Signs of Faith

Letter from the District Super, Rev. Robert Brucciani, September 2016

My Dear Brethren,

A sign is something which leads to the knowledge of something else. Our religion, the Roman Catholic Religion, is full of signs because most of the realities of our religion are inaccessible to our senses.

We cannot see, hear or touch the spiritual order: our own soul, virtue, grace, angels and the Holy Trinity; they are beyond the ability of our senses to sense or even to imagine.

Even those things which can be sensed are most often absent to the senses here and now: the incarnate Word, Our Lady and the saints for example.

Signs in the liturgy

The signs of our religion serve not only to make the observer aware of realities which are inaccessible to the senses, they also serve to bring man to God. The most important signs are the seven Sacraments given to us by Our Lord Jesus Christ while He was with us on earth. These signs, when they are confected and worthily received, bring the gift of sanctifying grace to our souls. We call them efficacious signs.

Other signs bring grace in the measure of the correct disposition of those who receive them (e.g. a blessing). These are called sacramentals. The official ceremonies of Catholic worship—the Liturgy (of which the rites of the seven Sacraments and sacramentals are a part)—are full of signs.

Every ceremony within a ceremony with its movements and instruments are signs. Some are conceived as signs from the outset (e.g. a genuflexion), others have had signification added (e.g. the washing of hands).

Liturgical signs are not the exclusive preserve of the ministers either; comportment within ceremonies (kneeling, sitting, standing), participating in the chant, in processions are all signs of faith of the faithful.

Signs in the world

The signs of our Catholic faith are not confined to prescribed movements and inanimate objects, for all Catholics should be living signs of the faith that they profess. We should be noticeably different from those who have no faith. This is easy in church or in our homes; where it is difficult and where it will have the greatest power of drawing souls to God is in the world. It is not easy to make a Sign of the Cross before you eat in a restaurant, it is not easy to use a rosary on the train, to refuse an invitation because you have to go to Mass, to avoid meat on Friday among secular friends, to invite a visitor to join the family Rosary, etc. because we all have a fear of being rejected on account of being different.

Ironically, however, the more you stand out in this way, the less people are shocked. From personal experience, when saying the Divine Office on the tube, I find that if I make the Sign of the Cross in a furtive, embarrassed way, looking around to see if anyone is watching, my observers are embarrassed too when they catch my eye. Whereas a discrete but confident display of faith is something that fascinates and edifies.

One could even go so far as to flaunt one’s Catholicism like Evelyn Waugh. A story is told that on one ember day, he placed a pair of scales on his table at the Ritz in London so that he could carefully weigh the food lest he contravene the rules of fasting. He clearly wanted to make others laugh, but he was nevertheless making a memorable sign of his faith.

The field of action for us to profess our faith extends beyond acts of religion. Our faith, when animated by the supernatural virtue of charity, makes us living members of the Mystical Body of Christ, adopted children of God and children of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It gives us a whole new being and a whole new operation. Everything we do—everything—can become a sign of faith: our modesty, circumspection, consideration, generosity all show something of the inner man who is united to the Godhead.

In a world where the vast majority of souls are probably not united to the Godhead in grace, it is all the more pressing that we become living signs of faith. We could, after all, be the only sign that any one soul is likely to see in a day, or a week, or a month. Profess your faith, my dear brethren, so that souls may not only be led to know our good God, but may be induced to adore and love Him too.

In Jesu et Maria,

Rev. Robert Brucciani

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