Every year, shortly before Easter, all the priests of a diocese gather together with their bishop for a special mass for the blessing of the oils that will be used for baptisms during the Easter vigil and in all the sacramental rites in the year to follow. It is called the Chrism mass, and all of us are supposed to be there, as a sign of our unity.
Our bishop took the opportunity to preach about the importance of being close to people, being with them in the most immediate sense, rather than remaining at a safe distance. The symbolism of anointing is the healing touch, and its closeness is further emphasized by the use of oil. However, the bishop did not want us to be think only of those who we see every Sunday, the ones who are the easiest for us to reach. He spoke of the importance of reaching out to those who do not like us and have left the Church. He spoke of reaching out to those who never had a chance to hear from us and do not even know what our faith is about.
Well, I thought, this is certainly what I want to do. If the bishop wants priests to spend time with people who do not come to Church, then I might be in just the right place. For a few months now, I have been going to Vancouver Island University to explore the possibility of reaching out to students and staff there, and I am starting to get to know the place. The medieval philosophy that I am taking allows me to watch how the students deal with a religious worldview.
For a medieval philosopher in the Christian world, faith in God was entirely natural and uncontroversial. It would have been as natural and as uncontroversial as today’s trust science and progress. For a medieval philosopher, establishing the rationality of faith in God and God’s revelation in Jesus Christ was the starting point of reasoning, the point where reason’s power was affirmed so that it could then be explored on its own terms, as philosophy that is separate from theology. Faith and reason emerged together out of the human desire to be close to God and understand divine revelation, wherever it was found.
I wish that contemporary thinkers were just as careful in establishing the rationality of their faith in science, as it would quickly show them both its power and its limits of its reach. It would protect them from the error of thinking that reason is only about what is supported by empirical evidence, whereas faith is entirely private and beyond the possibility of criticism and rational support. Such a separation of faith and reason makes live difficult, though. Most of the things that make life interesting and meaningful are both interior, inseparable from where we find out faith, and also exterior, and shared with others, and well within the realm of decisions that need to be supported by empirical evidence.
Finding Divine Revelation
A stark separation of faith and reason leaves us with uncomfortable choices: accept the hegemony of empirical sciences and its practitioners in all areas of our life and subordinating our judgment to them, or go it alone, against everyone, with our own convictions as the only guide. Neither choice is a good starting point for letting us live a happy life, and either choice is likely to getting you hurt. One sees much of such hurt in our world today. And this is the hurt that we must seek to heal, and we cannot do so from a distance. Through the example of our own faith, we can lead people to recognize that knowledge about God was revealed to us, in Jesus Christ, and that this is how one can make sense of life, both by faith and by reason.
My plan is to keep going to places where I am not expected, outside of the Churches where I can only find those who already know me. Maybe it will help to heal some of the wounds that our modern culture is causing in the lives of many people.