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Bishop O'Connell - 2012 pastoral letter

In observance of the Year of Faith proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI,
Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M. has issued his first pastoral letter to the people of the diocese.
Download Bishop O'Connell's Pastoral Letter .pdf

Pastoral Letter of the Bishop of Trenton

One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church:
I Believe, We Believe


My dear brothers and sisters in the Diocese of Trenton:

In announcing the upcoming “Year of Faith,” which celebrates the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) and the Twentieth Anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI explained that “to rediscover the content of faith that is professed, celebrated, lived and prayed and to reflect on the act of faith is a task every believer must make his own (Apostolic Letter Porta Fidei, 9, October 11, 2011).”  It is fitting, then, at the beginning of this “Year of Faith,” that the Diocese of Trenton joins with the Roman Catholic Church throughout the world in a period of reflection and celebration of our Catholic faith.  

For the Christian, the Catechism states that

151 ... believing in God cannot be separated from believing in the One he sent, his “beloved Son,” in whom the Father is “well pleased”; God tells us to listen to him (Mark 1: 11). The Lord himself said to his disciples: “Believe in God, believe also in me (John 14: 1).” We can believe in Jesus Christ because he is himself God, the Word made flesh: “No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known (John 1: 18).” Because he “has seen the Father,” Jesus Christ is the only one who knows him and can reveal him (John 6:46; Matthew 11: 27).

Similarly, we read that

152 ... One cannot believe in Jesus Christ without sharing in his Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who reveals to men who Jesus is. For “no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12: 3),” who “searches everything, even the depths of God.... No one comprehends the thoughts of God, except the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 2: 10-11).” Only God knows God completely: we believe in the Holy Spirit because he is God.

Much has been spoken and written about faith in the history of humankind, especially in the last two thousand years of Christianity.  Faith is, as has been said, “personal,” an act of the human individual that is rooted in his/her capacity to give assent to some truth that is perceived.  “I believe,” “I have faith.” 

I believe that the sun will rise again tomorrow.  Why?  Because it always has before and I have no reason not to believe it or to doubt that it will happen again.  I am not absolutely certain about tomorrow but I have good reason to be confident about it.  I believe that my parents and my friends love and care for me. Why?  Because my past relationships with them have been positive and tended toward my good, although it might be disrupted on occasion by particular situations or circumstances.  I cannot be absolutely certain about their feelings but I have good reason to be confident about them.  When I leave for a trip, I have faith that I will arrive at my destination safely.  More often than not, I do not even think about it.  Of course, something could happen to prevent my safe arrival but I rarely give that possibility a thought when I first depart.  If I did not have basic human faith, I would not even put my feet on the ground when I wake up in the morning.  Faith is that aspect of human life that enables me to continue living in this world.  Without such faith, I would be paralyzed and afraid of doing anything at all.  

Christian faith, however, “differs from our faith in any human person” or thing (CCC, 150).  It, too, is personal.  It, too, gives assent to some truth that is perceived.  But, Christian faith is a grace, a “gift of God, a supernatural virtue infused by him” that “moves the heart and converts it to God, who opens the eyes of the mind and ‘makes it easy to accept and believe the truth (CCC, 153).’”  The Catechism notes that “in faith, the human intellect and will cooperate with divine grace.” The great philosopher and theologian St. Thomas Aquinas once explained that “believing is an act of the intellect assenting to the divine truth by command of the will, moved by God through grace (Summa Theologica, II-II, 2, 9; CCC, 154).”  And, so, I believe and I have faith because God has taken the initiative to introduce me to the truth, even when, perhaps especially when, human reason has no other demonstrable proof of science.

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The Catholic Diocese of Trenton, 701 Lawrenceville Road, Trenton, NJ 08648