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On Being Roman Catholic: The Great Intellectual Adventure of Our Time


James V. Schall, S.J. - published on 11/01/14

Our final end, and this is a blessing, is not in this world, even though we originate in this world. As St. Paul and others tell us, there is a divine plan that is working itself out in the cosmos in which we find ourselves. We are included in this plan. But we are free to reject it. Many seem to do so. We do not underestimate evil, nor make it more powerful than God’s grace. We are told in the Church all we need to know about our final end. And we are told by this same Church that we must use our minds and good sense. We best know that revelation is addressed to us when we realize that we do not know everything by our own powers.

It is in these curious things that we cannot figure out by ourselves that revelation sheds the light on our minds to guide us to what we do not know. We learn that God not only exists, but He exists as three persons, one of whom came and dwelt amongst us. He told us enough to save our souls, and even improve our polities if we would. But we had to live and be open to a gift that we did not merit.

In the end, all is gift. Nothing needs to exist, yet it does. To be a Roman Catholic means to be open to this gift and to be charged by it to understand what we really are, persons invited to live within the inner life of the Godhead. We may accept or reject this invitation in the course of our lives. That, finally, is why we are given our lives, to make this choice. All else perhaps matters, but nothing matters so much.

James V. Schall, S.J., who served as a professor at Georgetown University for thirty-five years, is one of the most prolific Catholic writers in America. His most recent book isThe Classical Moment: Selected Essays on Knowledge and Its Pleasures  (St. Augustine Press, 2014). This article was adapted from a lecture delivered at the apostolic nunciature in Washington, DC to thealumni and friends of St. Thomas Aquinas College, Santa Paula, California.

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