My whole mind was taken up and transfigured by this collective act, and I saw for a moment the Catholic Church quite plain, and I remembered Europe, and the centuries. Then there left me altogether that attitude of difficulty and combat which, for us others, is always associated with the Faith. The cities dwindled in my imagination, and I took less heed of the modern noise. I went out with them into the clear evening and the cool. I found my cigar and lit it again, and musing much more deeply than before, not without tears, I considered the nature of Belief.
Of its nature it breeds a reaction and an indifference. Those who believe nothing but only think and judge cannot understand this. Of its nature it struggles with us. And we, we, when our youth is full on us, invariably reject it and set out in the sunlight content with natural things. Then for a long time we are like men who follow down the cleft of a mountain and the peaks are hidden from us and forgotten. It takes years to reach the dry plain, and then we look back and see our ome.
What is it, do you think, that causes the return? I think it is the problem of living; for every day, every experience of evil, demands a solution. That solution is provided by the memory of the great scheme which at last we remember. Our childhood pierces through again ... But I will not attempt to explain it, for I have not the power; only I know that we who return suffer hard things; for there grows a gulf between us and many companions. We are perpetually thrust into minorities, and the world almost begins to talk a strange language; we are troubled by the human machinery of a perfect and superhuman revelation; we are over-anxious for its safety, alarmed, and in danger of violent decisions.
And this is hard: that the Faith begins to make one abandon the old way of judging. Averages and movements and the rest grow uncertain. We see things from within and consider one mind or a little group as a salt or leaven. The very nature of social force seems changed to us. And this is hard when a man has loved common views and is happy only with his fellows.
And this again is very hard, that we must once more take up that awful struggle to reconcile two truths and to keep civic freedom sacred in spite of the organization of religion, and not to deny what is certainly true. It is hard to accept mysteries, and to be humble. We are tost as the great schoolmen were tost, and we dare not neglect the duty of that wrestling.
But the hardest thing of all is that it leads us away, as by a command, from all that banquet of the intellect than which there is no keener joy known to man.
I went slowly up the village place in the dusk, thinking of this deplorable weakness in men that the Faith is too great for them, and accepting it as an inevitable burden. I continued to muse with my eyes upon the ground ...
There was to be no more of that studious content, that security in historic analysis, and that constant satisfaction of an appetite which never cloyed. A wisdom more imperative and more profound was to put a term to the comfortable wisdom of learning. All the balance of judgement, the easy, slow convictions, the broad grasp of things, the vision of their complexity, the pleasure in their innumerable life--all that had to be given up. Fanaticisms were no longer entirely to be despised, just appreciations and a strong grasp of reality no longer entirely to be admired.
The Catholic Church will have no philosophies. She will permit no comforts; the cry of the martyrs is in her far voice; her eyes that see beyond the world present us heaven and hell to the confusion of our human reconciliations, our happy blending of good and evil things.
By the Lord! I begin to think this intimate religion as tragic as a great love. There came back into my mind a relic that I have in my house. It is a panel of the old door of my college, having carved on it my college arms. I remembered the Lion and the Shield, _Haec fuit, Haec almae janua sacra domus._ Yes, certainly religion is as tragic as first love, and drags us out into the void away from our dear homes.
It is a good thing to have loved one woman from a child, and it is a good thing not to have to return to the Faith.
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
From The Path to Rome
What follows is an excerpt from The Path to Rome, by Hillaire Belloc. I find this passage to be the most poignant selection from this entire book. For me, it encapsulates the idea of liberality lived within the Catholic faith. Before writing this passage, he was witness to a collective act of faith as a whole Swiss village joined together for evening prayer at the Catholic church.
Posted by This Liberal