The first two selections are links to magisterial documents about faith, followed by some of our favorite books about faith.
Porta Fidei Door of Faith (October 11, 2011)
This apostolic letter was written by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI to introduce the Year of Faith (October 11, 2012, to November 24, 2013), which commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council and marks the 20th anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Porta Fidei is founded on the premise that faith is a door that can usher men and women into life in communion with God.
“Caritas Christi urget nos: It is the love of Christ that fills our hearts and impels us to evangelize. Today as in the past, [Christ] sends us through the highways of the world to proclaim his Gospel to all the peoples of the earth. Through his love, Jesus Christ attracts to himself the people of every generation: In every age he convokes the Church, entrusting her with the proclamation of the Gospel by a mandate that is ever new. Today too, there is a need for stronger ecclesial commitment to new evangelization in order to rediscover the joy of believing and the enthusiasm for communicating the faith. In rediscovering his love day by day, the missionary commitment of believers attains force and vigor that can never fade away. Faith grows when it is lived as an experience of love received and when it is communicated as an experience of grace and joy. It makes us fruitful, because it expands our hearts in hope and enables us to bear life-giving witness: Indeed, it opens the hearts and minds of those who listen to respond to the Lord’s invitation to adhere to his word and become his disciples. Believers, so St. Augustine tells us, ‘strengthen themselves by believing.’ The saintly Bishop of Hippo had good reason to express himself in this way. As we know, his life was a continual search for the beauty of the faith until such time as his heart would find rest in God. His extensive writings, in which he explains the importance of believing and the truth of the faith, continue even now to form a heritage of incomparable riches, and they still help many people in search of God to find the right path towards the ‘door of faith.’”
Fides et Ratio Faith and Reason (September 14, 1998)
Pope St. John Paul II wrote this encyclical to address contemporary philosophical concerns about religious faith and to show that not only are faith and reason compatible, both are essential to fulfill humanity’s basic need for spiritual truth.
“Recent times have seen the rise to prominence of various doctrines which tend to devalue even the truths which had been judged certain. A legitimate plurality of positions has yielded to an undifferentiated pluralism, based upon the assumption that all positions are equally valid, which is one of today’s most widespread symptoms of the lack of confidence in truth. Even certain conceptions of life coming from the East betray this lack of confidence, denying truth its exclusive character and assuming that truth reveals itself equally in different doctrines, even if they contradict one another. On this understanding, everything is reduced to opinion; and there is a sense of being adrift. While, on the one hand, philosophical thinking has succeeded in coming closer to the reality of human life and its forms of expression, it has also tended to pursue issues—existential, hermeneutical or linguistic—which ignore the radical question of the truth about personal existence, about being and about God. Hence we see among the men and women of our time, and not just in some philosophers, attitudes of widespread distrust of the human being’s great capacity for knowledge. With a false modesty, people rest content with partial and provisional truths, no longer seeking to ask radical questions about the meaning and ultimate foundation of human, personal and social existence. In short, the hope that philosophy might be able to provide definitive answers to these questions has dwindled. Sure of her competence as the bearer of the Revelation of Jesus Christ, the Church reaffirms the need to reflect upon truth. This is why I have decided to address you, my venerable Brother Bishops, with whom I share the mission of ‘proclaiming the truth openly,’ as also theologians and philosophers whose duty it is to explore the different aspects of truth, and all those who are searching; and I do so in order to offer some reflections on the path which leads to true wisdom, so that those who love truth may take the sure path leading to it and so find rest from their labors and joy for their spirit.”
The Art of Faith:
A Guide to Understanding Christian Images
by Judith Couchman
Paraclete Press, Brewster, Massachusetts
This book was written to help Christians who want to enrich their faith by deciphering and interpreting visual images and symbols used in religious paintings, sculpture, and stained glass windows. It translates the language of color and form used in Christian art through the centuries. The book includes historical information as well as helpful black and white drawings.
“This was the catalyst for Christian art: wanting to see Christ’s face. Whether we believe these ancient “face stores” as actual or legendary, they highlight the desire to visually witness the sacred. Consequently, early Christian artists began creating images of Jesus to help people accept, follow, and celebrate their new-found beliefs. They illustrated signs, symbols, saints, biblical stories, liturgical objects, and church furnishings to pass along their spiritual perspective and heritage.”
Faith and Certitude
by Thomas Dubay, S.M.
Ignatius Press, San Francisco, California
Known for his well-organized, inspirational, and sometimes humorous writing style, the author, a Marist priest, tackles critical contemporary issues concerning faith and certitude, cutting through the relativism and skeptical atmosphere of our time to expose the deepest roots of error, whether scientific or theological. His book can serve as an invaluable aid to anyone committed to an honest search for religious truth.
“Saints are never bored. A worldly person may be surprised at this statement and cast it aside as absurd. But the fact remains. Heroically good men and women do ‘rejoice in the Lord always.’ Though they suffer as much as the rest of us, and sometimes more than most of us, they are the most joyful people on earth.”
Faith Hope Love
by Josef Pieper
Ignatius Press, San Francisco, California
This volume contains separate treatises on the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love. Written by one of the most popular Thomist philosophers of the 20th century, the “faith” section of Faith Hope Love is derived from a series of lectures given in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The author relies heavily on his understanding of language—both root meanings as well as unexpressed but intuitively grasped hidden meanings. Excellent as a stand-alone work, “faith” forms a rock-solid foundation for understanding the author’s other works on “hope” and “love.”
“In all belief the person of the witness is ‘the main thing’; and each person’s apprehension has its special modes, just as the decision on belief always has its place in the personal history of the believer himself. Thus it can happen that one man, while contemplating the cathedral of Rouen, is suddenly flooded with the certainty that this ‘fullness’ must be the sign of divine revelation; while another, as Simone Weil reports concerning herself, may accept the truth of Christ on the simple evidence of the rapture flooding the face of a young communicant. Who is to pass judgment on the legitimacy of such ‘arguments’?”
Fundamentals of the Faith:
Essays in Christian Apologetics
by Peter Kreeft
Ignatius Press, San Francisco, California
Using the three aspects of religion—belief, duty, and liturgy—the author explains and defends the fundamental truths of Christianity and Catholicism. The book begins with reasons for believing in God and moves on to basic issues of faith involving Jesus Christ. It includes comparisons of Christianity with other world religions, an in-depth look at the Apostles’ Creed and the Lord’s Prayer, and discussions of the four ‘last things,’ the theological virtues, and the marks of the Church. This book is an excellent resource for use during the initial inquiry portion of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (R.C.I.A.), and a useful aid for any Catholic interested in apologetics.
“And that is the point of the creeds: truth. In fact, Primal Truth, the truth about God. That is why the words of the Creed are sacred words. Just as God’s material houses are sacred, so are his verbal houses. Of course God is no more confined to words, even the sacred words of creeds, than he is confined to the sacred buildings of tent or temple, church, or cathedral. But both are holy, set apart, sacred. ‘Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.'”
Seeking God’s Will Through Faith, Hope & Charity
by Philip Schuster, O.S.B.
The Printery House, Conception Abbey, Conception, Missouri
Written by a priest and Benedictine monk, this book is intended to serve as a practical guide for anyone who is sincere about wishing to respond to God in faith. The down-to-earth wisdom is suitable for people at all stages of the spiritual journey, and applies to lay men and women as well as religious.
“At present I feel that you can’t teach another how to pray. You can teach a child to say prayers, but that really isn’t praying. You can give some advice, a method of praying, to an adult. You can warn adults that they must do much more than say prayers. You can tell them things to do that will perhaps lead them to pray, but we learn how to pray by praying. Probably God teaches us.”