Faith, the Virtue of the Humble

Jesus said: “I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned and revealed them to infants” (Mt. 11-25), and it was not the infants who framed Jesus’ condemnation and death, but the wise and learned, the scribes and Pharisees.

Newsroom (31/05/2022 10:03, Gaudium PressLet us begin this article by talking about intolerance. As reported by Catholic Media, on the night of May 15-16, vandals destroyed an image of Our Lady of Grace in the garden of the house of the Heralds of the Gospel in Sevilla la Nueva, Spain. According to the news, some hours before the sacrilege, residents of the house heard blasphemies against God and Our Lady and curses against the Heralds, which makes it clear that this was not a simple act of vandalism, but an action planned and executed with hatred and cruelty.

On the same day, May 15, another similar incident caught my attention. On Friday, May 13, the day of Our Lady of Fatima, Father Ricardo Basso presented a very interesting video on the Splendors of Mary, about the false devotions to Our Lady, which I was only able to watch on Sunday. When I watch an interesting video, I have the habit of checking the comments, and in doing so I found one that became the center of a discussion among several internet users.

Since all the posts were very long, instead of running away from them, as one usually does when finding a “big text” on the internet, I decided to read them.  I confess that I held myself back from getting into the conversation, but I didn’t because I saw, right from the start, that there was a needy person there, eager to call attention to himself. From everything that the young man wrote, two things stood out: the need to call himself studied and educated, and the slang terms he used – even though he is studied and educated, his words were very rude. Arrogance and vulgarity, two things that should not go together.

Who are being intolerant?

The young pseudo-sage accuses the Church of proselytizing to the uneducated (“recruiting”, in his words, which is an inappropriate term, because recruiting is more linked to the military and corporate world than to the religious universe, but it’s not his fault, not everything is taught or learned in school). He says that the faith of those who study has been less and less understood by the priests, and laments, saying that the studied people feel more and more abandoned so that the “more devoid of understanding can be favored.”

First, I don’t know who elected this guy representative of the studied. Second, study and understanding are very different things. You don’t have to study to understand, and those who study can’t always achieve understanding.

We are talking about faith, and we are also talking about Christianity. Did Jesus study? We do not know. It is certain that He read and wrote, but there is no document that proves that He was a doctor of the law. Therefore, He did not divide history into before Him and after Him because He studied. To whom did He preach? To the educated or to the ignorant? He preached to everyone, which is exactly why He used a very simple language, because what is perfect is simple, and He used the perfect language, a language called Love, as one of those who responded to the provocation of the “studied” young man well remembered.

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What is the difference between those who broke the image in the house of the Heralds in Spain and those who make disrespectful comments on a website? None. Both are bound by the same intolerance. Those who broke that, and many other images in various parts of the world, those who break into churches, defecate inside them (literally or in virtual words), those who enter holy places and shoot at the faithful, those who torture priests and lay people, today and in the time of the Roman Empire, are the same people.

The gift of understanding

Jesus preached in the synagogues, and he preached in the streets, on the beaches, in the fields, to crowds, or to small groups, in private meetings, when he was invited to supper in someone’s home. But in any circumstance, his speech was the same, his language was the same. His disciples and the Catholic Church, founded on them, were given the mission to continue preaching the Gospel, which is done until today. If some “studied” people do not understand the message, it is their fault, not the Church’s. The deficiency is in the limitations of these people, not in the inefficiency of the preacher or of what is preached. And this inefficiency is not called lack of study, but pride, arrogance, prepotency, sense of superiority.

Or maybe they need to study more, after all, St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, just to name two intellectual luminaries, understood very well. When talking to Nicodemus – in the dead of night, because that educated man, who held a prominent position, being an authority among the Jews, although touched by the Master’s doctrine, was ashamed of, being who he was and holding the position he held, to admit that he accepted the teachings of a carpenter, considered by many to be an ignorant man, a “nobody”, as we would say today -, faced with his difficulty in understanding the truth, Jesus asked him: “Are you a teacher in Israel and do not understand these things?” This is one of the passages that make it very clear that study and understanding are different things.

Pride and Intolerance

Jesus said: “I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned and revealed them to infants” (Mt. 11-25), and we must not forget that it was not the infants who framed Jesus’ condemnation and death, but the wise and learned, the scribes and Pharisees.

But neither can we be radical and exclude the wise men from Revelation. St. Luke, who is among the four evangelists and was also the author of the Acts of the Apostles, was a physician, and St. Paul, to whom Christianity owes its foundations, was a renowned doctor of the law.

The Church teems with educated, studied, and wise people; starting with the priests, who mingle with simple people without theoretical knowledge, because they all form one people, one body and one faith. The problem is that some wish to deconstruct an ancient doctrine just to satisfy their whims, to refute what they don’t agree with, because even though they are so “studied”, they don’t understand, and cannot admit their own ignorance. Saying “I don’t know” is very difficult, so it is for the wise few. It is for those who are, at the same time, wise and humble.

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Pride, my friends, easily turns into intolerance and hatred, and from then on, offending people, breaking images, depredating temples, and shooting those who pray, becomes commonplace. How many religions and doctrines were created just to satisfy the pride of people who could not accept that the truth was something so simple and that it was accessible to people they assumed to be so inferior to them?

Faith is a Miracle

There is a story about a missionary sent to evangelize the residents of a very distant island. Despite the natural beauty, the place was inhospitable, the accommodations uncomfortable, and the residents had great difficulty understanding the basics of religion. Gradually, things settled down, and after a few months the whole community had been converted, learned to pray the rosary, and had been baptized.

One man, however, was the stone in the missionary’s shoe. Although he had willingly accepted the words of Jesus and received baptism, he was unable to learn how to make the sign of the cross properly and could never memorize the Our Father and the Hail Mary, the two prayers most prayed by Catholics.

The missionary said Mass daily, and afterwards taught catechism classes so that the locals could prepare themselves to receive the Eucharist. During the Mass, everything went well, but in the catechesis, it was a torment. The man always asked the same questions and every day he asked the priest to teach him the Our Father and the Hail Mary again. At first, he answered patiently, but as time went by, it was very uncomfortable for him. On the day he left, he felt relieved and told the boatman about it, saying that he had never seen a more headstrong person in his life.

They were already so far away that they could no longer see the small island, when they heard someone call out, “Father, Father, teach me once more!” Astonished at how quickly the man had rowed to reach them, the priest turned toward the voice, and to his surprise, the simpleton local was not rowing, but walking on the water as he insisted, “Please, Father, teach me, just once more.” At that moment, God, the boatman and the ignorant man had the joy of witnessing yet another conversion…

Faith, study, and simplicity

I was always a person of faith when I was young, I even considered following the religious life, but I didn’t do it for a very simple reason: being the youngest son and my brothers being all married or about to get married, I didn’t want to separate from my mother, who no longer had the company of my father, and would be alone. I know that if I had taken this path, I would have given her the greatest of joys because, although she was a very simple lady who did not have the opportunity to study, she was a woman of great faith, but I preferred to give her my company, and I do not regret it.

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I studied and the studies did not take away my faith, however, I must admit that they hindered me a lot, because they made me ask questions and wear me out digging for satisfactory answers. Simple people don’t need to waste time on this, and it is not because the Church is aimed at them, but God Himself.

Throughout my life, I have lived with various types of people, ranging from those who believe to those who don’t, to those who pretend to believe, especially when it brings them some advantage. However, there were two little sisters who taught me what life did not teach me about faith. They are two very simple, poor people who live in a place that is far away and difficult to access. The nearest church is about five kilometers from their house, but they go to Mass every day on foot. They have been very scared, they have had to run from wild dogs and encountered snakes, but nothing has made them give up.

Once, during a solemn Mass, which took longer to finish, they tried to get a ride to go away, because they were afraid to walk alone so late. Luckily, there was still a couple in the church and they agreed to take them, since their house was in the direction they were going. It was really very late and, besides being dangerous, the weather was rainy and cold. What was my surprise, a few days later, when I learned that the couple who took them did not want to get on the dirt road so as not to dirty the car, leaving them to walk more than two kilometers in the dark, in the cold and stepping in the mud with their delicate feet.

On another occasion, the rain caught them on the way and they had to return home, missing Mass. They were wearing new dresses and got soaked. I felt a dagger in my soul when I heard this account. Sad but resigned, they returned home and prayed another rosary (they had already said one, a daily habit), offering that sacrifice to a holy cause and to suffering souls.

These girls, because of their simplicity, their expansive manner and even their physical constitution, have already suffered many humiliations. They will probably never realize their cherished dream of becoming religious, but I have no doubt that when they kneel to pray, Heaven is opened just for the pleasure that Jesus and Our Lady feel in listening to them more closely. I am not sure if God has favorite people, but if He does, He has given me the privilege of knowing two of them. And I confess that, despite my age, my studies and all the baggage I carry, when I feel my faith weakening, it is in the faith of these girls that I draw inspiration, and everything quickly falls back into place, because faith is the virtue of the little ones, which we need to work hard to achieve.

By Afonso Pessoa

Compiled by Camille Mittermeier

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