November 16, 2008

"Everything is of consequence..."

From Letters to a Young Catholic, by George Weigel

....And here's the second proposition to ponder: for all the sentimentality that occasionally clings to Catholic piety, there is nothing sentimental about Catholicism. "There is nothing harder or less sentimental than Christian realism," Flannery O'Connor wrote, because Christianity stands or falls with the Incarnation � God's entry into history through Jesus of Nazareth, who is both the Son of God, the Second Person of the Trinity, and the son of Mary, a young Jewish girl living on the outer fringes of the Roman Empire.

History and humanity are the vehicles by which God reveals himself to the world he created. History is the arena and humanity is the vessel, through which God redeems the world. History and humanity count, and count ultimately: not because of our pride but because of God's merciful love, the unsentimental but cleansing love of the father who welcomes the prodigal son hame, knowing full well that the prodigal has made a thoroughgoing mess of his life by his selfishness, his "autonomy," his conviction that nothing, including himself, really counts.

"If you live today you breathe in's the gas you breathe," wrote Flannery O'Connor; "If I hadn't had the Church to fight it with or to tell me the necessity of fighting it, I would be the stinkingest logical positivist you ever saw right now." So, I expect, would I. So, perhaps, would you. So here's one more way to think about Catholicism and its distinctive optic on the world and on us: Catholicism is an antidote to nihilism. And by "nihilism," I mean, not the sour, dark, often violent nihilism of Nietzsche and Sartre, but what my friend, the late Father Ernest Fortin (who borrowed the term from his friend Alan Bloom) used to call "debonair nihilism": the nihilism that enjoys itself on the way to oblivion, convinced that all of this�the world, us, relationships, sex, beauty, history�is really just a cosmic joke. Against the nihilist claim that nothing is of consequence, Catholicism insists that everything is of consequence, because everything has been redeemed by Christ....

Posted by John Weidner at November 16, 2008 5:09 AM
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