18 October 2015
The Essence of Faith and the Example of Saint Joseph
One of the hallmarks of our Catholic Faith, is the reality of secondary causality — namely that God uses instruments to do His Will. There are many examples in History. But the most obvious example, is the “Annunciation” of the Archangel Gabriel to the Mother of God — giving forth God’s Word to Her, and awaiting Her response. It is clear to all that this was a private revelation, via a secondary agent — an Archangel. The message to Mary was clearly supernatural, and She recognised straight away, that it was God addressing Her, and requiring Her free-will consent. Our Lady knew that the Archangel was not speaking for himself — but rather, that he was sent by God to Her, with a message for Her. She knew that it was the message that was important. Consequently, Mary’s faith was not a human faith in a creature — an Archangel. It was not his words nor his message — it was God’s Word and God’s message to Her.
Saint Thomas Aquinas sheds a lot of light on the subject of perfect certitude. He writes: “…the foreknowledge that is acquired concerning future events from divine revelation, according to prophetic grace, is altogether certain, just as divine foreknowledge is also certain. Indeed, God does not merely foreknow future events as they are in their causes, but infallibly, as they are in themselves … And so, prophetic knowledge of future things is given man in the same way, with perfect certitude. Nor is this certitude opposed to the contingency of future events, any more than the certitude of divine knowledge is …” (Summa Contra Gentiles, Book III, Part II, Chapter 154).
God’s Grace gave to Mary, this perfect certitude in Her conscience, that this message from the Archangel was truly from God. It was certainly prophetic and revealed the future to Her. This is obvious to most people, but I need to stress the point, because it is the same principle for any chosen instrument — God chooses whom He wishes to communicate His Truth, for the salvation of souls. Thus it is necessary that God grant to His chosen soul, this perfect certitude — otherwise, the Seer could not be blamed for disobedience; as well as, applauded for their heroic faith, and great merit in the Eyes of God.
In matters of discernment — we must always think from “above” — namely, within the radius of the Deposit of Faith. In this way, we rely upon the Divine Precedent. In other words, “has God ever done anything like this before?” If God has done something before — no one can say that it is evil. God cannot do evil. For instance, Divine precedents in Sacred Scripture are often mysterious and not easily understood — yet they are not a contradiction of other Laws of God. God does not contradict Himself. Divine precedent reflects God’s Infinite Goodness, which is also reflected in the lives of the Saints. This is why we must always think about the Mystery of the Incarnation — from “above” — in other words, to think within the radius of revealed Truth as found in the Deposit of Faith. Saint Thomas Aquinas has done a great service to the Church in his writings wherein he explains — for example, why God’s Command to Abraham about killing his son Isaac, was not sinful. We do not think from “below” — namely, in the realm of human logic or the Behavioural Sciences. While it is true that Psychology and statistical surveys of human behaviour are useful — yet they are not helpful when it comes to judging Divine Revelations to be from God — whether public or private.
The Mystery of the Incarnation is truly comprehensive — it embraces more than a few persons, who are called by God to share the same obedience of faith, as the Mother of God. The first is Saint Joseph. Most people do not realise that Saint Joseph also had his “annunciation” from and Angel, and in a dream. It was a private revelation. He too received God’s Word through the agency of an Angel. When he woke up, he simply did what the Angel told him about — he took his wife Mary to their home. He was not to be afraid to do God’s Will, even though it was mysterious and humanly hard to understand. He knew that God had done things like this before — for instance, Abraham and his heroic faith, regarding God’s Command to sacrifice his son Isaac. This is Divine precedent. Saint Joseph’s supernatural certitude in faith really shines brightly.
Let us imagine this scene: a meeting between Saint Joseph and his local Synagogue leader. We know that before his “annunciation” from the Angel — Saint Joseph was very troubled when he learned, that Mary was pregnant. Had he told his Synagogue leader about this matter — the Leader would have simply said that Mary had committed adultery, with another man, and that the Law of Moses was clear — she would have to be stoned to death or put away at best. The Leader would have relied upon the “magisterium” of his day — namely, the Law of Moses and Rabbinic teaching — as being the legitimate authority to judge such matters of Faith and Morals, in the Name of God. The Synagogue Leader would not have understood the message from God to Mary, because it was seemingly contrary to God’s own Law. The message from God to Saint Joseph told him not to “fear taking Mary, his wife home …” The Grace of God, given to Saint Joseph gave him perfect certitude that his message was from God. He did what the message directed — he committed his life, and vocation, to the Mystery revealed to Mary. It is clear that the message given to Saint Joseph via an Angel in a dream — was supernatural and worthy of belief.
There are those in the world, who too quickly judge the messages given to Seers, as being purely human in origin. While this is a possibility, requiring discernment — yet they say that, all private revelations, only require human faith at most — not supernatural faith in God. These people rule out God as the Source of the message as a matter of principle. It is the method of skepticism, which requires that one be suspicious and for safety-sake — better that you attribute the source as being from the devil, or from human self-consciousness. The skeptic says to himself: “private revelations are not necessary for salvation and only require human faith at best.” According to this way of thinking, Saint Joseph should have seen this matter as a purely human failure — that human faith is fallible, and therefore, he ought rightly, to be suspicious of Mary — after-all, how could such a thing be from God –according to the Mosaic Law, (the Deposit of Faith, at that time)? Adultery is contrary to Faith and Morals. Therefore, he should put Mary away to safeguard her reputation. In other words, to put all of this disappointment behind him — and go away to find love somewhere else. That is the conclusion of those who think from “below” — everything is based upon their human considerations which must always be suspicious in the face of private revelations. I would like to ask you the following question:
What does the “obedience of faith” really mean
“One can say that what Joseph did, united him in an altogether special way to the faith of Mary. He accepted as truth coming from God, the very thing that She had already accepted at the Annunciation. The Council teaches: “The ‘obedience of faith’, must be given to God as He reveals himself. By this obedience of faith, man freely commits himself entirely to God, making “the full submission of his intellect and will, to God who reveals,” and willingly assenting to the revelation given by Him. This statement, which touches the very essence of faith, is perfectly applicable to Joseph of Nazareth.” (Pope John Paul II, Redemptoris Custos, article 4)
“Faith is certain. It is more certain than all human knowledge because it is founded on the very Word of God who cannot lie. To be sure, revealed truths can seem obscure to human reason and experience, but ‘the certainty that the Divine Light gives is greater than that which the light of natural reason gives’. ‘Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt'” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, article 157)
Notice the above phrase: “The obedience of faith must be given to God, as He reveals Himself.” No one can require that God stop using secondary causes or instruments, to achieve His purpose. God is free to use Angels as well as Seers to achieve His Goal — that, His Will be done. That is what “as He reveals Himself”, really means.
The Seer is merely the instrument in the Hands of God. God is the ultimate cause of His Glory, and it is His Will, that is made manifest through the messages given to the Seer. For believers, as well as the Seer — this requires supernatural faith in God — and most importantly, faith is a Gift from God.
Authentic private revelations concern the essence of faith
The Seer, has perfect certitude that it is God’s Will and God’s Message. This is supernatural faith, and it is theological — because it comes from God and goes back to God. When we say that faith is theological — it is important to be clear, because such faith is directed to God in response to His Grace. We distinguish it from human faith, which does not have God as it’s object — but rather, a creature is the focus and end. Thus, those who have the Gift of supernatural faith — know also that God is addressing His children via the messages. This is theological faith — and they will share in the reward that God gives to His Seer. The Seer shares in the faith of Mary — like Saint Joseph, but not in the same degree — but it is a real sharing, that brings great merit to the soul that believes.
The Seer accepts as Truth coming from God the very mystery of God’s Love and His Will — in a similar way as Mary did at the Annunciation. Consequently, like Saint Joseph, it is easy for the Seer as well as those who believe to say their “fiat” to God in union with Mary — because like good little sheep they recognise His Voice, just like Mary did.
The authentic discernment of true charisms
Our Lord Himself gives us the rule of discernment for souls who want to do God’s Will, regarding private revelations. It is a matter of love, and the honour we give to God. Jesus speaks:
“My teaching is not from Myself: it comes from the One who sent Me; and if anyone is prepared to do His Will, he will know whether My teaching is from God, or whether My doctrine is My own. When a man’s doctrine is his own, he is hoping to get honour for himself; but when he is working for the honour of the One who sent him, then he is sincere and by no means an imposter. Did not Moses give you the Law? And yet not one of you keeps the Law! Why do you want to kill Me?” (John 7:16-19)
The reality of Our Lord’s words in this text is clear to the Seer. The Seers often suffer so much from the rejection of the messages — yet they only desire that God be honoured and loved. The messages of God only bring persecution from most circles of humanity. At the same time, there are many good souls who drink into their hearts the “good news” of God’s Merciful Love. Their hearts are “touched” by Grace — in a way, that is both real and intangible. It is intangible because only God can touch their soul like this — it is analogous to the strings of a musical instrument within your soul. No one is capable of hearing that beautiful sound within your soul — but you hear it and it is unmistakeable. Their are nuances in the human heart which no other person can comprehend — but you know in your soul that God has visited your “house”. Like Zacchaeus, when Our Lord told him to come down from that tree — that Jesus wanted to come to his house. Zacchaeus understood in his soul — and made haste to invite Jesus to stay at his home. His life changed dramatically from that moment. Like Zacchaeus, we too understand, because there are certain “strings” in the human heart that only God can “touch”. When they sound, the harmony is unmistakeable. The devil cannot “touch” the soul like God does. The response is always the same — a fundamental question: “What must we do?” It is what the people said to Saint John the Baptist at the Jordan. It is what the little Seers said at Fatima, addressing Our Lady: “What do you want of me?” That is the way little souls love in return. It is a good question.
That passage of Saint John’s Gospel, also reminds me of the marriage vows, of a husband and wife, namely: “… I will love you, and honour you, all the days of my life”. How does that relate to authentic discernment? It witnesses to our relationship to God — namely, it reminds us of the First Commandment: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your strength, and all your heart …” We know that where our heart is — there is our treasure. If God is my Treasure — and I would rather lose all, rather than lose my Treasure — then I have Wisdom for my Guide.
This next example is very profound, and it shows a failure to discern God’s Word. It happens through the same Archangel that appeared to Mary. The “annunciation” of Saint Gabriel to the Priest Zachariah, illustrates the Light of God’s Grace, grants supernatural certitude in faith to him — which makes the act of faith so very meritorious.
“And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer is heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth; for he will be great before the Lord, and he shall drink no wine nor strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel, who stand in the presence of God; and I was sent to speak to you, and to bring you this good news. And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things come to pass, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.” (Luke 1:11-20)
It is clear that Zachariah had perfect certitude, that the message was from God, through the mediation of the Archangel. However, he allowed his human considerations about the message, to make him look at himself, instead of at God, who was inviting his act of faith. He gave into the temptation to think from “below”. Thus, the message seemed to him to be out of all proportion — how could this be true, because he considered himself an “old man” and incapable of having a child. Thus the Archangel advised him of the consequence, of his unbelief, that he was being told the truth.
In the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola we read the classical rules for the discernment of spirits — he writes: “When the comfort has no preceding occasion, whilst it is true that this cannot be illusory, since it can come only from God our Lord, as we have said, yet the spiritual recipient must scrutinise the process with great care. He must distinguish exactly the specific time of the actual comforting from the subsequent stage when the soul is still glowing with the favour conferred on it, a sort of after-glow from the comforting which is now over. In this second stage the soul often makes different resolutions and plans which are not the direct result of the action of God our Lord. They may be due to the soul’s own activity, based on established habits of mind or the implications of ideas or judgements previously formed; they may be the result of the action of the good or the evil spirit. So they have to be very carefully scrutinised before we can give them complete credit and put them into effect.”
That is where Saint Zechariah failed — namely, in the moments of the “afterglow” of the Archangel’s message, and while the Archangel was awaiting Zechariah’s response — the devil whispered suspicion and fear into his mind, which distracted him to see the disproportion of what was being told to him — as he viewed himself as an old man and his wife as being advanced in years — thus he allowed the suspicion that he was not being told the truth to corrupt his perfect certitude. He did not believe the words of the Archangel.
This whisperings of the devil to cause doubts, reminds me of Adam and Eve in the Original Sin in Paradise. The meaning of the word “suspicion” becomes very clear. In the Garden of Paradise, the evil serpent asked a question of Eve. It was a trick question: Did God really ask you not to eat of the Tree in the middle of the Garden? The devil whispers his evil intent to make her suspicious of God’s motives. Saint Pope John Paul II writes about this temptation in his Encyclical Dominum et Vivificantem:
“The words of the enticement, that is to say the temptation, as formulated in the sacred text, are an inducement to transgress this prohibition — that is to say, to go beyond that ‘limit’: ‘When you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God [‘like gods’], knowing good and evil’.” (Saint Pope John Paul II, Dominum et Vivificantem)
“This act of conscious choice is not only ‘disobedience’ but also involves a certain consent to the motivation which was contained in the first temptation to sin and which is unceasingly renewed during the whole history of man on earth: ‘For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil’.” (Saint Pope John Paul II, Dominum et Vivificantem)
The devil is a liar! He knows very well what God told Eve — but he needed to plant this evil seed of suspicion in her heart — that really, God cannot be trusted, because He does not have your interest at heart.
“This ‘anti-truth’ is possible because at the same time there is a complete falsification of the truth about who God is. God the Creator is placed in a state of suspicion, indeed of accusation, in the mind of the creature. For the first time in human history there appears the perverse “genius of suspicion.” (Saint Pope John Paul II, Dominum et Vivificantem)
It was a difficult lesson for Saint Zechariah to learn, because he had to admit to himself that he had been suspicious of the message from the Archangel — but he would later realise that God Loved him. His wife, Elizabeth was very different in her discernment, because she was prepared to do God’s Will. Thus, she was with the Grace of God, able to desire the Honour of God, who had chosen Zachariah and herself, to be part of the Plan for the Incarnation, and to support Mary. The consequence for Elizabeth was a great joy — she would later exclaim to Mary at the visitation: “For the moment your greeting sounded in my ear — the baby in my womb leapt for joy! Yes, Blessed is She who believed that the Lord’s Words to Her, would be fulfilled.” Elizabeth was full of faith.
The discernment of Mary and Saint Joseph, was just the opposite of Zachariah. They unconditionally submitted their trust and obedience of faith, to God who revealed this great Plan to Mary.
It is the Grace of God, that gives true wisdom in one’s soul, making it possible to understand what Our Lord means by His saying: “If anyone is prepared to do His Will, he will know whether my Teaching is from God, or whether My Doctrine is My own”. So, already we are within the radius of true and authentic discernment. The Seer and those who believe God’s Word — can now understand what Jesus means when He refers to the “honour” one seeks — either for God or for himself. The one who seeks God’s Honour is by no means a “fake” believer. Good children of God, hear His Voice, and love and honour their Lord.
I labour this point because we must always think from “above” — starting with the Words and example of Jesus and His followers — the Saints, down through the Ages.
Another way of expressing the reality of authentic discernment, comes from Pope Leo XIII in the following quotation from Saint Thomas Aquinas, namely: “The knowledge of what is true, is given by the fervour of love”. From that simple statement which is in reality, very profound — says to each one of us: that when you love God and the Blessed Virgin Mary — you are prepared to lay aside any human consideration, which would make you doubt, what you really know to be true. This is the supernatural certitude in faith, that makes us give our submission of intellect and will, to God who reveals His truth to us.
It is the same for the Seer known as the “Little Pebble” in Australia. The messages have been judged by the local Bishop to be contrary to Catholic Doctrine and practice. This is a false assertion and unfounded, yet to this day — because of the relentless News Media propaganda — it remains the official public statement from the Diocese. However, like Saint Joseph, the Little Pebble has perfect certitude about the messages he receives — they are truly from God, and show forth the magnificence of God’s Works. The truth of this assertion is corroborated by the many souls around the world who believe with supernatural faith in the messages from Heaven. They have offered their lives and vocations to embrace the Will of God through their obedience of faith. Thus there is a solidarity of friendship and service — to offer to God the desire to help in the effort to save souls in union with God’s chosen instrument — the Little Pebble.
It is the same for Maria Divine Mercy (MDM). She has been persecuted by the Church and the News Media. The messages have reached an international audience because of so many believers around the world that promote the messages she receives — translating the messages into most languages. The truth has touched the hearts and minds of many good souls — causing them to seek reconciliation with God through prayer.
Another good example of this way of thinking in our times, is Medjugorje — the Seers and the messages have been rashly judged, by the local Bishop to be, “non-supernatural” and, “unworthy of belief”.
This judgment continues to remain the official public statement to this day. Notwithstanding, the millions of Catholics and Christians, who go on pilgrimage to the apparition place and promote the messages of the Mother of God. This would include many Bishops and Cardinals over the years. The method of investigation by the Hierarchy, always remains the same — it is skepticism, fuelled by suspicion, and rash judgement.
In conclusion, there is much more to be said, but it is beyond the scope of my article. You can see that I have focussed on the positive aspects of authentic discernment. I have given you the example of Saint Joseph. I know that there is another side to this equation. It is the negative reality of private revelations that are not true — or that reflect only a partial truth — yet their purpose is diabolic. This is a sad reality which unfortunately makes discernment very difficult in some cases, and influences so much skepticism, suspicion and rash judgement on the part of those who want to pronounce judgment. There is a need for more dialogue with the Seers and involvement by the Hierarchy — indeed to test all things — and to keep what is good. They need to recognise that God is revealing His Will to the Church and the World by His Spirit, with the Gift of many special charisms. This is for the purpose of giving guidance and direction to the Church in critical times. This is the teaching of Saint Thomas Aquinas. In the final analysis the Seer is the “sign” of God’s Will, and the fruit on the tree is good because it has been nourished by the fidelity of the Seer to honour God’s Will. There is no other way to holiness except through the Cross of Christ. The sufferings and persecution brought upon the Seer will make them a Saint — and God watches over His chosen souls, but God will not be mocked! He will vindicate His chosen souls and bring them the victory of His Will. I think that there are many examples of this kind of holiness — but one stands out particularly well — the mission of Saint Joan of Arc. That would be a whole new subject. Thank you for taking time to read these words.
Sincerely yours in Christ
+Bishop Malcolm L. Broussard, Jr.