BITE-SIZE THEOLOGY (30) – How do we grow in faith?

– Rev José Mario O. Mandía

How do we grow in faith? To answer this question, we have to go back to Bite-Size Theology, no 26, where we have distinguished two senses of “faith.” One subjective, the other objective. The subjective meaning refers to the act of believing, the supernatural virtue of faith; the objective meaning refers to what is believed (the contents of belief, i.e., Revealed Truth). St Augustine gave a name to distinguish the two: the subjective act of believing he called fides qua creditur (the faith by which revealed truths are believed); the objective meaning he called fides quae creditur (the contents of faith that are believed).

We have also seen previously (cf Bite-Size Theology, no 27) that fides qua creditur, the virtue by which we believe Revelation, is a supernatural gift. If we want to make it grow, we have to ask God to increase it.

How about the fides quae creditur? How do we grow in our knowledge of what God has told us? Among others, we can do the following:

(1) Read the Scriptures, especially the Gospels. I would especially recommend Catholic editions of the Bible that include annotations and explanations of the text. Pope Benedict XVI recommended lectio divina, a prayerful reading of the Bible which, he explained, consists of four stages.

(1.1) Lectio or attentive and careful reading of the Scriptural text, looking out for the message God wants to communicate to us (some people write down these passages in slips of paper which they can use again for meditation or vocal prayer – see 1.2 and 1.3 below).

(1.2) Meditatio or pondering over the text. “To meditate on what we read helps us to make it our own by confronting it with ourselves. Here, another book is opened: the book of life. We pass from thoughts to reality. To the extent that we are humble and faithful, we discover in meditation the movements that stir the heart and we are able to discern them. It is a question of acting truthfully in order to come into the light: ‘Lord, what do you want me to do?’” (CCC 2706).

(1.3) Oratio or vocal prayer, where we use a phrase or two which we find appropriate to speak with God. Wherever we are and whatever we may be doing, we can always whisper some words to our Lord, knowing He watches over us.

(1.4) Contemplatio or contemplation. The CCC  assures us: “Vocal prayer becomes an initial form of contemplative prayer” (2704). And what is contemplation? St Teresa of Avila explains that to contemplate is “to be alone with him who we know loves us” (CCC 2709).

(2) Spiritual reading. It is good to ask our spiritual director to recommend a book that suits our needs.

(3) Attending some courses on the Faith. Theology is the science of the Faith. Like all science, it helps us to know our Faith in a systematic way. With the aid of reason it strives to know better the truths that are of the Faith. It makes truth more intelligible for the believer. This effort, when authentic, stems from love of God and is accompanied by an effort to get closer to Him. The best theologians were all saints.

(4) Prayer (see 1.2 to 1.4 above) is a conversation which leads to greater knowledge.

(5) Holy Eucharist. Union with Jesus, the Word of God, leads us to a deeper knowledge of God, ourselves and the world.

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