Sunday, March 7, 2010

Anything Worth Doing.....

I thought that since I have been writing so much more about specifically Catholic things that it was time to put up a couple of disclaimers. I put them on my sidebar, but I'll also link to them here.

  1. I don't always practice well what I am proclaiming.
  2. I don't always reason well when I am discussing what I believe.

I am really enjoying studying a book through blogging about it. It's given me a way to dwell on what a book is saying rather than just skimming through it quickly to get the plotline, so to speak. This is something I want to continue. I can imagine blogging about other books besides Catholic ones -- looking up at my short shelf above my laptop I can see Touchstone Magainze's "Creed and Culture", ISI's "A Student Guide to the Liberal Arts", and Adler's "Paideia Proposal" along with Aquinas's "Commentary on Aristotle's De Anima" (I stole this from my oldest son) and Wyszynski's "All You Who Labor". Definitely a mix, and all things I care about in one way or another. All of them would make rewarding blog-study, and there are others elsewhere in the house. Sad to realize I am probably on the downhill slope of my life and won't actually have so much time to really internalize them and work them out in my life; happy to realize that it's never too late to make some changes in thought and action.

However, I've been feeling a bit odd about a slight shift in focus on here. Not that many people read this blog. Not that I didn't always profess to be Catholic. But with Father Dubay's book there were many theological parts and I wouldn't want to avoid them; they were at the heart of his message. Yet I felt a bit uncomfortable because I may not present things in the best way possible. It doesn't seem so important when it's something like education or literature or social trends I'm going on and on about. Lots of people say lots of stuff about those things and people pick and choose what they agree with. With religion, it gets more important not to screw things up for other people, or so it would seem.

Here's the thing. When we really believe something it involves our whole selves -- heart, mind and strength or will, which bears fruit in our actions and words. If we're thinking hard about our faith it's really hard to keep it in the background when we, or at least I, am writing about what I'm thinking. However, because believers don't receive total impeccability or infallibility, they will err in actions and thoughts and words. Which can sometimes result in misconceptions on the part of those around them. Not misconceptions about me personally, that's not what I'm worried about; misconceptions about the substance of what I believe. I am very sure that sometime I will say something badly, or make a mistake, or come off as someone who talks the talk but is not walking the walk. And there seems some risk that this will provide "scandal" of some kind. That's what I worry about.

Should I just shut up altogether? Certainly that is a possibility, and it yet may come to pass.

However, there is a place for ordinary Christians to speak up, using proper care. Leo XIII, in Sapientiae Christianae, mentions this:

We declare it to be very profitable and consistent with the requirements of the time, that each one, according to the measure of his capacity and intelligence, should make a deep study of Christian doctrine, and imbue his mind with as perfect a knowledge as may be of those matters that are interwoven with religion and lie within the range of reason. And as it is necessary that faith should not only abide untarnished in the soul, but should grow with ever painstaking increase, the suppliant and humble entreaty of the apostles ought constantly to be addressed to God: "Increase our faith."(11)...

No one... must entertain the notion that private individuals are prevented from taking some active part in this duty of teaching... These, so often as circumstances demand, may take upon themselves.... the task of communicating to others what they have themselves received, becoming, as it were, living echoes of their masters in the faith. Such co-operation on the part of the laity has seemed to the Fathers of the Vatican Council so opportune and fruitful of good that they thought well to invite it. ... Let each one, therefore, bear in mind that he both can and should, so far as may be, preach the Catholic faith by the authority of his example, and by open and constant profession of the obligations it imposes. In respect, consequently, to the duties that bind us to God and the Church, it should be borne earnestly in mind that in propagating Christian truth and warding off errors the zeal of the laity should, as far as possible, be brought actively into play.
It follows from 1 Peter 3:15:

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.
All Christians are called to do these things. In fact, it's probably perfectly unavoidable -- we "give an answer" even when we don't say or do anything that would proclaim "the reason for our hope". We give the "answer" that we can compartmentalize it, keep it under a bushel to some extent. "Teaching" sounds like a somewhat patronizing word, implying ignorance on the part of the hearers, yet of course, when we blog, we are usually sharing what we believe we can say something about from our own experience or reading, and that is the strict sense of the meaning of "teaching" -- doctrina, kerygma. It's a form of "sharing" and of course, on a blog, no one is obliged to listen, for which I'm very glad!

But of course, I am bound to make mistakes, by commission or omission -- thence the disclaimers. When I am reading Father Dubay or some other book which has very excellent precepts, I won't be living them out perfectly. When I am thinking about high matters, I will no doubt make reasoning mistakes. Sometimes in stating what I believe I may inadvertently tread on the toes of someone who believes differently. This doesn't discredit what I believe and I assure you when I am blogging about something I am at least sincerely trying to reason well and act well in regard to it. And I do encourage you if you think I am ever ungentle or disrespectful to let me know.

An analogy comes to mind which has been repeated in real life in my household seven times, usually in the masculine persona, so that is what I'll use : ). It won't be a perfect analogy, of course. Just to mention one aspect where the analogy breaks down, I'm not a baby in faith, at least not in years -- I was baptized in infancy and have lived within the Christian faith ever since. I was confirmed as a Catholic just about twenty years ago. I'm not a baby, though sometimes I feel like I haven't grown up much spiritually in all those years. But still, here goes:

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A baby lets go of the furniture and for the first time takes hesitating steps towards his mother. He stumbles and falls, but picks himself up (with help, or by himself). He hesitates, he moves awkwardly and stiffly, but he keeps persevering to reach his mother's arms by his own ambulation. She combines patience and guidance. She won't leave him to himself, but she will try to let him gain strength and ability through his own volition.

He won't be able to walk well until he has tried to walk, even if very awkwardly. Until he can walk well he won't be able to run or hop or skip, and so on. And of course, he's doing this right in public, because babies are admirably simple. Their focus is on what they are trying to do, not on how silly it looks.

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So I do hope it's clear what I'm saying. As Chesterton says, "Anything worth doing is worth doing badly." That maxim covers a lot of my life ;0.

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