Tag Archives: faith and reason

Do we believe in a God who liberates us and the world as a place of freedom

Walter Kasper.jpgOn March 26th, Walter Cardinal Kasper, 76, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity delivered the annual Fay Vincent Fellowship in Faith and Culture lecture at Saint Thomas More Catholic Chapel & Center at Yale University. The title of his talk was “The Timeliness of Speaking of God: Freedom and Communion as Basic Concepts of Theology.” Here are four salient points in the Cardinal’s address:

1. “I am convinced that the time is now to speak of God and to decide how to speak of God”;
2. “Thinking of God as absolute freedom means understanding God as a liberating God and the world as a place of freedom”;
3. with the rise of new religiocities, spiritualities and approaches to faith and reason we have to understand that the world now has a “recognition of a pluralism of truths and religions alike as the new paradigm”;
4. how does theology maintain a Catholic identity and speak in a new and fresh way of “the living, liberating God who is love”?
Here Cardinal Kasper is picking up on the theological agenda of Popes John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Communion & Liberation and some Dominicans friars who are asking questions about the coherence of faith and reason. So, these points of the Cardinal’s ought not to be new news for most people who claim to be theologically literate; they are rather critical though to keep on the tip of the tongue. Furthermore, you will recognize that these four points are clearly being addressed by the Holy Father these days in the Middle East as he addressed similar topics in 2008 when he was in the USA. Your thoughts?

Reason, Fiction and Faith: a conference on Flannery O’Connor

An International Flannery O’Connor Conference

flannery o'connor.jpg

The April 20-22,
2009 conference
was sponsored by the Poetics & Christianity
which is “an international forum for studying the intersection of artistic
culture and expressions of religious faith, with a special emphasis on
narrative and dramatic arts. It offers a meeting place for scholars and artists
of diverse fields of expertise.”

The O’Connor Conference was the 4th gathering
of scholars and other interested parties matters pertaining to art and faith.
Since Flannery O’Connor is relatively unknown in Europe, Father Wauck felt it was time
to introduce the world to writer who lived her Catholic faith and wrote fiction
using Catholic sacramentality. Father Wauck said,

“Flannery O’Connor’s fiction offers an example of what
Catholic art can achieve when it’s fully informed by a sophisticated
theological understanding, a rigorous philosophical background, and also the
kind of dedication to craft, to the artistry of writing that she combined.”

A video clip on the conference can be seen here.

Stanley L. Jaki, OSB, RIP

Stanley Jaki June 2007.jpgThe Reverend Dom Stanley L. Jaki, O.S.B., died April 7th, in Spain after suffering a heart attack in Rome without knowing it. After arriving in Madrid to visit friends he was taken to the hospital for treatment but died days later. He was a monk and priest of the Archabbey of Saint Martin, Pannonhalma, Hungary. He entered the archabbey in 1941, professing solemn vows in 1944 and was ordained a priest in 1948. Like many other Hungarian priests, Jaki immigrated to the USA during Soviet persecution.

Father Jaki trained as a physicist and devoted his life to the history and philosophy of science and theology rather than scientific research. His intellectual work was ground breaking in connecting Catholic theology and science, and the only one to do so for many years. Jaki earned a doctorate in theology from Sant’Anselmo (Rome) in 1950 and another doctorate in (astro)physics from Fordham University in 1957. Since 1965 he has taught at Seton Hall University and honored as Distinguished Professor of Physics in 1975. After retiring he kept active by holding court, giving lectures and writing, often cantankerously.

Father Jaki was well-known for his writings on science and religion. He delievered the prestigious Gifford Lectures from 1974-1976, later published under the title of The Road of Science and the Ways to God. In 1987 Dom Stanley was award the Templeton Prize. He is considered one of the best scholars on the thought of Cardinal John Henry Newman in the U.S. His publishing record show he published 7 books and numerous articles on Newman.

“Although the world was God’s creation and, as such, to be profoundly respected, the world itself possessed no intrinsic divinity,” Father Thomas G. Guarino, professor of theology at Seton Hall, stated. “Father Jaki’s work elucidated the notion that in understanding the very laws of the physical universe, science naturally opened out toward the affirmation of faith.”

A website devoted to Father Jaki

Are we living in post-Christian America?

In the April 13, 2009 issue of Newsweek, Jon Meacham wrote the article, “The End of Christian America,” exploring the idea that we are living in a time where many of those who identified themselves as Christians are now saying that they are skeptical about religion. Some have gone beyond skepticism and rejected religion altogether. In his article Meacham points out something that I find startling indeed: since 1990 the percentage of Americans who no longer claim a religious affiliation as risen from 8 to 15%. Plus, this group of religious non-affiliated has risen in the Northeast. Is this trend pointing to a real crisis or is Meacham creating havoc for the Church? Are Americans accepting secularlity over salvation? Are Christians to blame?

Certainly, experience shows that in many places, including religious houses, the liturgical rites and preaching are often so bad that one can understand why people leave the Church. How often do we go to Church encountering an unprepared priest, altar servers with little dignity and training and the poorly proclaimed Scriptures? Never mind the foolishness that passes for adequate, never mind “superb,” catechetical formation and social outreach to the poor, the sick and the elderly. Where is the formation in the faith for the adults, teens and children based on Scripture and Tradition and not some minister’s ideology? Is Christ only a one-day-a week event? Let’s ask a question about the credibility of the witness: do the priests really believe in Christ, sin, grace, salvation, Mary, etc? What about those who take religious vows: are they really living according to the mind of the Church AND constitutions of their particular order? The Church in recent times is famous for answering questions that are not being asked by the faithful.

If the Church wants to slow down or reverse the secularization of our culture then it needs holy and competent men and women, clergy and laity alike, who will live the faith in a serious manner. The gospel needs to be preached in such a way that is faithfully and poignantly breaks open the word of the Word AND the lives the liturgical rites. Salvation is a question of content and beauty.

Genuine religion widens the horizon of human understanding

My friends, I believe a particularly urgent task of religion today is to unveil the vast potential of human reason, which is itself God’s gift and which is elevated by revelation and faith. Belief in the one God, far from stunting our capacity to understand ourselves and the world, broadens it. Far from setting us against the world, it commits us to it. We are called to help others see the subtle traces and mysterious presence of God in the world which he has marvellously created and continually sustains with his ineffable and all-embracing love. Although his infinite glory can never be directly grasped by our finite minds in this life, we nonetheless catch glimpses of it in the beauty that surrounds us. When men and women allow the magnificent order of the world and the splendour of human dignity to illumine their minds, they discover that what is “reasonable” extends far beyond what mathematics can calculate, logic can deduce and scientific experimentation can demonstrate; it includes the goodness and innate attractiveness of upright and ethical living made known to us in the very language of creation.

This insight prompts us to seek all that is right and just, to step outside the restricted sphere of our own self-interest and act for the good of others. Genuine religion thus widens the horizon of human understanding and stands at the base of any authentically human culture. It rejects all forms of violence and totalitarianism: not only on principles of faith, but also of right reason. Indeed, religion and reason mutually reinforce one another since religion is purified and structured by reason, and reason’s full potential is unleashed by revelation and faith.


Pope Benedict XVI address to the Muslim Leaders of Cameroon

Apostolic Nunciature

19 March 2009

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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