Saturday, January 2, 2010

Catholicism?

Permit me these musings in light of the great many forces converging in my life at this time.

This is not simply a Catholic reflecting on his faith in the light of modernity. It is the reflection of a Catholic scholar - even theologian - who makes his complete living in para-ecclesiastical work. What is more, I am a convert, who does not take the Catholic way for granted. And more, I am such a convert, governed not only by my Confession, but alike by my endowment of eccentricities and peccadilloes, given by my genes and by my upbringing. Yet above all these things, since I am a creature, I am governed by the will of God; I am just a thing He has made for Himself. So, Catholicism isn't just something about me; it's in a way all there is about me, and yet in another way, incidental to me. God didn't design two types of things: Catholic things and non-Catholic things. If things are things, they are Catholic things.

What is the point of 'overt' Catholicism today? What should a Catholic be doing?

The problem is both a problem and not a problem: after all aren't Catholics just what Catholics are, and shouldn't then Catholics just do what Catholics do? But, on the other hand, if I ask a question as a Catholic, it is a Catholic question, and demands answer if, as a Catholic, I feel it does. As a convert, again, I ask it, and I require an answer since I have no precedences to guide me. Precedences guide one in the matter of what questions he needs ask and what ones he needs not, and I have found that my questions-asking has a far broader horizon than that of most. This is fine, but not great, or, should I not rather say, not an unqualified good. It is frustrating as well as exciting at times. It is frustrating because I am raising so many questions that beg an explanation from the horizons themselves. I have a feeling that I am not a rare breed today in this. If there is such a thing as the "New Evangelization," then there is among us a great number of horizon-pushers. I once thought that every Catholic would be one, since I never knew any from youth and from intimacy. I was to be greatly disappointed that this was not nearly the case. And yet here in my little neck of the woods in the Madawaska River Valley there are myriad of my ilk here gathered. It is not a fair sample, of course, of the Catholics of this country - by no means, not even close. But each of these still approaches the question of 'what to do' in very different ways. At least they approach it! If there weren't enough similarity the school would never have been started, and once started would never have made it these ten full years. I don't know how to characterize this approach. It is one that is, of course, disaffected with the status quo, not only of society at large, but even with the general shape of the Church, that is, its parishes and its schools. But that is the negative criterion. People solely governed by negative criteria never do anything. The positive aspect consist in the strong belief that something ought to be done for Christ now, and that this doing will make some kind of difference.

If we are not possessed by idealism then what are we to do? I admit that the truth usually lies somewhere in between idealism and conformity. We are idealistic and so we are wrong? What do we hope to do with this school? To be so anti-establishment is to cut ourselves off from a large segment of the population, a large segment that might form the constituency of "the people made better by us," no matter how arrogant that might sound. However, there is no helping that. I would wager that the dynamics of society are such that great changes must move continually outward from a small nucleus. Thus, rather than attempt to change a significant entity like St. Michael's College - my Alma Mater - it is practicable only to begin by establishing a very small instance of the way things should be, and then to work outward from there. I think this is the model of the Acts of the Apostles, of Ignatius of Loyola, etc.

This is a speech spun out with vague generalities, I admit. "Better" and "the ways things should be" - these address true things, but so approximately. Is it helpful to speak in this way at all?

Everything I have said just now, and really everything I have ever said comes down to this: what is needed is education that keeps the Gospel at the forefront. Now, if we work out our meditation with that as the middle term, or the major premise, or what have you, where will we arrive?

My next post will try and work that out a bit.

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