Fr. Friel to offer Sunday Missa Cantata at Silver Spring

A Missa Cantata with schola will be offered this Sunday, February 26, at the Traditional Latin Mass Congregation of Silver Spring, Maryland. Reverend Father David Friel of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia will be the celebrant of the Mass of Quinquagesima Sunday. This Mass has been added to our seven-day schedule.

Holy Mass will begin at 8:00 am. Confessions will be heard from 7:30 to 7:55 am. A second collection will be taken up for the Church in the Developing World.

Silver Spring TLM Congregation meets at the Historic Church of St. John the Evangelist, 9700 Rosensteel Avenue, Forest Glen. Ample free parking is available.

Reason does not judge faith, but rather provides understanding

From Pope St. John Paul II’s encyclical Fides et Ratio (1984):

In Scholastic theology, the role of philosophically trained reason becomes even more conspicuous under the impulse of Saint Anselm’s interpretation of the intellectus fidei. For the saintly Archbishop of Canterbury the priority of faith is not in competition with the search which is proper to reason. Reason in fact is not asked to pass judgement on the contents of faith, something of which it would be incapable, since this is not its function. Its function is rather to find meaning, to discover explanations which might allow everyone to come to a certain understanding of the contents of faith. Saint Anselm underscores the fact that the intellect must seek that which it loves: the more it loves, the more it desires to know. Whoever lives for the truth is reaching for a form of knowledge which is fired more and more with love for what it knows, while having to admit that it has not yet attained what it desires: “To see you was I conceived; and I have yet to conceive that for which I was conceived (Ad te videndum factus sum; et nondum feci propter quod factus sum)”.42 The desire for truth, therefore, spurs reason always to go further; indeed, it is as if reason were overwhelmed to see that it can always go beyond what it has already achieved. It is at this point, though, that reason can learn where its path will lead in the end: “I think that whoever investigates something incomprehensible should be satisfied if, by way of reasoning, he reaches a quite certain perception of its reality, even if his intellect cannot penetrate its mode of being . . . But is there anything so incomprehensible and ineffable as that which is above all things? Therefore, if that which until now has been a matter of debate concerning the highest essence has been established on the basis of due reasoning, then the foundation of one’s certainty is not shaken in the least if the intellect cannot penetrate it in a way that allows clear formulation. If prior thought has concluded rationally that one cannot comprehend (rationabiliter comprehendit incomprehensibile esse) how supernal wisdom knows its own accomplishments . . . , who then will explain how this same wisdom, of which the human being can know nothing or next to nothing, is to be known and expressed?”.43

The fundamental harmony between the knowledge of faith and the knowledge of philosophy is once again confirmed. Faith asks that its object be understood with the help of reason; and at the summit of its searching reason acknowledges that it cannot do without what faith presents.

42 Saint Anselm, Proslogion, 1: Patrologiæ Cursus completus, Series Latina [PL] 158, 226.
43 Idem, Monologion, 64: PL 158, 210.

Fides et Ratio 42

The Incarnation enlivens philosophy with the treasure of revealed Truth

From Pope St. John Paul II’s encyclical Fides et Ratio (1984):

The ways in which the Fathers of East and West engaged the philosophical schools were, therefore, quite different. This does not mean that they identified the content of their message with the systems to which they referred. Consider Tertullian’s question: “What does Athens have in common with Jerusalem? The Academy with the Church?”.40 This clearly indicates the critical consciousness with which Christian thinkers from the first confronted the problem of the relationship between faith and philosophy, viewing it comprehensively with both its positive aspects and its limitations. They were not naive thinkers. Precisely because they were intense in living faith’s content they were able to reach the deepest forms of speculation. It is therefore minimalizing and mistaken to restrict their work simply to the transposition of the truths of faith into philosophical categories. They did much more. In fact they succeeded in disclosing completely all that remained implicit and preliminary in the thinking of the great philosophers of antiquity.41 As I have noted, theirs was the task of showing how reason, freed from external constraints, could find its way out of the blind alley of myth and open itself to the transcendent in a more appropriate way. Purified and rightly tuned, therefore, reason could rise to the higher planes of thought, providing a solid foundation for the perception of being, of the transcendent and of the absolute.

It is here that we see the originality of what the Fathers accomplished. They fully welcomed reason which was open to the absolute, and they infused it with the richness drawn from Revelation. This was more than a meeting of cultures, with one culture perhaps succumbing to the fascination of the other. It happened rather in the depths of human souls, and it was a meeting of creature and Creator. Surpassing the goal towards which it unwittingly tended by dint of its nature, reason attained the supreme good and ultimate truth in the person of the Word made flesh. Faced with the various philosophies, the Fathers were not afraid to acknowledge those elements in them that were consonant with Revelation and those that were not. Recognition of the points of convergence did not blind them to the points of divergence.

40 De Præscriptione Hæreticorum, VII, 9: Sources Chrétiennes 46, 98: “Quid ergo Athenis et Hierosolymis? Quid academiæ et ecclesiæ?”.
41 Cf. Congregation for Catholic Education, Instruction on the Study of the Fathers of the Church in Priestly Formation (10 November 1989), 25: Acta Apostolicæ Sedis 82 (1990), 617-618.

Fides et Ratio 41

The Church Fathers employed and enriched philosophy in expressing the truths of Faith

From Pope St. John Paul II’s encyclical Fides et Ratio (1984):

It is clear from history, then, that Christian thinkers were critical in adopting philosophical thought. Among the early examples of this, Origen is certainly outstanding. In countering the attacks launched by the philosopher Celsus, Origen adopts Platonic philosophy to shape his argument and mount his reply. Assuming many elements of Platonic thought, he begins to construct an early form of Christian theology. The name “theology” itself, together with the idea of theology as rational discourse about God, had to this point been tied to its Greek origins. In Aristotelian philosophy, for example, the name signified the noblest part and the true summit of philosophical discourse. But in the light of Christian Revelation what had signified a generic doctrine about the gods assumed a wholly new meaning, signifying now the reflection undertaken by the believer in order to express the true doctrine about God. As it developed, this new Christian thought made use of philosophy, but at the same time tended to distinguish itself clearly from philosophy. History shows how Platonic thought, once adopted by theology, underwent profound changes, especially with regard to concepts such as the immortality of the soul, the divinization of man and the origin of evil.

In this work of christianizing Platonic and Neo-Platonic thought, the Cappadocian Fathers, Dionysius called the Areopagite and especially Saint Augustine were important. The great Doctor of the West had come into contact with different philosophical schools, but all of them left him disappointed. It was when he encountered the truth of Christian faith that he found strength to undergo the radical conversion to which the philosophers he had known had been powerless to lead him. He himself reveals his motive: “From this time on, I gave my preference to the Catholic faith. I thought it more modest and not in the least misleading to be told by the Church to believe what could not be demonstrated—whether that was because a demonstration existed but could not be understood by all or whether the matter was not one open to rational proof—rather than from the Manichees to have a rash promise of knowledge with mockery of mere belief, and then afterwards to be ordered to believe many fabulous and absurd myths impossible to prove true”.38 Though he accorded the Platonists a place of privilege, Augustine rebuked them because, knowing the goal to seek, they had ignored the path which leads to it: the Word made flesh.39 The Bishop of Hippo succeeded in producing the first great synthesis of philosophy and theology, embracing currents of thought both Greek and Latin. In him too the great unity of knowledge, grounded in the thought of the Bible, was both confirmed and sustained by a depth of speculative thinking. The synthesis devised by Saint Augustine remained for centuries the most exalted form of philosophical and theological speculation known to the West. Reinforced by his personal story and sustained by a wonderful holiness of life, he could also introduce into his works a range of material which, drawing on experience, was a prelude to future developments in different currents of philosophy.

38 Saint Augustine, Confessions, VI, 5, 7: Corpus Christianorum, Latin series [CCL] 27, 77-78.
39 Cf. ibid., VII, 9, 13-14: CCL 27, 101-102.

Fides et Ratio 39-40

Christianity uses philosophy to defend the Faith, not to supplant it

From Pope St. John Paul II’s encyclical Fides et Ratio (1984):

Christianity’s engagement with philosophy was therefore neither straight-forward nor immediate. The practice of philosophy and attendance at philosophical schools seemed to the first Christians more of a disturbance than an opportunity. For them, the first and most urgent task was the proclamation of the Risen Christ by way of a personal encounter which would bring the listener to conversion of heart and the request for Baptism. But that does not mean that they ignored the task of deepening the understanding of faith and its motivations. Quite the contrary. That is why the criticism of Celsus—that Christians were “illiterate and uncouth”31—is unfounded and untrue. Their initial disinterest is to be explained on other grounds. The encounter with the Gospel offered such a satisfying answer to the hitherto unresolved question of life’s meaning that delving into the philosophers seemed to them something remote and in some ways outmoded.

That seems still more evident today, if we think of Christianity’s contribution to the affirmation of the right of everyone to have access to the truth. In dismantling barriers of race, social status and gender, Christianity proclaimed from the first the equality of all men and women before God. One prime implication of this touched the theme of truth. The elitism which had characterized the ancients’ search for truth was clearly abandoned. Since access to the truth enables access to God, it must be denied to none. There are many paths which lead to truth, but since Christian truth has a salvific value, any one of these paths may be taken, as long as it leads to the final goal, that is to the Revelation of Jesus Christ.

A pioneer of positive engagement with philosophical thinking—albeit with cautious discernment—was Saint Justin. Although he continued to hold Greek philosophy in high esteem after his conversion, Justin claimed with power and clarity that he had found in Christianity “the only sure and profitable philosophy”.32 Similarly, Clement of Alexandria called the Gospel “the true philosophy”,33 and he understood philosophy, like the Mosaic Law, as instruction which prepared for Christian faith34 and paved the way for the Gospel.35 Since “philosophy yearns for the wisdom which consists in rightness of soul and speech and in purity of life, it is well disposed towards wisdom and does all it can to acquire it. We call philosophers those who love the wisdom that is creator and mistress of all things, that is knowledge of the Son of God”.36 For Clement, Greek philosophy is not meant in the first place to bolster and complete Christian truth. Its task is rather the defence of the faith: “The teaching of the Saviour is perfect in itself and has no need of support, because it is the strength and the wisdom of God. Greek philosophy, with its contribution, does not strengthen truth; but, in rendering the attack of sophistry impotent and in disarming those who betray truth and wage war upon it, Greek philosophy is rightly called the hedge and the protective wall around the vineyard”.37

31 Origen, Contra Celsum, 3, 55: Sources Chrétiennes (Paris, 1946ff) [SC]: 136, 130.
32 Dialogue with Trypho, 8, 1: Patrologiæ Cursus completus, Series Græca [PG] 6, 492.
33 Stromata I, 18, 90, 1: SC 30, 115.
34 Cf. ibid., I, 16, 80, 5: SC 30, 108.
35 Cf. ibid., I, 5, 28, 1: SC 30, 65.
36 Ibid., VI, 7, 55, 1-2: PG 9, 277.
37 Ibid., I, 20, 100, 1: SC 30, 124.

Fides et Ratio 38

Early Christianity interacted carefully with the philosophies of its day

From Pope St. John Paul II’s encyclical Fides et Ratio (1984):

The Acts of the Apostles provides evidence that Christian proclamation was engaged from the very first with the philosophical currents of the time. In Athens, we read, Saint Paul entered into discussion with “certain Epicurean and Stoic philosophers” (17:18); and exegetical analysis of his speech at the Areopagus has revealed frequent allusions to popular beliefs deriving for the most part from Stoicism. This is by no means accidental. If pagans were to understand them, the first Christians could not refer only to “Moses and the prophets” when they spoke. They had to point as well to natural knowledge of God and to the voice of conscience in every human being (cf. Rom 1:19-21; 2:14-15; Acts 14:16-17). Since in pagan religion this natural knowledge had lapsed into idolatry (cf. Rom 1:21-32), the Apostle judged it wiser in his speech to make the link with the thinking of the philosophers, who had always set in opposition to the myths and mystery cults notions more respectful of divine transcendence.

One of the major concerns of classical philosophy was to purify human notions of God of mythological elements. We know that Greek religion, like most cosmic religions, was polytheistic, even to the point of divinizing natural things and phenomena. Human attempts to understand the origin of the gods and hence the origin of the universe find their earliest expression in poetry; and the theogonies remain the first evidence of this human search. But it was the task of the fathers of philosophy to bring to light the link between reason and religion. As they broadened their view to include universal principles, they no longer rested content with the ancient myths, but wanted to provide a rational foundation for their belief in the divinity. This opened a path which took its rise from ancient traditions but allowed a development satisfying the demands of universal reason. This development sought to acquire a critical awareness of what they believed in, and the concept of divinity was the prime beneficiary of this. Superstitions were recognized for what they were and religion was, at least in part, purified by rational analysis. It was on this basis that the Fathers of the Church entered into fruitful dialogue with ancient philosophy, which offered new ways of proclaiming and understanding the God of Jesus Christ.

In tracing Christianity’s adoption of philosophy, one should not forget how cautiously Christians regarded other elements of the cultural world of paganism, one example of which is gnosticism. It was easy to confuse philosophy—understood as practical wisdom and an education for life—with a higher and esoteric kind of knowledge, reserved to those few who were perfect. It is surely this kind of esoteric speculation which Saint Paul has in mind when he puts the Colossians on their guard: “See to it that no-one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe and not according to Christ” (2:8). The Apostle’s words seem all too pertinent now if we apply them to the various kinds of esoteric superstition widespread today, even among some believers who lack a proper critical sense. Following Saint Paul, other writers of the early centuries, especially Saint Irenaeus and Tertullian, sound the alarm when confronted with a cultural perspective which sought to subordinate the truth of Revelation to the interpretation of the philosophers.

Fides et Ratio 36-37

Revelation reconciles our ideas about the God of faith and the God of history

From Pope St. John Paul II’s encyclical Fides et Ratio (1984):

This truth, which God reveals to us in Jesus Christ, is not opposed to the truths which philosophy perceives. On the contrary, the two modes of knowledge lead to truth in all its fullness. The unity of truth is a fundamental premise of human reasoning, as the principle of non-contradiction makes clear. Revelation renders this unity certain, showing that the God of creation is also the God of salvation history. It is the one and the same God who establishes and guarantees the intelligibility and reasonableness of the natural order of things upon which scientists confidently depend,29 and who reveals himself as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. This unity of truth, natural and revealed, is embodied in a living and personal way in Christ, as the Apostle reminds us: “Truth is in Jesus” (cf. Eph 4:21; Col 1:15-20). He is the eternal Word in whom all things were created, and he is the incarnate Word who in his entire person30 reveals the Father (cf. Jn 1:14, 18). What human reason seeks “without knowing it” (cf. Acts 17:23) can be found only through Christ: what is revealed in him is “the full truth” (cf. Jn 1:14-16) of everything which was created in him and through him and which therefore in him finds its fulfilment (cf. Col 1:17).

On the basis of these broad considerations, we must now explore more directly the relationship between revealed truth and philosophy. This relationship imposes a twofold consideration, since the truth conferred by Revelation is a truth to be understood in the light of reason. It is this duality alone which allows us to specify correctly the relationship between revealed truth and philosophical learning. First, then, let us consider the links between faith and philosophy in the course of history. From this, certain principles will emerge as useful reference-points in the attempt to establish the correct link between the two orders of knowledge.

29 “[Galileo] declared explicitly that the two truths, of faith and of science, can never contradict each other, ‘Sacred Scripture and the natural world proceeding equally from the divine Word, the first as dictated by the Holy Spirit, the second as a very faithful executor of the commands of God’, as he wrote in his letter to Father Benedetto Castelli on 21 December 1613. The Second Vatican Council says the same thing, even adopting similar language in its teaching: ‘Methodical research, in all realms of knowledge, if it respects . . . moral norms, will never be genuinely opposed to faith: the reality of the world and of faith have their origin in the same God’ (Gaudium et Spes, 36). Galileo sensed in his scientific research the presence of the Creator who, stirring in the depths of his spirit, stimulated him, anticipating and assisting his intuitions”: John Paul II, Address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences (10 November 1979): Insegnamenti, II, 2 (1979), 1111-1112.
30 Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, Dei Verbum, 4.

Fides et Ratio 34-35

Juventutem DC schedules Mass, recollection Friday at Lourdes Chapel

A Day of Recollection sponsored by Juventutem DC will be held this Friday afternoon, February 24, at 4:00 pm in Lourdes Chapel at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, 400 Michigan Avenue NE, Washington.
Reverend Father Carlos Hamel of the Fraternity of Saint Joseph the Guardian will celebrate a Missa Cantata for the Feast of St. Matthias, Apostle and Martyr, and afterward will speak about the murder of Fr. Jacques Hamel in odium fidei last year in France as well as the Catholics who are suffering martyrdom in the Middle East. The Mass and recollection are free of charge and open to the public.

Lourdes Chapel is located on the lower level of the Basilica adjacent to the Crypt Church. The Basilica is about a 10-minute walk from the Brookland-CUA station on Metrorail’s Red Line. Metered parking is available on the Basilica grounds; ample free parking is available in a surface lot across Harewood Road.

Christianity meets us in our relentless quest for Truth

From Pope St. John Paul II’s encyclical Fides et Ratio (1984):

Step by step, then, we are assembling the terms of the question. It is the nature of the human being to seek the truth. This search looks not only to the attainment of truths which are partial, empirical or scientific; nor is it only in individual acts of decision-making that people seek the true good. Their search looks towards an ulterior truth which would explain the meaning of life. And it is therefore a search which can reach its end only in reaching the absolute.28 Thanks to the inherent capacities of thought, man is able to encounter and recognize a truth of this kind. Such a truth—vital and necessary as it is for life—is attained not only by way of reason but also through trusting acquiescence to other persons who can guarantee the authenticity and certainty of the truth itself. There is no doubt that the capacity to entrust oneself and one’s life to another person and the decision to do so are among the most significant and expressive human acts.

It must not be forgotten that reason too needs to be sustained in all its searching by trusting dialogue and sincere friendship. A climate of suspicion and distrust, which can beset speculative research, ignores the teaching of the ancient philosophers who proposed friendship as one of the most appropriate contexts for sound philosophical enquiry.

From all that I have said to this point it emerges that men and women are on a journey of discovery which is humanly unstoppable—a search for the truth and a search for a person to whom they might entrust themselves. Christian faith comes to meet them, offering the concrete possibility of reaching the goal which they seek. Moving beyond the stage of simple believing, Christian faith immerses human beings in the order of grace, which enables them to share in the mystery of Christ, which in turn offers them a true and coherent knowledge of the Triune God. In Jesus Christ, who is the Truth, faith recognizes the ultimate appeal to humanity, an appeal made in order that what we experience as desire and nostalgia may come to its fulfilment.

28 This is a theme which I have long pursued and which I have addressed on a number of occasions. “’What is man and of what use is he? What is good in him and what is evil?’ (Sir 18:8) . . . These are questions in every human heart, as the poetic genius of every time and every people has shown, posing again and again—almost as the prophetic voice of humanity—the serious question which makes human beings truly what they are. They are questions which express the urgency of finding a reason for existence, in every moment, at life’s most important and decisive times as well as more ordinary times. These questions show the deep reasonableness of human existence, since they summon human intelligence and will to search freely for a solution which can reveal the full meaning of life. These enquiries, therefore, are the highest expression of human nature; which is why the answer to them is the gauge of the depth of his engagement with his own existence. In particular, when the why of things is explored in full harmony with the search for the ultimate answer, then human reason reaches its zenith and opens to the religious impulse. The religious impulse is the highest expression of the human person, because it is the highpoint of his rational nature. It springs from the profound human aspiration for the truth and it is the basis of the human being’s free and personal search for the divine”: General Audience (19 October 1983), 1-2: Insegnamenti VI, 2 (1983), 814-815.

Fides et Ratio 33

Fr. Friel to offer Sunday TLM at Silver Spring

A Low Mass will be offered this Sunday, February 19, at the Traditional Latin Mass Congregation of Silver Spring, Maryland. Reverend Father David Friel of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia will be the celebrant of the Mass of Sexagesima Sunday. This Mass has been added to our seven-day schedule.

Holy Mass will begin at 8:00 am. Confessions will be heard from 7:30 to 7:55 am. The second collection will be a make-up for those unable to contribute to the Cardinal’s Appeal last week. Checks for the second collection should be made payable to Cardinal’s Appeal. The parish identification for the envelopes is Our Lady Queen of Poland—TLM.

Silver Spring TLM Congregation meets at the Historic Church of St. John the Evangelist, 9700 Rosensteel Avenue, Forest Glen. Ample free parking is available.