Tag Archives: faith and reason

St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

edith steinSaint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (in history she is known as Edith Stein). The Church honors her with the title of  Virgin and Martyr due to her vocation as a nun and one killed for belief in Christian faith.

Stein was born on October 12, 1891, in Breslau, Poland. Her family was Jewish. By 1922, after reading the saints, in particular, Saint Teresa of Avila, and on matters in the Catholic faith, she was baptized at the Cologne Cathedral. Eleven years later she entered the Carmelite Order in Cologne before being sent to the Carmel in Echt, Holland. With her sister Rose, Teresa was arrested and sent to the concentration camp at Auschwitz. There she died in the gas chambers of Auschwitz in 1942 at the age of fifty-one. Stein was beatified in 1987 and canonized on October 11, 1998.

It is said that she made a claim about Husserl that “Whoever seeks truth seeks God, whether he knows it or not.” Professor Husserl was not one to speak about his religious faith because he wanted to maintain a separation between faith and reason. Yet, we know from experience, that faith and reason go hand-in-hand. Catholics ought to take a lesson here: a person who claims Christian faith faith can not be diffident reading the same. One can say with a degree of certainty that Stein’s philosophical research was one of a constant quest for God. Saint Teresa Benedicta’s witness is that whoever seeks truth through philosophy seeks God, because God is Truth. We therefore hold that that whoever seeks truth is, in fact, seeking God. There is a primacy of faith and reason in the Catholic mind.

Trusting our Sainted Founders Peter and Paul

Sts Peter and PaulMother Church liturgically remembers today the lives of Saints Peter and Paul. The Apostles Peter and Paul are known as the founders of our Church. As a point of fact, the Church has always considered St. Peter and St. Paul together —they are inseparable. Historically, we know them to born as Jews; each had a personal encounter with Jesus. And each had unique and unrepeatable set of gifts to offer. Both received the mission from Jesus Christ to make the Church a reality in Rome and thus for the world. Their vocation included the sacrifice of their lives in the service of the Gospel: St. Peter was crucified upside down and St. Paul, a Roman citizen, was beheaded with a sword. The point of drawing our attention to Sts. Peter and Paul is to ask if we follow the experience and teaching of these Holy Apostles who were great founders of our Church? Do we know them? Do we trust that their teaching directs our steps on the path that leads to heaven?

In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI preached the following homily to new archbishops, words appropriate for us to reflect upon for our formation of faith:

“‘In your hearts reverence Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you.’ Christian faith is hope. It paves the way to the future. And it is a hope that possesses reasonableness, a hope whose reason we can and must explain. Faith comes from the eternal Reason that entered our world and showed us the true God. Faith surpasses the capacity of our reason, just as love sees more than mere intelligence. But faith speaks to reason and in the dialectic confrontation can be a match for reason. It does not contradict it but keeps up with it and goes beyond it to introduce us into the greater Reason of God. It is our task not to let it remain merely a tradition but to recognize it as a response to our questions. Faith demands our rational participation, which is deepened and purified in a sharing of love. It is one of our duties … to penetrate faith with thought, to be able to show the reason for our hope within the debates of our time. Yet although it is so necessary thought alone does not suffice. Just as speaking alone does not suffice. In his baptismal and Eucharistic catechesis in chapter 2 of his Letter, Peter alludes to the Psalm used by the ancient Church in the context of communion, that is, to the verse which says: ‘O taste and see that the Lord is good!’ (Ps 34[33]: 8; 1 Pt 2: 3).

Tasting alone leads to seeing. Let us think of the disciples of Emmaus: it was only in convivial communion with Jesus, only in the breaking of the bread that their eyes were opened. Only in truly experienced communion with the Lord were they able to see. This applies to us all; over and above thinking and speaking, we need the experience of faith, the vital relationship with Jesus Christ. Faith must not remain theory: it must be life. If we encounter the Lord in the Sacrament, if we speak to him in prayer, if in the decisions of daily life we adhere to Christ then ‘we see’ more and more how good he is; then we experience how good it is to be with him. Moreover the capacity to communicate faith to others in a credible way stems from this certainty lived. The Curé d’Ars was not a great thinker; but he ‘tasted’ the Lord. He lived with him even in the details of daily life, as well as in the great demands of his pastoral ministry. In this way he became ‘one who sees.’ He had tasted so he knew that the Lord is good. Let us pray the Lord that he may grant us this ability to taste, and that we may thus become credible witnesses of the hope that is in us.”

(written/edited for the OLOP bulletin, 6/26/2016)

Raymond Thomas Gawronski meets the Lord

Gawronski Jason crocker Sophia CWeddingA man who followed Christ to the priesthood and to the personal companionship in the spiritual life died recently. Jesuit Father Raymond Thomas Gawronski, 65, died after living with cancer on 14 April 2016. His most recent ministry was to serve as professor of dogmatics at St. Patrick’s Seminary and University in Menlo Park, California.

I knew Father Gawronski as gifted in very many ways due to the natural gifts of his humanity and because of the integration of his intellect and life of prayer. All his friends and associates would say this. Most keenly he was nurtured by the Eastern Christianity and served as a Byzantine (Melkite) priest for the Eparchy of Newton.

In an interview with CNA, seminary rector Father Stevens said what he appreciated about Father Gawronski was the insistence he placed on integration of faith and reason: “we have to do a better job bringing together the intellectual and spiritual life.” He was speaking of the seminarians he was mentoring. Further, “That comes a lot from his work on von Balthasar. This recognition that the life of the mind and the life of the spirit cannot be seen as two separate things to be cultivated: and that was certainly apparent when he put together the spiritually program, but that’s how he approached everything. In his homilies, his spiritual direction, in his class, he just went back and forth between his life of prayer and his scholarship without skipping a beat, and I admire that so much.” Indeed, this is THE ONLY model of Christian living that’s tenable.

If you are inclined to read good theology then I would recommend Father Gawronski’s book, Word and Silence: Hans Urs von Balthasar and the Spiritual Encounter Between East and West. There is also: A Closer Walk with Christ: A Personal Ignatian Retreat.

May Father Gawronski’s memory be eternal!

Christian society diminishes

I am came across something the poet TS Eliot said that I am finding true when matched to experience:
In his 1940 work, “The idea of a Christian Society,” Eliot wrote, “…a society has ceased to be Christian when religious practices have been abandoned, when behavior ceases to be regulated by reference to Christian principle, and when in effect prosperity in the world for the individual or for the group has become the sole conscious aim.”
In1930 he was speaking about his fellow citizens of Great Britain (Eliot was English you will recall): from his vantage point they were “… becoming more and more de-Christianized by all sorts of unconscious pressure: paganism holds all the most valuable advertising space. Anything like Christian tradition transmitted from generation to generation within the family must disappear, and the small body of Christians will consist entirely of adult recruits.”
How do you live your life?

Religious practice of Americans fall

The practice of religion is falling according to the Pew Research Center on religion and public life. Experience tells us by looking at the Mass attendance and participation in religious education programs that many people no longer consider official religious practices essential to their life of “faith.” Sherry Weddell, as other researchers have said, has said that the fastest growing religious denomination is the USA are the “nones” –those people who check the box saying they are spiritual but not religious.

While Pew research is interesting, it does not cover the entire story of a person’s journey in faith. The caution I would propose is whether a person believes in the need of having a savior. Many people, I contend, don’t think they need to be saved. Their conception of salvation, heaven, sin, grace, sanctity is now very much a private affair, these people isolate themselves from other members of the Church. In the USA, as in other countries, the need and desire fora religious community is waning.

On one level I can see why people don’t want to be a part of a religious community: their priest/minister no longer really cares for them and their spiritual life, the priest/minister is a gossip, the priest/minister doesn’t preach well, know the ritual well, and the sacred music is poor, the priest/minister has little concern for the poor, the needy, sick, etc. The teaching of the faith is grossly watered down with no ideal to strive for and to live within (the journey of faith is flat).

In short, our pastoral ministers have become very narcissistic and self-serving. I know several priests who are in trouble in their ministry: they do not attend to their spiritual life, they do not read literature or spiritual topics, they are lazy and watch tons of TV. One can see why over the centuries many of the saints have proposed a new way of living, acting and working for the proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ and the administration of the sacraments. The Latin phrase comes comes to mind: the Church always needs reform. Our ecclesiastical reform movements have generated great beauty and intense of love for the Church and for humanity. We’ve had saints like Benedict, Ambrose, Augustine, Bernard, Dominic, Catherine of Siena, Francis, Angela Merici, Ignatius of Loyola, Charles Borromeo, John Paul II, Luigi Giussani and countless others who have pointed a new way.

But all the blame can’t be placed on the ministers. Our Christian Faith requires a personal engagement, a personal bringing together of faith, reason, and living concretely in the community of the family and the secular world. You have to show up, you have engage your heart, mind and body. You have to be willing to be honest, and to be with others and to allow our spiritual life to be changed by Christ Jesus.

The Pew report is here.

Pray for the Church and ALL her members.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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