Catholic Church: April 2008 Archives



While reading through Casti Connubii for quite a different purpose, I happened upon this:

104. Wherefore, let the faithful also be on their guard against the overrated independence of private judgment and that false autonomy of human reason. For it is quite foreign to everyone bearing the name of a Christian to trust his own mental powers with such pride as to agree only with those things which he can examine from their inner nature, and to imagine that the Church, sent by God to teach and guide all nations, is not conversant with present affairs and circumstances; or even that they must obey only in those matters which she has decreed by solemn definition as though her other decisions might be presumed to be false or putting forward insufficient motive for truth and honesty. Quite to the contrary, a characteristic of all true followers of Christ, lettered or unlettered, is to suffer themselves to be guided and led in all things that touch upon faith or morals by the Holy Church of God through its Supreme Pastor the Roman Pontiff, who is himself guided by Jesus Christ Our Lord.

While this will evince chagrin or excite anguish or rattle the cage of almost no one who passes through this way, I suspect that it would stick mightily in the craw of those who would prefer to pick and choose amongst the truths to which they wish to adhere. I wonder how many of us, even those in agreement with the sentiment, live the actuality of the final sentence in the excerpt above? I know that I truly do believe and hold true all that the Church teaches (in my very meager ability to comprehend it), and even so, practice differs from belief. Perhaps it is the road that transforms what is held intellectually into what is lived in reality that is the hardest road to walk.

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Not really. Instead I had a creepy little dream in which a very punked out proto-goth androgyne was taking me somewhere for some unspecified but distinctly unsavory or unpleasant rendezvous. He asked me, "Haven't you ever defied God?"

I answered, "Of course I have. All the time. But. . ." and fortunately that little walk came to a screeching halt with the sound of the alarm.

But the question and its circumstances were salutary and rewarding because it caused me to think that while I do defy God and while I do sin and ignore the things I ought to do, and while I am imperfect in the practice of my faith and even in holding the central principles of it, nevertheless, I always do what I do knowing that God exists. That may not seem like much, but when I got down under the skin of that statement, I realized that it is not possible for me NOT to believe in God. Despite all of the arguments I have read and those I can dream up myself, the existence of God is more proven to me than any proven fact or visible reality. God exists. I know that is belief, but I have discovered the place that Mortimer Adler describes when he says that belief can be the strongest knowledge there is.

So it is for me. I cannot choose to not believe in God or to act as though I don't believe in Him. I can choose to do what I want anyway. I can choose to go against the law I know to be true. (And I frequently do both of these things.) But I can't say, "There is no God and so I'm free to do as I choose." That simply isn't an option.

The odd part is I can't tell you why there is this solid foundation. Or I can tell you why but it would be meaningless to someone who lacked it. Grace. Amazing grace. He has graced me with this gift, this rock to which I always return. I cannot escape from Him, but He is no relentless hound--no, He is an island in a cobalt sea where the breezes play day and night and I am the only person to see and enjoy its pleasant shores--or if I am not alone, the crowds on the island are as vapor and there is neither clamor nor anguish in it. When I stray far from my island, the memory of it always calls me home. It does not follow me, it sings to me and calls me back.

And here is the song I hear (though not necessarily in Dean Martin's voice--but also not necessary NOT in Dean Martin's voice.)

Return to Me

Return to me
Oh my dear I'm so lonely
Hurry back, hurry back
Oh my love hurry back I'm yours

Return to me
For my heart wants you only
Hurry home, hurry home
Won't you please hurry home to my heart

My darling, if I hurt you I'm sorry
Forgive me and please say you are mine

Return to me
Please come back bella mia
Hurry back, hurry home to my arms
To my lips and my heart

Retorna me
Cara mia ti amo
Solo tu, solo tu, solo tu, solo tu
Mio cuore

Yes, God sings that to me--all of it--not that He can err or He can be the cause of my straying. But His love is in His kenosis and He, being love, can know that love hurts even when it does not desire to.

(Okay, so my theology isn't so great, I'll admit that. But theology is only as good as the purpose it serves--and if that purpose is to make one cling to God, then the theology, however inexact performs the necessary, life-giving function. We don't get into heaven based on our quiz scores.)

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Yesterday, while driving home from work, the subject of Sunday's homily came up. I was surprised because when one of our priests starts speaking it is a signal for the shields to go up and to warp out of there for the brief span of the homily. There's nothing really wrong--the homilies just tend to be long and picaresque, bearing little or no resemblance to the passages that we had just heard. I attribute this to the Priest's advanced age and his 60's-type delivery and his own rather leftist political agenda.

In the course of the homily the Priest misspoke. I am certain, from what I know of him that he did not mean it when he said, "God created an imperfect world."

On the way home (to get back to the point) Sam said, "You know, when Fr. X said that God created an imperfect world, he was wrong. God created a perfect world and then they eated the apple and everything went all wrong."

Even if he's having trouble with English verb conjugations, he got the theological nicety correct. God did not create an imperfect world. His creation is perfect, our disobedience corrupted it and brought it all down with us.

I've often pondered why this should be so--why would Adam's disobedience affect the world of cats and dogs? Why is this necessarily so?

And it occurred to me, that it is, once more, a sign of His love for us. Humanity could not exist in a perfect world because of its own imperfection. It would be a constant stimulus to envy, jealousy, and destruction. The food of such a world would be like poison to us.

Regardless of why it is so, Samuel understood the concept of the fall and applied it better than our Priest in his homily. (Which is, as I noted, unsurprising. This particular Priest has more "off" than "on" homilies, but he has a loving and gracious heart and he works hard for all of us at a time in life when he is certainly entitled to rest, take it easy, and enjoy life.)

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This page is a archive of entries in the Catholic Church category from April 2008.

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