Wojtyla on the Enrichment of Faith

Thomas L Mammoser
I recently received a very interesting paper on the evangelization of culture in the new millenium by Thomas L. Mammoser. He currently serves as Vice President and as a Board and Executive Committee member for Midtown Educational Foundation, Chicago; Co-founder and President of the Christian Culture Institute, Milwaukee. Mammoser is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame (’60) with a B.A. in Philosophy and he did graduate work at the University of Chicago and Loyola University. We both had the privilege of studying the philosophy of Maritain under Joseph Evans at ND. I wish to share a few excerpts from his paper on this blog for the next few days. The entire paper may be found here
Mammoser compares Maritain and Wojtyla on the need for an inner renewal. Both emphasized the great task of Vatican II as the growth in the evangelical awareness of the members of the Church.
Mammoser writes as follows:

There is a fundamental and dynamic viewpoint from which to judge the reality of the Council and especially its implementation, says Wojytla.  That viewpoint is what he calls the principle of the enrichment of faith. Sources of Renewal deals with Wojtyla calls the  fundamental viewpoint from which to judge the reality of the Council and its implementation, namely “the principle of the enrichment of faith.”  As he puts it:  “Nothing determines more effectively the process of the Church’s self-realization than the reality of faith and its gradual enrichment. It is on this that we must concentrate above all… seeking in it the fundamental interpretation of the Council’s thought” as well as it implementation and genuine realization. (pp. 15-16).

The enrichment of faith, says Wojtyla, has a twofold dimension.  As with all Councils it can be understood first in a doctrinal sense; all Councils deal in some way with the content of faith.    In this sense we might see Vatican II as representing a qualitative enrichment—a deeper understanding and richer presentation of the truths of the Catholic faith in the broad context of the modern world.  Not “the discovery of fresh truths not already contained in revelation, but merely the interpretation of revealed truth in relation to new historical exigencies…” (Note by Italian translator, Sources, p. 18) Thus enrichment of faith, at its origin, must come from above, from ‘the teacher of all things.’  This is what we might call its objective sense in that it is ‘from above and outside’ us.  It is a supernatural gift of God –a grace — which the Church as human community must seek to cooperate with and to enhance.  This enrichment, in turn, constitutes a new stage in the Church’s ‘self-awareness’ in its advance towards the fullness of divine truth. 

But growth in self-awareness, says Wojltya,  helps us to realize that “it is impossible to treat the Church merely as an ‘object’: it has to be a ‘subject’ also.  Because—especially given the personal, pastoral nature of this Council– enrichment of faith “calls for that truth to be situated in the human consciousness and calls for a definition of the attitude, or rather the many attitudes, (emphasis added) that go to make the individual a believing member of the Church.” (ibid, pp. 17-18).  This is the “subjective or interior side” of the enrichment of faith, where it enters into the human person and actually touches, influences and guides the man of faith.  For it is “the transcendent character of the person, together with man’s responsibility to the truth” that defines the subjective range of the Church’s consciousness, in which the Church in a sense discovers itself.” (p. 36) 

This “subjective sense’ of the Council—and specifically Wojytla’s notions of consciousness and attitude as they relate to the evangelization of culture– are our focus here because an enlightened consciousness and a vigorous attitude are indispensable to bringing the  “objective’ messages of the Council, which have yet so much to say to modern man, to life in contemporary culture.  They are found in and orientate individual ‘subjects’ – knowing and believing persons; collectively the People of God.  It is to these people that the messages of the Council are primarily directed and where the responsibility for the objective  enrichment of  faith and the evangelization of culture in the new millennium ultimately rests.   

It is only the faith-based  “interiority” of lay people – their contemplative spirit, their God-centered ‘subjectivity,’ their awareness of  and commitment to Christ’s message–  that can fully engage and orient this new age of human history.  As amply demonstrated in our times, attitudes of ignorance, complacency and superficiality are quite ineffective agents of cultural enrichment. For all its inherent power to bring about positive cultural and social change, Christianity is first and foremost a religion that must be lived to be effective.  It is therefore only truly  enriching  – personally and culturally — when it is ‘subjectivized’;  that is, when it works from within, like leaven.  This is so because, as Wojtyla has written elsewhere, “culture develops principally within this dimension, the dimension of self-determining subjects. Culture is basically oriented not so much toward the creation of human products as toward the creation of the human self, which then radiates out into the world of products.” (Person and Community, p. 265.) 

John Paul II spoke of this lack of interiority and need for inner renewal to young people in Madrid in May, 2003.  “The drama of contemporary culture,” he said, “is the lack of interiority, the absence of contemplation. Without interiority culture has no content; it is like a body that has not found its soul.  What can humanity do without interiority? Unfortunately, we know the answer very well.  When the contemplative spirit is missing, life is not protected and all that is human is denigrated.  Without interiority, modern man puts his own integrity at risk.” (John Paul II, Meeting with Young People, Madrid, May  3, 2003, found here)  

And as Maritain wrote in The Peasant of the Garonne: “The true new fire, the essential renewal (engendered by the  Council), will be an inner renewal.” (p. 65).

I think that Mr. Mammoser has brought out an essential idea for understanding Vatican II, that of the enrichment of faith. A similar point was made by Dr. Waldstein’s workshop, summarized in a blog from October of this year (see here and scroll down to October 1, 2011). I am also grateful for the reference to the statement to the young made in 2003. John Paul counsels us to go to Mary to discovery prayer: “Dear young people, I invite you to be part
of the ‘School of the Virgin Mary’. She is the incomparable model of
contemplation and wonderful example of fruitful, joyful and enriching
interiority. She will teach you never to separate action from
contemplation.”
His final exhortation is also very touching: “I give you my own witness: I was ordained a
priest when I was 26 years old. Fifty-six years have passed since then.
So how old is the Pope? Almost 83! A young man of 83! Looking back and
remembering those years of my life, I can assure you that
it is worthwhile dedicating oneself to the cause of Christ and,
out of love for him, devoting oneself to serving humanity. It is
worthwhile to give one’s life for the Gospel and for one’s brothers and
sisters!” 

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1 Comment
  1. Who would disagree on the heart of the matter here? But because this understanding of Vatican II has taken decades even to reach the university conference population-academics speaking to other academics – and the precious few readers of its meaning, does that make the conference itself automatically a great success?

    How many homilies have you heard elucidating this very issue of conversion of the heart by use Vatican II dictates? Seriously, how many?

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