Encyclical review: Lumen Fidei by Pope Francis

It is always refreshing to read encyclicals of popes. And the  encyclical Lumen Fidei is essentially that of Pope Benedict XVI with a few additions by Pope Francis, though we cannot distinguish them anymore, as Elves like Lindir cannot dissect the poem on Earendil made by two mortals Bilbo and Aragorn, and determine who wrote what.  As Pope Francis wrote in the Encyclical:

7. These considerations on faith — in continuity with all that the Church’s magisterium has pronounced on this theological virtue — are meant to supplement what Benedict XVI had written in his encyclical letters on charity and hope. He himself had almost completed a first draft of an encyclical on faith. For this I am deeply grateful to him, and as his brother in Christ I have taken up his fine work and added a few contributions of my own. The Successor of Peter, yesterday, today and tomorrow, is always called to strengthen his brothers and sisters in the priceless treasure of that faith which God has given as a light for humanity’s path.

What I like about the Encyclical is that it is easy to read. It is a retelling of the important points of the Christian Faith understandable in the level of a Freshmen college student: Salvation history, Ten Commandments, Our Father, Christ and the Church, the Sacraments, etc. Indeed, this year is the year of Faith and the Encyclical has affirmed what many of us already take for granted or have not studied really well: why we are Catholic. For the encyclical to go to the level of the basics, it simply means one thing: many have lost the Catholic Faith–even entire countries and continents such as Europe. As Our Lady of Fatima said, “In Portugal the Faith will always be preserved….” And from this we can deduce the most terrifying corollary: “Outside of Portugal, the Faith will not be preserved.”

The encyclical quotes many Philosophers like St. Augustine,  Wittgenstein, and Nietzsche. It seems I can see the hand of Pope Benedict XVI here. If Chesterton uses the statements and histories of heretics and paradoxically turn these on their heads to argue for the truth of the Catholic Faith–the testimony of the heretics technique, Benedict XVI, on the other hand, usually quotes Atheists as a backdrops or launching pads for discussing the Catholic Faith–the testimony of the atheists technique. The technique is akin to Kenshin Himura’s Hiten Mitsurugi Sou-ryu-sen (Paired Dragon Flash): to attack the opponent not by the first stroke of the katana sword, but by the second stroke using the sheath. Indeed, one cannot dialogue with atheists using the Word of God as a sword, even though “the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart. (Heb 4:12)” So instead, Benedict XVI uses Philosophy–the handmaiden of Theology–as a sheath for the second stroke.

If you are teaching Theology in college, I strongly recommend this encyclical as an assigned reading for the students. There is something for everyone here, especially for lovers:

27. The explanation of the connection between faith and certainty put forward by the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein is well known. For Wittgenstein, believing can be compared to the experience of falling in love: it is something subjective which cannot be proposed as a truth valid for everyone.[19] Indeed, most people nowadays would not consider love as related in any way to truth. Love is seen as an experience associated with the world of fleeting emotions, no longer with truth.
But is this an adequate description of love? Love cannot be reduced to an ephemeral emotion. True, it engages our affectivity, but in order to open it to the beloved and thus to blaze a trail leading away from self-centredness and towards another person, in order to build a lasting relationship; love aims at union with the beloved. Here we begin to see how love requires truth. Only to the extent that love is grounded in truth can it endure over time, can it transcend the passing moment and be sufficiently solid to sustain a shared journey. If love is not tied to truth, it falls prey to fickle emotions and cannot stand the test of time. True love, on the other hand, unifies all the elements of our person and becomes a new light pointing the way to a great and fulfilled life. Without truth, love is incapable of establishing a firm bond; it cannot liberate our isolated ego or redeem it from the fleeting moment in order to create life and bear fruit.

And also for scientists:

34. Nor is the light of faith, joined to the truth of love, extraneous to the material world, for love is always lived out in body and spirit; the light of faith is an incarnate light radiating from the luminous life of Jesus. It also illumines the material world, trusts its inherent order and knows that it calls us to an ever widening path of harmony and understanding. The gaze of science thus benefits from faith: faith encourages the scientist to remain constantly open to reality in all its inexhaustible richness. Faith awakens the critical sense by preventing research from being satisfied with its own formulae and helps it to realize that nature is always greater. By stimulating wonder before the profound mystery of creation, faith broadens the horizons of reason to shed greater light on the world which discloses itself to scientific investigation.

Read on and enjoy!

About Quirino M. Sugon Jr
Theoretical Physicist in Manila Observatory

One Response to Encyclical review: Lumen Fidei by Pope Francis

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