Catholic Truth Society Postal Course #20: The Christian, by Father Herbert C Fincham

the Christian in PraiseWe have now seen what is required of us to become true Christians, that is, followers of Jesus Christ. Our Lord never promised that His way is easy, though He has assured us that if we trust in Him He will make His burden light and yoke sweet (Matthew 11:30). But the condition of this is that we go to Him and voluntarily take upon ourselves His yoke, which He calls our cross, and learn of Him: “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23) Having done this, then, and then alone, can we expect the reward of those other words: “Come to Me, all you that labour and are burdened, and I will refresh you. Take up My yoke upon you and learn of Me, because I am meek and humble of heart: and you shall find rest for your souls. For My yoke is sweet and My burden light.” (Matthew 11:28-30).

Baptism Makes Us Christian

As we have already seen, it is the reception of the new Life of Grace in Baptism which makes us Christians. As a rule this is received in infancy, without any active realization on our part, but nevertheless there is an obligation imposed on the recipient by its reception and undertaken for us by our God-parents. Those baptized as adults must realize and accept this obligation for themselves. It is the renunciation of the devil, and the acknowledgment of Christ’s dominion over us. We would be greatly in error if we were to imagine that the devil will accept our renunciation of his power over us without resistance! We may be sure that he will continue to attack us and strive to draw us away from Christ our Lord with all the power and cunning of his great might. Moreover, he will enlist in his evil service against us all that is opposed to Christ in the world and our own fallen nature.

Devils Are Real

We would be unwise to underestimate the power of the devils for, though fallen, they still possess the angelic nature with which they were first created by God. They used this glorious nature to rebel against their Creator in pride and disobedience, and as a result deprived themselves for all eternity of the friendship of God and the perfect joy of heaven. Now filled with hatred and envy, they seek only to injure God. One way alone is still possible to them, to draw away souls from His love and service into the abyss of hell which “was prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41). Nor had they long to wait for the satisfaction of this victory, for our first parents soon yielded to Satan’s temptation and brought sin into this world of ours.

The World Is Our Enemy

With sin came that fatal tendency to make too much of this life and, by overvaluing it, to neglect the far more important matter of our everlasting life in heaven. It is this false estimate which makes the world our enemy by presenting to us a worldly standard and valuation. If we allow the devil and the world to be our guides we will inevitably find ourselves separated from Christ our Saviour now and for all eternity. “What doth it profit a man if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his own soul?” (Matthew 16:26)

The Flesh Is Our Enemy

By Baptism we are cleansed of original sin, but the inherent damage, which is the result of original sin in our nature, remains. It is rather as though a spring had been strained and warped out of its right position. We can force it back and hold it in its correct place, but it will still have its tension drawing it out of position, and, if we release it, it will snap back into its bent and warped condition. But in our case we cannot of ourselves, any more than the spring can of itself, bend our own will back to God, for whom we were made and exist. God alone can do this, though He allows it to depend on our willingness to let Him. Hence we must depend entirely upon God in all our striving against sin. With the grace of God we will triumph if we watch, pray and fight manfully.

Our Inclination To Evil

This damage to our human nature means that we have a natural inclination to evil and that our lower appetites may easily acquire a sort of domination over our higher self. “Of this I am certain, that no principle of good dwells in me, that is, in my natural self; praiseworthy intentions are always ready at hand, but I cannot find my way to the performance of them; it is not the good my will prefers, but the evil my will disapproves, that I find myself doing . . . Inwardly, I applaud God’s disposition, but I observe another disposition of my conscience, and so I am handed over as a captive to that disposition towards sin which my lower self contains. Pitiable creature that I am, who is to set me free from a nature thus doomed to death? Nothing else than the grace of God, through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 7:18-25: Knox). If Saint Paul found the battle so hard, how shall it be with us? With Saint Paul we must put all our trust in God: “I can do all things in Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)

We Must Have Faith

It is impossible to hope in Christ our Saviour unless we first believe in Him. Hence we must “believe and be baptized.” (Mark 16:16) Faith in Christ must imply belief in all that He has revealed and made known to us through His Church, but if, without any fault on his part, a man cannot learn all the truths revealed by Christ, then the minimum that must be believed is that there is one God and Three Persons in God; that God will reward or punish men; that God the Son became man to save us, died and rose from the dead. No one, however, may be satisfied with this minimum but must ever strive to know more and more perfectly all that God has revealed, and converts are called upon to make a much more detailed act of faith at their reception. (The Form for the Reception of Converts is given to the person under instruction to study and is explained in detail).

Pride Is The Root Of All Evil

The root of the Fall of Satan and of our first parents was pride. “I will not serve,” cried Lucifer, and to Eve he promised that disobedience to God would make her as God. With pride came lack of balance and inability to estimate justly our own worth, and this is still the root of all vice and sin. What are called the Capital vices all spring from an exaggerated egoism which can only be overcome by their contrary virtues. To return to our metaphor of the spring, the vices are its warped tension away from God, while the virtues are the tension which God’s grace puts upon it to draw it back to Him.

Pride Seeks Equality With God

By pride we would in some sense put ourselves on an equality with God, and all grave sin does this by the assumption that our judgment of what is good for us is better than God’s. True humility is our perfect realization of utter dependence on God. This is quite compatible with full realization of all the good qualities and abilities with which God has endowed us. It is not a belittling of our powers or virtues. The model of true humility, Mary, fully realized how wonderfully God had raised her up in immaculate holiness: “Because He has regarded the humility of His handmaid: for behold from henceforward all generations shall call me blessed. Because He that is mighty hath done great things to me: and holy is His name.” (Luke 1:48-49) Humility does not forbid us realizing and thanking God for the great things that He has done for us by grace.

The Capital Vices

As a result of this lack of balance from pride, too great an interest in self to the exclusion of God was bound to follow and be the source of the other capital sins, and from them, of all other vices. Hence aU vice shows this tendency to satisfy self even at the cost of the service due to God and consideration due to other people for God’s sake. This egoism leads men to greed in self-seeking; to lust in self-satisfaction; to anger in self-assertion; to gluttony in self-pleasure; to sloth in self-comfort. To draw the warped spring of our fallen nature back to God we must be humble, generous, pure, kind, temperate, thoughtful for others, and diligent.

The Cardinal Virtues

All these virtues require that man be turned back to God as his proper object, hence they are said to hinge on four other Cardinal (from the Latin cardohinge) Virtues. These Cardinal Virtues reorient man’s faculties towards God. By Prudence his intellect values all things in view of their value in eternity. By justice his will chooses what is just in view of his duties to God and his neighbour instead of what is merely expedient to himself. By temperance his bodily appetites are restrained to their legitimate needs and uses. As was pointed out in the last leaflet, it is not wrong to enjoy the natural pleasures of our appetites, for God has endowed them with their pleasure in order to induce mankind to use them properly. Thus if there were no pleasure in food and drink man’s sloth might lead him to neglect the nourishment of his body; if there were no pleasure in marriage, man’s selfishness would lead him to neglect the procreation of his species, as, indeed, the discovery of methods of obtaining the pleasure without its natural consequences is leading men to do in our times.

Intemperance

The sin of intemperance, in its broadest sense, affects all the passions and appetites, and it arises from an uncontrolled love of the pleasures of the flesh, which leads men to seek them, while deliberately ignoring the natural end and purpose of the act to which the passion or appetite is attached. This ignoring of the proper purpose becomes a sin of intemperance when it leads to a wrong or excessive use of the physical faculty. In artificial contraception we have an example of the wrong use; in gluttony of food or drink we have an example of excessive use; while in drunkenness or sinful drug-taking there is both wrong and excessive use. Finally, fortitude gives man the strength he needs to practice these Cardinal Virtues where fear, cowardice, weakness or human respect would otherwise prevent him.

The Seven Gifts Of The Holy Ghost

In all our struggles to practice virtue and overcome vice we must depend upon the graces poured, forth upon us so generously by the Holy Spirit. To give us a kind of facility and readiness to recognize and respond to these graces, the Holy Ghost endows our soul with the Seven Gifts which Isaias foretold would fill the promised Messias: “And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: the spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the spirit of counsel and of fortitude, the spirit of knowledge and of godliness. And he shall be filled with the spirit of the fear of the Lord.” (Isaias 11:2-3). These Gifts may lie fallow or become active according to the way we strive to serve God. If our striving is earnest they will bear great fruit, as Saint Paul assures us: “But the fruit of the Spirit is charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, longanimity, mildness, faith, modesty, continency, chastity. Against such there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23)

Our Rule Of Life

The fount and inspiration of the Christian life must ever be the love of God, which will lead to the hatred of sin. This is the rule of life taught by Jesus Christ. “If anyone love Me, he will keep My word.” (John 14:23). Keeping Christ’s word means hating sin as the greatest possible evil that could befall us. However, it would not be a safe rule of life merely to concentrate on avoiding sin. Christ prefers the positive command “Thou shalt” rather than the negative “Thou shalt not”. If we obey the first and the greatest positive commandment, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, thy whole soul, and thy whole mind,” we shall surely keep free from all sin. For this we must strive and pray with all our power. Its proof will not be in words or feelings of love but in deeds: “My little children, let us love not in words, nor in tongue, but in deed and in truth.” (1st John 3:18)


MLA Citation

  • Father Herbert C Fincham. “How We Are Saved”. The Catholic Postal Course, 1951. CatholicSaints.Info. 14 April 2016. Web. 7 December 2016. <>