From Father's Desk

Sisters and Brothers,

Greetings. First, thank you for the outpouring of love and prayers on the occasion of the passing of my Grandmother, Cecilia Elizabeth Wilson. She was my last living grandparent and the one who accompanied me the most throughout life, so she will be sorely missed. Gram taught me how to drive, how to throw a spiral, and even how to float over the ocean waves. She was a lovely woman with a bright twinkle in her eyes, slightly mischievous but with great warmth, and always ready for the next adventure. When that sparkle left her eyes about a year ago, a deep sadness overcame me, and I thought: “She’s gone already.” I am grateful to you for your prayers and to the Lord, that he died for her, and calls her home. One day, may I enjoy her friendship again, in our Father’s House.

Second, thank you for your prayers for my health. I did come down with covid and have been recuperating. Nothing too serious, but it felt like a cold and flu mixed together for 3 days. This article was written on Labor Day; by the time you read it, I hope to have returned to full duties. I am so grateful for the way my brother priests have rallied to offer you the Sacraments in my absence. It reminds us that we are all expendable and need to plan and design back up plans for unforeseen absences. Once again, thank you for your love and support. It has been an eventful transition to September!

This week we are underway with our message series called 8th Grade Faith. For the next five weeks we will dig down into the various aspects of this same topic and seek to gain a deeper appreciation of our faith and how God may be asking us to grow in faith. We reflect on the journey and how we may have sought to merely “get” the Sacraments, or to “get through” CCD. We acknowledge that for many there has been a period in our lives when we were not practicing our faith; we had left it aside, perhaps even because the people around us in church were not inspiring. There is no judgment on these realities; they are part of the journey many of us share.

When we say “faith” - we actually mean several different but related things. Faith is one of those simple but complex words. In one sense, our Faith stands apart from us: the Catholic faith. It means, the living tradition handed on from the apostles, all that Church teaching, the complexities of dogma, rules regarding fasting, traditions like Christmas trees and palm crosses. Our Faith is a broad array of beliefs and traditions that we can point to and say: “This is our faith!” Oftentimes, when we assemble this rich litany, some parts of our faith may not be met with full acceptance or understanding. This type of faith is often called objective faith.

There is subjective faith, too. Subjective faith is that faith each of us holds. My faith is not your faith. This is personal faith - the faith that each believer holds in his heart and mind for the Lord. It is that faith which leads the father to pray, “Lord, I do believe, help my unbelief!” (Mk 9:24.) That is a beautiful prayer that anyone with strong or wavering faith can pray to good effect. Whenever my trust in God gets shaky, those words spring to my mind and heart.

So that is in a nutshell, the distinction between objective faith (that list of things we believe in and practice) and subjective faith (that interior belief). Appreciating this distinction also calls to mind the rules versus relationship distinction. Often when we focus on getting the Sacraments or doing what the Church wants, our focus falls on objective faith - the rules and expectations. But without that deep personal belief, the rules and traditions begin to feel like a hollow thing, just a bunch of stuff we do or rules we keep. Personal adherence to the faith is really at the heart of… well… faith. Without strong subjective faith, our rules and traditions can begin to feel like a straightjacket applied from the outside, rather than a rich treasure we seek to embrace from the inside.

So, I get the heart of faith and the beginning of true faith, is that personal or subjective faith, which may be much simpler than all the traditions and feasts. But it is from each of our personal faith that that rich tradition of our Catholic faith blossoms and becomes a vital part of our existence. So, this week, we appreciate in a new way how God wants first to have a personal, intimate, living, relationship with each of us; that is the heart of faith.

Yours in Christ,
Fr. Joel Wilson