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Monday, July 30, 2012

Social Phobias, or How to Strain a Gnat and ...

by Lawrence Fox
I was thinking about all the "classic" litanies of phobias recited by actiivists and community organizers (some of whom require $3000/year contraception allowances), media pundits, senators, representatives, presidents, and judges. The defining criteria for these various forms of phobia include: irrational reaction to, the avoidance of, the use of de-humanizing and insensitve language about, and violent actions against, and all working together to prevent certain classes of persons from being free and integrated into society. The greatest phobia in Western Society would then have to be child-phobia (through all his or her stages of development). Did not the Professor in Chief say: "I would not punish my daughter with a child, one resulting from a mistake." So the conceived child is a punishment, a mistake, an after thought, only tissue, with no rights, no dignity and no value prior to and after delivery. And at what cost and effort do we make sure this child does not come into the world? "You strain a gnat and swallow a camel," said Jesus to the Pharisees.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Deposit of Faith

by Lawrence G. Fox

When I was a young boy, I worked a paper route delivering the News American to residents of Irvington, a small neighborhood located within Baltimore, Maryland.
The compensation I received for this daily task prompted me to open a savings account at the Irvington Federal Savings & Loan.  Weekly, I made the trip to the Savings & Loan, clutching my well earned Federal Reserve promissory notes, a thin green savings booklet - intended to help maintain an orderly record of all transactions - and a boyish excitement knowing that I would be depositing funds within a secured institution.
Each deposit included an oral and written transaction, the transfer of funds, a systematic calculation of deposit, withdrawals, interest earned, and final balance. When transactions were complete, I receive from the teller a kindly reminder that my funds were safe and guarded with a little help from the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corp. (FSLIC)
Little did I know that this outward sign of inward capital served as an analogy for another type of deposit; one recorded and rooted in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition.
The 2nd Century Doctor of the Church and Bishop of Lyon, St. Irenaeus, wrote about such a deposit, which was not based upon monetary transactions but upon the tradition of truth.  The Apostles of Jesus Christ deposited this truth in the Catholic (Universal) Church.
St. Irenaeus wrote:
 When therefore we have such proofs, it is not necessary to seek among others the truth which is easily obtained from the Church. For the Apostles like a rich man in a bank, deposited within her most copiously everything which pertains to the truth; and everyone whosoever wishes, draws from her the drink of life. For she is the entrance to life, while all the rest are thieves and robbers. That is why it is surely necessary to avoid them, while cherishing with the utmost diligence the things pertaining to the Church, and to lay hold of the tradition of truth. What then? If there should be a dispute over some kind of question, ought we not have recourse to the most ancient churches in which the apostles were familiar, and draw from them what is clear and certain in regard to that question? What if the apostles had not in fact left writings to us? Would it not be necessary to follow the order of tradition, which was handed down to those to whom they entrusted the Churches (Jonathan Quasten pg 301)?
In Irenaeus’ work, with the abbreviated titled Against Heresies - from which the long quote has been lifted - St. Irenaeus contrasts the unitive, sacred, historical, and universal foundation of Catholic Doctrine in opposition to the mythical, vapid, conflicting, and profane foundation of Gnostic1 Doctrine.
The impetus of his work (Against Heresies) stems from the alarming emergence of various Gnostic movements that attempted to latch onto the Catholic Church by aping the esthetics (accidentals) of the Church while at the same time rejecting the (ascetics) substance. Gnosticism professed a message which contradicted the Faith of the Catholic Church on all levels including: the source and mode of divine revelation (oral and written), the mystery of God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Trinitarian Theology), the nature of the Church (Ecclesiology), the incarnation, life, death, & bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ (Christology) and his saving work (Soteriology), the necessity of faith and works (Moral Theology), and the administration of grace within the Catholic Universal Church (Sacramentology). St. Paul warned Timothy to guard against the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge (gnosis). (2Timothy 6:20)
While some things change other things remain the same.  Recently Pope Benedict XVI stated: "An effective proclamation of the Gospel in contemporary western society will need to confront directly the widespread spirit of agnosticism and relativism which has cast doubt on reason's ability to know the truth which alone satisfies the human heart's restless quest for meaning." (MAY 28, 2004)
While combating these movements (spirits), St. Irenaeus incorporated a theme from the writings of St. Paul, who - when passing the baton of leadership and guardianship to St. Timothy - pleaded: “What you have heard from me, keep as a pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Jesus Christ. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you; guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.” (2 Timothy 1:13-15) 
So here we have St. Irenaeus and St. Paul stating that something of value has been deposited in the life of the Church and it needs to be received, guarded, and passed on.  This something of value is defined by the Church to be the Deposit of Faith.
To understand the context and meaning of the Deposit of Faith let us look at several key points within the instruction and defense for the Catholic3 Faith as provided by St. Irenaeus.
Who are the Rich Men in the Bank?
The word, apostle, comes from the common Greek word (apostolos) and means “one that is sent.”
Jesus Christ chose 12 men (Matthew 10:1 & Luke 6:12) to follow him and to be his disciples, to learn from him, to be his companions and stand by him in his trials, and subsequently to be sent by him -- with all authority -- to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness, and to be his witnesses to the whole world beginning in Jerusalem (Luke 24:45-49).  These 12 included: Simon, Andrew, James, John, Thomas, Philip, Nathaniel (Bartholomew), Matthew, Judas Iscariot, Jude, James the son of Alpheus, and Simon called the Zealot.

Some of these apostles were disciples of John the Baptist, a prophet called by God to prepare the people for the coming of Jesus the Messiah. John pointed out Jesus to his disciples as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” and then encouraged them to start following him.
Jesus changed the name of Simon, son of John, to Peter (Cephas) which means rock and called him to be a servant of the remaining eleven servants. Jesus prayed that Peter -- once converted -- would strengthen his brethren (Matthew 16:17 & Luke 22:31, 32).
One of the apostles Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus to the Sanhedrin (the ruling ecclesiastical authority in Jerusalem) and hung himself.
Jesus conferred upon the remaining apostles the dignity of ruling over the 12 tribes of Israel in God’s Kingdom (Luke 24: 28,29).  The Church is the Kingdom of God, which sacramentally came forth like blood and water from the side of Christ on the Cross (similar to Eve from Adam’s side). The Church is identified in the New Testament as the New Jerusalem, the Mystical Body of Christ, the Bride of Christ, the people of God, and the Temple of the Holy Spirit.
As such, Jesus promised these apostles they would rule over his One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic3 Church. They are in fact the Church’s one true foundation with the prophets and Jesus being the cornerstone (Ephesians 2:19, Revelation 21:14).
After the Resurrection, Jesus breathed upon the apostles and entrusted them with the power to forgive sins, “those sins you forgive are forgiven and those sins you bind are bound” (John 20:21). Jesus gave them authority to make disciples of all nations baptizing in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:16). Jesus promised that those who heard them heard Jesus. And those who rejected them rejected Jesus and not only Jesus but his Father also.  Why? The apostles received the Gift of the Holy Spirit, who brought to their memory the sayings of Jesus and led them into all truth (John 16:21). As such, the words they spoke were not their own but Jesus’ words.
This background provides additional context to the warning of Jesus: “It is not those who say ‘Lord!’ ‘Lord!’ who will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but those who do the will of my Father.” This is why St. Irenaeus warned us to reject heretical movements outside the Church, “That is why it is surely necessary to avoid them, while cherishing with the utmost diligence the things pertaining to the Church.
During the first 9-day Cenacle before Pentecost, St. Peter spoke to the 120 disciples, telling them that the Episcopal office once promised to and then abandoned by Judas had to be filled. St. Peter then identified the criteria for replacing him. The candidate must be one of the male adults (andron), who was with them from the baptism of John to the Ascension. And he should be a witness to the resurrection of Jesus (Luke 1: 21).  Two men were presented, Matthias and Barsabbas. Lots were used to select the bishop, the same method used for priestly selection as found in Luke 1: 8. And the lot fell upon Matthias who was then numbered as one of the twelve.
While evangelizing, these Jewish followers of Jesus ran into several major obstacles, namely the Sanhedrin, which diligently attempted to prevent the spread of their message about the person of Jesus Christ, and Roman authority, which recognized Caesar alone to be “Lord and God.” This opposed St. Thomas’ proclamation that Jesus is “My Lord and My God.”
This bring us to the last man Jesus called after his death and resurrection: Rabbi Saul of Tarsus who persecuted Jesus’ disciples by putting them in prison on charges of blasphemy for proclaiming Jesus to be the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. Saul received a blinding encounter with the risen Jesus while on the road to Damascus to imprison more of these “people of the way.”  (Jesus said, “I am the Way . . . “) Jesus gave Saul a new name --Paul -- and told him to present himself to the Church (as represented by Ananias) for additional instruction. (Acts 9-19)
Ananias baptized Paul and the scales of blindness and stubbornness dropped from his eyes. Paul then received catechesis for three years in the desert, and then began his ministry as one sent by God to proclaim the message of Jesus Christ. He did so with fervor to the Jews first and then to the gentiles.
These apostles  -- all sent by Jesus Christ -- are like rich men in the bank. Only this bank is the Church, and the deposit is made under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. There is no money put in this bank, instead we receive the deposit of truth handed down to the apostles by Jesus Christ.
The Truth is The Deposit
St. Irenaeus states that the apostles copiously deposited within the Church everything that pertains to truth. But truth is not a something. It is a someone, namely the person of Jesus Christ (Fr. John Corapi, SOLT).  In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets, but in these last days God has spoken to us by His Son Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1:1).  Restated, the apostles abundantly deposited in the Church everything that pertains to Jesus Christ. He is the way, the truth, and the life.  They deposited in the Church the sayings of Jesus, and their assent to the sayings of Jesus, Jesus’ life story and their conversion stories, Sacraments instituted by Jesus and their administration of his Sacraments in the Church, Jesus’ gift to them of God the Holy Spirit, and their faithful leadership under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Jesus promised that he would be with them until the end of time. And the apostles established the institutions (communion of bishop, presbyters, deacons, evangelist, pastors and teachers) which preserve apostolic authority and minister to and guard the good deposit in the Church until the return of Jesus Christ.
Without a doubt the apostles deposited in the Catholic Church everything that pertained to Jesus including their very lives. (Some as in St. Peter’s case deposited their very bones.)
Jesus promised his apostles that he would send them the Gift of the Holy Spirit who would lead them into ALL TRUTH. (John 16: 12)  In other words, the Holy Spirit would bring to their minds everything that Jesus taught them and enable them to understand and assent in faith to his words and commands. This promise by Jesus was necessary since Jesus commanded his apostles to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit and teach them to keep all that he had commanded them. (Matthew 28:19-20)
The Good Deposit and Sacred Scripture
John Paul II in his book titled, Crossing the Threshold of Hope, spoke about the Christological Nature of the New Testament. In other words, the New Testament is centered on the person of Jesus Christ in the way the Old Testament is centered on God who is Creator, Savior, and Sanctifier. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, Jeremiah, Daniel, Elijah and so forth are characters with whom God speaks and guides but God’s role in their lives is the focus of the message.  In the New Testament, the Apostles, Martyrs, and Saints are characters but the central focus is Jesus Christ -- the Word of God incarnate. And even God the Holy Spirit who is the Divine Author and Interpreter of Sacred Scripture puts the reader’s attention on Jesus Christ:
But when He the Spirit of Truth comes, he will guide you in all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking what is mine and making it known to you.” (John 16: 13-16)
Everything written in the Old Testament is a preparation for the Christ (Messiah). Everything in the New Testament is explicitly about the Jesus the Christ. As such, the whole focus of Sacred Scripture is the person of Jesus Christ – for whom all things were created and through whom all things exist.
We have from the lips of Jesus Christ a demonstration of how the Old Testament speaks about his own life, death, and resurrection. From St. Luke, we find Jesus meeting up with two disciples on the way to the town of Emmaus. They are perplexed about the events that had just happened and the reports that Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified and killed, was later seen alive by certain of their women. Jesus slightly admonishes them for not knowing that the Messiah would have to suffer before entering into His Glory. Starting with Moses and the Prophets, he explains how the texts in the Old Testament spoke about the Messiah. This is why the Catholic Church still today retains the Old Testament as Sacred Scripture for it infallibly speaks about Jesus Christ. It should be noted that Gnostic sources and their most successful offspring Islam disparages both the Old and the New Testament stating that they are corrupted and therefore corrected by their own recitals such as the Quran.
Note:  A sound definition for Paganism and Gnosticism is a belief system rooted solely in man’s own imagination.
St. Paul while working with St. Timothy pleads:  “But you (Timothy) continue in those things which you have learned and which have been entrusted to you; knowing from whom your received them. And because from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which can instruct you to salvation by faith which is in Jesus Christ. All scripture, inspired of God is profitable to teach, reprove, to correct, and to instruct in justice that the man of God may be perfect and furnished for every good work.” (2 Tim 3:15) Again the Sacred Scripture that St. Paul is referring to is the Old Testament since the New Testament with a Canon of Books did not exist as of yet.
But the Gnostic movements rejected the Old Testament and treated it as  the fruit of an evil demiurge.  In the 2nd Century, the Gnostic Marcion started a movement that dispensed with the Old Testament, Matthew, Mark, and John, and retained only a portion of the Gospel of St. Luke and the writings of St. Paul. Marcion developed a doctrine of justification by faith alone from this greatly reduced Scripture.   This approach to salvation history earned Marcion the title of “first-born of Satan.”
St. Irenaeus recounts that when St. Polycarp2, a bishop and a contemporary disciple of St. John the Evangelist, encountered Marcion, he  was asked if he recognized Marcion. St. Polycarp replied: “I recognize the first-born of Satan.”
So in that sense the whole of Sacred Scripture pertains to Jesus Christ and pertains to truth. But when St. Paul was writing to St. Timothy, he was not telling St. Timothy to guard a good book, he was telling him to guard the oral tradition of Truth. St. Irenaeus states that whosoever wishes, draws from her (the Church) the drink of life.  So Sacred Scripture makes up a part of this good deposit. But it is not alone for the person who seeks life draws it from the Church. St. Irenaeus writes that the Church is the entrance to life, while all the rest are thieves and robbers.  That is why it is surely necessary to avoid pitting Scripture against Tradition, while cherishing with the utmost diligence the things pertaining to the Church, and to lay hold of the tradition of truth. (Jonathan Quasten pg 301)
The Good Deposit and the Tradition of Truth
The word, “tradition,” comes from the common Greek parodosis and as a verb identifies the process of handing over, leaving an inheritance, or the transmission of something. As a noun, tradition means the practice, custom, and belief, which when it is handed down, is bequeathed and transmitted.  As such the tradition of truth is the act of delivering and handing down through a system of catechesis, creeds, customs, prayers, liturgies, and institutions. God is the Source of Divine Revelation and this Divine Revelation comes to humanity in two forms Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. Stated in another way, the Good Deposit has a written and oral form. 
The oral form was entrusted to the Church by the apostles through their preaching, the example of their lives, and the institutions they established.  It was what they learned from the lips of Jesus Christ, what they observed of his way of life and his works, and what they understood of this from the Holy Spirit. (Catholic Catechism article 76)  The written form was entrusted to the Church by those apostles and their associates who under the inspiration of the same Holy Spirit committed the message of salvation to writing. Together these two make up one common good deposit and tradition of truth. (Catholic Catechism article 77) 
St. Paul commends the Church in Corinth for remembering him in everything and for holding to the traditions, just as he passed them on to them. (1Cor 11:2) And when speaking to the brothers in the Church in Thessalonica, he tells them to stand fast and to hold to the traditions that were passed onto them by word of mouth or by letter (2 Thessalonians 2:15) and then he strictly admonished them to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the traditions they received from him. (2 Thessalonians 3:7)
One example of how this oral form complements the written form is demonstrated by the actions of the Council of Jerusalem when addressing the Gentile believers residing in Antioch on the issues surrounding grace, law, morals, and circumcision. The council was held, a decision was made, and a letter was composed with instructions that it be taken to the Church in Antioch and to every location in which there were Gentile believers. (Acts 16:4)  The Council selected two men to accompany and present the written letter to the Church in Antioch, “We are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing.” (Acts 15: 27) The Council of Jerusalem under the guidance of the Holy Spirit did not leave this important issue to the interpretation of the written word alone but demonstrated a pattern in which revelation and doctrine in the Church are to be presented, received, and assented to with the oral and written forms complimenting and confirming each other. 
In the first example, the oral confirms the written.  In this the second example, the written confirms the oral.
St. Luke writes to Theophilus in his Gospel, that many have undertaken to draw up an account of the events surrounding Christ’s life, death and resurrection. Luke said he had also carefully investigated everything and now would undertake to write an orderly account for Theophilus; so that “you may have certainty of the things that you have been taught.” (Luke 1:1-4) 
Theophilus was orally catechized in the faith by the first witnesses and servants of the Word. St. Luke wants to provide Theophilus with a written record for the purpose of engendering a certainty about their transmission.  St. Luke is not trying to correct the instructions handed down orally to Theophilus. St. Luke is essentially confirming what he has heard because the oral and written form are both reliable and support each other since they flow from the one inspiration, God the Holy Spirit.
For example: Luke identifies the source of the infancy narratives of Jesus Christ by twice mentioning that “Mary pondered on these things and treasured on them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19 & 2:40) Theophilus was orally catechized in the doctrine of the Virgin Birth. Now with the written word, he would have certainty to the doctrine’s origins. As a result of meditating on the written record, his prayer life could deepen and lead him to a greater devotion to the Mother of Jesus Christ.
St. Paul identifies this complimentary source of truth: “You my son, be strong in the grace that is Christ Jesus. And the many things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will also be qualified to teach others.” (2Timothy 2:2)
Notice that St. Timothy is responsible for catechizing others, who will then pass on the same message to succeeding generations. (Note that St. Timothy is not called upon to entrust the Church with secret revelation, which is the foundation of doctrine within Gnostic communities.)  This is an error that St. Paul was very clear to avoid.  To the Church in Galatia St. Paul writes: “I went to Jerusalem in response to a revelation and set before the other leaders the Gospel that I preached among the gentiles. I did this privately to those who seemed to be leaders in the Church out of fear that I was running or had run my race in vain.” (Galatians 2:2) St. Paul wanted to confirm and re-iterate the unity of faith in spite of whatever scrapes, suspicion, and misunderstanding existed amongst himself and other leaders in the Church. In other words, Paul’s message was no different from the message of Peter, James, John, Thomas…etc.
St. Timothy as such, not only has St. Paul’s letters, his oral teaching, but also his very example of life:   “You, however know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, my faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions…”(2 Timothy 3:10)
This is why the Catholic Church teaches that her certainty about all revealed Truth does not derive from Sacred Scripture Alone but from Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition together -- both accepted and honored with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence. (Catholic Catechism 83)
An example of doctrinal certainty derived from Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition would be the Apostolic Origins of Sunday observance. For instance, Catholic Christians worship on Sunday, while adherents to heterodox movements within Christianity and Judaism worship on Saturday (the Sabbath).
From the Vatican II Document, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (paragraph 106):
By a tradition handed down from the apostles, which took its origins from the very day of Christ’s Resurrection, the Church celebrates the paschal mystery every eighth day, which is appropriately called the Lord’s Day or Sunday. For on this day, Christ’s faithful should come together into one place so that hearing the word of God and taking part in the Eucharist, they may call to mind the passion, resurrection, and glory of the Lord Jesus Christ, and may give thanks to God who ‘has begotten them again through the resurrection of Christ from the dead, unto a living hope. 'The Lord’s day is the original feast day, and it should be proposed to the faithful and taught to them so the it may become in fact a day of joy and of freedom from work. Other celebrations, unless they are truly of the greatest importance, shall not have precedence over Sunday, which is the foundation and kernel of the whole liturgical year.   
We talked about the apostles handing on to us the Truth, found in the complementing Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, the truth which is Jesus Christ. The Church draws its certainty about all revealed truth from these two sources.
The Drink of Life.
St. Irenaeus in his defense of the Catholic Faith emphasizes that those who desire the drink of life must come and draw it from the Church and not from the Gnostic movements.  This language “drawing and the drink of life” poetically flows from the Gospel of John, which recounts what transpired when the Samaritan woman meets Jesus at Jacob’s well.  She comes to the well with a bucket to draw water and Jesus asks her for a drink. “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” she asks. Jesus responds that everyone who drinks from this well water will be thirsty again. But whoever drinks the water that Jesus gives will never thirst. Indeed Jesus’ gift will become a spring of water welling up to eternal life. (John 4: 9-15)
This dialogue between Jesus and the Samaritan woman follows a dialogue between Jesus and Nicodemus (John 3), which talks about the same drawing from the Spirit through the Catholic Church: “Unless a man is born of water and the spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God” and “the flesh gives birth to flesh but the Spirit gives birth to Spirit.”
Revelation also shows this “Drink of Life” flowing from God’s throne and watering the trees, which bring forth leaves that heal the nations. The water that flows from the throne of God and the Lamb is the Holy Spirit acting literally in the world through the Sacraments of the Church beginning with Baptism. (Rev 22:1)
John the Baptist also testified to this “Drink of Life” when he said that God will give the Holy Spirit without limit to the person who believes in Jesus Christ (John 3: 34). In other words, a person can never exhaust the river of life which flows from the throne of God (Revelation 22:1) and therefore that soul would never thirst for it could draw more and more from the wellspring of life.
St. Paul’s take on the “Drink of Life” is that in Christ Jesus all the fullness of the Godhead lives in bodily form (Colossians 2: 9-11) and that the Church has received this fullness in Christ who is the head of the Church.  As such, St. Irenaeus is reiterating that we must go to the Church for God’s life. The believer who is received into the Church by Grace through Faith in Baptism and maintains the bond of peace - devoting oneself to the teaching (didache) of the apostles, participating in the breaking of the bread, remaining in communion (koinonia), and in the prayers of the Church (Acts 2:42) - draws continuously the Drink of Life from the Church.
Guarding the Good Deposit
To guard the Good Deposit of Faith handed down to us by the apostles is the essential function of the Catholic Church. St. Paul pleaded with St. Timothy: “What you have heard from me, keep as a pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Jesus Christ. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you; guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.” (2 Timothy 1:13-15) 
St. Timothy, St. Irenaeus and each succession of bishops were given the task of specifically guarding and presenting this good deposit. St. Paul feels this is so important that he uses a military term for guarding that recalls the famous Roman military formation called the Phalanx. He even invites St. Timothy to endure hardship with him like a good soldier. (2 Timothy 2:3)
St. Timothy received a good portion of his instruction from St. Paul. St. Irenaeus also received his instruction from those who went before him marked with the sign of faith: St. Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna and martyr for the Catholic Faith, Eleutherus, the Bishop of Rome, and his own Bishop Photinus of Lugdunum, another martyr for the Catholic Faith.
St. Timothy -- and by implication every successive bishop -- is supposed to guard this good deposit with “the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.”
St. Paul when speaking with the priests in Ephesus warns: ”Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you bishops and shepherds over the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.” (Acts 20:28)
Guarding this good deposit is a collaborative work within the Catholic Church, which is the Pillar and Foundation of Truth (2 Timothy 3:15). In other words, when the Catholic Church guards and speaks as teacher in matters of Faith and Morals, it is the Holy Spirit who is guarding and speaking. And the responsibility falls to all the members of the Body of Christ.
In fact, Pope Benedict XVI recently punctuated the collaborative importance of passing on this deposit of faith through sound catechesis: "The deposit of faith is a priceless treasure which each generation must pass on to the next by winning hearts to Jesus Christ and shaping minds in the knowledge, understanding and love of his Church."
The Good Deposit and the Apostolic Faith
Now to return to our original metaphor: the apostles are the rich men, who have received the Truth, and in turn deposit it in the Bank, that is the Church. But they give us more than what they learned; they give us everything that pertains to truth including their own Faith in Christ Jesus. This makes sense since their faith in Jesus Christ is the source of their communion and our communion with each other, the Church, and God Our Father.
That which was from the beginning, which they the apostles heard, which they saw with their eyes, which they looked at and their hands have touched – this they proclaimed concerning the word of Life. The Apostles proclaimed what they have seen and heard, so that we also may have fellowship with them. And their fellowship is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ.  We join with them by assenting in will to their faith and this makes their joy complete. (Paraphrasing 1 John 1: 1)
God reveals Himself to Man and Man responds by faith.  Without faith, it is impossible to please God.  Faith requires the assent of the human will to God’s self-revelation.  The foundation of the Catholic Church is the Faith of the Apostles and the Prophets with Jesus being the cornerstone.
Reflecting back on St. Paul’s warning to the presbyters in Ephesus: I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number will men arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.  (Acts 20:30)
The Deposit of Faith provides a hedgerow of protection for the believer. In fact the foundation for discerning God’s will is assenting to this Deposit of Faith. When you step outside the Deposit of Faith, you abandon this protection.
Going back to St. Irenaeus we read:
What then? If there should be a dispute over some kind of question, ought we not have recourse to the most ancient churches in which the apostles were familiar, and draw from them what is clear and certain in regard to that question? What if the apostles had not in fact left writings to us? Would it not be necessary to follow the order of tradition, which was handed down to those to whom they entrusted the Churches (William Jurgens 91-92)?
 What was it that St. Irenaeus could demonstrate as evidence to this statement? In other words what practices and institutions existed within the Catholic Church as evidence of this deposit of truth? 
St. Irenaeus would identify:
      The administration of the seven sacraments beginning with the saving grace of faith in baptism. Through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit, the Father and the Son pitch their tent and abide in the mystical members of Christ. 
      The Sacred Scriptures that is God’s Word in written form, providing a primer and prophetic record of Jesus Christ (Old Testament) and an historical narrative of Jesus Christ and an expression of the Apostles’ Faith in Jesus Christ (New Testament).
      The Creeds of the Church, which are the synthesis (fusion) of the Apostles’ Faith in Christ.
      The Councils and Catechesis of the Church, which are the systematic presentation of the Apostles’ Faith in Jesus Christ.
      The liturgy and prayers of the Church, in which she expresses and celebrates the Apostle’s Faith in Christ.
      The writings of the various witnesses to this Deposit of Faith especially the Church Fathers especially when there exists a unity of agreement.
All of these actions in the Church represent a heritage of faith.  By adhering to this heritage of faith, the entire holy people of God united to its pastors, remains always faithful to the teaching of the apostles, in communion (fellowship), to the breaking of bread, and to the prayers. So in maintaining, practicing, and professing the faith that has been handed on, there is a remarkable harmony between the bishops and the faithful. (Catholic Catechism 84)
St. Irenaeus could demonstrate that fidelity to the deposit of faith maintained unity in the Catholic Church. Writing in Against Heresies, he states:
For the church although dispersed throughout the whole world even to the ends of the earth has received from the apostles and from their disciples the Faith in one God, Father almighty, the creator of heaven and earth and the sea and all that is in them; and in one Jesus Christ, the Son of God who became flesh for our salvation and the Holy Spirit who announced through the prophets the dispensations and the comings and the birth from a Virgin and the Passion and the resurrection from the dead and the bodily ascension into heaven of the beloved  Christ Jesus our Lord and his coming from heaven in the glory of the Father to re-establish all things and the raising up again of all flesh of all humanity in order that Jesus Christ our Lord and God and Savior and King in accord with the invisible Father, every knee shall confess him. (William Jurgens page 84-85)

What he is saying is that communities that shared and professed a common creed, which is a synthesis of the Deposit of Faith, were faithful to the Prayer of Jesus.
Jesus prayed to His Heavenly Father: “My Prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they all may be one. Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be so that the World may believe that you sent me.” (John 17:20)

In summary, we as Catholics have been given a great treasure. Those who are given much, much will be expected. Let us with confidence and certainty, study and pray and abide in this living truth so that we may eventually enter into eternal life with all the saints in heaven giving glory to God through Christ Jesus, Our Lord.

Bibliography with Notes

New Testament Quotations: New International Version (NIV).
The Navarre Bible: Captivity Epistles. 
William  A. Jurgens: The Faith of the Early Fathers: Selections from the Pre-Nicene and Nicene eras.
Maxwell Staniforth, Andrew Louth: Early Christian Writings.
Jonathan Quasten: Patrology, Volume 1: (The Beginnings of Patristic Literature From the Apostles Creed to Irenaeus).
Catholic Catechism: Second Edition English Translation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church promulgated by Pope John Paul II on 8 September 1997.
Vatican II Documents: Constitution on Sacred Liturgy.
John Paul II: Crossing the Threshold of Hope.
Fr. Santan Pinto: Discernment in Your Life.

  1.       Gnosis the Greek word translated into English as knowledge. A Gnostic says he knows and an Agnostic is one who does not know since alpha (a) in Greek negates the word that follows. Pithis is the Greek word translated into English as Faith.  A Gnostic is a person who professes knowledge (a secret knowledge) and they taught this form of knowledge surpassed Faith in a Public Divine Revelation. Gnosticism taught that Jesus was an angel (Michael the Archangel) prior to his incarnation. Gnosticism taught that the Holy Spirit was the Angel Gabriel.  St. Paul warned Timothy to guard against the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge (gnosis). (2 Timothy 6:20)

2.    St. Polycarp was a 2nd century Christian bishop of Smyrna. According to the Martyrdom of Polycarp, he died a martyr, bound and burned at the stake, then stabbed when the fire failed to touch him. He wrote one letter to the Church in Philippi. He was born 69 AD and died around 155 AD. St. Polycarp was a disciple of St. John the Evangelist.
3.     The Church was identified as Catholic (universal) towards the end of the 1st Century. St. Ignatius Martyr and Bishop of Antioch 107 AD wrote in his letter to the Church in Smyrna: “Where Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. (William  A. Jurgens) The marks of the Church are one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. Christ established only one Church. The Church is holy, because her founder is Holy. The Church is Catholic because it is universal. The Church is apostolic because it goes back to the Twelve Apostles chosen by Christ Himself. The Pope and Bishops have their authority in succession from the Apostles.