Unholy Holiness

A 7 Quick Takes

Pope BenedictThis week, I finished reading Pope Benedict’s book, Introduction to Chrisitianity, a book I’ve started three or four times and never finished. I’ve got to make a few comments about the book.

One theme that Benedict refers to repeatedly is the true reason for the faith, a theme that was on my mind for some time before I read his book. The point isn’t to enforce rules or create and follow canon laws, it’s to be a home for believers. As he writes:
“Those who really believe do not attribute too much importance to the struggle for the reform of ecclesiastical structures. They live on what the Church always is; and if one wants to know what the Church really is one must go to them. For the Church is most present, not where organizing, reforming, and governing are going on, but in those who simply believe and receive from her the gift of faith that is life to them.”

I find this heartening in the wake of the concern on the part of the very conservative blogosphere over Pope Francis actions during the term of his papacy. These things too will pass.

Benedict also writes about the Church and its relations with the world. The Creed affirms that the Church is holy and one. Many outside the Church, especially in the wake of the priest scandals, have questioned how that could be. Benedict points out that, in effect, the Church is human and takes her holiness from Christ, not from her members. Here is a quote:

“Is the Church not simply the continuation of God’s deliberate plunge into human wretchedness; is she not simply the continuation of Jesus’ habit of sitting at table with sinners, of his mingling with the misery of sin to the point where he actually seems to sink under its weight?”

And a little further on he writes:

“I must admit that to me this unholy holiness of the Church has in itself something infinitely comforting about it. Would one not be bound to despair in face of a holiness that was spotless and could only operate on us by judging us and consuming us by fire? Who would dare to assert of himself that he did not need to be tolerated by others, indeed borne up by them? And how can someone who lives on the forbearance of others himself renounce forbearing? Is it not the only gift he can offer in return, the only comfort remaining to him, that he endures just as he, too, is endured? ”

For my part, it would be unbearable to try to be part of a Church that is so perfect that there would be no way I could achieve anything like full participation. Who would want to be part of a Church that was so perfect, it would be impossible to stand?

I guess this is the day for quotes, but I found another interesting quote in Fr Schall’s book, Another Sort of Learning, from, of all places, The Self Made Mad.

“Did you ever stop to wonder about how recent historical events will be reported in elementary school history books 100 years from now? We hate to think so, but in the year 2060, say, elementary school history books will probably be exactly the way they are now. Which means they will be simply written so that children who study them can find easy answers to everything, even things that college professors and historians won’t fully understand. For instance, every historical figure will be either good or bad, with nobody a little good and a little bad, the way most people really are.”

I think this may be proven to be an optimistic outlook, but it does show that wisdom can be found almost anywhere, if you just keep your eyes open to see it.

It appears 3 Secret Service agents have been sent home from the Netherlands this week “for disciplinary reasons”. One agent even passed out in the hotel hallway in front of his room because he was too drunk to get the key in the door. If I were President Obama, I might begin to think it a good idea to start investigating and promoting those old fashioned ideals that he’s so easily dismissed, like morals and a sense of duty. It’s sad how far the Secret Service has fallen over the last few years.

Students at the “other” university in town (i.e., not the Air Force Academy), University of Colorado at Colorado Springs (UCCS), have started food bank for fellow students. It seems that, after paying tuition, buying books, computers, phones, etc., for many students there’s no money left to pay rent and buy food. I’m very thankful that, when I was going to college, there was no thought of having to buy computers to survive in class. I’m also thankful that tuition in Texas in the early 1970’s was next to nothing. It’s true, books were relatively expensive, but nothing like the cost of text books these days. But I also wonder if education these days is cost effective. I wonder if many students who feel they have to go to school to earn a degree, and who come out poverty stricken, in debt, and unable to find a job would be better off learning a trade so as to be able to earn a living. It’s seems it’s seldom presented to high school graduates as an acceptable alternative. Maybe it’s a good idea to rethink that policy. In the meantime, kudos to the students who initiated this effort.

Weather is a constant source of confusion at this time of year in Colorado. This week alone we’ve had late spring like temperatures and extreme cold and snow. I’m getting ready for spring and the arrival of Easter. If memory serves though, it isn’t uncommon here in the Springs to have snow on the Easter lilies. Since Easter is so late this year, I wonder if the pattern will hold?

That’s a wrap for this Friday post. If you’d like to read many more Quick Takes from other fine bloggers, please stop by Jenifer Fulwiler’s Conversion Diary blog right away.



4 thoughts on “Unholy Holiness

  1. Thank you for those thoughts on “Introduction to Christianity”. I read that book for the first time four years ago when I was at a crossroads in my faith life and it was like a lighthouse that shone through the fog of doubt I had. “Introduction to Christianity” also shows the great intellectual depth, as well as deep humility, that Joseph Ratzinger had.

  2. Ron, I agree with your concerns about education costs, which it seems to me are out of control and rising at a rate much higher than might be justified by inflation. Granted it was a long time ago, but when I graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1970 tuition there was $175/semester, and I could buy all my books for about $75/semester. Today it’s common for a single textbook to cost more than $100. I’m thinking there are some very bright, promising kids out there who decide to forego a college education because they simply can’t afford it. Those who do go come out of school with so much debt that it takes half their lives to pay it off. A very sad situation indeed.

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