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This room is for discussion related to learning about the faith (Catechetics), defense of the Faith (Apologetics), the Liturgy and canon law, motivated by a desire to grow closer to Christ or to bring someone else closer.

Saint Augustine of Hippo is considered on of the greatest Christian thinkers of all time and the Doctor of the Church.
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Nov 9th 2013 new

Works Without Faith is Dead

November 5, 2013 By Fr. Dwight Longenecker

The old debate still rages in which Catholics dispute with Protestants who say that salvation is by faith alone. Yes, we like to pick out the verse from the epistle of James which says that faith without works is dead. If were going to talk the talk we have to walk the walk. Action speak louder than words and the old saying of St Francis (not) that you should preach the gospel at all times- use words if necessary.

While it is true that faith without works is dead Id like to stand that on its head and remind readers that it is also true that works without faith is dead. Yesterday I commented on Cardinal Maradiagas speech on the new evangelization which Rocco Palma posted here on Oct 28. I want to listen to more of the Cardinals teachings in order to give him the benefit of the doubt, but I found this particular speech very discouraging. I agree with the points where he was affirming the need to be the church of the poor, to minister to the needy and to show the compassionate face of Christ. I agree that the best evangelization is when people see the love of Christ in action through the lives of saintly people.

What was disturbing was the lack of emphasis about the core of the gospel itself. While there were inspiring thoughts on the need to serve the poor and be the church of the poor, and while there was a reflection on the need for the structures of wealth and power to be overturned, there was nothing about the what I call the old, old story.

The old, old story is the simple message of mankind lost in the wilderness of selfishness and sinalienated from God and the sworn enemies of god. There was nothing in the Cardinals message about the God who so loved the world that he gave his only son so that whoever believes in him might be saved. There was nothing there about the saving mystery of the cross of Christ an the power of the resurrection. Nothing there about the saints, the sacraments or the salvation offered by the church. There was not even a hint or a mention to remind us that this is the core gospel and that the primary work of the church is to proclaim that gospel in words and works for the salvation of souls.

I have to be honest. I smell the sweet old intoxicating fragrance of Pelagianismthe seductive heresy that reduces the subversive and dangerous mystery of the gospel to good works. I cant avoid the conclusion that the Cardinals message sounded like lets all feed the hungry and be nicer people and overthrow those nasty rich people and then everyone will want to be Catholics. That doesnt work. Weve already learned for the last fifty years that it doesnt work. People arent dumb. If that is all we do they conclude that you can be a perfectly nice person without religion, and theyre right. Theyre right! Why do you need religion at all if all it consists of is being a nicer person and We can make a difference, yes we can!

As faith without works is dead, so works without faith is dead. Works without faith is never more than an ideology. Its the false religion of trying to make this world a better place rather than trying to make our way to a Better Place. When religion is reduced to an ideology it is actually worse than a secular or atheistic ideology. At least the secular ideologues know that they are following an ideology. Religious ideologues believe they are doing Gods will in the world, and that is truly a frightening thought. Good morning Talibanlike Calibananother monster who inhabited a primitive and brutal place a naive girl thought was a brave new world.

The Pelagian mistakes the fruit of faith for faith. Because the truly sanctified person of faith serves the poor, loves his neighbor, eschews riches and lives a radiant life of witness the Pelagian thinks that faith consists of doing those things. He thinks that if he does those things then that is the faith and that people will be drawn to the faith through his example of doing those things. Wrong answer. Those actions are the result of faith. They are empowered by faith. The person of faith truly wants to do those things because they have been transformed by the saving action of God.

This is why the core ministry of the church is not social action. The core ministry of the church is to save and sanctify souls. As a consequence of this first ministry the saved and sanctified souls will naturally and of their own transformed desire love their neighbor, feed the poor, minister to the needy and transform the world. The FIRST commandment is this: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. The second commandment is likenamely thisyou shall love your neighbor as yourself.

The second commandment hangs on the first. You cannot truly love your neighbor unless first you have learned to love God, and likewise you cannot truly love God unless you love your neighbor, but there is a priority. Loving God comes first, and that brings the transformation which empowers the proof in that you soon learn to love your neighbor.

Furthermore, loving your neighbor is more than simply feeding and clothing him. Yes, these things are necessary and they are part of loving ones neighbor, but to truly love another is greater than simply being kind to them. It means having a true heart of compassion and wishing to be with them and share life with them. This kind of love is heroic and it is more, much much more than simply running a food kitchen. This is why the atheists are right when they say that they can do that sort of thing without God.

The kind of love of neighbor Im talking about is the kind we see with Mother Teresa, when her eyes light up with passion and a supernatural love as she embraces a leper. It is the love of St Maximillian Kolbe who not only steps in and offers his life for a fellow prisoner he doesnt even know, but as he starves in prison he leads the other dying men in hymns, jokes and stories to keep their spirits up. It is the love of St Isaac Jogues who tortured and mutilated by the Hurons, dumped penniless and nearly naked on the shores of France, asks to return to the Huron.because he loved them, and then was tortured again and finally martyredbecause he loved them.

This kind of love is more, much more than simply helping the poor. It is a supernatural love which overcomes the world, and it only comes through the powerful transaction between a soul and Jesus Christ the Lord. It is this faith which overcomes the world, and it is the proclamation of this faith which is the primary mission of the church.

Much of Cardinal Maradiagas speech was good and inspiring and as a Cardinal in our church I hope and pray that the fullness of the gospel message is proclaimed in the rest of the Cardinals preaching and teaching. Im sure it is, and I will listen and watch to hear this fuller message as he continues to serve the Lord in his church.

However, based on his speech on the New Evangelization published last week I cannot deny the worry I feel that what we are being fed is just more of the same old social gospel that has been a disastrous failure. It is not that what he proposed is wrong. It is that the gospel is more, so much more than that.

Nov 9th 2013 new

About Fr. Longenecker

Fr. Dwight Longenecker is an American who has spent most of his life living and working in England.

Fr Longenecker was brought up in an Evangelical home in Pennsylvania. After graduating from the fundamentalist Bob Jones University with a degree in Speech and English, he went to study theology at Oxford University. He was eventually ordained as an Anglican priest and served as a curate, a school chaplain in Cambridge and a country parson on the Isle of Wight.

Realizing that he and the Anglican Church were on divergent paths, in 1995 Fr. Dwight and his family were received into the Catholic Church. To read Fr Longeneckers conversion story or to listen to the audio version connect to the archived articles section of his blog.

Fr Dwight spent the next ten years working as a freelance Catholic writer, contributing to over twenty-five magazines, papers and journals in Britain, Ireland and the USA.

His first book is the best-selling book of English conversion stories called The Path to Rome Modern Journeys to the Catholic Faith. He has written Listen My Sona daily Benedictine devotional book which applies the Rule of St Benedict to the task of modern parenting. St Benedict and St Thrse is a study of the lives and thought of two of the most popular saints.

In the field of Catholic apologetics, Fr. Dwight wrote Challenging Catholics with John Martin, the former editor of the Church of England Newspaper. More Christianity is a straightforward and popular explanation of the Catholic faith for Evangelical Christians. Friendly and non-confrontational, it invites the reader to move from Mere Christianity to More Christianity while Mary-A Catholic Evangelical Debate is a dialogue with an old Bob Jones friend David Gustafson who is now an Evangelical Episcopalian.

Fr. Dwights Adventures in Orthodoxy is described as a Chestertonian romp through the Apostles Creed. Adventures in Orthodoxy has just been re-published with new material and a new title: The Quest for the Creed.

He wrote Christianity Pure&Simple which was published by the Catholic Truth Society in England and Sophia Institute Press in the USA. A new and updated edition titled Catholicism Pure and Simple is a first rate text for RCIA and Confirmation candidates.

Fr Dwight has also published How to Be an Ordinary Hero and his book Praying the Rosary for Inner Healing was published by Our Sunday Visitor in May 2008. His latest books are, The Gargoyle Code a book in the tradition of Screwtape Letters and a book of poems called A Sudden Certainty. His book The Romance of Religion will be published shortly as well as another Lent book the sequel to The Gargoyle CodeSlubgrip Instructs.

Fr. Dwight has contributed a chapter to the third volume of the best selling Surprised by Truth series and is a regular contributor to Crisis Magazine Website, Patheos, Catholic Online, Integrated Catholic Life, This Rock and National Catholic Register. Fr. Dwight has also written a couple of childrens books, had three of his screenplays produced, and is finishing his first novel.

In 2006 Fr. Dwight accepted a post as Chaplain to St Josephs Catholic School in Greenville, South Carolina. This brought him and his family back, not only to his hometown, but also to the American Bible belt, and hometown of Bob Jones University. In December 2006 he was ordained as a Catholic priest under the special pastoral provision for married former Anglican clergy. He now serves as parish priest of Our Lady of the Rosary parish in Greenville.

Fr. Dwight enjoys movies, blogging, books, riding his motorcycle and visiting Benedictine monasteries. Hes married to Alison. They have four children, named Benedict, Madeleine, Theodore and Elias. They live in Greenville, South Carolina with a black Labrador named Anna, a chocolate Lab named Felicity, a cat named James and various other pets.

Nov 10th 2013 new
I recall a recent EWTN program discussing somewhat the same topic "Works Without Faith is Dead".... can't recall the exact show though.

It was discussed in the comparison of social welfare programs provided by various charities as opposed to being provided by the government. Government programs, while there may be good reason to have certain programs, are essentially required to provide good works (or services) to people, while entirely excluding faith. The result, often, is that rather than caring for people as whole beings (as with faith-based charities), people are often reduced to mere numbers that must be churned through the system. What is often lost is their humanity. I think that we see this with just about every social program that is orchestrated by the government, no matter how well-meaning the program may be. Also, if the government becomes the main entity responsible for delivering such services, then it also does a dis-service to the rest of the population in that they (the population) feel unburdened of providing such help because "the government will take care of it"... when they should not feel unburdened.

That was the gist of the discussion.


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