We begin each rosary with the words, “I believe,” the first words of the Apostle’s Creed. It is our “statement of faith,” one that is more written on our hearts rather than in a book.
To “believe” is something more than “guess” and something slightly less than “know.” In fact, the first dictionary definition of “believe” is to “have confidence.” This, of course, describes our Catholic faith quite precisely. We have great confidence in our Lord and His Church, and we have a number of good reasons for this confidence.
We have confidence because we have been taught by someone with authority to teach. The Christian faith is not a “religion of the book,” that is, not based strictly on the Sacred Scriptures. Surely the Bible informs and strengthens our faith because it is the Word of God, but our Lord didn't flip an armload of scrolls to His disciples and tell them to figure it out for themselves. St. Paul enjoins his priests to “stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught, either by an oral statement or by a letter of ours (2 Thes 2:15). The Apostles were eyewitnesses to the inauguration of the Kingdom of God, and their successors had confidence in them. Because of the unbroken line of bishops succeeding the Apostles, we can maintain this confidence through their faith, thereby strengthening our own and opening our hearts to the working of the Spirit.
Our confidence is confirmed in the revelation of what we see around us. When I was stationed in Hawaii, I was mesmerized by the deep Pacific skies. I could sit for hours and stare out into space, marveling at the vastness of the cosmos yet completely aware that the same Creator Who willed this vast ocean of stars into being was not distant, but near. This nearness was underscored by the unpretentious complexity of the living things around me, and the decidedly un-complex love I shared with my family. Both the unimaginable yet obvious order to the universe, and the indescribable but delightful bond with my loved ones, speaks of a God both awesome and close.
It must be plain, even to the most hardened atheist, that there is something greater than what our mere senses detect. Even Carl Sagan, the famous cosmologist, couldn't reject God altogether; he acknowledged that there was “something” out there that numbers and theory couldn't quantify.
We can also have confidence in our own experience as humans who encounter the Living God in person. As Catholics, we have the tremendous privilege of approaching God in word and sacrament. Inviting Jesus into our hearts and accepting Him as Lord and Savior is powerful, but it pales in comparison to a physical encounter with our Risen Lord in the Eucharist. In the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, we can see Him, touch Him, speak to Him, and incorporate Him physically within us just as we open our hearts to invite Him in. Our worship is spirit and body, as is Christ. The confidence born of what we see and hear and taste open our hearts to the Breath of God, the Holy Spirit, Who in turn conforms us to Christ; it is Christ Who presents us to the Father.
None of this is possible without God reaching for us, for as St. Paul writes in his Epistle to the Philippians: “I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me.” In the Catechism this search for God and His call to us is described as written on our hearts by our Creator:
The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to Himself. Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for. The dignity of man rests above all on the fact that he is called to communion with God. This invitation to converse with God is addressed to man as soon as he comes into being. For if man exists it is because God has created him through love, and through love continues to hold him in existence. He cannot live fully according to truth unless he freely acknowledges that love and entrusts himself to his Creator. (#27)
With the reason He has given us, coupled with the very “God-shape” of our human hearts, God tends the garden of our faith. Through the Church, we have a teacher in whom we can have confidence. With our hearts and our hands we can accept Christ, literally taking Him inside our own bodies in the Eucharist. Our faith is a very gift from God and our hearts a vessel for His love.
It is through the assurance born of these remarkable graces that we can confidently proclaim, “Credo,” I believe.
© Copyright 2006 Catholic Exchange
Mickey Addison is a career military officer, and has been a catechist at the parish level since 2000. He and his wife have been married for 19 years and they have two children. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was previously published on the Rosary Army’s website and is used by permission.