Pope Benedict XVI continued his catecheses on the subject of Catholic faith, began by posing certain important questions: “Is the nature of faith merely personal and individual? … Do I live my faith alone?”, he asked.
“Certainly, the act of faith is an eminently personal act”, he told the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square. “It is something which happens in the most intimate depths of my being and causes a change of direction, a personal conversion. … But the fact that I believe is not the result of solitary reflection, … it is the fruit of a relationship, a dialogue … with Jesus which causes me to emerge from my ‘I’ … and to open myself to the love of God the Father. It is like a rebirth in which I discover that I am united not only to Jesus but also to all those who have walked and continue to walk along His path. And this new birth, which begins with Baptism, continues throughout the course of a person’s life.
“I cannot construct my personal faith in a private dialogue with Jesus”, the Pope added, “because faith is given to me by God through a believing community which is the Church. And faith makes me part of a multitude of believers bound by a communion which is not merely sociological, but rooted in the eternal love of God. … The Catechism of the Catholic Church states this very clearly: ‘Believing is an ecclesial act. The Church’s faith precedes, engenders, supports and nourishes our faith. The Church is the mother of all believers'”.
At the beginning of Christian history, when the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples on the Day of Pentecost, “the nascent Church received the strength to accomplish the mission entrusted to her by the risen Lord: that of spreading the Gospel, the good news of the Kingdom of God, to the ends of the earth, and thus leading all men and women to meet Him, to the faith which saves. … Thus began the journey of the Church, the community which carries this message though time and space, the community which is the People of God”, whose members “do not belong to a particular social or ethnic group but are men and women from all nations and cultures. They are a ‘catholic’ people who speak new languages, who are open to welcoming everyone, beyond all confines, who break down all barriers”.
“Ever since the beginning, then, the Church has been the place of faith, the place where faith is transmitted. … The life of the Church, the announcement of the Word of God and the celebration of the Sacraments form an unbroken chain which has come down to us and which we call Tradition. This gives us the guarantee that what we believe is Christ’s original message, as preached by the Apostles. … It is in the ecclesial community that personal faith grows and matures”.
In this context the Pope explained how, in the New Testament, the word “saints” is used to refer to Christians as a whole. “Certainly”, he said, “not all of them had the qualities necessary to be declared saints by the Church”. The name “saint” meant that “those who had faith … in the risen Christ were called to become a point of reference for all the others, and to bring them into contact with the Person and Message of Jesus Who revealed the face of the living God. … This also holds true for us. A Christian who allows himself to be guided and molded by the faith of the Church, despite his weaknesses, limitations and difficulties, becomes a window open to the light of the living God, receiving this light and transmitting it to the world”.
“The tendency, so widespread today, to relegate the faith to the private sphere contradicts its very nature. … We need the Church in order for our faith to be confirmed and to experience the gifts of God together . … In a world in which individualism seems to regulate dealings between people, making them ever more fragile, the faith calls us to be People of God, to be Church, bearers of the love and communion of God for the entire human race”, the Holy Father concluded.