In honor of Festa di San Domenico, we present some words by three of his followers, members of St. Dominic’s Order of Preachers, in reverse chronological order…
I. From Yves Congar, OP‘s The Meaning of Tradition:
[Context: the following passage comes from Congar’s consideration of the role of unwritten tradition in the life of Christian faith.]
The written teaching of the Apostles about the mystery of the Eucharist is contained in some thirty or forty verses. These are texts of an inexhaustible richness, but, in addition to the fact that the Eucharist was celebrated and administered without waiting for them to be written, it is obvious that the faith of the Church goes far beyond what the texts contain.
This faith was formed and continues to be formed in the successive generations of Christians, from the Eucharist itself, taken as a present reality, celebrated in the Church according to tradition.
In order to share the faith of the apostles on this point, and to believe exactly what they believed, it is not so much a matter of reading, studying, and interpreting their written teaching, as of partaking, in our turn, of the Bread and Wine in which the apostles communicated (for the first time from the hands of our Lord), followed by the whole succession of generations after them.
II. Cardinal Cajetan, OP.
[Context: Pope Leo X sent Cajetan to Germany, to meet with Martin Luther and address Luther’s famous 95 Theses. Luther had written, regarding Confession: “It is not the sacrament, but faith in the sacrament, that justifies.”]
The Lord said to the Apostles, ‘If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven’ (John 20:23). The ministers of the Church have the power to forgive sins by the authority of Christ.
The effect of the words spoken by the priest, ‘I forgive you your sins,’ is no less miraculous than the words ‘This is my Body.’ God effects forgiveness in and with the words spoken by the Church in his name. The forgiveness announced by the priest, and the forgiveness bestowed by God, is one and the same. We believe in and confess that the effect of sacramental absolution is the forgiveness of the sins of a truly repentant sinner, granted albeit authoritatively by God alone but ministerially by the priest through Christ’s sacrament.
The faith given by Christ as a gift to the soul believes that absolution rightly given by the Church’s minister grants grace to a worthy recipient. But it does not belong to that faith to believe in the effect of absolution for this or that particular person, because that is uncertain.
The effect of the sacrament of penance on me remains in doubt in this life. St. Paul commands us to ‘examine ourselves. If we judge ourselves, we will not be judged by the Lord.’ (I Corinthians 11:28, 31)
We fulfill the act of self-examination under the light of God’s Word by humble submission to the priest-confessor, ready to accept pardon or condemnation, and ready to accept appropriate penances. Contrition is the opposite of presumption.
(Taken from “Cajetan and Luther” by Adam G. Cooper)
Let’s note, as a point of interest:
Ecclesiastical authority did not condemn Martin Luther, nor insist on the destruction of his writings, until after a careful debate. Cajetan came to Germany seeking clarification and mutual understanding. Pope Leo did not condemn Luther as a heretic until after Cajetan’s discussion with him.
III. St. Thomas Aquinas
In Article 5 of Question 65 of Part I-II of the Summa Theologica, St. Thomas considers whether you can have divine love in your soul without having faith and hope in God.
St. Thomas faces two problems. 1. Some pagans can and do love God. 2. Christ had perfect charity as a pilgrim, without faith or hope. He had full divine knowledge and perfect certainty about the Father vindicating Him.
So St. Thomas needs to explain the relationship of faith, hope, and charity in such a way as to affirm that you need faith and hope to have divine love, without denying that some pagans do love God, and without saying anything wrong about Christ.
He came up with a few of the most moving paragraphs ever. St. Thomas wrote:
Charity signifies not only the love of God, but also a certain friendship with Him, which implies, besides love, a certain mutual return of love, together with mutual communion. That this belongs to charity is evident from I John 4:16: ‘He that abides in charity, abides in God, and God in him,’ and I Corinthians 1:9, where it is written, ‘God is faithful, by Whom you are called unto the fellowship of His Son.’
Now, this fellowship of man with God, which consists in a certain familiar colloquy with Him, is begun here, in this life, by grace, but will be perfected in the future life, by glory.
Wherefore, just as friendship with a person would be impossible, if one disbelieved in, or despaired of, the possibility of their friendship or familiar colloquy, so too friendship with God, which is charity, is impossible without faith, so as to believe in this fellowship and colloquy with God, and to hope to attain to this fellowship. Therefore, charity is quite impossible without faith and hope.