February 26, 2012

Peter the Rock

I was reading about Abraham Lincoln in Atlantic magazine, and a few lines jumped out:
 "Lincoln responded with both humility and determination. The humility came from a sense that whatever ship carried him on life's rough waters, he was not the captain but merely a subject of the divine force...The determination came from a sense that however humble his station, Lincoln was no idle passenger but a sailor on deck with a job to do. In his strange combination of profound deference to divine authority and a willful exercise of his own meager power, Lincoln achieved transcendent wisdom." 
Indeed, there's the rub of it all, isn't it?  Somehow being able to take in one gulp, as it were, God's sovereignty and human effort, seeing them not as opposed but working together.  Too often I ping from fatalism to savlation-by-human-effort and back again.

Of late, I've felt a temptation towards a fatalistic view. I've recently seen the following: a sister-in-law coming to the Church, enticed finally by the carrot of a much shortened RCIA program. I've seen a friend leave the Catholic Church because he didn't like the new pastor and the church renovations. In the more distant past, a girl I was dating offered to convert to Catholicism "for me". ( It's no wonder the Pope once said that he thought the church would become smaller, because I can tell you that anyone who became Catholic for me would surely be sorely tempted to become not Catholic "for me".) It's enough to drive one to despair.

Faith can't be forced, and when there's no "first principle", i.e. belief in the rock of apostolic foundation, it's especially fragile. Many things can bring one to the Catholic church - a spouse, an appreciation of the current pope or parish priest, an appreciation for the beauty of the churches, the saints - but ultimately all of these are sand, in the long run, because if one doesn't believe that Jesus actually founded the Catholic church and intended it as the means to salvation, if one doesn't believe that Jesus gave special powers to apostles and those apostles had authority to name new figures of authority, then, well, you have a thousand denominations and devil-approved division.  Ultimately it seems one has to be convinced of the premise of the Church, not her characteristics. It comes down, ultimately, to the question of authority. Without nailing that down, one gets tossed about by the winds, no matter how long the question lay seemingly dormant. Beauty may save the world yet, but experience seems to render her a fickle suitor.  

G.K. Chesterton said something about how part of atheism involved a certain sterility of intellect, or words to that effect.  In other words, part of the basis of belief seems related to how we use the left-side of our brains (rather than, for example, what our feelings may tell us). A Word Among Us meditation the other day mentioned how we ought rely on memory, trust, and logic (yes logic!) for the conviction that God is in control, will protect us and, to which one might add, gain trust in the Church He founded.


Banshee said...

The problem is that, a lot of times, the reason people do things isn't the reason they say, or are able to say. Your friend entering RCIA may feel that this is a sign from God to get off ye olde duff and move. Your other friend may have a lot of deep psychological or beloved memory issues tied into the aesthetics of architecture. (People often do.) There may also be more to the story, and what they say is just a flip way to mention it.

Shrug. I'm shallow in some ways, deep in others, and blessed to have been kept within the Church. Probably not by any of my own effort, though I do try.

William Luse said...

Some nice stuff in there, TS, especially that 2nd to last paragraph.

TS said...

Thanks Bill! And good points Maureen (I edited the post a bit after Maureen's comment).