According to the Catholic Book Publishers Association, Questions and Answers by Pope Benedict XVI is No. 1 on the April 2008 list of Catholic hardcover bestsellers.
It's a great little book (and I'm not just saying that because it was published by Our Sunday Visitor).
One of the answers I find myself continually thinking about is a response to a question he fielded March 2, 2006 during a gathering with priests of the Diocese of Rome. (In the book, the answer starts on Page 28.)
The priest asks how clergy can help lay people acquire a lively, practical, effective faith.
The question has a certain relevance in the United States, too, in light of the recent Pew Forum report that showed how many American Catholics leave the Church. And we've heard countless people weigh in on what campaigns, programs, tactics or methods are needed to get people back to Church.
Pope Benedict's answer reminds us that the American problem-solving approach gets it backward. But he doesn't simply offer up the true but unsatisfying, "God will provide."
Here's a little of what he says:
Faith, ultimately, is a gift. Consequently, the first condition is to let ourselves be given something, not to be self-sufficient or do everything by ourselves -- because we cannot -- but to open ourselves in the awareness that the Lord truly gives.
And there are plenty of other answers in the book worth chewing on, too. Highly recommended reading.
I think it is very important to stress one essential point. No one believes purely on his own. We always believe in and with the Church. The Creed is always a shared act, it means letting ourselves be incorporated into a communion of progress, life, words and thought.
We do not "have" faith, in the sense that it is primarily God who gives it to us. Nor do we "have" it either, in the sense that it must be invented by us. We must let ourselves fall, so to speak, into the communion of faith, of the Church.
-- John Norton