By Michael Britton
If there was an immense treasure living under a house’s foundations, to what lengths would one go to uncover it? Would they forego their employment, life’s priorities, call in contractors to help uncover it or would they be happy to let it sit idle, knowing it would still be there when at a later stage?
There’s always much fanfare and excitement about the announcement of a lottery jackpot and who has the winning ticket. When the winner doesn’t turn up, it is rumoured that some people even rummage through their bins looking for their ticket in case they missed out on an opportunity of great wealth.
Most people know the story Jesus tells of a person who was told of a great treasure that was hidden in a specific place, only to later find out it was actually hidden within their own home. This great treasure for Catholics is faith; and thankfully, it is not a random jackpot. But nonetheless, this treasure, like a lottery ticket, still needs some external validation in that it is not something that can be self-confirmed.
One of the most wondrous aspects of the Catholic Church is that it certainly is a “broad church”. Certainly, there is a doctrinal canon and a Magisterium that set some boundaries around the faith Catholics may practice. But it can still be far and wide reaching depending on the manner in which Catholics want and need to uncover this treasure.
Those into a type of Mariology may choose to regularly attend the Legion of Mary, others seeking a more contemplative faith may choose a more cloistered life. Others may choose to join some of the new and emerging ecclesial movements. Some, pursuing more traditional approaches, may attend a Latin Mass while others may seek outreach and social work through organisations like our own Archdiocesan agencies: The Shopfront, Catholic Outreach or The Emmanuel Centre.
God has set a banquet before the eyes of Christians in the face of adversity and the daily struggles of life. However, an emerging and arguably disturbing feature of modern life is a broad and individualistic movement termed “personal spirituality”. This increasingly popular movement is where people choose to have an entre of New Age Transcendentalism mixed with a slice of Christianity, peppered with other various beliefs and all polished off by a philosophy of personal fulfilment and validation.
This “pick and choose” approach to faith has been aptly described by some evangelical American pastors as the “laziest form of faith development and spirituality” as there is no doctrine but personal determination, there is no community but self and there is no self-discipline except relative truths. Faith, however, is not something that can be self-validated or developed in isolation. It requires a Christian community and it also requires the verification of the Church.
Indeed, St Benedict of Nursia said that some could go into the desert and live in isolation; praising God for the rest of their lives. But this was only possibly after rigorously and thoroughly developing the use of the weapons of faith; as if training in the art of war against the dark forces.
In each of these cases, the faithful needed the validation of the Church. Faith is not simply something one can gain through self-affirmation. If one wanted to claim their lottery jackpot they’d need to go to a validated “outlet” and confirm and securely verify the claim. A wide raft of saintly orders have had to go through, sometimes arduous and difficult, periods of validation. Their faith was clearly demonstrated in humbly submitting themselves to this process.
Catholics receive their first entry to faith in baptism; adorning the baptismal gown in the promises of the Church and their godparents. But as some Catholics grow through life’s experiences and difficulties, some may find that this gown no longer fits. Their faith remains absent or infantile.
But there have been an innumerable amount of life stories where these promises have remained dormant for some time; only to be later awoken by a life changing moment or sequence of events. The recent conversion of vocal atheist Bill Hayden, aged 85, is testament to the fact that it is never too late to start on the journey of faith.
Ultimately, the greatest joy for all Catholics is knowing the very same depth of faith the saints have is, today, available to all the faithful. It is not something that is abstract or buried under a house, it is not a random jackpot for the lucky. One may choose to let this treasure sit idly. Others, realising its value, may choose to urgently pursue it through local parishes, new realities and movements throughout the Church.
From pages 24 to 25 of Issue 15: ‘Archdiocesan Plan 2016 – 2021: Halfway mark filled with determination to commit to bring Church in Perth closer to Christ’ of The Record Magazine