05 September 2010


I was having a conversation yesterday with a most delightful group of young men and woman who are mainly engaged in the New Evangelization right here in Nashville. For those of you who hear only gloom and doom about the Church, please come and spend a few days in my world! Your hope will be renewed.

During this conversation, something came up about the senses. I pointed out that according to St. Thomas Aquinas the only sense to be trusted in matters of faith is hearing (see Adore Te). For example, when it comes to the Eucharist sight, taste, and feel deceive one whereas hearing can be trusted: "This is my Body."

One of the young men brought up the speculative point of losing one sense. I said that I was most afraid of losing my sight, and the reason I gave seemed to surprise them. I told them that I didn't know what I would do if I could not read. You see, I love to read.

I have recently been listening in my car to a recording of an excellent novel: All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren. I know, this really isn't reading; but being read to by my father is one of the reasons that I think I like to read so much. The two experiences are very close in my mind. It is one of the reasons that I think that I listen reasonably well. Anyhow, I have been struck by how well written this book is. Beautiful. I have been fascinated by the character of the narrator, Jack Burden so much so that I had to go get the book when the last disk proved unlistenable. I had to know what he had learned about himself. It turns out that he had learned a lot. I am interested by what I remember of this book from my reading of it while I was in high school. I was much more sympathetic to Jack then than now. Kind of like Hamlet. Self-absorption becomes boring at a certain point in life! It seems to me that Jack Burden learned to love.

Then this morning when I was lying awake but pretending that I would go back to sleep, I thought of another beautifully written book with an unattractively self-absorbed narrator, Charles Ryder in Evelyn Waugh's Brisdeshead Revisited. I was struck by the similarity of the two narrators and the two books. The books are very different stylistically and culturally, but each is grounded in a style and a culture. They were written close to the same time. Both Jack Burden and Charles Ryder learn to love after experiencing the wreckage of a life of self-absorption. I haven't gotten much further in my thought than that, but it has put some things together in my mind.

See what happens to you when you read?

Oh, and Vanderbilt lost a close one last night. I needed to distract myself.


Anonymous said...

This reminds me of another book
that you have recommended. In the
section concerning the parables from
Pope Benedict's Jesus of Nazareth,
he writes, ". . . the parables are
ultimately an expression of God's
hiddenness in this world and of the fact that knowledge of God always lays claim to the whole person--
that such knowledge is one with life itself, and that it cannot exist without "repentance." For in this world, marked by sin, the
gravitational pull of our lives is
weighted by the chains of the "I" and the "self." These chains must
be broken to free us for a new love
that places us in another gravi-
tational field where we can enter
new life. In this sense, knowledge
of God is possible only through the
gift of God's love becoming visible, but this gift too has to be accepted. In this sense, the parables manifest the essence of
Jesus' message. In this sense, the
mystery of the Cross is inscribed
right at the heart of the parables."
Maybe what makes the books
you've mentioned so compelling is
the action of grace in the souls
of these men, their eventual
acceptance of this gift, and the
transformation that occurs. That's what makes the Confessions of
St. Augustine and Teresa of Avila's Autobiography such enjoyable
reading even for those who aren't
particulartly religious. The journey is mighty interesting. We
just have to remember the

CrankyProfessor said...

Seeing, touching, tasting are in thee deceived: / How says trusty hearing? that shall be believed; /
What God's Son has told me, take for truth I do; / Truth Himself speaks truly or there's nothing true.

From Gerard Manley Hopkins' translation of the Adore te devote, which I memorized one year for Lent.

Still, I'd rather go deaf than blind.