A Culture Adrift

by Fr. Francis Martin

Christopher Dawson describes our culture as, “detached from spiritual aims and values” and “faced with a spiritual crisis of the most acute kind.” An atmosphere in which there is no “spiritual sense of religion as a objective reality transcending on private experience. Another Catholic thinker, Romano Guardini, speaks of the loss of “an objective sense of belonging to existence,” and the need for “root virtues of earnestness and gravity grounded in truth.”[1]

There are as well efforts being made to overcome the isolation effected by modernity while retaining those positive advances which it did achieve.  From a Christian perspective this means moving ahead to a deeper understanding that human existence is a gift that finds its perfection in responding to God, the Giver and to accepting the communion with the Trinity that is offered to us in Christ.  But this also means seeking communion with others in a mutual relationship of generosity and receptivity. 

It is worth noting, then, in this regard how strong is the insistence in the Encyclical Fides et Ratio that an important aspect of our moving out of the dilemmas of modernity is to retrieve an develop the inter-personal dimension of our knowledge of the truth.  This particularly stressed in §32:

Human perfection does not solely consist in acquiring an abstract knowledge of the truth, rather it finds its place in a living habit of self-giving and fidelity towards others.  In this very fidelity in which a man learns how to give himself, he discovers full certainty and firmness of spirit.  But at the same time knowledge that comes through confidence and depends on interpersonal esteem is not given without reference to truth: a man, by believing, is committed to the truth which another has shown him.[2]

Some people search for the truth with a fear of finding it.  A genuine and generous desire to share in the truth is the surest way to know the delight of possessing it.



[1] I am taking these quotes from Michael Paul Gallagher, Clashing Symbols. An introduction to Faith and Culture (London: Darton, Longman and Todd Ltd, 1997), 79-80. who is citing Christopher Dawson, Religion and Culture (London: Sheed & Ward, 1948), 217.and idem, Understanding Europe (London: Sheed & Ward, 1952), 241-45.

[2] Laurence Paul Hemming and Susan Frank Parsons, eds., Restoring Faith in Reason.  A New Translation of the Encyclical Letter Faith and Reason of Pope John Paul II Together with a Commentary and Discussion (London: SCM Press, 2002), p.53

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