« PrécédentContinuer »
these aspects with the content, religious and secular, of consciousness. We analyse and compare these abstract views and refer our results to the original facts of faith or to others. Our abstractions may conflict with our secular knowledge, we must correct one or the other, or seek a higher unifying synthesis. If we fail we have a centre of instability formed. A physical theory may raise doubts as to the nature of the Eucharist, a system of metaphysics may destroy the whole creed. Thus at every period of abstraction, at every stage of psychic depth we have possibilities of a failure of some linkage, of the creation of some centre of instability
Philosophical analysis may readily render unacceptable what was acceptable in the concrete form by releasing some aspect in consciousness incompatible with existing knowledge. The study of theology has its dangers as well as its consolations. How many students of theology have had their simple faith wrecked by a view of certain aspects of dogma for which they were not yet intellectually equipped ? A simple error in values, a failure to grasp the answer to a difficulty, and you have both centre of instability and nascent idea. The objection comes as a surprise and as an irritant, and may well take hold before the victim has received sufficient instruction to cope with it effectively. And what may happen in authorized study, may more readily come to pass in the course of desultory reading. The medical or arts student is still less equipped to deal with an objection a shade beyond his fighting weight, and the man in the street is quite helpless.
What tends to destroy faith in the Catholic forms an obstacle to its entrance into the non-Catholic consciousness. The unbeliever may be vehemently attracted by certain aspects of the faith, by its moral grandeur and beauty, by its influence on the lives of those who profess it, by its overflow in liturgy and art, by its consistency and uniformity. He may be even drawn by a sense of personal want, of incompleteness, of a desired ideal beyond his personal capacity, and he may feel that the Catholic Church can give him what he lacks, that ‘faith will make him whole. Yet he cannot equate the doctrines of the Church with his scientific prejudices; he has the will-to-believe, yet he cannot. Though faith is so morally desirable, yet its reception would lead to the collapse of his scientific cosmos. From his facts of experience he has abstracted
a system of determinism, physical and psychic, which leaves no room for the miraculous or supernatural. A miracle is an irritating phenomenon which he cannot explain. Could he witness one he would deny the evidence of his senses, rather than admit that his fixed idea was too absolute, his generalization too sweepingly dogmatic. We see this attitude of mind again and again at Lourdes. The philosophical system beats back the facts of experience from consciousness and forbids them to effect a lodgment. Some are in bad faith, ‘le miracle est le coup de glas des passions terrestres,' as Huysmans puts it ; others are simply fenced by the triple brass of determinism. Behind all their minds is the tacit rejection of the first article of the Nicene Creed. They substitute determinism for the idea of a Creator. He who would come to God must first believe that He is.'
The essential reasonableness of any act of Catholic faith rests on the fundamental acknowledgment of a Divine Teacher whose authentic message is duly conveyed and interpreted by His authorized agents duly commissioned and certified by Him. 'He that heareth you, heareth Me.' Without that basic primal assent no act of faith in the Catholic sense is possible. We may cling with the utmost obstinacy to any article of the Creed we will, it will be only a view at best, if we do not hold it on the authority of God Himself.
If we reject one jot or tittle of the Teacher's message, our belief in what is left becomes but a view, for we have implicitly rejected the Teacher Himself when we arrogate to ourselves the right to pick and choose among the things He teaches. It is all or nothing. If we challenge the agent, we challenge the Principal. He that despiseth you, despiseth Me.' One act of infidelity changes the whole orientation of the religious consciousness, faith becomes opinion.
But, given this basis, how can we account psychologically for the fragility of faith, for the difficulty of belief, for the facility with which it goes, the reluctance with which it comes? If there is the will, nay, the desire to believe, if habits of vice present no obstacles, if there is a moral docility, how can we, as students of psychology, account for the Non Serviam of the intellect in so many cases ? Assent on competent authority to what is beyond our
1 Cf. Les Foules de Lourdes of J. K. Huysmans.
mental grasp is so eminently reasonable, that the 'I can not believe of the man of good-will is an act of unreason. Yet there are many agnostics of blameless life and character, who are drawn to Catholicism in many ways, who realize in themselves a craving for what is beyond themselves, who feel that the Church holds the keys of eternal life, the reconciliation of the storm-tossed human consciousness with itself and its Centre, that peace which was promised on that first Christmas night to men of good-will, who see in the lives of the saints, perhaps in some friend, the pragmatic authentication of the Church's mission, integral Catholicism in human life with its dreadful moral beauty, its triumphant challenge to all that men esteem and covet in the things of time, who see the might of Faith in history creating those supermen and superwomen whom Catholics call saints, taming and civilizing the fiercest barbarians and hammering them into mighty nations, giving to art and letters a beauty undreamt of in Athens, and linking the whole human race in one vast family, who yet see and feel all this, but cannot believe. They will even admit that they ought to believe if they could. How comes this psychic inability ? Belief is reasonable and desirable, why is it withheld ? They will answer, “I have not faith.' There is some ingredient lacking, some force which can condense the nebula of opinion into the habitable world of faith. Their assent to the basic sine qua non of Catholic faith is a notional assent, genuine enough, but abstract, a philosophical attitude, a morally passive pose before the undeniable. It is not a real assent, actuating and energizing the whole consciousness, forming in the very centre of mental life that higher synthesis to which all seeming contradictions can be referred and in which they can be reconciled.
No mere reasoned assent can do this effectively, for no stream can rise above its source. The affirmations of reason cannot escape the challenge of reason. To get this basic assent we must pass above reason ; to make our rational assent universally operative it needs an adjutant psychic element, something not ours, but given to us. 'Quis ostendit nobis bona ? Signatum est super nos lumen vultus tui Domine' (Psalm iv. 6, 7).
We can thus see the necessity for the terms italicized in the following theological definition : ‘Fidei actus est assensus supernaturalis quo intellectus, sub imperio voluntatis et influxu gratiae, firmiter adhaeret veritatibus revelatis propter auctoritatem Dei revelantis.'1
Omit these terms and we have still an act of faith, but of natural human faith, la foi scientifique, as Père A. Gardeil terms it.. Between this natural faith and the faith specified in the definition there is a great theological gulf fixed. But is there a psychological difference, can we distinguish by the introspection of our consciousness during any act of faith between these two kinds of faith, can we detect the adjuvant psychic element or note its absence? The agnostic of good will is sure it is absent in his case, and the believer is confident of its presence. With both it is an inference, not a direct psychic per. ception. The one cannot elicit an assent, the other feels that his assent transcends his natural powers in its absolute sense of certitude and indefectibility. From the act or its absence they infer the presence or absence of the habit or proximate principle of action. A man knows he has faith when he believes. But can he tell, otherwise than by inference, that his act of faith is supernatural, sub influxu gratiae ? St. Thomas answers our question both as theologian and psychologist. Speaking of the conjectural knowledge of grace, he adds : Secundum quem modum potest intelligi quod habetur Apocal. 2: Vincenti dabo manna absconditum, quod nemo novit, nisi qui accipit; quia scilicet ille, qui accipit gratiam per quamdam experientiam dulcedinis novit, quam non experitur ille, qui non accipit. Ista tamen cognitio imperfecta est : unde Apostolus dicit 1, ad Cor. 4: Nihil mihi conscius sum, sed non in hoc justificatus sum : quia ut dicitur in Ps. 18 : Delicta quis intelligit ? ab occultis,' etc.
The inference we would desire to draw from this statement, which, of course, in the main refers to charity, not faith, is that the influx of grace may well cause such a psychic overflow, may have such a marked repercussion in our consciousness as to give a quasi-intuition of what is essentially beyond the range of our mental vision. In any intense act of supernatural faith we get something more than a mere mental assent to some truth, however firm,
1 Brevior Synopsis Theol. Dogm. auct. Ad. Tanquerey, 1913, p. 135. 2 R. P. A. Gardiel, La crédibilité et l'Apologétique. Paris : Lecoffre, 1912,
8 Summa Theologiae, D. Thomae, I, Q. 87 a. 2 ad primum et corpus articulio * Ibid. Ia, Ilac, Q. 112 a. 5 c.
we get a quasi-intuition of the truth itself. Our consciousness, as it were, stretches out beyond its borders into the super-conscious, and we get a real though dim and confused glimpse of the Beyond. Here is the borderland between the ordinary way in the spiritual life of Catholics and the paths of mystical experience. The more intense the act of faith the more experimentally evident becomes the psychic adjuvant and the more marked the distinction from any act of merely human confidence; the feebler it becomes the less is it differentiated, and perfunctory formalism is psychologically indistinguishable. No one can read the writings of St. John of the Cross, of St. Teresa, of Blessed Angela of Foligno or any other descriptive mystic without seeing that, for them, faith is something more than a mere intellectual assent to revealed truth, it has something of the nature of vision, in a glass darkly,' but vision all the same. It is the seed which fell upon the good soil, ripe for the harvest.
It is not easy to reduce the act of faith of the devout Irish Catholic in the Real Presence to the limits of a mere firm assent to a truth learned in the penny Catechism. It contains in it something of a dim vision of Transcendant Reality and rises, at times, to be a sixth and spiritual
The girl of whom we have spoken, rose early every morning to hear Mass and receive Holy Communion. On one occasion she rose and dressed at the usual hour, but, either because she did not feel well, or because she did not consider it prudent to leave the little patient alone, she did not go to the chapel, but remained in the kitchen of the cottage. When she returned to Nellie, she was astonished to hear her say: 'You did not get Holy God to-day ; I'll tell Mudder on you.' The girl thought that perhaps the child had heard her moving about in the kitchen. Accordingly, next time an idea occurred to her to test little Nellie. She went to the door of the cottage, opened the latch, and closed the door again, thus giving the impression, as she thought, that she had really gone to Mass. She then removed her boots, and during Mass time moved about as little as possible in the kitchen. She looked quite unconcerned when she returned to Nellie's room. The child, however, fixed her pensive eyes on the girl's countenance, and then the same reproving words were spoken sadly : 'You did not get Holy God to-day.' 'How do you know, lovey,' said the girl,' didn't you hear me close the door ? : No matter,' said the child, 'I know you didn't get Holy God.' 1
The Venerable Anne de Jesus, St. Teresa's companion and lieutenant, visiting one day a parish church, insisted
1 Little Nellie of Holy God: Story of the Life of a saintly Irish Child, by a Priest of the Diocese of Cork Cork : Guy & Co., 1913, p. 23.