Last evening on EWTN's The Journey Home, Marcus Grodi and his guest reflected together or maybe we could say they struggled together with a distinction between faith and recognition, which Marcus had gleaned from an English spiritual author. The two men applied it to a common experience of converts to the Catholic faith, namely, that they come to faith, they experience a conversion, but having been part of a protestant tradition, they still have a way to go to reach the expansiveness, the fullness of Catholic faith which comes to us from the Apostles. The classic example or illustration of this distinction between faith and recognition comes regarding the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. They also applied the distinction in reverse to "cradle" Catholics saying that the recognition is there as habit and is a good thing, but sometimes the faith is deficient or lacking.
I don't want to challenge either them or that English bishop author (whose name escaped me for its unfamiliarity) concerning their distinction, but I'm wondering whether some of the guest's cautious observations about his actual conversion process and the fact that the priest who prepared him for reception into the Catholic Church seemed to be in no hurry might indicate a more essential way to describe our walk of faith, whether by way of conversion from another Christian expression to the Catholic or by way of growth in the faith of our baptism. The guest on the program hazarded the suspicion that the priest was waiting to see humility in his seeker before proceeding. My guess is that Father was a wise man who was looking for signs of the life of virtue, the fruits of the Holy Spirit, the only sure signs we have, presided over first and foremost by genuine humility, the only indicators we have of holiness of life, of zeal for the Lord and His Rule.
As Catholics we know that the goal of a life of penance, penitential practice, asceticism is the cultivation of the virtues. Turning our backs on vice or self-indulgence to seek the Lord and His Rule over us, "spiritual combat" as my friend Lorenzo Scupoli called it, is right, is the only good in terms of living uprightly. We are constantly gifted by God and to the extent (a bow in the direction of St. John of the Cross and our whole tradition!) that the Theological virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity conquer Satan's pride in our lives, the Lord gifts us again and again with the contemplation of His Face, of the Mysteries, of the great Truths by which only we can live.
Something I read these days in conjunction with the annual celebration of the Baptism of the Rus and the instrumental role of St. Volodomyr in that process, which has marked more than a millennium of people so profoundly that no amount of political machinations and oppression over time have been able to diminish altogether or completely destroy that soul, led me to think again about my own roots of faith and the crisis of faith generally in Western society. Cognition is certainly part of faith; faith and reason belong together. There is a teaching of prayers, a learning of Catechism which must be, but salting that with the "rousing" Sundays of animated parishes of the last 40 years is not enough. The full sacramental life, from childhood on, with the Sacrament of Penance under the vigilance of parents who want their children to be holy/virtuous is a sine qua non. Mom and Dad's faith, hope and charity, their daily prayer and personal sacrifices born out of love are indispensable. The reform of our Catholic Liturgy, the recovery of its sobriety and beauty, securing sacred space and guaranteeing it for Sunday must be.
We've been too distracted and for too long. I hope and pray that no more souls will be lost to our failure, yes to recognize the pearl of great price and sell all to obtain it. Maybe more in line with the tradition and more to the point would be to recognize, unworthy as we are, the responsibility we have for leading others especially children to the Lord by drawing them out, educating them, helping them to choose life and in abundance from God, the source of all good. Beyond faith, what Marcus and his guest termed recognition is contemplation as gifted to the virtuous, who humbly recognize the Lord as the be all and end all of our lives.