The Gift of Faith, by Father Richard Frederick Clarke, SJ

Faith is like a tender plant that grows up if it meets with a favorable environment into a strong and powerful tree. God gives to all baptized Christians the grace necessary for an act Of faith, and gives it before all other graces. And he who makes an act of faith has henceforward the habit of faith, even though he had it not before, until he forfeited it by his own unfaithfulness. Thank God that you have not forfeited this grace, and pray that it may never die out of your heart.

As faith is the virtue for which the first grace is given, so it is the last that dies out of the sinner's heart. Charity may have fled; hope may have died away, and yet faith may remain, and as long as it remains there is something to build upon. From faith to hope is a comparatively easy step, and from hope to charity. This is why those who have lost the faith are so hopeless?there is nothing to build upon, nothing to appeal to. Until they make an act of faith we can get no further. Pray then for those who have given up their religion, since they deserve our pity more than any others.

In the prayers for the dying we appeal to God for mercy on the departing soul because, although he has committed many sins, he has not denied the faith. To deny the faith is thus represented as the lowest depth to which the sinner can fall. Of all sins none are so terrible as sins against the faith; they are not only a refusal of submission to the law of God, but they are a positive denial of His authority and of His very existence. My God, may I never sin against faith!

- text from Beautiful Pearls of Catholic Truth; it has the Imprimatur of Archbishop Michael Augustine Corrigan, Diocese of New York, 6 October 1897