Wednesday, January 26, 2011

First Principle and Foundation

One of the questions I get a lot in words, and even more often in looks, goes something like this:
An outspoken, liberal young woman like you, Catholic?  Really?  What on Earth do you see in that?
There are a lot of reasons behind that sentiment.  Part of it is that most liberals are not religious in the U.S. these days, particularly not those under 40.  Part of it comes down to what people know about the Catholic Church, and its image in this country (for which the Church bears significant but not total responsibility).  People think of strict male-run hierarchy, of homophobia, of the obsession with abortion, of pedophilia.  None of which sounds very appetizing to your average American liberal.

But the on top of all of that formidable list, there's another issue: people don't have a clear picture of what the Catholic faith has to offer someone like me.  As to that, I have a lot of answers.  Too many to give an exhaustive list.  So I'll start with one of them.  It's called the 'first principle and foundation,' and it was formulated nearly 500 years ago by a Spanish priest, Iganatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits.

The Goal of our life is to live with God forever.
God, who loves us, gave us life.
Our own response of love allows God's life
to flow into us without limit.

All the things in this world are gifts from God,
Presented to us so that we can know God more easily
and make a return of love more readily.
As a result, we appreciate and use all these gifts of God
Insofar as they help us to develop as loving persons.
But if any of these gifts become the center of our lives,
They displace God
And so hinder our growth toward our goal.

In everyday life, then, we must hold ourselves in balance
Before all of these created gifts insofar as we have a choice
And are not bound by some obligation.
We should not fix our desires on health or sickness,
Wealth or poverty, success or failure, a long life or a short one.
For everything has the potential of calling forth in us
A deeper response to our life in God.

Our only desire and our one choice should be this:
I want and I choose what better leads
To God's deepening his life in me.

Far be it from me to interpret that for the rest of the world, because it's something everyone is supposed to interpret for themselves.  But what it means to me, what the Catholic faith offers that is captured here for me?

It's radical.  The idea that faith is about love and about relationship, with others and, through them, with God.  Living in faith is about responding in love to everything around you, everything you encounter, everyone you encounter.  Service comes out of that love.  Everything comes out of that love.  What better way to build the world than that?

The other thing here is recognizing that each individual is loved.  When you start your day, when you do anything, no matter what you did 5 minutes ago or are going to do 20 minutes from now, you are loved.  For myself, when I can remember that love, its unconditional nature provides a security from which I find it difficult to respond in fear.  I don't like responding in fear.  I don't like when I do it, I don't like when I see others do it.

For me, that radical love of God, freely given and never earned, is an answer to fear and the things that grow out of it.  Nothing but that sense of unconditional love can drive away the deepest fears of the soul.  The love of other people is important, very important, but every person has limits.  Every person has things they can't give.  God doesn't have those limits.  And that limitless love?  That's something I believe in, something I've experienced.  In a sense God is that limitless love.

It's not really an answer as to why you "should" believe.  I don't have those.  I'm pretty sure no one does.  But it's a partial answer as to why I believe, and why Catholicism resonates with me.

No comments:

Post a Comment