Exploring Our Faith
by Rev. Anthony Hutjes (2015)
Fr. Anthony explains a range of familiar topics such as the Bible, the Trinity, prayer, sacraments and Mother Mary as well as topics specific to his ministry, with the intention of making “certain aspects of the Catholic faith somewhat more accessible for a broader public” rather than to “say anything new or original about my religion or to create a handbook which tries to cover all details’. Indeed, he clearly explains the teachings, theology and application of some foundational aspects of our faith.
What I will say about the familiar topics is that it is always instructive to revise and revisit what we should know. At the very least, every presentation of these topics encourages a little re-think of how we understand them.
Here, I will focus on the chapters that are particularly significant to his order, the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary (SS.CC), and the chapter on laypersons.
The Sacred Heart of Jesus
Devotion to the Sacred Heart draws us into the very heart of Jesus – His “innermost life” and the depths of His being that were the source of everything He did and said. This devotion encourages the “patient meditation” by which we know Jesus better and this is important “because how can you love what you do not know?” We also come close to Jesus through adoration and Communion, and bring Him to others through our imitation of His life.
The Spirituality of St. Damien of Molokai
Now this was something I never knew – that Mahatma Gandhi knew about Fr. Damien. Gandhi said this about him: “There have been few lives in history or legend who lived on the completely spiritual level of Father Damien.” What was it that gave him the capacity to serve God’s people so selflessly and tirelessly? The “source of the heroism of Father Damien” (Gandhi’s words again), Fr. Anthony explains, was the combination of his family background, the Christ-centred spirituality of the SS.CC and his orientation on the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the love of His heart.
The SS.CC Mission in Asia
Evangelisation is a “fundamental duty of the people of God” and this non-negotiable inevitably means tackling these elements of modern life – “consumerism, individualism, secularism, relativism, hedonism, materialism”. It needs to be done sensitively, with openness to “dialogue”, and understanding and respect for specific societies and cultures. The SS.CC can do this in their mission in Asia by building upon their charism – celebrating the Eucharist, adoration and contemplation of Christ’s Sacred Heart, with “utter, personal conviction”; by “walking the talk”; “in a life of loving communion”; “with preferential love for the poor”; “in a spirit of dialogue and persuasive adaptation” and “proclaiming an everlasting life”.
The Mission of a Layperson
Fr. Anthony explains what is ultimately and practically important for laypersons, all of whom are called to mission. We build our sense of mission and the strength to carry it out in these ways:
– prayer is “the breath of faith” and we must search for God “with all your mind, with all your heart, with all your might and all your strength”
In self-sacrificial love towards others
– through forgiveness and service
In marriage and family life
– by being a sign of Jesus’ love – every marriage in Christ “has to reflect… every single line, every disposition, every moral value of the gospel”
In our love for the poor and those in need
– this is a must, and we must love those who are poor materially as well as those poor in other aspects of life, such as the lonely and the rejected
– it is Jesus’ command to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…” (Matthew 17:18) – it is not just priests but all of us who are called to be “alter Christus” to others, hence “our deepest wish should be that we may become truly Eucharistic people, like Jesus Christ Himself – we may become people, more and more willing to be eaten up by our loving and self-sacrificial concern for God and neighbour.”
In an interview included at the end of the book, Fr. Anthony discusses some challenges of being Christian in our world today. He cautions that one can get “flabby” and “weakened too much by an over-indulgent, egocentric and pampered way of life”. Thus, we must be disciplined and must focus on God and His Kingdom. In addition, “there is no point in people who merely flip through the Bible back and forth” – we need true “conversion” and “much more missionary zeal”.
God, our source of life, has to be our focus.
♫ Makes me think of Seed, scattered and sown