Oct 012010


I think you will find comfort that there are people writing articles like this in publications like The American Scholar. I particularly like this article because it is the voice of a Christian speaking to a plurality of listeners – some of whom are people of faith, others not. The ability to speak – and of Christ, no less – and be heard in a pluralist setting is impressive.

This article reminds me of the spirituality of St Francis de Sales in many ways, one of which is the way the author makes use of art, music, poetry as vehicles of transcendence that bring us closer to God. Another Salesian trait I noticed in the article is the author’s focus on the small details of ordinary, everyday life as a source of contemplative, spiritual experience:

We are left with this paradox: only by hearing the furthest call of consciousness can we hear the call of ordinary life, but only by claiming the most mundane and jangling details of our lives can that rare and ulterior music of the soul merge with what Seamus Heaney calls “the music of what happens.”

The article is actually about the source of modern anxiety, something de Sales wrote about frequently. The author discusses the importance of allowing thoughts of God to enter into (break into the awareness of) the everyday moments of life.

(“inbreaking” is the theological term for Christ’s appearance in the world and in our lives—there is no coaxing it, no way to earn it, no way to prepare except to hone your capacity to respond, which is, finally, your capacity to experience life, and death).

I like this idea of capacity, and that our duty is to “hone” it.

The author also touches upon the pitfalls or limits of pure intellectualism, which reminds me of St. Bonaventure’s teachings, which I am learning about. Pope Benedict points out in that encyclical? you gave me on St. Thomas and St. Bonaventure, that St. Bonaventure placed a primacy on love, above knowledge. There is a line there about love seeing farther than reason, how it is love, not reason, that has sight in the dark night of the soul, where reason is blind. This is the idea that is most opposed to the metaphysics of the empirical scientists, and as such, this is the point at which so many have taken a wrong turn, or perhaps gone too far. It is not that reason is to be abandoned, but that we need to acknowledge that while reason is necessary, it alone is not sufficient.

I was reminded of this when the author of the article says,

There is a kind of seeing that, fusing attention and submission, becomes a kind of being.

In my own thoughts, I have considered the idea that being has primacy over knowledge and action, but as St. Bonaventure teaches, I see this mode of “being” as a “being-in-love.” Being transcends reason, sees beyond reason, and must be reason’s guide.

The author also speaks of how, in the Western intellectual culture, the concept of the “self” has replaced the concept of the “soul,” which I thought was enlightening. I found a lot of interesting comments and thoughts in the article.

 Posted by at 9:34 pm

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