Catholic Truth Society Postal Course #21: The Perfect Christian, by Father Herbert C Fincham

The Blessed Virgin Mary, Perfect ChristianIt cannot be impressed upon us too strongly that our Holy Catholic Faith is purely supernatural, a complete transformation of our natural being into a New Life; what Saint Paul calls the New Man: “Put ye on the new man, who, according to God, is created in justice and holiness of truth.” (Ephesians 4:24). Our Saviour describes this as a new birth: “Amen, amen, I say to thee, unless a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3) Unregengerated man not only cannot enter, bur cannot even see, that kingdom of God established in his midst in this world.

We Must Be Reborn Of The Spirit

This new birth is wrought in our souls by the sacraments of Baptism and its complement, Confirmation. “Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Wonder not that I say to thee, You must be born again. The Spirit breatheth where He will; and thou hearest His voice.” (John 3:5-8) This ast verse is the supernatural reason of conversion and the explanation why some, seemingly earnest and fit, do not receive the light. The convert hears the voice of the Spirit of God and can now see the kingdom of God established in Christ’s Holy Catholic Church.

At Baptism We Receive Faith, Hope And Charity

Not that awareness of all that this implies is complete, but the faculties for this knowledge, and the powers for spiritual growth and activities, have been planted in the soul with the new life of baptism. It is the same with human life and human birth. The new-born babe already has the three powers of the soul – understanding, memory and will, though they must remain largely inactive for some years. Gradually, intelligence dawns and the child develops. In like manner, the spiritual counterparts to these powers in the soul, the three theological virtues, faith, hope and charity, are implanted in the new life at baptism. As we have already seen, these virtues are gifts of God enabling us to know, trust and love God above all things.

The Intellect And Faith Seek Truth

The object of understanding or intellect is truth, and the object of faith is The Truth, for faith is the supernatural gift of God which enables us to believe without doubting the truth revealed by God. It is by faith that we are “reformed in the newness of our mind” (Romans 12:2) and made wise spiritually according to God’s will. “For I say, by the grace that is given me, to all that are among you, not to be more wise than it behooves to be wise, but to be wise unto sobriety, and according as God hath divided to everyone the measure of faith.” (Romans 12:3)

It is possible that a child’s natural reason will not develop normally and the mind remains retarded, through infirmity, lack of opportunity in education, laziness, indifference or perversity. Or, again, the mind may develop on the wrong lines; instead of seeking truth, it may set itself on pleasure or mere idle speculation. Faith also may be neglected and fail to pursue its proper object, the revealed truth, so that the new life never develops but remains retarded and defective. Saint Paul tells us that “doing truth in charity, we may in all things grow up in Him, who is the head, even Christ.” (Ephesians 4:15)

The New Life Must Develop

Those who are validly baptized do not always grow up in faith but remain as mentally defective children, unless God grants them the unspeakable blessing of enlightenment and conversion. And not only those outside the Catholic Church but, even within her fold, souls may faO to develop their ^ of Faith out of indifference, laziness, perversity or the lack of opportunity in receiving proper religious education.

Confirmation Strengthens Faith

The test of right spiritual growth must be in our lives and not in our speculative knowledge of our religion. If we are growing up as we should our lives will become more and more conformed to the will of God. “Be reformed in the newness of your mind” (this is the effect of faith) “that you may prove what is the good and the acceptable, and the perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:2) Faith received in baptism should teach us what is the good, but we will need the strengthening grace of Confirmation to teach us the perfect. Hence Confirmation is a sacrament by which we receive the Holy Ghost, in order to make us strong and perfect Christians.

As with the apostles on the day of Pentecost, so also with all of us. the coming of the Holy Ghost in Confirmation will enlighten our minds in Faith, in accordance with the promise of Christ: “The Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in My name. He will teach you all things, and bring all things to your mind, whatsoever I shall have said to you.” (John 14:26) That is to say, the Holy Ghost will so enlighten our faith that we will be enabled to believe whatever Christ has revealed. This light was symbolized by the Holy Spirit by the form of fire in which He descended; and for us the Church uses chrism, recalling the oil in the virgins’ lamps when they went to meet the bridegroom (Matthew 25).

Confirmation Strengthens Hope

The Holy Ghost comes to “bring all things to your mind” or to recall, by stirring up your memory, the truth revealed by God. For Faith is already in the soul by baptism, but it needs continual recalling if it is to be active in directing and influencing our lives. This stirring up is done above all by the second theological virtue given to us in baptism, Hope. It is the virtue of Hope that makes us set our hearts on spiritual things as the road to eternal life, so that we give ourselves to prayer and spiritual exercises. Unless we trusted God to give us eternal life and all the means necessary to obtain it, our faith would be fruitless, just as our intellectual activity would be fruitless had we no memory to store up what we learn. Hope may well be called the memory of the “new man,” for it gives the faculty of recalling what faith teaches us to be the real truth of our existence and purpose.

Hope is the virtue by which we trust God. The more we learn to trust His infinite love and care, the less we will trust in our own weakness. The truth of Christ’s saying, “Without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5), will become evident to us and, like Saint Paul, we will make our perfect act of Hope: “I can do all things in Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13) This “strengthening” is the very meaning of the word “confirmation” and is the chief effect of this sacrament. It is when the need of greater strength begins to dawn that our new life must be confirmed. In times of trial and temptation the strength of our Confirmation will booy up the virtue of Hope to reach out to God in trust and confidence.

We Have Free-Will

The third power of the human soul is free-will. It is this freedom which sets us above the animals. It is because we know that man can be held responsible for his own actions that we set up courts of justice to punish crime. The universal belief in morality must be based on belief in free-will, for if man be not free to control his own acts, how can he be held guilty for his evil deeds, any more than a lion? We set up courts to judge even the savage but not the beast, because we know that, though the savage may need educating, he is free and responsible.

Our free-will needs the guidance of our understanding and memory to act rightly, but, on the other hand, our understanding and memory would be useless if we were not free. We could gain nothing from learning or experience if everything were really pre-determined and inevitable. It is only because we are convinced that we have the power to choose freely our courses of action that it is worth while studying and memorizing those things which will help to guide us in our choice.

Charity Alone Pleases God

In much the same way Faith and Hope, to have any practical value in saving the soul, must be alive with the third theological virtue. Charity. Faith without Charity is dead, and Hope without Charity leads to the sin of presumption. The only way we can please God is by loving Him, and Charity is the supernatural gift of God by which we love God above all things and our neighbour as ourselves for God’s sake. On the other hand Charity depends on Faith and Hope in much the same way that free-will is impossible without intellect and memory. “But without faith it is impossible to please God. For he that comes to God, must believe that He is, and is the rewarder of them that seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6) By Faith we believe that God is, and by Hope we trust Him to be the rewarder of them that seek Him, but it is only by Charity that we can please Him.

Though the perfection of Charity would be to love God for His own sake alone, in practice, for most of us, the strongest incentive will be that He is infinitely good to us. It is the virtue of Hope that inspires our confidence in His infinite goodness to us and thus Charity is helped by Hope just as our will is helped by our memory; for in making our choice we learn from experience stored up in the memory.

Charity Is The Right Use Of Free-Will

When we consider the real nature of Charity we can see how perfectly it is the spiritual counterpart of free-will. For true love of God is not a matter of feelings or even affection, but of choice. We love God when we choose God, and we choose God when we put His will before our own by obedience. The perfect act of Charity is in the Lord’s prayer: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” We love God perfectly when we can say with Christ, without reservation and with complete abandonment, in the absence of all feelings of devotion, and when it is absolutely against the grain and even terrifying and hateful to contemplate: “Not my will. Father, but Thine be done.” For thus it was with Christ in the Garden, when He sweated blood to force that act of love from His agonized heart.

Confirmation Strengthens Charity

Sooner or later God will seek this act of true love from us, proved by the surrender of our will to His. Then above all will we need the strength of the sacrament of Confirmation. The Holy Spirit symbolizes this perfecting of charity by the form of blazing fire, the fire of love. The gift of Charity is above all the gift of the Holy Ghost, for He is the Divine Love, which proceeds from the Father and Son in the Mystery of the Holy Trinity. It is God’s essential Love that comes down upon us in this sacrament to fill our hearts with supernatural charity.

Not that God will call upon us to make this perfect act of love immediately we are confirmed, for though this sacrament can only be received once, its grace remains available to us all our lives. The soul must grow spiritually and develop, as all life must grow and develop, until it reaches the point where it must either surrender completely to God or cease to grow and become stunted, defective and probably die.

We Must Become Soldiers Of Christ

It is to arm and strengthen us against this test and trial of love, as well as against the attacks of Satan and temptation, that we receive in Confirmation the Character of Soldiers of Christ. It is to remind us of our need to bear bravely the hardships and trials of our battle for Christ that the Bishop gives us a little blow on the cheek, saying, “Peace be to thee”. From then onwards for all eternity we are enrolled and sealed in the army of Christ, “the perfect Christian.”

MLA Citation

  • Father Herbert C Fincham. “How We Are Saved”. The Catholic Postal Course, 1951. CatholicSaints.Info. 14 April 2016. Web. 28 October 2016. <>