I think we all found these questions to be challenging this week. I found it hard to articulate my responses to many of these questions, I knew the answer I wanted to give in response to the question but trying to express it through words in a way others could understand what I was trying to say was difficult. The suggested answers listed here may be accurate, but they only scratch the surface of the thoughts and discussion that can be sparked by these questions. I highly suggest that you spend some time in prayer with these questions. Start with the general answers and then really examine what God wants to teach you with these questions.
1. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that “prayer is a vital necessity” (2744) and even quotes Saint Alphonsus Liguouri, who wrote: “Those who pray are certainly saved; those who do not pray are certainly damned.” In your view, why is prayer necessary for salvation, and how would you describe what this kind of prayer looks like?
(Reference Luke 18:10-14. The tax collector was justified because he recognized his spiritual poverty and called out to God. CCC 1847 quotes Saint Augustine: “God created us without us: but he did not will to save us without us.” Like the tax collector, Saint Augustine was painfully aware of his sin and the only solution to that sin—the grace of God. This is why prayer is necessary for our salvation: We have to continually ask God for the grace of salvation and
cooperate with that grace to conquer sin and death.)
2. The Catechism defines faith as “[entrusting] oneself wholly to God and [believing] absolutely what he says” . In other words, faith involves a surrender of both our will and intellect. How do the saints show us what true faith is, and what prevents us from imitating them?
(Romans 12:2 reads: “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” The teachings of the Church are the teaching of Christ. We renew our minds by conforming our minds to the teachings of the Church. It is necessary to know the truth if we are to conform our lives to the truth with the aid of God’s grace. A personal relationship with Jesus Christ, cultivated through prayer and the sacraments, motivates us to abandon ourselves more and more to Divine Providence.)
3. The Church teaches that Jesus Christ “fully reveals man to himself and makes his supreme calling clear” (Gaudium et Spes, 22). How do you think Jesus reveals to you a deeper understanding of yourself and your purpose in life?
(The Catechism teaches that the Word became flesh: in order to save us by reconciling us with God; so we would know God’s love; to be our model of holiness; and to make us partakers of the divine nature [457-460]. This means we are not the sum of our mistakes, are infinitely loved, can grow in selfless love, and have divine life dwelling within us. Our dignity is divine sonship and our mission is self-donation in imitation of Jesus Christ.)
4. How would you respond to someone who says: “Catholics are guilty of idolatry in the way they regard Mary because the Bible nowhere instructs us to revere, pray to, or rely on anyone other than God”?
(The Catechism teaches: “Mary’s role in the Church is inseparable from her union with Christ and flows directly from it. ‘This union of the mother with the Son in the work of salvation is made manifest from the time of Christ’s virginal conception up to his death’; it is made manifest above all at the hour of his Passion” . We imitate Christ when we honor Mary and enlist her help in God’s plan of salvation.)
5. To begin the “Spiritual Exercises,” Saint Ignatius proposes a major consideration. How would you put that consideration into your own words?
(As the proverbial expression goes, “People don’t plan to fail, they fail to plan”; so we should live with the end in mind. When we understand our ultimate end, we can order our decisions and actions to that end. In other words, our time on earth is meant to habituate us for eternal life in Heaven. Therefore, we need to be careful of developing attachments to this world, which is passing away. Jesus exhorts us: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and
rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” [Matthew 6:19-21].)
6. The movie/book poses a thought-provoking question: Would Jesus, in view of his mercy, want us to publicly renounce our faith in him that we might save ourselves, as well as others, from torture and death? How would you answer that question taking into consideration Saint Ignatius’s “two standards”?
(This scene from the book/movie contradicts what Saint Paul writes to Timothy: “If we endure, we shall also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us” [2 Timothy 2:12]. Of course, Jesus will forgive us of our sin when we sincerely repent. However, no matter how challenging the circumstances, we can be sure that Jesus will give us the grace to persevere. Saint Paul writes to the Corinthians: “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but
with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” [1 Corinthians 10:13]. Finally, the Catechism teaches: “Martyrdom is the supreme witness given to the truth of the faith: it means bearing witness even unto death. The martyr bears witness to Christ who died and rose, to whom he is united by charity. He bears witness to the truth of the faith and of Christian doctrine. He endures death through an act of fortitude” .)