Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Catholics I Like

My Lutheran friend and I were talking the other day and I told him that I was tempted to leave the Roman fold, and he told me to keep reading Balthasar and I'd change my mind. We then talked about (Hans Urs Von) Balthasar and he described that man as 'the only Catholic anyone likes'. I laughed, and realized that there aren't alot of fun Catholics to read. I was thinking about all the authors I love reading: C.S. Lewis, Jaroslav Pelikan, John Henry Newman, Rowan Williams, von Balthasar, (RJN & Schillebeeckx when I get the chance), and now (thanks to a faithful commentator of the blog), Luigi Giussani. Not all of them are Catholics, but all of them have this one thing in common that I love: they are honest.

There are some great moments in Pelikan where he just lays out the plain problems in the confessions, the contradictions, the inconsistencies, and doesn't try to hide it. It is something that has to be dealt with.

Rowan Williams has a way of just addressing the true pastoral reality of the faith being lived. He has that wonderfully Anglican quality of trying to unite two things, people, or ideas that traditionally have been at odds.

Newman - though the Calvinists hate him - has some wonderful moments where he openly confesses his ineptitude on a subject, discusses the problems with even his own theology, and always warns against accepting his views against those true authorities on the faith. He describes a humble, honest, and living faith that he has, not one that he learned in a textbook.

I was reading an article Fred posted by Giussani, and there was this wonderful reference summing up everything I am trying to say here:

"[describing a scene from a novel:] Abbé Gaston, the hero of the book, To Every Man a Penny, has to hear the Confession of a German soldier whom the French partisans have arrested and is to be executed; since he is a Catholic, and all trembling, the partisans allow him to make his confession, though they are Communists. Abbé Gaston says, “Confess yourself well, my boy, because you have to die. So, what have you done?” And, naturally, he says, “Women.” “Now you must repent, because you have to appear before the court of God.” And the other, with some embarrassment, says, “How can I repent? It was something I liked; if I had the chance, I’d do it again now. How can I repent?” So Abbé Gaston, all worried because he couldn’t send that individual to heaven, suddenly has a stroke of genius and says, “But are you sorry you’re not sorry?” and the other says, “Yes, I am sorry I am not sorry.” This is the last remnant of truth in that individual; this is the acknowledgment of the truth. On that infinitesimal point God builds the man’s defence. “Father, they don’t know what they are doing,” after three years of persecution at their hands."

and his description of Confession:

"This is what keeps you away from Confession–not desiring the good, not accepting to ask for the good; only this. It is not the fact that you foresee that without a miracle you will go wrong again, because a miracle can happen, and you have to ask for it if you really want the good, if you want the “something more,” if you want to be true. The miracle could happen in twenty years’ time, when your concubine dies."

These are the Catholics I like, the ones who are honest about the good, the bad, and the ugly, in the faith, and most of all dwell on the beautiful. The ones who always consciously center on Christ. These are the ones who make my faith about something beyond mere intellectual assent to a rational argument/apologetic.

2 comments:

  1. the line about the concubine always startles me, but it's true, and I love it!

    by the way, both Balthasar and Giussani have something else in common: they both loved fiction and music... Giussani is always referring to something or other, both heavy & light: Love and Fate by Grossman, To Every Man a Penny, Lord of the World by Robert Hugh Benson, The End of the Affair by Graham Greene (great one by the way). He really loved the poetry of Leopardi. Balthasar wrote a book on Georges Bernanos (Bernanos's Diary of a Country Priest is deeply funny & devastatingly honest), and wrote monographs on Dante, GM Hopkins, Charles Peguy (Theological Aesthetics: Lay Styles, vol III of Glory of the Lord). And there's more: Flannery O'Connor, Walker Percy, L'morte d'Urban by Powers, The Edge of Sadness by Edwin O'Connor. I said that they both loved music, but beyond Mozart's Ave Verum Corpus (which I sang as a child), I know nothing - I do love the great things that they recommend.

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