Faith & Culture

Author: Fr. Robert Skeris


by Monsignor Richard J. Schuler

Faith is our response to the revelation of God. It is an intellectual consent to truths which cannot be understood with the light of human reason alone, but truths that are affirmed because the motive for acceptance of them is God Himself Who can neither deceive or be deceived. It is the same intellect that we use to learn about the facts of the world, the arts, the sciences, the wonders of creation, that we use to accept the truths of God's revelation: the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Eucharist. It is the motive of our acceptance of truth that differs. One is knowledge, accepted because we understand; the other is faith, accepted because God Himself has revealed it without our understanding it. God Himself aids us in our acceptance of His revelation by infusing into us His theological virtue of faith.

It is our obligation to foster the virtue of faith that God has given us. We must protect it from harm coming from doubt or denial, attack from without and within, disuse and neglect. Faith can be lost, and may not always be required. It can disintegrate and cease to exist through neglect. It grows, of course, through the largesse of God's love and His constant giving of His grace (gift). But we must prepare ourselves for that gift. We do that by learning more about God and His mysteries, studying what He has revealed, listening to the teaching Church, reception of the sacraments, and by prayer and Catholic living.

Not least among the elements that both protect and foster faith is a Catholic culture, a truly Catholic environment. It is not simply that the faith is not doubted and it is not directly attacked. Rather, the Catholic community actually builds faith within all who are a part of it. Catholic practices become a part of daily life: the angelus, a daily visit to the church, the ringing of the church bells, the visible presence of priests and religious, daily Mass and devotions-these are only a few of the things that most adults today can recall from a childhood lived in a truly Catholic community or parish. Faith grew in a garden of Catholic practices. The Roman Catholic Church is a sacramental religion. The abstract truths of revelation are surrounded by the material elements that have been dedicated to the service of God and thus become holy. Christ Himself used the most ordinary of things to form the bases of His sacraments- water, bread, wine, oil, sin. The Church has further extended the list of things that are sacramentally employed in the daily living of the Catholic community. We need only read the index of the to see a partial list of what can be blessed, made holy, and enter into the Catholic's use of material things that lead one to God. All that God created is good, but what the Church sets apart and declares to be sacred is specially dedicated to God's service. It is in that setting, a Catholic culture, that the faith finds its greatest strength and growth.

Church music is a sacramental. It is sound that has become holy through dedication to a sacred purpose, the worship of God, sound that is most closely connected to the Word of God, sound that is created and performed by persons dedicated to God's praise and adoration. It is sound and words that bring the listener to a relationship with God. Church music is essentially prayer, the raising of the heart and mind to God. Unfortunately in our day, not all music performed in church, even within the liturgical action itself, is successful as prayer. It does not carry the listener to God; it does not raise the heart and mind to prayer. Why not? Chiefly because it is not holy, separated from the ordinary events of daily living, set apart for God alone. When something is not itself holy, it cannot lead to or create holiness. (nothing can give what it has not got).

Church musicians can establish a Catholic culture and maintain a Catholic sense. They can foster the faith of people and lead them to God through their music. But it must be sacred, and it must be art. In such a culture, the faith will grow.


This article appeared in the Summer 1993 issue of "Sacred Music." Published by the Church Music Association of America, 548 Lafond Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55103.