Faith: A Personal Act

“Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen”(Hebrews 11.1)

Pope Benedict had news for pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square this Wednesday. His address came just a week after formerly excommunicated theologian and human rights activist, Fr. Tissa Balasuriya of Sri Lanka passed away.

The Pontiff reminded the crowd that the Church teaches that “faith is a personal act.” And he urged them to answer the call for “a radical transformation of reality that only the eyes of faith can see and enjoy in abundance.”

This is welcome news.  We should take the Pope at his word. Perhaps it is the beginning of a change in how the Church responds to those who feel called to go “against the grain.”  Instead of excommunicating them, perhaps the church will start recognizing that people like Fr. Tissa Balasuriya, Fr. Roy Bourgeois, Sr. Margaret McBride, Sr. Margaret Farley, Sr.Pat Farrell  and others are prophets, not religious delinquents or heretics.

Dare we hope that the Pope’s address this week is a small signal that the Vatican is ready to go against the grain of its own discriminatory practices towards women and LGBT Catholics?

As President Jimmy Carter, a man of lifelong faith, said when he severed his ties with the Southern Baptist Convention : “It is simply self-defeating for any community to discriminate against half its population.

When will the institutional Catholic church allow itself to be guided by faith and reason to the same realization? Lay Catholics get it. The sisters get it. Many brave, principled priests and religious get it. Hurry up, Rome. Hurry up, Bishops. Time to catch up.

In every other sphere of human activity, a radical transformation of reality is taking place that moves us towards greater gender equality. Is it too much to hope and pray for the realization of a Catholic Church that is truly catholic? A church that stops demanding unthinking obedience and instead trusts in what it teaches about the intensely personal nature of faith? A church that welcomes everyone, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, to full communion.

This post is dedicated to the memory of Fr. Tissa Balasuriya OMI. Photo courtesy of his blog http://tissabalasuriya.wordpress.com/about/  I am grateful to have had the blessing of Fr. Tissa’s teaching during a Pax Christi conference while a member of the Catholic Students’ Society at the University of Malaya.

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2 comments on “Faith: A Personal Act
  1. Kaysie McAlister says:

    If one thinks about it, the concept of a more universal church that embraces a more universal message and belief system that encourages hope, love, and acceptance with compassion as its tenents could in fact contribute to less violence, lessening of wars and bitter conflicts, and lessening of territorial expansion for what purpose, well, it is a miraculous thought isn’t it?

  2. And in the spirit of being guided by his personal faith to go “against the grain,” Fr. Flannery of Ireland refuses to be “terrified into submission,” vowing to continue to speak out in favor of more open discussion of women in the priesthood, contraception and homosexuality. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/20/world/europe/priest-is-planning-to-defy-vaticans-orders-to-stay-quiet.html?emc=eta1&_r=0

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