Tuesday, June 24, 2003


Edmund Burke once wrote:

"Nothing can be conceived more hard than the heart of a thoroughbred metaphysician. It comes nearer to the cold malignity of a wicked spirit than to the frailty and passion of a man. It is like that of the principle of evil himself, incorporeal, pure, unmixed, dephlegmated, defecated evil."

I guess Burke didn't like theorists.

I suspect the reason for this is that he understood, as so few people do these days, that theories, unless they have a positive effect on practice, unless they are based on tried and proven practice, are useless.

I think Burke understood that if we profess to believe in something, that belief should have some positive effect on the way we act; if we profess to be Catholic we should appear to the world to be Catholic.

I bring this up apropos of a post done in the last day or two by Kathy over at the Gospel Minefield. It seems that she had a friend who apparently did not believe that Kathy, because of some books she had for her children and other nefarious actions could not believe that Kathy was Catholic enough and has cooled the friendship.

First, let me say that I hope this situation reverses itself. The loss of a friend, for whatever reason, is a real loss. I pray that this friendship will be recovered.

But, Kathy's post reminded me that this is a fairly common situation. I can think of a person in a parish I once attended who made a very formidable show of being completely disdainful of everyone else at Mass. I can also think of those who troop into Mass at the last minute and suffer through the liturgy with a certain grim determination which turns to very evident anger when the priest deviates in the least from the published rubrics, and then leave immediately upon receiving Communion. These stories are legion. I pray for all such who are trapped in the net of super-Orthodoxy. They have become what Burke might call "thoroughbred metaphysicians." The rules, for many of them, have become more important than living the kind of life which the rules are intended to bring about. I don't believe this is a happy situation for anyone, but it surely exists.

I guess I write this to remind myself of these dangers; it is important to know the faith and accept as true what God has revealed of himself to us through both Scripture and Tradition. But unless we are able to make the truths of the faith real in our lives, to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and love others as ourselves, the teachings of the Church are useless to us. They become idols and will lead us away from God instead of to Him.

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