FAITH AND CULTURE
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
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.