Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Faith And Reason

Christian initiation for baptism introduces the catechumen--a person receiving instruction in the Creed, Church and Sacraments--to a life devoted to Christ and prayer. During the period of instruction, which can take six months to over a year, it is understood that we are living, or trying to live, the life of reason before we can truly embark on the road to faith; faith builds on reason. Pope John Paul II said at the beginning of the encyclical letter Fides et Ratio (Faith and Reason): "Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth-- in a word, to know oneself, so that by knowing and loving God men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves." 

Faith without reason leads to superstition; reason without faith leads to emptiness. Reason, first principles ( known by themselves, without argumentation)  was  understood by most, once  heard, everyone would accept. This is no longer the case. Worse still is the understanding of many that there is a contradiction between faith and reason. It would not be inappropriate to introduce before entrance into the catechumenate proper some of the truths we as  humans accept as seen in the proverbs and words of wisdom from other traditions, as a first  step in the teaching of the catechism. Our humanity precedes the Christianity.

One of the parishes in the diocese posted a number of sayings from the Korean classics on the walls of the different rooms in which the catechumens met, truths accepted as true by  most Koreans. They came from the experience and the life of reason lived by Koreans for thousands of years. Today, many of those who begin the study for baptism no longer have this great reservoir of truth, which means the house being built will likely begin with a weak foundation.

And yet, it seems there is thirst for these obvious truths, though expressed in different ways, that fills a void we call spirituality. One of the most basic human reflexes is that of breathing, which a German-speaking Catholic priest Pierre Stutz, in his book Respite for the Soul, uses to cultivate our interior life. Translated from the German and reviewed by the Peace Weekly, the book stresses the importance of breathing freely in order to control external distractions that might interfere with getting in touch with our deeper self.

This can be done, he says, by learning to breathe deeply, which will also help us to live more comfortably, with less stress and more control over ourselves. Breathing, as one of our most individual acts, is also employed by God, he believes, to unite us with all of creation, an expression of the gift to life we have received. By learning to breathe deeply, we will, he says, raise the quality of our lives. Many are missing out on this useful method, believing they do not have sufficient leisure to slow the pace of their lives. He would like us to get rid of the fixed idea of needing to have more material goods, and find the time to slow down and experience and enjoy our inner life. This would be a good place to start for the catechumen on the way to a life of faith.

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