Monday, November 28, 2005

The Case for Traditional Principles Part V: Children of the Age

While there are many joys of being a Catholic, for me, it has always been one joy that exceeds all joys: as a Catholic, you are released from the plague of being a child of your times. This is not to mean that we live in some separate reality from today's world, but rather that we are not confined, nor do we wish to be, to one generation or another. For man's life without God, there is nothing beyond that generation. Therefore, every generation is one where one tries to do things anew, to achieve the quest of happiness without God that their predecessors have failed. For the Catholic, through baptism, you become established in a 2,000 year pedigree of the greatest thinkers civilization has ever produced. And since their souls are still alive in heaven, the wisdom of those saints speaks to us still. This is something I will return to, but I would like to give a little personal reflection here.

As a youth in high school, I was never what could be called the model student. I was not your honor roll student, I never brought home straight A's ever. Through laziness and stubbornness, I viewed most the subjects I learned in school as not worth my time. Yet there was always one subject that always caught my interest: history. It is through history that one learns we are part of something greater. The events of history point to higher things. God ordained it this way, for through studying the past, we are able to avoid the pitfalls of previous generations, and learn their wisdom in solving today's problems. It was history that led me to the Catholic Church, a reality I now recognize that God had always implanted on my soul. Christ himself was no doubt a student of history. Even as a boy, his knowledge of the past, the Jewish law and the Old Covenants was astounding. Let us remember that in many ways Scripture is history. It is the story of God's of plan for mankind.

A despising of history comes from the devil. It is the devil who hopes man will not seek out the past, to learn wisdom that man is unable to find true happiness only through God. If man has no history, he suddenly finds himself alone in a very sad world. A world that is consistently remade day to day. In the monumental novel 1984, the ministry of truth constantly rewrote history to serve the agendas Big Brother was trying to promote. As George Orwell, it's author once said "He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present, controls the past." The worst thing for the Devil is for man to learn of the fall in Eden. How mankind was such a noble creature, endowed with so many gifts, and indeed walking with it's creator! Knowing mankind's desire for happiness, the devil knew if man knows of such events, he will seek to desire them. So history must be spun, revised as needed in order to complete his plan of rebellion against God. And countless souls are taken in by that revision, as the God of love turns into a God of repression. As the father of lies turns into a father of liberation, if he exists at all. That the past failures of mankind were not because they were operating from a faulty principle, but he just wasn't implementing it right. The need was for something "new." The writer of Ecclesiastes commented on this absurdity with the following, which I shall quote at length because the importance of this passage cannot be stressed enough.

The words of Ecclesiastes, the son of David, king of Jerusalem. Vanity of vanities, said Ecclesiastes vanity of vanities, and all is vanity. What hath a man more of all his labour, that he taketh under the sun? One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth standeth for ever. The sun riseth, and goeth down, and returneth to his place: and there rising again,

Maketh his round by the south, and turneth again to the north: the spirit goeth forward surveying all places round about, and returneth to his circuits. All the rivers run into the sea, yet the sea doth not overflow: unto the place from whence the rivers come, they return, to flow again. All things are hard: man cannot explain them by word. The eye is not filled with seeing, neither is the ear filled with hearing. What is it that hath been? the same thing that shall be. What is it that hath been done? the same that shall be done. Nothing under the sun is new, neither is any man able to say: Behold this is new: for it hath already gone before in the ages that were before us.

There is no remembrance of former things: nor indeed of those things which hereafter are to come, shall there be any remembrance with them that shall be in the latter end.

From this passage of Scripture we get the phrase "there is nothing new under the sun." Despite the fact we think we may do something "new", in all truthfulness, we are simply regurgitating old falsehoods. All those falsehoods stem from the original falsehood; that happiness is possible without God. Had man kept "remembrance of former things" he would not have committed those errors. Yet vanity is a powerful drug. The allure of fame, fortune, notoriety, and power are intoxicating, and blur people's visions and reality. Those are the problems of this world today. I also submit, this is one of the most serious problems facing the Church today.

While a blessing in some instances, we are born or lived through the generations following the Second Vatican Council. A monumental event, no matter what your opinion is on the Council. What cannot be denied is that many people in Catholic thought believed the time had come to change everything, to do as Luther did and throw the baby out with the bathwater. Vatican II to them would not be viewed as a continuation of the Churches tradition, but indeed a "ground zero" of Catholicism, from thereafter everything would start from. In the process we lost connection with our heritage, we lost "remembrance of former things." As a result, as the writer of the Scripture passage later commented "the number of fools is infinite." Even recent teachings that are good, they are no longer treated as part of a venerable patrimony, but something to be considered apart from the past. One talks much of John Paul II's theology of the body, but in discussing it, very rarely are things such as Leo XIII's Arcanum and Pius XI's Casti Conubii mentioned. Landmark works such as these compiled, and indeed serve as the foundation of what the Church teaches on marriage. No understanding of the Catholic view of marriage could be complete without such works. Much attention is paid to "social justice", but never to the man who coined the term, Pius XI. We always look for "fresh insight", while neglecting the insight of many Church Fathers. Indeed, a thorough study of them will give you the "fresh insight" you look for.

Such a study of things before us reveals God's plan to us. This is not to say God is revealing new things, but rather making known the things He has already revealed. He leads learned men to give such insight when the Church is ripe for more understanding. Yet for the Catholic, it should never be "what new does he teach" but rather "to those things that appear new, where are it's roots?"

God Bless,
Kevin M. Tierney