Fr. Francis Ongkingco
THERE are games that can be played alone and there are much more games that are best played and enjoyed with others. I recall back in high school how, after our last afternoon class, we would congregate in one of the many cul-de-sacs.
No one was exempt from these ‘group games’ like tag, patintero, and tumbang-preso, etc. Even the younger children joined in as ‘extras’ or saling-pusa. They had very minor roles, but if they ever made a point, it counted just the same in the game.
When the weather was not so cooperative, smaller groups formed circles to play Monopoly, scrabble, a card game or simply to tell stories. When the weather improved, someone would usually call out for a major group game and the street was immediately filled with excited bustling young boys, girls, toddlers and also their care-takers.
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“Faith is a personal act—the free response of the human person to the initiative of God who reveals himself. But faith is not an isolated act. No one can believe alone, just as no one can live alone. You have not given yourself faith as you have not given yourself life. The believer has received faith from others and should hand it on to others. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 166)”
God revealed that the gift of faith is meant to build the people He has congregated into His Church. And it is important to realize that it is not because of a collective faith that ‘builds’ the Church but the other way around. The Church is “the One who first believes, bears, nourishes and sustains my faith. (…) It is through the Church that we receive faith and new life in Christ by baptism. (Ibid., no. 168)”
Although salvation can only come from God, we have received the “life of faith through the Church, and we therefore profess that She is the Mother of our new birth, and not in the Church as if She were the author of salvation. (ibid., no. 169)” Taking into account man’s social nature, God wants this supernatural gift to be properly nourished, strengthened and sustained within a community—the Catholic Church—which is both a human reality and also the Mystical Body of His Son, Jesus Christ.
The gift of faith, therefore, is something personal and at the same time ecclesial. It is sowed in each person’s heart when he or she personally responds with a yes to this invitation to an adventure of conversion, love and apostolic calling. A great deal of the life of faith depends principally on each one’s intimate and generous self-giving to God.
However, as long as pilgrim man journeys towards his Heavenly goal, he will not encounter any other place that can cradle, nourish and develop his faith efficiently. “It is in fact the Church that believes: and thus by the grace of the Holy Spirit precedes, engenders and nourishes the faith of each Christian. For this reason, the Church is Mother and Teacher. (Compendium of the Catholic Church, no. 30)”
Unfortunately, many faithful are unaware of this wonderful ecclesial feature of their faith. Many are satisfied with sentimentally feeling Church by belonging to a parish and some its pious committees or they only see Her serving as a mere institutional support group.
Every faithful is called to become Church. Each one must feel a certain pride to belong to an institution that has mysteriously withstood the test of time, the countless persecutions of godless men and nations, and has shown Her growing splendor in the midst of worldly trends without becoming Herself worldly. She doesn’t only make us a part of Her, but each one is an essential and unique member building Her by striving for personal holiness in his or her own state in life.
And a member’s utmost joy and security are rooted in the Church’s principal marks: one—for having one Founder and therefore expressing Her unity; holy—because Christ, Her Founder is Holy, and the means She offers for the holiness are holy; apostolic—since She was founded upon the Apostles, from whom we inherit the same mission of being ‘sent’ to all nations; catholic—for Her universal reach, and that Her teachings are for all men of all times.
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The F.U.N. (Faith Up Now) part of all this is to discover broader horizons where we can constantly grow in our being Church and daily offer something personal for the other members. Here are a few ideas:
• Praying our Baptism. Grab your baptismal certificate! Consider that date as a special one to pray about and thank God for. Pray for the priest who baptized you, your parents and god-parents.
• Touching our Head and Toes. Our personal concern and contribution to the Church must be a prayer that extends from the Pope down to the latest baptized Christian. We shouldn’t hesitate to adopt either a Bishop or Priest whom we could pray and offer specific sacrifices for daily.
• Learn your History. Every institution has a history. Get a good book on the history of the Catholic Church. The simple and sincere reading and study of Her life has converted many. Her history will also make us realize Her divine origins and mission.
• Tradition! As part of knowing Her history, open your curiosity to the saints who have built and extended the Church throughout the world. (e.g. the works of the Fathers of the Church, the life of the early Christians, and the lives of the saints.)