Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A Quick Note...

... to direct your attention to two wonderful catechetical utterances by the Holy Father during these past few weeks. The first, his Angelus message from the Second Sunday of Lent, coincides remarkably with the little reflection I offered here on that same occasion. In short, the Holy Father recognizes a focus of eschatology in the significance of that event:
[T]he Transfiguration reminds us that the joys sown by God in our life are not the destination, but they are lights that he gives us on the earthly pilgrimage...
Recently, the Holy Father has been offering a series of catecheses on the figure of Saint Bonaventure. The third one, published today, is particularly remarkable. Since it is short, I reproduce it here in full:
In our catechesis on the Christian culture of the Middle Ages, we turn once more to Saint Bonaventure. Bonaventure was a contemporary of Saint Thomas Aquinas, and the two great theologians reveal the rich diversity of the theology of the thirteenth century. Whereas Thomas saw theology as primarily a theoretical science, concerned with knowing God, Bonaventure saw it as practical, concerned with that “wisdom” which enables us to love God and conform our wills to his. Thomas’s emphasis on truth complements Bonaventure’s emphasis on love within the unity of a great common vision. As a Franciscan, Bonaventure reflects the primacy of love embodied in the life of Saint Francis. He was also deeply influenced by the theology of Pseudo-Dionysius, with its emphasis on the heavenly hierarchies which serve as steps leading the creature to communion with the Triune God. Pseudo-Dionysius also inspired his reflections on the darkness of the Cross, where, in the ascent of the mind to God, reason can go no further and love enters the divine mystery. As a great master of prayer, Bonaventure invites us to let our minds and hearts rise from the contemplation of creation to rest in God’s eternal love.
The Holy Father's Lenten "project", if you will, has a coherent strain of attention to the final end of man and the "practicality" of the Gospel and love of God.

I think this is worthy to reflect upon especially as it bears significance for the understanding and implementation of the Social Doctrine of the Church. It is precisely the dimension of Divine charity which is the most practical thing in terms of transforming our own lives to configuration to Christ, and, by extension, transforming the world into the Kingdom of the Social Reign of Christ. Knowledge, the Thomistic focus, is complementary to this: for he who knows better loves better.

Economics and politics can often become very rationalistic fields, even amongst confessing people. Those who would try to apply the Doctrine of the Church, or the tenets of Distributism (one school of interpretation of said doctrine) would do well to meditate on the practicality of charity. I personally think that understanding Benedict's ideological formation, especially the influence of Bonaventure and also of personalist philosophy, helps to elucidate his teaching in his most recent encyclical. The obsession with the "rationalization" of the economy must be placed squarely within a human context where love is seen to be the highest and ultimate end of man: the logic of love, more than cold numbers and mechanisms of scale, is the decisive determining factor for how we live our lives as individuals in communion.
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