Jackie and I have been watching Sherlock recently, a brilliant series produced by the BBC, and the show somehow makes me feel both smarter and dumber at the same time. It hurts my brain trying to keep up with Holmes’ dizzying intellect, and yet I feel accomplished for making it to the end of an episode mentally intact. I’ve also been reading about God’s eternity outside of space and time for grad school, so my mental energy has been even more crippled than usual and my Scrabble skills are severely suffering. But it’s all led to one thankful realization: my brain finds thorough rest in the Catholic faith.
The mind craves truth as the soul craves beauty. It’s no secret that our age of secular relativism has rejected any notion of a transcendent Truth that we can actually know and sink our teeth into. What rules the day is fad and fashion, not discourse and honest pursuit of the moral life. I guess it’s been the predicament since Plato, but it doesn’t mean we have to settle for it.
“What is truth?” Pontus Pilate’s infamous quip to Christ is the unstated philosophy of our day here in the West. Live and let live, but don’t ask questions—real questions, at least. Don’t listen to any so-called wisdom from the authors and fathers of our nations; what could dead men possibly teach us? Don’t have a faith that challenges you out of your comfort zone or prompts you to ask, “Is this all there is?”
No, thank you. My mind rebels at stagnation.
We all credit St. Augustine for coining the “restless heart,” but I think it’s important to also recognize the “restless brain.” For those of us afflicted, we know the symptoms. It begins as early as the child who relentlessly tortures his parents with “why?” and is thoroughly unsatisfied with a “just because.” It continues into youth and adolescence with the woman who stares off into the night sky and knows that she is made for more; unguided, random evolution would never leave the human person with such cruel “delusions” of heavenly destiny.
Thinking, actually thinking, is hard. And we can be all be a bit lazy.
My intellect rests in Catholicism because there is so much logic flowing from the Logos. The divine order cannot help but stamp its fingerprints upon the whole of the cosmos. While leaving room for the ineffable mysteries of God to breathe, the Catholic faith examines this portrait of creation and teaches a consistent message of the truth that has been naturally and divinely revealed. The harmony between faith and reason could take up a few blogs, so I leave that to another day.
Don’t get me wrong. There’s plenty I don’t understand and will likely never understand: resurrections, virgin births, mystics bi-locating and levitating, and bread and wine transforming into the body and blood of Christ. And yet somehow these mysteries make sense in my heart, as if part of me knows that it all connects by the pen of the Author. I can read the Scriptures, the Church Fathers, the saints, the mystics, and the popes and know that I’m standing on the shoulders of 2,000+ years of wisdom that isn’t subject to whatever is the passing fad of the day.
If we wed ourselves to this generation then we shall all be widows in the next. My intellect craves a truth that can be a foundation through storms and raging seas. The truth can never be decided by a majority vote or gossip magazines. Political parties change and flip throughout history, and great nations rise and fall. Jesus Christ remains.
Our God is truth in the very “stuff” of His being—perfect Truth and Beauty and Love. Light came first in God’s creation and so, like Marcus Mumford and all his sons, we too must all be lovers of this light. “Since God is true, the members of his people are called to live in this truth” (CCC 2465).
Of course, besides a love of truth there must also be a humble willingness to conform one’s life to it. Faith is an ascent of the intellect and consent of the will. That means allowing grace to soften our hearts, alter our worldviews, and having the courage to change our actions and behaviors. Fewer people today are lovers of wisdom (philosophers) than they are lovers of their own egos and agendas. Too many people kick against reality instead of accepting and cooperating with it. We do not conquer nature by defying her laws.
Lest we think that our religious faith and pursuit of truth be a personal affair that affects absolutely no one else, remember that error about (or plain omission) of God only leads to a distorted and dangerous life for everyone. “Omit God from the consideration of anything or everything, and you omit the reason why anything exists and make everything forever unexplainable; and this is not a sound first step toward understanding” (Frank Sheed, Theology and Sanity). Remove the Source of all morality and law from schools, public monuments, and the greater society, and what do we expect the end result to be?
Truth is a Person you can sink your teeth into—it’s called the Eucharist. “This is my body given up for you.” Christ gave up his life so we could have life, and life in abundance. This is the truth we were made for, truth to receive and to emulate. My heart–and my mind–can no longer rest in anything else.
Do not fear sharing the truth; the truth can take care of itself. Our task is to ask questions, pursue the truth, and then simply unleash it. It’s quite elementary.
Pontius Pilate stared Truth in the face and turned away. God forbid we do the same.
“If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples,
and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”