Saturday, August 3, 2013

Pope Benedict on Modern Belief

This is from his work Introduction to Christianity, which is on my book list for Theology 101, Foundations of Catholicism.
"Meaning that is self-made is in the last analysis no meaning. Meaning, that is, the ground on which our existence as a totality can stand and live, cannot be made but only received."
In one short summary, he shatters any notion that man has any purpose or meaning apart from Our Lord. He mentions Descartes, who is the root of Enlightened and post-Enlightenment thought, with his notion of cogito, ergo sum, where the body and soul are separated rather than being the form of the other.

Now, he is writing this in 1968, the year of the student revolutions in Paris, and one of the most famous thinkers in the world is Jean-Paul Sartre. Father Ratzinger has always had a firm grip on philosophy, and like all great theologians did not exclude someone from a reading list because of his source. Ten pages earlier, for instance, he mentions Martin Heidegger, a thinker associated with Sartre, as well as Karl Marx.

I think he was thus shocked by what he read and saw, in society and more difficultly, within the Church herself. You see mass disobedience in the celebration of the Holy Mass. Humane Vitae is flat-out rejected and subjected to ridicule. Man has replaced God at the center of human life. The theological origins of man, as expressed in certain passages of the Second Vatican Council and the theologians of the era, seem to confirm this.

I can certainly understand disillusionment in the bloodiest century known to man. But, in a century dedicated to placing human-built meaning at the top, beyond that of all other centuries (perhaps save this one), it seems odd for the dominant paradigm to become one that relies on man as an entity that generates its own meaning, in contrast to Man being fallen!

 I simply don't understand Existentialism. If our purpose as unique human beings is not derived externally, then what's the point in creating meaning that is bound to be contradictory to someone else's meaning?

Well, he gave us this at the Mass of Petrine Installation at the start of his pontificate in 2005:
 “We are living in alienation, in the salt waters of suffering and death, in a sea of darkness without light. The net of the Gospel pulls us out of the waters of death and brings us into the splendor of God’s light, into true life. The modern world is… a spiritual and emotional desert of poverty, abandonment, loneliness… and destroyed love.”
 Yeah...and for as much as I learned in IB, it sucks. Very few people are full of joy. Usually, it was a big bucket of moping, whining, and complaining, and on the more egregious days, slicing each other's throats with words. I'm ready for college, but when I went to help at Immaculata or have been to youth group (populated by the Sisters and many students at Immaculata), it has been a completely different result. The education is just as good, if not better, than what I got in IB.

Not every situation can lead to an outward expression of joy. Illness is one that comes to mind, or a death of a close friend or relative. But we must give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, his steadfast love endures forever (Psalm 118:1). Also, the apostle Paul tells us in 1 Thess. 5:16-18  "Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." Turn your eyes towards the Cross, the perfect sacrifice re-presented unbloodily in the most holy sacrament of the altar. Do not get bogged down, but offer it up in union with the suffering of Our Lord and His Blessed Mother, and "seek first the kingdom."



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