Thursday, August 07, 2008

"To heal this intellectual pride..."

"You are a puff of smoke that appears briefly and then disappears." (James 4: 14).

"All mankind is grass, and all their glory like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower wilts, when the breath of the Lord blows upon it...Though the grass withers and the flower wilts, the word of our God stands forever." (Isaiah 40: 6-8).

Sound advice and spiritual wisdom from a holy and learned priest:

"Pride is to be avoided, that pride of intellect which is more dangerous and more difficult to overcome than the pride of will, as Scupoli says.

This is the pride that renders faith and obedience to superiors difficult. One wants to be self-sufficient; the more confidence one has in one's own judgment the more reluctantly does one accept the teachings of faith, or the more readily does one submit these to criticism and to personal interpretation. In like manner, one so trusts to one's own wisdom, that it is with repugnance that others are consulted, especially superiors. Hence, regrettable mistakes occur. Hence comes also obstinacy of judgment, resulting in the final and sweeping condemnation of such opinions as differ from our own. Herein lies one of the most common causes of strife between Christian and Christian, at times even between Catholic writers. St. Augustine calls those who cause unfortunate dissensions, destructive of peace and of the bond of charity, 'Dividers of unity, enemies of peace, without charity, puffed up with vanity, well pleased with themselves and great in their own eyes.'*

To heal this intellectual pride: 1) we must first of all submit ourselves with childlike docility to the teachings of faith. We are undoubtedly allowed to seek that understanding of our dogmas which is obtained by a patient and laborious quest with the aid of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, especially St. Augustine and St. Thomas; but as the Vatican Council says, this must be done with piety and with discretion, following the maxim of St. Anselm: 'Faith seeking understanding.' Thus we avoid that hypercritical attitude that attenuates and minimizes our dogmas under pretense of explaining them. We submit our judgment not only to the truths of faith but to the directions of the Holy See.." (Fr. Adolphe Tanquerey, S.S., D.D., The Spiritual Life: A Treatise on Ascetical and Mystical Theology, p. 388, Tan Books).

Words to live by. The Church is Mater et Magistra. Mother and Teacher. She teaches us with the authority of Jesus Christ Himself. Our job as Catholic Christians is to remain docile to her teaching. It is not our role to "correct" Christ Who teaches us through His Mystical Body the Church. You and I are a blade of grass, a puff of smoke, here today and gone tomorrow. We must know our place if we are not to fall into intellectual pride. We are only useless servants. If we promote and defend the Church's teaching we will win the prize. But we must say what Jesus told us to say. I am only a useless servant. I have only done my duty. And we must fully appreciate that fact and not just give it lip service. While we are very important to Jesus and He loves us with a love we will never fully understand let alone appreciate, in the scheme of things we just aren't that important. And we never will be. This is wisdom.

* Sermo III Paschae, n. 4.

An important and related post over at Defend the Faith - JayG's excellent Blog:


Michelle said...

That is truly wisdom. Paul, you are a gift. You really are. I thank Jesus for you. Your name really suits you.


Ted Loiseau said...

Pride is what leads people to contradict the Magisterium. I think we've all seen this pride and have had our fill of it. Proud theologians and writers who believe they are wiser than the Holy Spirit who guides the Church or that they have been given a special mission to "expose the errors of the Church" and lead it back into truth.

These people are not really believers who trust in Jesus. I say this because He promised the gates of Hell would never prevail against His Church and that he would send the Holy Spirit to guide His Church.

The Feeneyites in New Hampshire believe they have a special mandate to correct the Church and that the Magisterium has been wrong in its' explanation of extra ecclesiam nulla salus. Having fallen into pride, they believe they alone have the truth. Douglas Bersaw, one-time "prefect" of this cult, even said that Pope John Paul II was the worse Pope we ever had.

Pride. Lust for power and fame. Pride goeth before a fall.

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