The Library of the Jubilee
Jubilee 2000 Search

The Library of the Jubilee

When faith thinks

When faith thinks, it poses questions. The questions asked by faith to its contents are not the fruit of doubt, but of the will and desire to learn more about what one loves. When intelligence, linked with faith, proposes answers which have the objective of presenting the content of what one believes, in a coherent, logical and universal manner, that’s when theology is born. It isn’t strange for the nature of faith to pose questions; on the contrary. A faith which doesn’t think or doesn’t constantly pose questions would not be Christian faith. It would soon result in gnosis, in ideology or forms of sects and would never be able to convert the heart. Faith is life. It comes about due to the action of grace which allows the inter-personal meeting with Jesus Christ, whose word can be heard to our days through the voice of the Church.

The theologian also places himself on this horizon. He is not a figure relegated to obscure academic halls, who spends his entire existence sitting at a table studying past documentation. On the contrary, because he is at the service of the centre of the faith, he is a person immersed in the timeliness of his time, always linked to the community of believers; indeed, with it, he attempts to move towards the fulfilment of truth, providing his specific contribution: the deeper intelligence of the mystery.

Theology, fruit of the faith which thinks, is not based on abstract autonomous reason as a way of guaranteeing certainties and definiteness of one’s assertions. Because it stems from a faith which thinks and searches reason, it knows how to take on the challenge of autonomy showing concretely how faith and reason can link up when they want to reach with coherence the peculiar intelligence of the mystery.

At the end of the millennium, as interventions from all sides are multiplying which undermine the strength of reason with calls towards forms of magic and esoterism, accentuating beyond measure interest for the mysterious, the figure of the theologian also appears to be gaining interest. The continuous requests which are made of him to express himself in public on more or less relevant issues, allow him to come out of the shadow where he was closed off and renew interest in his function. The irony of fate! Those who by vocation are called to investigate the centrality of the mystery producing works which should belong to the history of thought, see themselves reduced to intervene to satisfy the curiosity of marginal issues regarding the faith and, in addition, with interventions which have a time-limit. This trap in the long run could reveal itself to be deadly for the theologian. Indeed, on the one hand, he must be capable of expressing in a few seconds what requires hours of explanation. He is usually left with the impression of having mortified years of research and of not having expressed the essential nucleus of his thought. On the other, in the modern world, his opinion becomes one among many and the truth of the contents is accredited by the strength of his eloquence and not by the logic of the argument. The result is a relativisation of the contents of faith and the reduction of the truth to one of the many religious expressions. Also not to be forgotten is that the theologian has a public function in the Christian community. He never speaks for himself. What he expresses is certainly fruit of his research, but this refers to the contents of faith of the Church. When he takes a position in front of thousands of people, whether he wants it or not, his declarations risk being received as the position of the Church. A moment which calls to responsibility and that can never be underestimated when the receiver is the people of God in the simplicity of its belief and with the need of certainty in its living the faith of always.

The pages of this book which attempt to meet the difficulties presented come forward in this scenario. Some may like this while others may not, but theologians today do not only write systematic monographs in which their research develops following the lines of theological science to reach objectives which, both at the historical and speculative levels, can allow progress in the knowledge of the contents of faith. The activity of the theologian also encompasses a series of public interventions and articles, often determined by the most varied subjects, which appear here and there in the various specialised magazines or in collective essays. It is only due to the insistence of friends that I decided to work on this collection. I still wonder whether the request was made more out of friendship than out of the validity of what I wrote. It is better to avoid this issue and to thank those who expressed their trust in me for the realisation of this work. However, what convinced me was the observation that in the majority of cases these articles do not have the possibility of being read or kept, because they are published in foreign languages and by specialised magazines. I therefore feel it is useful to accept the invitation and add to this essay a series of articles written in different circumstances. The reader will find a common link. What he we see emerge is not a new theory; rather the desire always to place as the basis and focus of each reflection the revelation of God in Jesus of Nazareth. Indeed, one cannot forget that being a believer always stems from listening to what God has Revealed. These pages attempt to return to the forefront the revelation not to the detriment of issues of anthropology, but to insert these in coherent theological reading. It isn’t starting from the conditions of possibility posed by the subject that theology becomes expert of the mystery, but from the strong attention that it places on the event of Revelation which marks the last conditions of possibility for personal existence.

In the last few months, the cultural project which the Church in Italy intends to pursue is increasingly taking shape. Cardinal Camillo Ruini, President of the Italian Episcopal Conference, has repeatedly invited theologians to provide their peculiar and precious contribution to this project. He clearly reiterated the first work proposal presented by the Presidency of the Italian Episcopal Conference: "The project is strictly linked with that critical reflection of the faith which is the very task of theologians in the Church. Increasing the value of the contribution of theologians is therefore essential for the development of the project with regard to the clarification of the points of the relation between faith and cultures of our time". Such significant words of involvement in pastoral life had never before been addressed to Italian theologians.

The pages which follow want to be a modest contribution to this request; they tend to highlight the peculiarity with which the theologian faces problems and to show the points of reference on which theological research is focused when it responds to questions on the faith.

The present text is divided into three parts which attempt to address some issues of fundamental theology. With regard to formation and study I have not moved away from this field, well aware that the specialisation of theological disciplines requires, today more than ever, a competence which imposes not to exceed too much the already well defined confines of one’s own field of research. The reader will often find these essays in a language less rigid that the one which theologians usually make use of. I tried to make it simple to read adding all the notes, with the relative bibliographical references, at the end of the book; in this way, the simplification will not be to the detriment of those who want more precise information.

In the first section, "The fundamentals", one will recognise the "technical" issues of theology; problems which are not secondary. Only an earlier consideration and clarification of them can allow an understanding of the true claim of faith and the arguments which move theological reflection. The second section, "The context", will address subjects which regard more closely the life of the Church and its being a sign of Christ in the world. The final section, "The scenario", is intended to provide an answer to issues of greater ecclesial and social relevance which have marked the debate over the past few months. These pages re-propose what faith has always repeated with disarming simplicity over these two thousand years of Christian history: God came towards each one, without any distinction, to call everyone to take part in his own life of love. If it were possible, I would ask that these pages be read with "interest"; not towards the author, but towards the contents presented. Indeed, only in this way, is it possible to think that the subjects addressed belong to the faith of everybody and affect each one in a personal manner.

I did not expect to convince anyone, but share the reasons of my research and present those motives which are not always considered in their right horizon. Indeed, theological considerations have the characteristic of being posed as moments of reflection following the laws of science and not as alternative assertions to the certainty of faith.

What remains in their novelty is not only the Word of God, always new although unchanging, because it gathers in itself what is enclosed in the intimacy of each person. All the questions, especially epochal ones which are always the same, do nothing more than allow the emergence of the true and unique question of man. It is hidden behind the request for sense and every time is re-proposed as new, it survives every generation and acquires new vigour. A question like this, however, cannot remain unanswered, the punishment being the lack of realisation of itself.

The revelation of Jesus of Nazareth is the answer to the question of sense. It is global sense, because no one can expect to go beyond what God himself places in history. It’s real sense, because it reaches everyone in that need for totally gratuitous love one aspires to and which one discovers to be impotent in attaining alone.

As can be noted, we have returned to the initial subject of the question. If the reading of these pages gives rise to other questions that will allow further study of what one already believes, the author will have been sufficiently paid back. If the answers which he provides can be considered valid and to be shared, then he will have gone beyond every expectation.

There are many ways to talk about the Holy Spirit placing it in relation with the upcoming Jubilee. The well-known Capuchin Pontifical Preacher Father Raniero Cantalamessa has chosen one of the most suggestive and efficient ways, commenting verse by verse the ancient liturgical hymn of the Veni Creator. The solemn Latin chant attributed to Rabano Mauro, which, from the start of the second millennium onwards, the Church uses at the start of every new year and of every event which has particular significance in its life: from ecumenical councils to synods, to ordinations.

The chant of the Spirit. Meditations on the Veni Creator (Àncora Publications, 1997, p. 434, L. 55,000 including an audio cassette with Gregorian chants) is not however a work reserved for theology experts. Although in some parts the author asks the reader for extra attention compared to the one he usually receives from the television spectator.

Indeed, Father Cantalamessa does not use the verses of the Veni Creator to teach, but to explain, step by step and attribution by attribution, the reality of the Holy Spirit also to non specialists of "pneumatology". On the one hand, referring to the testimonies of many saints who provided particular witness, on the other addressing the contemporary reality of today. To demonstrate how also our world, despite being so arid, is a more fertile land for the cultivation of charisms of the Spirit than what we would be prepared to believe. Not by chance, precisely the pages and the examples regarding "charisms" and "charismatics" are the most successful and interesting of the work.

Among the merits of the Second Vatican Council, as various observers have pointed out, there was also the one of having brought the Holy Spirit back to the attention of official theology. The Church itself had never forgotten it, but often the priests and faithful of the past dealt with the gifts of the Spirit only on the occasion of Confirmations. Therefore concluding with forgetting Him, in prayer and daily life.

A thought a day on the Spirit, edited by Mario Poli (Àncora Publications, 1998, p.367, L. 17,000) contributes to further resolve this forgetfulness guiding the reader, day by day, in the rediscovery of the constant presence of the Spirit in the life of the Church of yesterday and today.

To do this, the curator has gathered a page a day of ancient and modern, known and lesser known authors. From Augustin to Basilio Magno, from Guglielmo of Saint Thierry to Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi, to Bonhoeffer, Paul VI, the document of the Council and John Paul II. Therefore it isn’t the usual compilation of aphorisms, but a true anthology of the Spirit whose reading becomes a useful means to meditate on the Holy Spirit and further, in a pleasant manner, one’s personal preparation for the Holy Year 2000 respecting the time frame desired by the Holy Father.

And an anthology on the Holy Spirit, although with a more monographic and deeper character compared to the former, is also The Spirit fantasy of God in the thought of the Fathers of the Church, edited by Mauro Todde (Paoline Publications, 1998, p. 232, L 9,900). A new edition, reduced and corrected, but not lacking useful notes and references, of the fortunate book The Spirit of God by the same author.

The choice of addressing the Holy Spirit with the voice of the Fathers of the Church turns out to be both opportune and timely. As has been said, while in western theology the Holy Spirit is often underestimated, the patristic tradition and that of the Christians of the East have reserved a more significant space to it, always considering it the motor of each existing dynamism both in the life of the Church and in that of every believer.

Following a historical introduction of the events and characteristics of the theological reflection on the Spirits of the Father and a brief but interesting chapter on the "prayer in the Spirit", the curator presents a selection of writings on the Holy Spirit by ten Fathers of the Church which represent as many stepping stones in its history: Origene, Atanasio of Alexandria, Ilario of Poitiers, Basilio of Cesarea, Cyrillus of Jerusalem, Ambrose of Milan, Girolamo of Stridone, Augustin of Ippona, Leon and Gregory Magno. Each author is preceded by a brief historical profile.

Reading on, one understands the truth behind the expression by the Holy Father who defined Eastern and patristic spirituality as the second lung of the Church, without which our Christianity would truly lack oxygen.

And after having reflected and meditated on the Holy Spirit, all that remains is to pray it, in a personal manner or with the words left to us by the tradition of the Church. In this second case, should we have forgotten them, a small book by Father Luigi Guglielmoni comes to our rescue: Sweet guest of the soul. Prayers and invocations to the Holy Spirit (Paoline Publications, 1998, p. 206, L. 12,000).

It includes a whole range of prayers, a large part of them in the litanic form, addressed by the Church to the Holy Spirit. Some are anonymous, others are signed by the saints or famous authors, and others come to us directly from the liturgy. We thus have at our disposal a stock of "spiritual" expressions, useful both for personal and community prayer. To be used at our pleasure, recalling however that, in prayer, it is precisely the Holy Spirit which turns to the Father through us "with inexpressible moans", which go beyond the poverty or richness of our words.

"Only the docility to the Spirit allows the construction of the only Church of Christ", writes Father Oreste Benzi in the preface. "One must bless the Lord because the second year of preparation for the Jubilee of the Year 2000 stimulates Christians to a greater attention to the second person of the Trinity, which is the yeast of all Christian life".

Finally, "And it blows where it wants" by the Milanese priest Luigi Pozzoli (Paoline Publications, 1997, p. 150, L. 14,000) is inspired to the Holy Spirit but does not "only" deal with this subject.

The book is inspired from the fact that the Holy Spirit blows, indeed, where and how it wants, to guide the reader through a voyage of discovery of his own faith and the significance of being a Christian on the dawn of the Year 2000. Praiseworthy is the language used by Father Pozzoli, simple and very human, but at the same time deep and meditated word by word, far from any "ecclesial" cliché. Chosen to transform the reader into listener of the "resonances" of the Holy Spirit in the intimate of his heart, which invite him to accept the invitation to carry ahead the revision of life proposed by the author.

The book is divided into two sections. The first helps to redefine the meaning of Christian faith through the rediscovery of the action of the Spirit, the second to find once again the role of the man of faith today by means of the signs of the gifts of the Holy Spirit which one can and must leave around him, outside and inside the Church. The author poses questions which could occupy by themselves the space of an entire volume: why do we believe? Why do we have to love Christ? Why are we becoming opinion makers of the Gospel instead of witnesses… managing however to give clear and comprehensible answers. Encouraging constancy in the apostolate, calm in the relation with God, strength in denouncing and understanding of how extraordinary the "normality" of each person is. Especially when he has the humility to make himself small in front of God.

The Holy Spirit, Principal Agent of the New Evangelisation

A volume published by Rogante Publishing House of Rome recently appeared in book stores: The Holy Spirit, Principal Agent of the New Evangelisation. It gathers 40 broadcasts of "RadioLent" 1998, which the programme "Christian Horizons" of Vatican Radio aired between 25 February to 5 April, and will re-air between 4 July and 15 October.

Turning the pages of the 114-page book, one immediately notices that the scientific character of the tests unites with the informative aspect. The authors of the texts are very well known for the doctrine and the ability to communicate. They include Cardinal Virgilio Noè; Archbishops Comastri and Masseroni; bishops Ablondi, Chiarinelli, Maggiolini, Riboldi, Tagliaferri; The under-secretary of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, Monsignor Eleuterio F. Fortino; theologians Fisichella and Forte; bible expert Ravasi; Catholic journalists Montonati and Paoluzi.

Some of the authors of the cycle of broadcasts, which falls under the general title of Tertio Millennio adveniente, cover important positions in the preparation for the Jubilee.

Cardinal Noè is a member of the Presidency Council of the Central Committee, Archbishop Comastri is President of the National Italian Committee, Monsignor Fortino is deputy-president of the Ecumenical Commission of the Central Committee, Monsignor Fisichella is deputy-president of the Theological-Historical Commission.

The reflections contained in the book, as is also indicated in the preface and on the cover, are divided into four parts: the Holy Spirit and the Church; the rediscovery of the presence and the action of the Holy Spirit; the eschatological perspective and Christian hope; Mary, model of attention to the indications of the Spirit (the latter from page 333 to page 389).

The texts of the cycle, in addition to the volume of the Rogate Publishing House, are published in voice in 10 audio cassettes by Vatican Radio. Significant organisational efforts went into the production of forty 20-minute broadcasts on the Holy Spirit, each one different from the other. The primary task of developing the general theme and dividing it into forty sub-titles was carried out by rogation expert Father Vito Magno, well-known journalist and author. The radio adaptation was by Jesuit Father Giovanni Giorgianni, who person responsible for "Christian Horizons" and a writer; the co-ordination and realisation were the work of Franca Salerno.

Martyrs for the Faith in the Soviet Regime

The first historically documented reconstruction of persecutions against Catholics in the Soviet Union is published "The House of Matriona" thanks to the research carried out by Irina Osipova, an archivist and historian, who collaborates with the "Memorial" scientific-information centre, which, following the opening of the archives of the Kgb, elaborated a wide-ranging research programme for the recovery of the historical memory. The volume - If the world hates you… - whose subtitles is "Martyrs for the faith in the Soviet regime", is the fruit of five years of research carried out in the archives of the Kgb and the Interior Ministry of the former Soviet Union, until recently inaccessible; and is therefore based on judicial and legal documentation and material, relations and papers of the repressive bodies, in addition to data from western archives and memories of the survivors of the prisons, lagers, detention sites.

The starting point are the papers of the main collective trials held against Catholics between 1923-24 and 1937-38: around fifteen years during which the tragedy of the Catholic Church in Russia took place, a tragedy which had already begun during the civil war, when both the "whites" and the "reds", the two opposing factions, took priests hostage accusing them of being spies. While in 1917 the two million Catholics living in Russia could count on the work of 900 priests, in 1935, 18 years after the October Revolution, there were not more than a dozen. In addition, the volume, in the section "Confessors of the faith", publishes in alphabetical order the biographical profiles of those who suffered repression, who were shot or who died of hunger or diseases in the prisons, in the lagers or in confinement. Explicitly, the work is aimed at providing a contribution to the reconstruction of that memory of martyrdom which Pope John Paul II has placed as one of the objectives of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000.

A Gift for all: the Missionary Martyrs

On 24 March, as has been the custom over the past six years, Italy and other countries celebrated the Day of memory and prayer for Missionary Martyrs, an special date which Pope John Paul II himself has recalled on more than one occasion, underlining how the Church continues to write with blood the history of our time. The date chosen is that in which, in 1980, the bishop of San Salvador, Monsignor Oscar Arnulfo Romero was murdered while he celebrated Mass; animators of the day were the youths of the Missionary Youth Movement.

For the occasion, "Popoli e Missione" the magazine of the Pontifical Missionary Works, published a dossier entitled A gift for all, with the names of over one thousand victims who from 1937 to 1997 gave their life obeying the mandate of Christ to go and announce the Good News to all the people. To provide testimony of the fact that on the threshold of the third millennium the Church continues to witness the Gospel with the blood of its martyrs, mention is made that during 1997 25 missionaries were killed throughout the world, in addition to 40 seminarians of the Buta seminary, in Burundi, who were massacred at the end of April. On the day of prayer and fasting, liturgical celebrations, prayer vigils and ways of the cross were held, all focused on considering the combination mission-martyrdom.