Continue reading this chapter here.
Lands of Hope & Promise is currently only available in e-book format. Go to the CTP website to purchase.As Catholics, believers in Christ, the Lord of History, we are called to participate in the story of the world, to help realize in whatever way we can the great purpose of God in the incarnation of his Son – the restoration of all things in Christ. We have called this volume Lands of Hope and Promise because North America – and not just North America, but all the world – has been purchased by the blood of Christ in the hope that it might be renewed with him in his resurrection. He who commanded the apostles to preach the Gospel to all nations (Matt. 28:19-20) beckons his modern disciples to apply the teachings of Christ and his Church to the struggles and sufferings, hopes and aspirations, of the peoples and societies in which they live. And though all may seem quite dark, we have the assurance that the light of Christ shines in the darkness. And where the light of Christ shines, there indeed is hope. There, indeed, is promise.
Michael Van Hecke
While reading Professor Stephen Turley’s essay Classical Christian Education and Public Witness, two of his assertions struck me as familiar:
…Consequently, there emerged a whole new definition of religion: religion was no longer a public expression of cosmic piety and social obligation. Instead, religion was simply something that one personally believed but could not know; it was that by which one cultivated a sense of private meaning and existential satisfaction, but religion had no public, that is objective, value at all.
… it is here that secularism plays a key role, for it is through secularization that the state is able to perpetuate and protect its monopolization over the public square. And the primary mechanism by which such monopolization is maintained is the redefinition of religion and the consequent marginalization of the church to the private sphere of life. The state effectively marginalizes the church (or any other competing vision of the public) by re-inventing our conception of faith and religion in accordance with secular norms: faith and religion are little more than instrumental means by which individuals find personal meaning and purpose for their lives.
These two passages echoed what I had read recently in Frank Sheed‘s classic Theology for Beginners. Commenting on the widespread modern tendency to treat God as “extra” to life, he writes:
Religion, it is felt, is something that some people go in for; it might be better for ourselves if we all did a little more of it; but it has no place in the practical business of man’s life…What a man believes about God is his private affair: in other words it does not affect anyone but the man himself, and it does not affect him in a way that matters to anyone else.
This is a very remarkable statement indeed. All history echoes with denial. What men have believed about God has caused more wars and fiercer wars than any other thing whatever. Rivers of blood have flowed because of what men believed about God. And now, suddenly, it has become their own private affair. Obviously this can only mean that men do not believe anything very intensely about God, or, if they do, are not likely to do anything very extreme about it.
|Aztec human sacrifice|
Supposing a man refuses to believe in the existence of the sun. He will of course be ready with a theory to account for the widely held view that the sun does exist. He will say perhaps that the sun is a collective hallucination, or a large fire just fifty miles up in the air, or a result of wishful thinking, or a visual effect produced by spots on the liver, or a relic of tribal superstition, or a piece of sexual symbolism, or a purely mental compensation for an unjust economic system. However ingenious his theory or however excellent his character and intention, he would be wrong about day and night, about the seasons, about the moon, the stars, the weather – he would be in danger of death by sunstroke. So far it might well be his own private affair. But if he persuaded large numbers of people that the sun did not exist, his private error would be in a fair way to becoming a public nuisance; and if he were the captain of a ship, passengers’ lives would not be safe with him: he could not be trusted to get them across the ocean. You could not discuss astronomy with such a man because, however much a man may be entitled to his own opinion, the sun remains a fact, and a fact essential to astronomy and navigation. Similarly, you cannot discuss the purpose of life with a man who denies the existence of God. You cannot profoundly collaborate in human affairs, in sociology, say, or education with a man who denies the existence of God. You cannot simply agree to omit God from the collaboration for the sake of argument, any more than you could agree to omit the sun from navigation. The sun is a fact and essential to navigation. God is a fact and essential to everything.
|Artwork by Ade Bethune from the Ade Bethune Collection, St. Catherine University Library, St. Paul, MN 55105|