Thursday, December 31, 2009

"Did you say, 'enough?' You have perished."

I've been trying to find a little time here and there to go through past years (waaay past) and toss some of the detritus that accumulates. Old quizzes, pointers to blogs that are now long gone, that sort of thing. I only bother because Blogger will only allow you access to your most recent 5,000 posts. Yes, I said only. At one point I had over 8,000 posts. I'd like to be able to label and sometimes repost the really old Bible study posts from 2004 and suchlike.

At any rate, I was bemused when coming across this back in the early months of the 2005 archives. It expresses perfectly a subject that arose at Sancta Sanctis where Enbrethiliel was musing about cradle Catholics versus converts, simultaneously bemoaning the loss of Catholic culture to those who acquire their Catholicism mostly through book larnin'. Or something like that. The comments, to which I was also an enthusiastic party, have been lively.

So you can see why this really spoke to me when I read it.
We must never allow ourselves to think we have had sufficient formation. We must never be satisfied with the amount of knowledge about Jesus Christ and his teaching that we have so far acquired. Love always seeks to know the beloved better. In professional life, doctors, say, or architects or lawyers, though they may be good at their profession never think they have finished studying once they have qualified: they go on learning -- always. And so it is with the Christian. We can apply Saint Augustine's maxim to doctrinal formation: Did you say "enough?" You have perished.

The quality of the instrument -- for that is what we all are, instruments in God's hands -- can improve, it can develop new possibilities. Each day we can love a little more and give better example. But we will not achieve this if our understanding is not continually nourished by sound doctrine. I cannot say how often I have been told that some old Irishman saying his rosary is holier than I am, with all my study. I daresay he is. For his own sake, I hope he is. But if the only evidence is that he knows less theology than I, then it would not convince him, because all those rosary-loving, tabernacle-loving old Irishmen I have ever known ... were avid for more knowledge of the faith. It does not convince me, because while it is obvious that an ignorant man can be virtuous, it is equally obvious that ignorance is not a virtue; men have been martyred who could not have stated a doctrine of the church correctly, and martyrdom is the supreme proof of love: yet with more knowledge of God they would have loved him more still. (F. J. Sheed, Theology for Beginners)

The so-called plain man's faith ("I believe it all, even though I don't know what it is") is not sufficient for a Christian in the world who is confronted each day by confusion and a lack of light regarding Christ's doctrine -- the only doctrine that saves -- and is daily encountering ethical problems, both new and old, at work, in his family life, and in the environment in which he lives.
In Conversation with God: Ordinary Time Weeks 1-12


  1. I really don't care for her blog. It's not a constructive place. Seems self-serving

  2. Look, everyone is bound to see their own situation as ideal. My born-again friends insist growing up in any church would be an handicap. On the contrary, I see church life as an incredible, personal blessing.

    Like any organization, Catholic church life exhibits a distinctive "corporate culture," a unique ethos. Religion cannot completely transcend culture. If it could, it'd never appeal to our fleshly side.

    Enbrethiliel's post expressed many impressions I've had of (online) re/convert apologists with their budding Catholic instincts.


  3. Moonshadow, very true. And her original post did the same to me for the attitude I've faced from some cradle Catholics. Although I think most probably, as my husband commented and as E herself said in updates, that it was an idea she did incredibly poorly at communicating and, of course, not intended for slapping everyone in the face as it did.

    That said, I think that no matter what side of the debate one is on, it has raised a wall that was not necessarily there before. Is that ever a good thing when both sides are well meaning, as has become apparent to me in reading all the comments? It simply has served to not communicate her thoughts well, despite the updates, and to divide everyone over a rather arbitrary marker. That does not seem to be a good thing. Although it does seem to be something that could be taken advantage of the the Enemy, depending upon the person.

  4. "I believe it all, even though I don't know what it is"

    That's me, although I've been working hard for the past 4 years to fill in the blanks. I'm a work-in-progress! :-)

    None of us will understand everything before we go.

  5. Well, put another way:

    I grew up in the same town as my husband, visited his family home many times during high school, can supply the punchline to several family jokes, but his sisters let me know, in all sorts of unspoken ways, that I'm not one of them.

    Families are like that. Everyone takes a turn at being "in" and being "out."

    Actually, where I'm at, the marker is age: those who remember the "old ways" and those who don't. I don't meet too many converts in RL, unless I'm at a non-Catholic church, in which case, I can spot the ex-Catholics from twenty feet away.


  6. Or as Mark Shea said, "The good thing about Catholicism is that it's like a big family.

    And the bad thing about Catholicism is that it's like a big family."