Creed of the People of God, Part Four Print
Knowing Your Faith
Thursday, Apr. 19, 2018 -- 12:00 AM
Knowing Your Faith column

John Joy

Continuing on with our series on the Creed of the People of God, in honor of its 50th anniversary this year, the next two sections are about the Holy Spirit and the Blessed Virgin Mary.

This creed of Pope Paul VI is based on the Nicene Creed we say at Mass, but it goes into greater detail about what Catholics are required to believe in order to be "practicing Catholics" and (more importantly) in order have that faith without which we cannot be saved.

The Holy Spirit

The profession of faith in the Holy Spirit begins with the familiar lines from the Nicene Creed: "We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life, who together with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified. He spoke to us by the prophets."

But then it continues by recalling several of the most important aspects of the Holy Spirit's mission and activity in the life of the Church: "He was sent by Christ after His resurrection and His ascension to the Father; He illuminates, vivifies, protects, and guides the Church; He purifies the Church's members if they do not shun His grace. His action, which penetrates to the inmost of the soul, enables man to respond to the call of Jesus: 'Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect' (Mt. 5:48)."

This call to perfection, to be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect, is an important reminder that our goal as Catholics cannot be merely to satisfy minimum requirements.

The question of what it means to be a "practicing Catholic," which I have been writing about in this column lately, is a question of minimum requirements. A practicing Catholic is someone who goes to Mass every Sunday and holy day of obligation, who goes to Confession at least once a year, who observes the marriage laws of the Church, who understands and accepts all the teachings of the Church and the moral demands of the Gospel, etc.

But these are only minimum requirements. In other words, doing this much is like getting a grade of "D-" in school. It's not an "F" because it does meet the minimum requirements, but it is a long way from an "A+."

We must not be content with merely fulfilling the legal requirements of our faith. We must strive for the perfection of virtue and holiness described by our Lord in the beatitudes; we must cultivate an interior life of prayer and embrace voluntary penances and mortifications; we must practice the Corporal and the Spiritual Works of Mercy.

All Christians are called in virtue of their Baptism to a life of holiness and perfection according to their state in life. In order to achieve perfection in charity, we must go far beyond the minimum requirements of the law; but at the same time we must never let our pursuit of perfection serve as an excuse to ignore the minimum requirements of the law. Serving at a soup kitchen is a good thing in itself, but it cannot be a substitute for Sunday Mass.

The Blessed Virgin Mary

The next section of the creed professes the Church's faith in the four great Marian dogmas -- her divine motherhood, her perpetual virginity, her Immaculate Conception, and her bodily Assumption into heaven -- and then concludes with her role as Mother of the Church and of all Christians: "We believe that Mary is the Mother, who remained ever a Virgin, of the Incarnate Word, our God and Savior Jesus Christ, and that by reason of this singular election, she was, in consideration of the merits of her Son, redeemed in a more eminent manner, preserved from all stain of original sin and filled with the gift of grace more than all other creatures.

"Joined by a close and indissoluble bond to the Mysteries of the Incarnation and Redemption, the Blessed Virgin, the Immaculate, was at the end of her earthly life raised body and soul to heavenly glory and likened to her risen Son in anticipation of the future lot of all the just; and we believe that the Blessed Mother of God, the New Eve, Mother of the Church, continues in heaven her maternal role with regard to Christ's members, cooperating with the birth and growth of divine life in the souls of the redeemed."

John Joy, STL, is marriage and family coordinator for the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis, Diocese of Madison.