Fr. Sylvain Casavant
With its purpose to act as a yardstick of correct belief, the Nicene Creed is the profession of faith most widely used in Christian liturgy.
Emphasizing the first two words of the Creed, "I believe," in a Jan. 23 talk, Father Sylvain Casavant said there is a clear distinction between faith and belief.
"I believe that the sun is going to rise tomorrow is a belief statement, but not necessarily much of a faith statement. It's a belief statement because it's rooted in the future, but I know it's something that has happened all my life," said Casavant.
To believe in God is much different. Belief in God is a faith statement.
"This is where we begin (the Nicene Creed). We begin with the knowledge that we know someone, and that someone has revealed himself in the person of Jesus Christ.
"Faith is a way, a trusting venture with God. We recognize in the external words and deeds of revelation that God reveals himself. The believer does not believe because he knows. He knows because he believes," explained Casavant.
Casavant, a faculty member at Newman Theological College, spoke on God the Father in the first session of the Edmonton Archdiocese's winter/spring 2013 catechesis series, Simply What Catholics Believe: Nicene Creed.
About 40 people attended the session, held Jan. 23 at the Pastoral Administration Offices. Others watched the event via live webcast.
All of the catechesis sessions are recorded and will be archived on the archdiocesan website for later viewing.
Casavant's talk highlighted the first few lines of the Nicene Creed: "I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible."
He shared an experience from his time in the seminary, when he was contemplating whether to become a priest.
The day he was to be ordained a deacon, Casavant donned a Roman collar. Then he went to the chapel, and asked if this was what God really wanted him to do. After five years of discernment, he still had his doubts.
"I'm going to be ordained in 25 minutes. It would be really nice to have some sort of surety, some sort of real knowledge," he told God.
From a catalogue in Rome four months prior, he had ordered an alb, a white liturgical robe. Praying, he told God that if the alb arrived in time for his ordination, that would be a sure sign that God wanted him to be a priest.
Mere minutes before his ordination was to begin, a priest he had been staying with entered the room and told him that a package arrived for him. In the package was the alb he had ordered.
"It was an indication for me of belief in God. It was a moment of faith, saying, 'I believe you, God.'
"I believe God did this for me, but many others would have said it was just a coincidence. The difference is that I believe in God, and I further believe that God gives us what we need when we need it most," said Casavant.
Conversely, Casavant is saddened, after serving in parishes for many years, to hear of parishioners whose children no longer go to church, either from lack of faith or an utter rejection of God.
Casavant also focused on God as the Father almighty. Some participants were surprised to learn that this concept is not exclusive to the New Testament. Jeremiah 31.9 and Isaiah 63.16 refer to God as a father.
Billed by the archdiocese as "theology for ordinary folk," the catechesis series will continue with talks by Franciscan Father Don MacDonald on the Son of God, Jesus Christ, on Feb. 4 and 27. There will be four other talks in the series, which will end in June.
Recordings of the sessions, as well as those from two earlier series, are available at www.caedm.ca/webcastcatechesis.