Saturday, May 28, 2005

A Letter from Fr. Oldfield

The following is an extract of a letter I received from Fr. Jack (Fr. John Oldifeld, O.A.R.) in Madrid, sent in response to a letter from myself.

April had been an extraordinary month with the death of John Paul and the election of Benedict XVI. I was elated by the results and do feel that the Church will be on steady course with this man who is a foremost theologian and a friend of St. Augustine since his graduate studies of many years ago. Augustine had been the object of much criticism during the past few decades. Matthew Fox, the former Dominican, wrote several books about creation in which he lists St. Augustine as the “bad guy”, responsible for original sin, and a negative concept of man. The feminists have blamed him for centuries of discrimination and the neo-Pelagians have been revived by various historians and philosophers. And, of course, his closeness to Neo-Platonism has been held responsible for Hellenizing Christianity. In spite of all, Augustine not only survives but has been sparking a revival of what is called Orthodox Christianity among Anglican intellectuals and has been championed by U.S. Calvinists as a “must” for sound theology.

When Augustine looks at humanity, and his own included, he sees a flawed nature, not a bad nature, but a nature wounded by something which Sacred Scripture identifies as “sin”, a sin which is somehow historical and transmitted. There would be no “sin” in humanity if humanity did not have the high calling which God has given it. The flip side of a sinful humanity is a humanity called to “rest in God”. Throughout the Confessions, Augustine engages in dialogue with the God Whom he seeks to know and to love. Love is what moves the human being because Divine Love has made a creature whose ultimate destiny is Love Itself. The contrast between the Augustine “in love with love”, the teen aged rebel, and Augustine the intellectual probing the inner life of the Trinity is not so great. His very sins were a twisted attempt to discover love. And so it is with us; we are the “restless hearts” of Book I of the Confessions striving, often unconsciously, for that “Beauty ever ancient, ever new” which breaks through the crust of Augustine’s pride and reveals the beauty of the humble Jesus. Augustine’s God is the God of intimacy.

One of the problems of Augustine’s theology and spirituality is that it is God-centered. He is the anti-thesis of the dominant secular humanism, the “dictatorship of relativism” as identified by Benedict XVI. There were and are strains of thought following Vatican II which might be summed up in the rather universal acceptance of “I’m O.K., you’re O.K.” as the basic anthropology. A lot of pampered egos have justified modes of behavior which have become destructive of marriage, family, priesthood, religious life, and any commitment which might require self-sacrifice.

1 Comments:

Blogger rvtheologian said...

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A lot of pampered egos have justified modes of behavior which have become destructive of marriage, family, priesthood, religious life, and any commitment which might require self-sacrifice.
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Which brings us back to the "Golden Rule" as the basis for practical morality. As Jesus said, all the Law and the prophets flow from the two great commandments ...

1:04 PM  

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