baptism we become a new creation and God’s adopted children.’

‘Those who are baptised are set in a new context, entrusted to a new environment, a new and shared way of acting, in the Church….No one baptises himself, just as no one comes into the world by himself. Baptism is something we receive.’

‘Water is at once a symbol of death, inviting us to pass through self-conversion to a new and greater identity, and a symbol of life, of a womb in which we are reborn by following Christ in his new life….It [baptism] thus modifies all our relationships, our place in this world and in the universe, and opens them to God’s own life of communion.’

‘Parents are called, as St Augustine once said, not only to bring children into the world but also to bring them to God, so that through baptism they can be reborn as children of God and receive the gift of faith.’

‘The Eucharist is a precious nourishment for faith; an encounter with Christ truly present in the supreme act of his love, the life-giving gift of himself.’

‘In the celebration of the sacraments, the Church hands down her memory especially through the procession of faith.’


Chapter 3 - I Delivered to you what I also Received

Faith, Prayer and the Decalogue (The Ten Commandments)

The Our Father: ‘Here Christians learn to share in Christ’s own spiritual experience and to see all things through his eyes.’

‘The Decalogue is not a set of negative commands, but concrete directions for emerging from the desert of the selfish and self-enclosed ego in order to enter into dialogue with God, to be embraced by His mercy and then to bring that mercy to others....Faith thus professes the love of God.’

‘The Decalogue appears as the path of gratitude….and this path receives new light from Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount.’ (cf. Mt 5-7)

‘The four elements which comprise the storehouse of memory which the Church hands down; the profession of faith, the celebration of the sacraments, the path of the ten commandments, and prayer....[This] includes the Catechism of the Catholic Church which is a fundamental aid for that unitary act with which the Church communicates the entire content of her faith: “all that she herself is, and all that she believes".'


Chapter 3 - I Delivered to you what I also Received

The Unity and Integrity of Faith

‘Genuine love, after the fashion of God’s love, ultimately requires truth, and the shared contemplation of the truth which is Jesus Christ enables love to become deep and enduring.’

‘[St Irenaeus] says, there is no difference in the faith of “those who are able to discourse it at length” and “those who speak but little”, between the greater and the less: the first cannot increase the faith, nor the second diminish it.’

‘By professing the same faith, we [the Church] stand firm on the same rock, we are transformed by the same Spirit of love, we radiate one light and we have a single insight into reality.’

‘Precisely because all the articles of faith are interconnected, to deny one of them, even of those that seem least important, is tantamount to distorting the whole….Harming the faith means harming communion with the Lord.’

‘Blessed John Henry Newman when he listed among the characteristic notes for distinguishing the continuity of doctrine over time its power to assimilate everything that it meets in the various settings in which it becomes present, and in the diverse cultures which it encounters, purifying all things and bringing them to their finest expression. Faith is this shown to be universal, catholic, because its light expands in order to illumine the entire cosmos and all of history.’


Chapter 4 - God Prepares a City for Them

Faith and the Common Good

‘Faith does not draw us away from the world or prove irrelevant to the concrete concerns of the men and women of our time. Without a love which is trustworthy, nothing could truly keep men and women united. Human unity would be conceivable only on the basis of utility, on a calculus of conflicting interests or on fear, but not on the goodness of living together, not on the joy which the mere presence of others can give.

Faith makes us appreciate the architecture of human relationships because it grasps their ultimate foundation and definitive destiny in God, in his love and thus sheds light on the art of building; as such it becomes a service to the common good.

Faith is truly a good for everyone; it is a common good.’


Chapter 4 - God Prepares a City for Them

Faith and the Family

Of a stable union of a man and a woman in marriage…’This union is born of their love, as a sign and presence of God’s own love, and of the acknowledgment and acceptance of sexual differentiation, whereby spouses can become one flesh and are enabled to give birth to a new life, a manifestation of the Creator’s goodness, wisdom and loving plan. Grounded in this love a man and a woman can promise each other mutual love in a gesture which engages their entire lives and mirrors many features of faith. Promising love for ever is possible when we perceive a plan bigger than our own ideas and undertakings, a plan which sustains and enables us to surrender our future entirely to the one we love.’

‘Faith also helps us to grasp in all its depth and richness the begetting of children, as a sign of the love of the Creator who entrusts us with the mystery of the new person.’

‘We have all seen, during World Youth Days, the joy that young people show in their faith and their desire for an ever more solid and generous life of faith. Young people want to live life to the fullest. Encountering Christ, letting themselves be caught up in and guided by his love, enlarges the horizons of existence, gives it a firm hope which will not disappoint.’

‘[Faith] makes us aware of a magnificent calling, the vocation of love.’


Chapter 4 - God Prepares a City for Them

A Light for Life in Society

‘Absorbed and deepened in the family, faith becomes a light capable of illumining all our relationships in society.’

‘Modernity sought to build a universal brotherhood based on equality, yet we gradually came to realise that this brotherhood, lacking a reference to a common Father as its ultimate foundation, cannot endure.’

‘As salvation history progresses, it becomes evident that God wants to make everyone share as brothers and sisters in that one blessing, which attains its fullness in Jesus, so that all may be one.’

‘Faith teaches us to see that every man and woman represents a blessing for me, that the light of God’s face shines on me through the faces of my brothers and sisters.’

‘Thanks to faith we have come to understand the unique dignity of each person, something which is not clearly seen in antiquity.’

‘Faith….by revealing the love of God the Creator, enables us to respect nature all the more, and to discern it in a grammar written by the hand of God and a dwelling place entrusted to our protection and care.’

‘Faith….offers the possibility of forgiveness, which so often demands time and effort, patience and commitment. Forgiveness is possible once we discover that goodness is always prior to and more powerful than evil, and that the word with which God affirms our life is deeper than our every denial.’

‘If we remove faith in God from our cities, mutual trust would be weakened, we would remain united only by fear and our stability would be threatened.’


Chapter 4 - God Prepares a City for Them

Consolation and Strength amid Suffering

‘Christians know that suffering cannot be eliminated, yet it can have meaning and become an act of love and entrustment into the hands of God who does not abandon us; in this way it can serve as a moment of growth in faith and love.’

‘Even death is illumined and can be experienced as the ultimate call to faith….the ultimate “Come!” spoken by the Father, to whom we abandon ourselves in the confidence that he will keep us steadfast even in our final passage.’

‘Faith is not a light which scatters all our darkness, but a lamp which guides our steps in the night and suffices for the journey.’

‘To those who suffer, God does not provide arguments which explain everything; rather, his response is that of an accompanying presence, a history of goodness which touches every story of suffering and opens up a ray of light.’

‘….faith is linked to hope, for even if our dwelling place here below is wasting away, we have an eternal dwelling place which God has already prepared in Christ, his body.’

‘In union with faith and charity, hope propels us towards a sure future, set against a different horizon with regard to the illusory enticements of the idols of this world yet granting new momentum and strength to our daily lives.’


Chapter 4 - God Prepares a City for Them

Blessed is She who Believed

‘The Mother of the Lord is the perfect icon of faith; as St Elizabeth would say: “Blessed is she who believed.” (Lk 1:45)

‘At the centre of our faith is the confession of Jesus, the Son of God, born of a woman, who brings us, through the gift of the Holy Spirit, to adoption as sons and daughters.’


Closing Prayer by Pope Francis

‘Let us turn in prayer to Mary, Mother of the Church and Mother of our faith.

Mother, help or faith!

Open our ears to hear God’s word and to recognise his voice and call.

Awaken in us a desire to follow in his footsteps, to go forth from our own land and to receive his promise.

Help us to be touched by his love, that we may touch him in faith.

Help us to entrust ourselves fully to him and to believe in his love, especially at times of trial, beneath the shadow of the cross, when our faith is called to mature.

Sow in our faith the joy of the Risen One.

Remind us that those who believe are never alone.

Teach us to see all things with the eyes of Jesus, that he may be light for our path. And may this light of faith always increase in us, until the dawn of that undying day which is Christ himself, your Son, our Lord!’