Tag Archives: Love and Truth

On Sloth and Wonder

Every Christian shares in the universal call to partake in the Beatific Vision.  His baptism gives him this vocation.  The Gospel calls all men to be contemplatives.

Sloth and dissipation distort modern connotations of leisure, which formerly meant contemplation in rest.  The Greeks called leisure schole, whence we derive “school.”  School provides the place where teachers invite students to contemplate, to enjoy, to wonder.  It trains the heart to love aright.

We can take this meditative disposition into all of life.  A person who enjoys a sunset for its own sake participates in contemplation.  A parent delighting in the mere sight of his child partakes of wonder.  This principle helps to distinguish between drinking to get drunk and loving the taste of wine.  One tends toward gluttony, the other toward a love of beauty.  Rest for Christians should aim not at amusement but at musing.

The vision of beauty has elements of both fear and joy in it.  James S. Taylor writes of “the precise moment suspended between wonder (fear) and possession (joy), for the be-hold is to possess, to hold with the cognitive sense of the sensory-emotional response of near-simultaneous, fear-joy: the sensation of one’s heart leaping up in the chest” (Poetic Knowledge, 50).  He speaks of a knowledge which sees the essence of a thing and delights in its existence.  This vision of the world draws the gazer into union with the things which he sees and loves.  When the wonderer glimpses the gratuitousness of the universe, the fact that God did not have to create, but He did, his soul leaps in appreciation.  The one who muses walks a fine line between poetry and philosophy, as Josef Pieper observes: “The philosopher, [Aquinas] . . . says, is related to the poet in that both are concerned with mirandum, with wonder, with marveling and with that which makes us marvel” (qtd. in Poetic Knowledge, 79).  The eyes of the poet-philosopher see the world “as a vibrant arena of visible and invisible reality” (35).  Through faith we glimpse the spiritual meaning of the material world.

St Thomas Aquinas 2

When we make “linking earth to heaven” the goal of our thoughts, we transcend time (40).  Taylor points to “the time lost in childhood play; the time that seems to vanish when lovers are together, alone; the hours that have simply slipped away during a meal where there was wine and lively conversation” (76).  When we approach life from a place of rest and gratitude, we will be able to see the truth, beauty, and goodness of everyday life.  Taylor observes that “we learn to love what is beautiful and in this way know also the true and the good” (75).  Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.  Where charity and love are, God is there.

Sacramental Marriage: Why Settle for Less?

Chatting with a friend recently, we remarked that having children had made us each realize the value of a Catholic spouse. We both marveled that we had once considered the possibility of compromising. In college, it was easy to flirt with the idea of dating—and even marrying—someone who did not share our faith. I went so far as to date a non-Christian, imagining that somehow he would change or that my relationship with Christ, something foundational to my very being, could take the back seat when choosing a life partner. In the throws of emotion, infatuation with a potential significant other or desperation at being alone, we can find ourselves downplaying the importance of common beliefs and values. Having crossed to the other side of the sacrament of marriage and established a family with a Catholic husband, I cannot imagine marriage without a spouse who views the world through the lens of the Catholic faith, who has founded his life on the same principles, and who shares the same goals for our family.

A sacramental marriage, by definition, can only take place with the full knowledge of both parties regarding the nature of marriage. A marriage between two practicing Catholics means starting a God-centered family that is open to life, obedient to His church, witnessing to His love, and aiming for heaven. Furthermore, both spouses must understand that marriage is a vocation: a lifelong calling, not just a side project. They must believe that marriage is permanent and indissoluble. Mother Church insists that the couple entering matrimony share a commitment to the true meaning of the sacrament, establishing a firm foundation for their life together.

In practice, this insistence means a couple is working from the same first principles when answering the tough questions life will throw at them: Will they have children? How many? How will they raise them? How will they spend their time? Their money? Without a common understanding of the purpose of their life together, answering these questions can be, at best, divisive and, at worst, impossible. A difference in priorities will strand a husband and wife at cross purposes, working against each other. St. Paul’s admonition in 2 Corinthians 6:14, not to be “unequally yoked,” reminds us that spouses are meant to face the same direction and pull together toward the same goal, united in their purpose of living the life God has chosen for them.

Through the Church, God gives those called to the vocation of marriage a beautiful gift. Sacramental marriage unites a man and a woman physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Our culture of instant gratification, quick fixes, and self-centeredness often tells us to settle in our relationships. It tells us that it is normal and healthy to seek only physical pleasure, without a more deeply satisfying intellectual and emotional connection. But we are called to a relationship that unites two complete human persons: body and soul, mind and spirit. More than pleasure or sentimental feeling, we are rewarded with the other half of our self, a helpmeet, a companion on our pilgrimage, and a partner in the creation of a family.

I am not claiming that the sacrament of marriage is a magical talisman against suffering, misunderstanding, or trouble. I am not saying that it instantly gives us the patience of the saints or the wisdom of the years. Nor am I arguing that Catholic marriages are more blessed, more holy, or less prone to sin. As Catholics, however, we are given a distinctive promise of grace when we unite in marriage under the auspices of the Church. By choosing daily to avail ourselves of that promised grace—to ask for and accept it—we can begin to work out our salvation through our vocation.

The Church provides us with the tools we need for a happy, well-ordered marriage: a foundation of faith, a unity of purpose, and access to specific grace. She urges those with a vocation to marriage not to settle; we are created for no less than a sacramental union that lasts forever.

Love, Mercy, and Truth

I’ve been working my way through Caritas in Veritate for what seems like forever now. And even though I’m halfway through, I already know that I will need to reread as soon as I finish because there is so much packed into those 30,000 words. When we were told that the new symposium would be “Mercy and Killing”, I knew two things.

1.) That I knew nothing about such topics, beyond that I constantly beg for mercy from God, while not entirely grasping the full implication of such a prayer.

2.) That somehow, Caritas in Veritate would have something to say about it.

Imagine my relief when I found that Fr. Robert Barron has a youtube video explaining Caritas in Veritate!

So without further ado: