THOUGHTS ON THE CATHOLIC FAITH NO.1 (Fr. J. O'Neill, P.P., S.T.B)
We have to admit that, in our times, there is a lot of division and confusion in the Catholic Church. Individuals may claim they are not a bit confused, convinced of their own position as being the true one. (Some of these are actually right, for the true position can be found, and quite easily)
We have, on one extreme, to put it facetiously, those who would have a faith crisis if we told them angels really do not have feathers on their wings (who dare deny them wings?!) while at the other end, those who would accuse us of believing fairy-tales when we claim that Christ's body, which died on the cross, rose again on the third day (and these are not being facetious at all).
Then there are all sorts of positions in between, to the point where the Church starts looking like a political party with its extreme right, far right, right, just right, centre, just left, left, far left and extreme left.
W.S Gilbert, that noted English theologian and philosopher, in the context of a Venetian colonial crisis of the seventeenth century (I think) gave the following advice:
"In a contemplative fashion and a tranquil frame of mind, Free from every kind of passion, some solution let us find. Let us grasp the situation, solve the complicated plot: Quiet calm deliberation disentangles every knot."
Perhaps the same advice needs to be followed in our efforts to restore unity to the Catholic Church. Using, therefore, the natural gift of reason and the supernatural gift of faith, the latter working through the former, we must come at the huge question: what is the source of the contents of the Catholic Faith?
I can think of two propounded sources: God and man. (I rule out trees and 'mother earth.') If God is the source, then we have unchanging truths and laws; if man, then we have to change with every passing moment, place and opinion, which leaves no lasting content at all, except to be nice to each other. (Chimpanzees can be nice to each other!)
Some, including a very important and influential priest I know, say that even God is changing; and if I cry out that I need something to be unchanging and dependable, he answers that we find our peace in being ready to change all the time: change is the only constant. But change presumes the context of altering to something greater or lesser, better or worse: now, God cannot have something greater or better outside himself.
If God changes, then he must be imperfect or limited in his nature: an ungodly idea altogether - a metaphysical contradiction. Also, change takes time, even if a little time, and so the Divine Nature, if he changes, would have to live in time; and that means he would have to be limited in his duration and not be eternal - also an ungodly idea.
So God has to be unlimited in his nature and his duration, and if the content of our Catholic Faith comes from God - has his nature and his actions as its source - then its truths and laws have to be unchanging.
Each of us has a deep desire for the peace that comes from permanent things. Not long ago I saw how Ayers Rock/Uluru was able to silence and unite spectators from all over the world: there was a bond from looking at lasting beauty and strength. Honesty and quietness of heart lead us to the wisdom of eternal truths and laws from the unchanging God. The pursuit of the mere human guru leads merely to the guru: surely it is axiomatic that no human mind can satisfy totally another human mind. It has never happened yet, not will it.
Father John O'Neill
17 Cameron Street, Doonside NSW 2767 Australia
Ph: +61 (2) 9622 3426
Fax: +61 (2) 9622 3376
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