Monday, April 4, 2011

When Faith is Reasonable

The day I told someone very dear to me that I had enrolled in RCIA and was fixing to become a Catholic, I fired a preemptive strike. Knowing that my faith was a tender, young shoot that might be killed by a late spring frost and fearing that my friend might engage me in debate about Catholic social positions, I said, “I am not doing this to get into political debates with anyone. I am doing it because my heart says to do it.”

This may sound like a defensive stance, as indeed it was. But it was not the defense of an ostrich, its head in the sand. It was, instead, an entirely reasonable stance and one that still seems reasonable to me three and a half years later.

I think that a very good logician or lawyer could have argued me out of RCIA. The wisdom of becoming a Catholic was not something I could justify with logic, mathematical proof, or laboratory experiment. And in telling people I was hoping to be received into the Church, I felt vulnerable, exposed—as if I were revealing some innermost secrets, unlocking a private treasure chest, baring my heart. Carrying such a feeling around, one is well advised to keep one’s guard up.

Yet my decision—I knew it then and I know it now—was totally reasonable, and my reasons were more than adequate. Showing the adequacy of these reasons was my purpose in starting the blog “Why I Am Catholic” a year after I became a Catholic. In that blog’s earliest, freshest, purest days, it was nothing but a list of my reasons for becoming Catholic. Any single post alone could have been torn to shreds by a mean-spirited, anti-Catholic logician. But what were readers supposed to do with 30, 40, 50, 60 posts, each of which provided an answer to the question? They might not have been convinced themselves, but they had to know that my conviction was profound.

When a person achieves a reasonable conviction about something, that thing looks the same from every angle. Chesterton said something like this and said it better.

(This post is an attempt to grapple with some of the ideas in chapter 2 of The Religious Sense by Fr. Luigi Giussani. As it says in the sidebar, any misunderstanding is my own.)

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