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Friday, April 01, 2011

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Charles E Flynn

1. Man: A Mystery


The Church's confession of faith begins with the two small words "I believe". Just two small words, and yet they are exceedingly rich in content. The two words "I believe" are decisive for our whole life. For who am I? From what, why, and for what purpose am I? Can I really believe? That is, can I trust? What should I believe, and whom may I believe and trust? Perhaps I should like to believe, but is there not better reason to be distrustful? Does not anxiety overcome us often enough? Do we not have occasion for skeptical reserve? Can I commit myself in faith to a definite religion or confession? Can I say the first words of the Church's great confession of faith, the Niceo-Constantinopolitan Creed–the words "We believe"?

Our lives flow along, day by day, week by week. Normally, everything has its place and its order, until one day the question arises: What really is the purpose of it all? Adam, where are you?

Even a small child awakening to consciousness will ask adults question after question. What is that? Why is that so? What is that for? Even the parents often do not have a good answer and feel that many things that earlier seemed self-evident to them are not really so. In adolescence, people begin to discover their own identities. From then on, they want to shape their lives for themselves. They protest and question the adult world. In the criticisms of their maturing children, many parents feel themselves called into question. Every generation, and even more so every historical epoch, has its own manner of seeing things and develops its own way of life. We are experiencing this upheaval today in an especially clear way. What remains? What can we pass on? By what can we orient ourselves? Where can we find a foothold, some ultimate meaning for our lives?

The question about the meaning of life is posed differently for each of us. It can arise as the question about happiness. We experience happiness in so many different ways: when our work turns out well, when we are successful; we experience it in being with a person we love, in a good deed and in service of others, in sport and play, in art and science. We know that we cannot make happiness and that it can fade away very quickly. Bitter disappointments can set in. What then? What meaning does life have then? What is true human happiness anyway? The question about the meaning of existence is posed even more intensely in the experience of suffering, whether my own suffering or that of another–whether incurable disease, sorrow, loneliness, or need. What meaning is there in the suffering of so many innocent people? Why is there so much hunger, misery, and injustice in the world? Why so much hatred, envy, deceit, and violence? Finally, there is the experience of death, when a friend, an acquaintance, or a relative is suddenly no longer among us or when we are confronted with the thought of our own death. What comes after death? Where have I come from? Where am I going? What will remain of what I have struggled for?

Our answers to these questions are never fully satisfactory. Man ultimately remains a question and a deep mystery to himself. That is his greatness and his burden. His greatness, because the question about himself distinguishes man both from inanimate objects, which are simply present at hand, and from the animals, which through their instincts are closely adapted to their environment. Questioning constitutes human dignity: we are conscious of ourselves and know that we are free to give a direction to our lives. But this greatness is also the burden of being human. For us, life is both a gift and a task; we ourselves must shape it and take it in hand. The meaning of being human is not immediately given with our being. Being human is a journey, then, into the wide open and the unforeseeable.

We can repress the question about meaning, run away from it, or dismiss it as unanswerable. There are many ways to do this: a flight into work, activity, consumption, sex, pleasure, alcohol, or drugs. In fleeing, we deceive only ourselves; we run away from ourselves. The meaning of being human is a question which belongs to our dignity precisely as humans. If we no longer posed the question about ourselves, we would regress to the level of clever animals. So the question is posed unavoidably for us: What is it to be human? Where have we come from? Where are we going? This is the old catechism question, old and yet always new: For what purpose are we on earth?

(From The Church's Confession of Faith: A Catholic Catechism for Adults, published by the German Bishops' Conference, main text by Professor Walter Cardinal Kasper, translated for Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1987 by Stephen Wentworth Arndt, pages 15–16.)

Lynne Newington

Anne, he is/was accountable to his superiors, past and present.
He is not the only religious order clergyman to commit heinous acts and not admit it,it's worldwide and the cult of the priesthood.
Absolution should NEVER be given through Christ's "mouthpiece" until as the Gospels tell us, we have and must.... Even in the Old Testament, injustice's were taken to the City Gates to the "Elder's" of the Church.
Accountability and restitution always had to be made as part of the "forgiveness" process and I can't understand why this is not implemented.
Mental reservation has no place when a yes or no is wholesome to the soul and spirit of the guilty one, not to mention the healing of the one who has been betrayed.

Achilles

Charles E. Flynn, thanks for posting that, you are a gentle soul! I have seen you post many things and you always exude kindness and knowing. Pax Christi tecum!

Charles E Flynn

Achilles,

Thanks for your kind comments.

A few people have suggested to me that the introduction to the catechism quoted above should have a Kleenex warning, but I think that depends on a person's situation when reading it. I should have had the Kleenex warning myself in 1988, when read the book after seeing it advertised by Ignatius Press in America magazine. A friend of mine who teaches CCD classes thought highly of it.

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