WASHINGTON — At a recent talk on Pope Francis’ encyclical Lumen Fidei (The Light of Faith), Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore emphasized that faith is not opposed to reason, but, rather, is necessary for understanding truth.
“This encyclical letter … is a great gift — not only to the Church, but to all people of goodwill, to everybody seeking the truth,” Archbishop Lori said Sept. 17 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, where he spoke as part of a lecture series on the Year of Faith.
“In a very skeptical world, it turns out that faith believes in reason. Faith believes in the capacity of reason for truth,” he reflected.
Archbishop Lori explained that the nature of faith is often misunderstood, seen as superstition rather than “a part of the search for knowledge.”
Faith is commonly considered to be “not a friend of reason, but its enemy; it’s thought to be unreasonable, anti-rational.” Because of this misconception, the archbishop said, the Enlightenment placed misplaced trust in the absolute power of reason alone to discover the truth.
When this mindset was not able to withstand the tragedies and atrocities that have occurred in the 20th century, rationalism gave way to skepticism, “abandoning the search to make sense out of human nature and history.”
Without truth, Archbishop Lori said, reason came “to be thought as a dimmer light — something that can help us find our way moment by moment or trend by trend, but not something that can help us find our ultimate way.”
Therefore, the world “fell into confusion” about the nature of humanity, reality and truth itself.
Faith, the archbishop said, is the “one thing capable of illuminating every aspect of our existence.”
Because of Christ’s being both true God and true man — his being both eternally transcendent and sharing our human nature — Archbishop Lori explained, “faith in Christ really does illuminate every aspect of our humanity, including our sufferings, including our tragedies.”
This link with Christ also “opens us to a love greater than ourselves, a love that can save us, a love that can transform us from within.”
“Through faith, we can love as Jesus loves,” the archbishop continued, and this love “opens our minds to the truth that is greater than ourselves and our hearts to a love greater than ourselves.”
“Salvation has come to us because God has engaged us: He has engaged our history; he has engaged our humanity,” and thus faith in God “lights up our history, our human nature, body, mind and spirit.”
“Lumen Fidei offers a summary of salvation history,” beginning with Abraham and continuing through “the Church to the end of time,” Archbishop Lori observed.
He explained that the Pope “tells us that, in accepting the gift of faith, we become God’s children, and he says we abandon the effort to save ourselves by our own goodness and our own works,” opening man to “knowledge and understanding of truth.”
The ability of faith to illumine truth gives light to the search for knowledge in all areas, the archbishop added.
“Faith helps us see that the things that we love in life contain a ray of understanding,” and that understanding can lead to God.
Unfortunately, Archbishop Lori stated, today, truth is thought to be subjective, and because people misunderstand the nature of truth, many think that objective truth “would stifle creativity in thought.”
However, “faith doesn’t lead to any object; faith leads to a truth, a love, which cannot be imposed, but only proposed,” he explained.
“Far from stifling the individual, faith opens the individual to a truth in love,” and this opening can enable all searching for knowledge to be open to the truth, he said. “Faith is not divorced from the world, but, rather, penetrates the heart of earthly reality, to the heart of the human spirit.”