Faith is life
When all things go well faith helps us be thankful. When things are wrong faith gives hope. Faith is our daily life, our daily bread.
'For me faith is life', stresses Prof. Anna Swiderkowna, author of numerous books about the Bible. 'For me to believe means to trust, have confidence in the right way, that is not to look at yourself, not to think of yourself. When all things are possible', she says.
Otylia Jedrzejczak, our talented young swimmer, who has already had many successes in international swimming pools. 'Faith is the foundation without which all these things would not have happened, and likewise prayer precedes my every start', she admits.
Senator Ewa Tomaszewska, Law and Justice, gains strength for work from her faith. Before the parliamentary elections she committed herself to help the poor, the aggrieved, the disabled. 'If we are people of Christian faith we should show deeds of love', she says. And all those who got to know her better know very well that if she had had 48 hours a day she would demonstrate proofs of love all the time. Her office is full of people asking for help and she does not leave anyone who needs support.
These are only some examples of people who have deep faith but do not show it aggressively. There are such people. We meet them on buses, in streets or shops every day. They differ but have one thing in common: faith.
Faith is certainty
Countless books have been written about faith. There are so many books that even if we lived 1,000 years we would not read them all. Moreover, some books, written by sophisticated theologians, are so difficult and complicated that we feel discouraged to read them. But faith is simple. Benedict XVI spoke about it in his homily during the Mass in Regensburg. He stressed that 'We believe in God - in God, who is the Beginning and End of human life. We believe in a God who enters into a relationship with us human beings, who is our origin and our future. Consequently, faith is, always and inseparably, hope: the certainty that we have a future and will not end up as nothing. And faith is love, since God's love is contagious'. He added that 'the Creed is not a collection of propositions; it is not a theory.'
These words were already explained in his famous book entitled 'Introduction to Christianity', written over 30 years ago. In his book the Pope emphasizes that the word 'faith' embraces our fundamental choice of the attitude towards reality. That means that faith is the fundamental attitude towards existence, oneself and reality as a whole. This means that what we choose, the substance we cannot see, the substance that human beings cannot keep in view, is not unreal but on the contrary the substance we cannot see is the right reality, which sustains and makes all reality possible. Rev. Prof. Ratzinger explains that to believe is to acknowledge that inside human existence there is some point that cannot be powered by what is visible and tangible and cannot be based on that but this point comes into contact with the invisible and the invisible becomes tangible and indispensable for its existence.
To turn in order to see
Rev. Prof. Ratzinger has no doubts that one can adopt such an attitude only through what the Bible calls conversion. Man by nature leans towards what is visible, what can be touched, measured and seen. Therefore, man must turn to see how blind he is when he believes in only what he can see. Without this turn of existence, without overcoming the natural inclination there is no faith. In fact, faith is conversion in which man discovers that he deludes himself when he follows only what is tangible. At the same time, this is the strongest evidence that faith cannot be proved. Faith is a turn in being and is only attained by the one who makes a turn in life. Since by nature we follow a different course, faith is something new every day and only in the conversion that will last throughout our entire life we can understand what it means 'I believe'. Ratzinger gives an evocative picture: faith always means a jump over a bottomless void since it is always a risk to accept the invisible as something that is real and fundamental. The Pope stresses that faith has always been a decision involving the depth of human existence and demanding that man makes a turn, which can only be achieved by taking a decision.
As in sleep
It is often extremely hard to make such a decision. We can clearly see that in Saint Augustine whose conversion was a real struggle and was constantly deferred. In this famous 'Confessions' he turned to God and wrote, 'Thus with the baggage of this present world was I held down pleasantly, as in sleep: and the thoughts wherein I meditated on Thee were like the efforts of such as would awake, who yet overcome with a heavy drowsiness, are again drenched therein... I had nothing at all to answer, but only those dull and drowsy words, "Anon, anon," "presently," "leave me but a little."
But finally, St Augustine's conversion was completed. It was done under the influence of God's words and specifically, the words from the Epistle of St Paul to the Romans, 'with no orgies or drunkenness, no promiscuity or licentiousness, and no wangling or jealousy. Let your armour be the Lord Jesus Christ, and stop worrying about how your disordered natural inclinations may be fulfilled' (13:13-14).
The conversion of Saint Augustine, his turn from unbelief to faith was, obviously, God's gift, God's grace. Since faith is a gift. 'And it is such a gift by which God calls me to come closer to him and to fall in love with him. Thus the more I want this gift the more of it I get. In this respect, faith is like our other skills: my talents for music or foreign languages would be useless if I dig my talents and do not develop them' Fr Salij writes in his book 'Nadzieja poddawana probom' [Hope Tested]. He adds that perhaps we most frequently waste our greatest talents. 'Faith is a talent which goes beyond the measure of human nature and it is likely that we waste it even more often than our ability to love one another. Our faith is decisively too often poor and dead and it does not make us come closer to God. The reason is not that God does not give us faith but that we get a talent of faith from God and we prefer to keep it in a safe, instead of letting it grow', Fr Salij stresses.
Praying for faith
How can we multiply the talent of faith and do not hide it in a safe? How can we guard faith in order not to lose it? 'First of all, we should pray for faith', Rev. Dr. Wlodzimierz Artyszuk, theologian from Warsaw, stresses, 'So we should often go to Mass, receive Holy Communion and read the Bible. It is God's word directed to me. We should also deepen our knowledge about God. We should read Catholic press and religious literature. These things can give numerous guidelines, make us reflect and do not keep to the surface.
Fr Artyszuk emphasizes that the selectivity of faith is a big threat today. 'For example we show enormous individualism concerning commandments. First of all, one should show that faith has certain consequences. If I am a believer I cannot be in a dilemma. I accept the teaching of the Church or I do not accept it. It is very easy to say 'I am a believer, but...' Such words testify to man's immaturity. Faith is a certain whole and one cannot select things to believe', Fr Artyszuk says.
Faith is often tested. The tests can be of various kinds. In the above-mentioned book Fr Jacek Salij writes, 'A test may be a new environment that sees faith differently than the people in my previous environment. There are environments in which faith is an obvious thing. If a member of such a circle joins unbelievers or people of poor faith he must mobilise himself not to yield to the atmosphere of the new environment. Many people do not pass this test and their faith is lost partially or completely in a relatively short time after their arrival in a new city, country, and some professional or informal circles. On the other hand, those who 'guard' their faith as their most precious treasure pass this test and their faith has been strengthened and renewed.