Theologian stresses importance of practical faith in modern times

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Fr. Jose Antonio Aureada emphasizes the need for theological approaches that would be understandable to ordinary folks.

MANILA, July 8, 2013—A Dominican theologian on Saturday echoed the need to bridge the gap between theology as a high-level field of study and the practical application of faith as a personal belief that spiritually nourishes individuals from within.

Fr. Jose Antonio Aureada, a Theology professor from the University of Santo Tomas, urged members of the clergy, spiritual educators, and seminarians to give a fresh approach to Theology not just as a doctrinal field of science that deals with the high-level technicalities of Christianity, but as a living connection between the faithful and the Divine.

“The situation years after Vatican II resulted to the emergence of different theologies, all promising the best in order to understand, strengthen, and deepen the recovery of faith,” he said in his talk during the theological symposium on the document “Theology Today: Perspective, Principles and Criteria” held at the San Carlos Seminary.

“Yet, the result is neither rosy nor optimistic. Rather, an inverse relationship has erupted—an increase in theological exercises, but a decrease in the practice of faith,” he added.

Aureada said that this widening gap solidifies the premise that though theology is vastly important, it is not the most significant factor in the growth of one’s faith.

He recognized the weakening of faith among Catholics all over the world brought by the influences of relativism and secularism, noting that this “spiritual desertification” poses a big challenge to the Catholic Church.

He noted this in reference to the period of weakening faith and morals pointed out by other theologians to have occurred after Vatican II, wherein despite the exuberance of theological activity in the west, the faith of its people weakened.

This was manifested as Western churches became mere tourist attractions, people deserted Christian life, and vocation to priesthood gradually dried out, Aureada noted as he cited books on theology by educators who conducted a deep study on the matter.

He added that if the west suffered from spiritual decay, the Philippines, on the other hand, has been suffering through the wrath of “religious ignorance.”

“Truly, in the case of the Philippine Church, we may neatly address it as ‘delay,’ not ‘decay’,” he said.

“Too much delay searching for the best, effective, and responsive pedagogical tools suited in the way Filipinos believe their faith,” he added, noting that most Filipinos observe practices of faith without really understanding their essential meanings.

Gap between faith and theology 

Aureada added that this empty faith is primarily caused by theological concepts that remain unintelligible for the common folk, distancing them from true essence of the faith they believe in.

“Theology after fifty years of Vatican II has not shed off completely its being too level-headed, too cerebral, too intellectual, and too rational model of faith that has been dominantly operational for a long time,” he said.

“Theology as a science owes its being intelligible and communicable to philosophy and metaphysics, but the more we emphasize this particular issue, the more we contribute to the widening gap between theology as a science and the faith of a common person,” he noted.

Stressing that true Catholicism is not measured by one’s superficial knowledge on Catholic doctrines and dogmas, Aureada called on students and professors of theology to inculcate in their study the real importance of theology in the service of faith.

“I am not convinced that what makes theology as Catholic is simply a matter of knowing about perspectives, principles, and criteria. Theology can be truly Catholic by being a facilitating agent so that one who bears the faith finds it easy to live and share it with others,” he said.

The theologian further noted the importance of faith accompanied by action in fulfilling the practical implications of theological study.

“It is faith with action that spells the magical formula for heaven. Not so much on doctrines and propositions in respective principles and criteria, which are all necessary because faith ought to be informative, but we must go beyond that to live and do faith,” he said.

Renewed pedagogical approach 

In line with the craft of theological teaching, Aureada admitted that some concepts in their study are deemed boring and uninteresting, causing theology students to have a dwindling enthusiasm to the core principles of their study.

“My anxiety is my personal involvement on the matter as a theologian. Am I, as a professor of theology, perpetuating the further widening of this inverse relationship between (theology and practical faith)? I feel heavily discomforted by this thought, especially with the fact that we are training future priests in this profession,” he said.

As a solution to the noted disconnection between the theoretical and practical applications of faith, Aureada proposed the adaptation of improved academic approaches in teaching theology to future priests.

“We are in need of fresh pedagogical tools to serve the old-faith conviction badly needed to appreciate cold and dry doctrines or dogmas,” he noted.

“The concern for meaning will compel theologians today to explore and choose the best pedagogical tools as methods in order that a sense of appreciation finally dawns to the consciousness of theology students, thus making the learning of theology more enjoyable, more truthful, and hopefully more heaven-bound,” he added.

Tripartite dynamics of faith 

Furthermore, Aureada also emphasized that to establish a holistic approach to faith and spirituality, the tripartite dynamics of faith as informative (head-driven), transformative (heart-driven), and performative (hand-driven) must go hand-in-hand and be present among individuals.

In terms of the informative aspect of faith, Aureada said it pertains to the responsibility of interceding the self with the theoretical articles of faith and catechism of the Catholic Church.

But more than just a theological concept, he noted that faith must not only be inculcated within one’s mind, but must also transform a person’s entirety to act accordingly to the salvific content of the promise of God.

Lastly, he reminded people that with faith being a performative reality, it is the responsibility of individuals to share it and actively engage in the mission of new evangelization.

“Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has reminded all of us that our responsibility and heart-filled commitment is to be informed about it (faith), to be transformed by it, and to perform it,” Aureada said. (Jennifer M. Orillaza)

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