Wednesday, June 29, 2011

through the temporal, glimpse the eternal

"It was once said[...] that men couldn't organize the world without God.
That, in fact, is not true; atheistic humanism disproved that claim.
What atheistic humanism had also proven, however, was that without God, human beings could only organize the world against each other."-- Letters to a Young Catholic

I just finished George Weigel's Letters to a Young Catholic.
It's one of those books that's been sitting on our bookshelves for a while. No one's quite sure how it got into the house it sort of found its way inside. It's one of those books that just appears and bides it time. Then, one day, you're walking into your room, and you see it lying innocently on the floor in front of your doorway. Since your dear friend recommended it to you, you think "Oh! Look! That's that book that my friend recommended to me. I guess I should just pick it up and read it." And because it's summer, you do end up reading it.
It's one of those books.

It's a beautiful, easy (but contemplative and thought-provoking) read. Mr. Weigel takes his readers on a tour of the Catholic world-from the Chartres Cathedral to the Olde Cheshire Cheese-the interior and exterior worlds of Catholicism. He touches on everything from John Cardinal Newman to World Youth Day, from Evelyn Waugh to Theology of the Body, from iconography to the liturgy.

He writes about the value and joy in suffering, and how the importance of suffering is a foreign idea in our modern world. He writes about love, about living in communion with others, the truth that the secret to human happiness is "self-giving, not self-assertion." He writes of a University students in Poland that participate in the liturgy as if their lives depended on it. Which, in fact, they do.

Although he introduces us to many famous Catholic intellectuals: Hilare Belloc, Chesterton, Newman, and Waugh, etc., he insists "We cannot meet the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob[...] by reason alone." Mr. Weigel writes of the sacramental imagination of Catholicism. 
To be Catholic means to live not with one foot in the world and one foot in the church, but to understand that there is no gap between Faith and everyday life. 
To realize that the spiritual world intersects the material world in a profound way-a sacramental way. (After all, that's what a sacrament is-a material manifestation of grace.) 
And that through the things temporal we will see clearly the things eternal.

It's a clearly laid-out basic overview of the Catholic worldview. It's so refreshing and beautiful, and very encouraging. As a call to action in our brave new 21st century world, Mr. Weigel's book also reminds us to hold onto the traditions and memories of our ancestors. After all, only a deeply rooted tree can grow the tallest. Letters to a Young Catholic visits the deepest roots, and explores the newest budding branches.

Moral of the story:

"You're not alone, as a young religious believer and a young Catholic. And you're not on the back side of history. You're on its cutting edge."

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