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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Reason we need Reason

On July 31, the Church celebrated the Feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the Founder of the Jesuits. In the Office of Readings for the day (from the Church’s Liturgy of the Hours), the second reading was a selection from “The Life of Saint Ignatius from his own words by Luis Gonzalez”. The selection speaks of Ignatius' recovery from wounds sustained in battle. The last paragraph in the Office states: When Ignatius reflected on worldly thoughts, he felt intense pleasure; but when he gave them up out of weariness, he felt dry and depressed. Yet, when he thought of living the rigorous sort of life he knew the saints had lived, he not only experienced pleasure when he actually thought about it, but even after he dismissed these thoughts, he still experienced great joy. Yet he did not pay attention to this, nor did he appreciate it until one day, in a moment of insight, he began to marvel at the difference. Then he understood his experience: thoughts of one kind left him sad, the others full of joy. And this was the first time he applied a process of reasoning to his religious experience. When Ignatius used reason with his religious experience, it opened his eyes to a whole new world. Religion wasn’t about superstitions, it wasn’t something to keep the elderly occupied. He realized that it was indeed relevant in his life, needed if he hoped to live the happiness he sought. He discovered that religion required use of one’s reason. Perhaps the biggest problem facing Catholicism (and other religions, as well as other aspects of life) is that reason isn’t utilized in many discussions about life, daily living and faith. Catholicism isn’t “well, I’m Catholic and this is what I think”. It is more like “Catholic reasoning leads me to believe”. Foundational to understanding Catholic theology and intellectual history is Greek philosophy. The Greeks were concerned with absolute truth, with the foundations of our existence and our world and how we lived. Isn’t it interesting that Greek philosophy is also important to science. Think of the purpose of physics: what is everything made of? The idea that theology and science are opposed is untrue. Each actually encourages the other. I’m not a scientist. I studied history in college and then theology in the seminary. However, I find myself energized and seeking to learn more about things like String Theory, Quantum Mechanics and the Theory of Relativity. Now, my learning will be quite elementary, I do not have the aptitude for mathematics and formulas that would allow a complex understanding to form. However, when I am reading about these things or watching a documentary, I find myself thinking in the background how this science relates to and deepens my understanding of such things as the Trinity, God creating in eternity, etc. I can understand why it shouldn't be surprising that the Big Bang Theory was discovered by a Catholic priest. The science is helping me to better understand the theology and the theology is helping me to better understand the science. All of this puts me in a state of awe. From a faith perspective, this awe is in God’s creation and in God Himself. This reminds me that to grow in faith, I need to take time not only for prayer, scripture reading,studying about God and the Gospel, but I need to take time to learn about beauty (I didn’t even get into how art and music can also play a role), goodness and truth as it is found in other disciplines. All of these lead me to the source, God. When you think about it, it is no wonder that the Christianity created the university system.

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