by Father Maurice J Nutt, C.Ss.R.
St. Francis of Assisi is widely (though apparently inaccurately) believed to have said, “Preach the Gospel always; if necessary use words.” Whether or not he said these words, he certainly professed and lived them. If the Gospel is to be credible, it has to be professed by both our words and our actions. Thomas of Celeno, St. Francis’ first biographer, quotes him instructing his co-workers with these words:
“The preacher must first draw from secret prayers what he will later pour out in holy sermons; he must first grow hot within before he speaks words that are in themselves cold.”
This “growing hot within” is at the heart of professing our faith. We typically think of those who overtly profess their faith as those who are bible “toting and quoting” Christians; those who are always talking about Jesus; those who demonstrate their faith by wearing religious articles or T-shirts with scriptural or religious citations. However, “growing hot within” means much more. When we profess our faith at Sunday Mass together, as we do when pray the Creed, we express what unites us. Our profession of faith is not the mindless rambling of cold words but rather a ministry of presence. When prayed sincerely it is what is produced from our “burning” love of God and our Church. In essence, our profession of faith is what we believe and who we truly are.
Long after the words have been uttered at Mass, we are called to give life to those words. When we become “faith professed,” people will see a change in us and will ask what has changed in our lives then we can take the opportunity to explain and expound on our relationship and commitment to Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church. People will notice a difference in us. It is an opportunity for evangelization. We profess and witness to our faith by showing others that we bear and share the love of Christ in all that we say and do.
“Faith professed” can be demonstrated by: not remaining silent in the face of hatred and injustice; seeking out those in need of love, comfort and healing; showing concern for the poor, prisoner and the oppressed; offering forgiveness; making real and relevant the words of the Nicene Creed, that we “believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life” and become people who give life and hope to lifeless people, places and situations we encounter.
At our best, this IS who we are, this IS our faith and we are proud to profess it!