Last week, we were getting a deck installed at our vacation home near Gatlinburg, Tennessee. This deck is about six inches off of the ground. The fellow installing the deck, Matthew Brown, used 45 bags of concrete as footers of this deck. Matthew is convinced that the foundation of the deck is the most important part of the deck since it supports the rest of the structure. So, our new deck is solid. It doesn’t bounce, even if you jump on it. In fact, I think the house will collapse before the deck ever does.
Yesterday, the feast of Pentecost, is the birthday of our Church. When you consider our Church, its foundation is also critical. The foundation of our Church is Peter, and his successors. Jesus himself said: “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church.”
The saint whose feast is tonight, Saint Anthony of Padua, a doctor of the Church, was born in 1195 and died in 1231. St Anthony provided simple and resounding teaching on the Catholic faith, so that the most unlettered and innocent might understand it. He is called the “hammer of the heretics.” When St Anthony of Padua found he was preaching the true Gospel of the Church to heretics who would not listen to him, he then went out and preached it to the fishes. This was not for the instruction of the fishes, but rather for the glory of God, the delight of the angels, and the easing of his own heart. St. Anthony wanted to profess the Catholic faith with his mind and his heart, at every moment.
Today, there are some in our Church who could merit the title of the hammer of the heretics. One would certainly be our current pope, Benedict XVI, who preaches the truth continuously, sometimes to audiences who reject it. This unchanging truth, this solid foundation is required in our times of moral relativism. Many would tell us that their truth isn’t the same as our truth. When we hear this, we might be tempted to be silent and to let them go their way. But out of Christian charity, we must continue to hammer away at the truth. We must continue to hate the sin and to love the sinner. If we continue to preach the simple and resounding teaching of the Catholic faith, we can be confident that we are following in the footsteps of Saint Anthony of Padua.
Like my deck in Gatlinburg, our faith is built on the solid foundation of the truth. It would not stand for long if it were built on the sand of moral relativism. Certainly, our faith requires time and study since we cannot rely on our own inclinations and whims to find this truth. We must study the teachings of our church as handed down through the centuries from doctors of the church, like the hammer of the heretics, St. Anthony of Padua. Only after we do this can we confidently proclaim this truth as it has been passed down to us by others who are far wiser than we are.
So tonight, let us give thanks for the unchanging truth of our faith and for the doctors of our Church, such as St Anthony of Padua who have proclaimed and clarified this truth for us and for future generations.