Saturday, January 10, 2009

A Point of Ecumenism, Sacramental Theology, Theological Anthropology, etc., all in 5 Paragraphs (or thereabouts)

Fr. Zuhlsdorf's What Does the Prayer Really Say? blog had the following post up yesterday (I saw it right before retiring last night), which has occasioned a moment of specific clarity in my thinking on a question that has been with me for as long as I can remember.

Before beginning, though, an appeal: "Fr. Z" as he is often styled, is way out in front of the 2008 Weblog Awards religious blog category, thanks in part to the votes I have cast for him in the "best religious blog" category; other Catholic blogs are in the 2nd and third positions. It is important that Catholics continue to dominate the religious blogosphere, so keep voting - once per 24h cycle.

Now, here goes...

Christians receive the faith in baptism. Those validly baptized in Churches and ecclesial communities not fully united to Rome also receive the faith, whole and entire, when they receive the sacrament of Baptism.

Christians therefore have an innate desire for the font of the fullness of the truth into which they have been reborn. They can be confused, deluded, taught to deny that the font really is the font. They cannot, however, as Christians, cease to desire it.

This, it seems to me, is the truth of faith behind, or beneath, the late Fr. Neuhaus' affirmation:

I became a Catholic in order to be more fully what I was and who I was as a Lutheran.
I understand that this is not the formulation that Fr. Zuhlsdorf might have chosen for his 25-word answer to the question, "Why did you become Catholic?" It does, however, explain the structure of the experience that occasioned the expression.

It also has the advantage of underpinning the other lines of Fr. Neuhaus' essay that Fr. Zuhlsdorf quotes, saying he can resonate with them:
Mine was a decision mandated by conscience. I have never found it in his writings, but a St. Louis professor who had been his student told me that the great confessional Lutheran theologian Peter Brunner regularly said that a Lutheran who does not daily ask himself why he is not a Roman Catholic cannot know why he is a Lutheran.
This is, indeed an important question. It strikes me that it is an especially advanced formulation of a basic question, indeed, the basic question, that must be at the center of our very being: "Lord, what do You want of me? Where would You have me go?" No one, Catholic or non-Catholic, ought to cease asking this question in every second of every day. no one who asks it assiduously, and listens to the answer, will be forever lost, or so we pray: Utinam hodie vocem eius audiatis / non obdurare corda vestra...

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