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The Deposit of Faith and the Catechism

by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

I have been asked to speak on the deposit of faith and the Catechism. I would like to somewhat refine the subject by speaking on The Catechism of the Catholic Church as the basis for heroically Living the Divine Faith.

You notice what I have done. I have first of all redefined ‘deposit of faith’, as the basis for the Divine Faith.

Then I have spelled out what the conjunction ‘and’ means in the original title. It means heroically living the faith divinely revealed in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition.

Before we go any further, let me give a preview of what I would like to cover in this opening lecture on the Catechism of the Catholic Church. This comes in a series of preliminary questions to be answered:


What is the Deposit of Faith?

The deposit of faith is not as we might speak of a deposit of dust on the furniture. It is not like a deposit of money in the bank. The deposit of faith is the Church’s possession of unchangeable truth: What God has revealed through His prophets in the Old Law, and through His Divine Son in the New Law. It is the ocean of divine wisdom that God has manifested to His people over the centuries, but especially revealed to us in the words and actions of Jesus Christ the Incarnate Second Person of the Blessed Trinity.


Where is this Deposit of Faith?

If we pursue the question, and ask, where can this deposit of faith be found, the answer is easy to express, but not easy to live up to.

This deposit of faith, which we call the possession of unchangeable truth, is found substantially and essentially in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Pope John Paul II, in his apostolic constitution called Deposit of Faith, introduces the Catechism by calling it a “compendium of all Catholic doctrine”.

To repeat our question, Where do we find the deposit of faith? - we answer, in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It is all there

  • substantially

  • essentially

  • unambiguously

  • clearly and definitely.

Anyone who reads the Catechism and accepts it deserves to be called a Roman Catholic. No one else does!


What does Acceptance of the Catholic Faith Mean?

To accept the Catholic faith can mean any one of four things.

  • It can mean believing the true faith with the mind. This, in fact is what the first part of the Church’s Catechism is all about. I submit my mind to everything which God has revealed. Why? Because God revealed it. If we are so ready to believe what people tell us, why should we not be even more ready to accept every word that came from the mind and mouth of God.

  • Acceptance of the Catholic faith can mean receiving the sacraments. We believe the sacraments actually confer the grace they signify. So we receive the sacraments, trusting in God’s word that at Baptism we received sanctifying grace, in Holy Communion we receive Jesus Christ, and in Confession we receive remission of our sins.

  • Again acceptance of the Catholic faith can mean that we pray to the God we believe in; we thank Him for His goodness in the past; beg for His mercy and goodness in the future, and ask Him for the constant flood of graces that we need and that only He can give.

  • But finally acceptance of the true faith means putting into practice what we believe God wants us to do, avoiding what He wants us to avoid, and even going beyond the call of duty by surrendering our wills to His divine will as a manifestation of His love.

It is here that I wish to concentrate this lecture, on living the deposit of faith taught by the Catechism. This means doing God’s will by keeping His Commandments - as first revealed by God to Moses on Mt. Sinai and then elevated by God Himself as Man, in the four Gospels.

As we focus on living the deposit of faith by doing God’s will, we shall further concentrate on three revealed laws of God that, in today’s world, are crying to heaven for observance. They are:

  • Respecting the Sanctity of the Human body.

  • Respecting the Sanctity of Human Marriage.

  • Respecting the Sanctity of Human Life.

All three are divinely revealed truths. They are therefore to be accepted by the believing mind. But they are also divinely revealed inspirations that are to be obeyed by the created will.


Respect the Sanctity of the Human Body

Never will I forget that memorable canonization of St. Maria Goretti, the twelve-year-old girl from Nettuno, Italy, who allowed herself to be killed rather than compromise her chastity.

At the canonization ceremony in June of 1950, Pope Pius XII predicted that before the turn of the century the enemies of Christ would seduce millions of person from their faith in Christ by means of sexual allurements.

So they are doing. And they are demonically successful. Never did I think I would live to see at my own Catholic college alma mater literature for the use of condoms to enjoy sex while protecting oneself from infectious disease.

Let us be very clear. Chastity is a revealed mandate of Christ, the living God. He not only prescribed chastity, but told us to make any earthly sacrifice, symbolized by cutting off one’s hand or plucking out one’s eye, rather than allowing these parts of the body to lead us into sins against chastity. Why? Because as He explained, it is better to reach heaven with one hand or one eye than go to hell with two hands or two eyes.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church explicitly cites this teaching of Christ on chastity, quoting our Lord as saying, Everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Why are our bodies holy? Because, we are told, our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. Our bodies are sanctuaries of the Most High. To violate the body by sins against chastity is to commit blasphemy against God who took on a human body and who wants us to adore Him with our body by our practice of self-sacrificing chastity.


Respect for the Sanctity of Human Marriage

The Catechism of the Catholic Church could not be more clear on the holiness of marriage.

Why is all marriage holy? Because marriage was instituted by God for the preservation and propagation of the human race.

Because marriage is the revealed symbol of God’s union with His chosen people. He is their Bridegroom, and they are His Bride.

Because marriage was elevated by Christ to the sublimity of a sacrament. Through the graces which the marrying partners receive, they are united with the Savior in a bond which makes Him a divine Partner in their marital covenant.

Because in marriage, husband and wife are enabled to practice the most elevated selfless charity. Granted that all of Christ’s followers are to practice loving charity, Christ’s married followers have a daily opportunity and privilege to “go the limit” in the sacrificial love.

In the words of the Catechism, quoting one of the Fathers of the Church, we read a question: How can I express the happiness of a marriage joined together by the Church? Strengthened by an offering? Sealed by a blessing? Announced by angels and ratified by the Father? How wonderful the bond between two believers, one in hope, one in desire, one in discipline, one in the same service! They are both children of one Father and servants of the same Master, undivided in spirit and flesh. They are truly two in one flesh, and where the flesh is one, one also is the spirit.

How this needs to be shouted from the mountain tops in our day. Christ restored the human race to its access to pre-sinful grace. He tells not His own followers, but all of mankind that monogamy is the universal law for all human beings, no matter what their religion, culture, or nationality.

When we speak of the Catechism of the Catholic Church as possessing the deposit of faith, we are saying far more than most people realize. We are saying that

  • God wants marriage to be lifelong, where each partner remains faithful to his or her spouse until death.

  • God wants marriage to be loving, and therefore self-giving.

  • God wants marriage to be fruitful. Depending on His will, He wants married couples to have children. In the words of the Catechism, the Church teaches that each and every marriage must remain open to the transmission of life.

  • God wants believing Christians to be a witness to His almighty power and infinite love by enabling those who believe in Him to remain firm in spite of the mockery which apostates from the faith are making of the sacred institution of marriage.

The Catholic Church will survive only in countries where there are people who still believe in all that the Catechism teaches about the sanctity of marriage.

This has been the verdict of history for 19 centuries. Every major break in the Church’s unity, every major departure from Catholic solidarity, every rise of new heresy with the creation of a new religion - outside of the Roman Catholic Church - has had one common denominator: the refusal of its leaders to accept the deposit of faith on the unity and indissolubility of marriage. The Catholic Church in any era is only as strong and solid as the married members are committed on faith to Christ’s uncompromising doctrine on matrimony.


Respect for the Sanctity of Human Life

Our third area of courage could have been the whole lecture.

Remember our focus: The Catechism of the Catholic Church provides all the essentials of revealed faith that we are to put into practice in our daily lives. The third of these essentials is respect for the sanctity of human life.

It is crucial to keep in mind that we are talking about the sanctity of human life. Why is human life sacred? It is sacred because our faith teaches that

  • human life comes directly from the God who personally creates each human soul.

  • human life is enabled to know and love God here on earth, and be perfectly happy with God in a blessed eternity.

  • human life was assumed by the Son of God so that, God could love us with a human heart even as we love Him with our hearts.

  • human life is sacred because its purpose is to see God face to face in the beatific vision. We are to mysteriously share in the mutual knowledge and love of the three Persons of the Most Holy Trinity.

For all these reasons, God alone has the final right to determine who is to be conceived, who is to be born, how long people are to remain alive in body, and when their bodily lives are to be terminated.

In the most explicit language possible and the most decisive words available, the Catechism spells out in lapidarian terms the crimes of abortion and so-called euthanasia. Thus, we are told: “Since the first century, the Church has taught the moral evil of procured abortion. The Church punishes this crime against human life with the canonical penalty of excommunication.”

Speaking of euthanasia, the Catechism says, “Whatever its motives or means, direct euthanasia consists in ending the life of a handicapped, sick or dying person. It is morally sinful.” In fact, “those, whose lives are diminished or weakened, have a claim on our special request. Sick or handicapped persons should be helped to lead lives as normal as possible.”

Yet, what do we see? Not just the opposite but the demonic antithesis of the deposit of revealed faith. We are living in the most homicidal century of human history. We are witnesses to the most widespread influence of moral Satanism since the dawn of human antiquity. What Cain did to his brother Abel, we now see being perpetrated and not only legalized by, on the verge of being legislated by what were once civilized nations in all the continents.


Timing

It was no coincidence that Pope John Paul II promulgated the Catechism of the Catholic Church on October 11, 1992. It was exactly 400 [500] years to the day that Columbus discovered the New World.

Columbus’ towering motive was to bring Christ and His teaching to the non-Christian nations he expected to find.

In spite of all the anti-Catholic Columbus-bashing we saw in the quincentennial year, the fact is that Columbus did bring the true faith to the two Americas. By 1550, no less than 50 million Aztec Indians alone were converted to the Catholic Faith.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church is therefore both a compendium and a commitment. It is a compendium of the same true faith that Columbus brought to our shores a half a millennium ago. It is also a commitment, our commitment to carry on the evangelization which began at the close of the fifth century. What is our commitment? To

  • know what we believe because it was revealed to us by God.

  • live what we believe because this is the divine will for us.

Just before his Ascension, Our Lord told His Disciples to preach the Gospel to all people, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit – “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”

That is it! That is why we have the Gospels: to put Christ’s teaching into practice.


Prayer

Lord Jesus, grant us the light to see why you became Man, to reveal your wisdom to a world starving for the Truth.

But especially give courage to our wills to rise above our human fear and human respect, help us to live heroic lives of fidelity to your Divine Heart, who loved us even to dying on Calvary to win our love for you in return. Amen.

Copyright © 1999 Inter Mirifica






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