Truth Speaks in Love

Sep 5th, 2012 | By | Category: Blog Posts

Faith can wish to understand because it is moved by love for the One upon whom it has bestowed its consent. Love seeks understanding. It wishes to know ever better the one whom it loves. It “seeks his face,” as Augustine never tires of repeating. Love is the desire for intimate knowledge, so that the quest for intelligence can even be an inner requirement of love. Put another way, there is a coherence of love and truth which has important consequences for theology and philosophy. Christian faith can say of itself, I have found love. Yet love for Christ and of one’s neighbor for Christ’s sake can enjoy stability and consistency only if its deepest motivation is love for the truth. This adds a new aspect to the missionary element: real love of neighbor also desires to give him the deepest thing man needs, namely, knowledge and truth. (Josef Cardinal Ratzinger, The Nature and Mission of Theology, 27)

ἀληθεύοντες δὲ ἐν ἀγάπῃ αὐξήσωμεν εἰς αὐτὸν τὰ πάντα, ὅς ἐστιν ἡ κεφαλή, Χριστός [“But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ.”] (Ephesians 4:15)

Today is the feast of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, whose life exemplified the union of love and truth.

Truth speaks and is made intelligible through love (Eph. 4:15), and love in turn “rejoices in the truth” (1 Cor. 13:6). To the Christian, this deep union and interplay of love and truth is not surprising, because the God who is the Truth (Jn. 14:6) is also the God who is Love (1 Jn. 4:8, 16). In their ultimate referent, therefore, truth and love are one and the same, God Himself, even though in our human minds they are conceptually distinct, and in their expression in creation they are ontologically distinct. Yet because they are one in God, any attempt to separate them radically from each other not only separates us from them both, but also distorts our image of God, and distorts man who bears His image.

The truth is revealed through love for the truth. At the most basic level, this is why we listen, because we want to learn the truth, and this is why we speak, because we want the truth to be known and shared by all. Because of this relation between truth and love, truth is revealed more truly the more it springs from love, is conveyed by love, and is received in love. This is because Truth ultimately is personal; propositions are, in a way, abstractions, reflections of Truth abstracted by persons from communicating persons. I am a person now writing these words to you, the reader, and you are a person now reading these words from me. Truth in its personal dimension as known by and communicated among persons, depends upon love, not only a shared love for the truth communicated, but also a love for the communicants, those whose deepest appetite is love for the Truth because they are made in the image of the God who is Truth.

Love rejoices not only in possessing the truth, but also in its universal propagation and diffusion. Love for the truth is in this way also irreducibly social. We cannot love the truth and hate our neighbor. Love for the truth requires of us that we desire our neighbor freely to love the truth and be united by love to the truth we love. Our neighbor himself is a truth because as a created person he bears in his very nature the image of Truth itself, and is in this way an analogous adequatio of the Truth, a truth of the Truth. The truth he is includes his teleology, the flourishing toward which he is ordered by his created nature, and by which his heart is restless until it rests in the Truth who is Love. Therefore if we love the truth, we must love to see and effect our neighbor’s well-being. Scorning one’s neighbor while claiming to love the truth is in this way a kind of contradiction, because in doing so one is failing to love the truth one’s neighbor is, the Truth imaged in one’s neighbor.

Love’s joy in the truth extends to each personal union with truth. Love rejoices in receiving the truth from others, communicating the truth to others, and sharing with others in the truth possessed together. And love for other persons as persons who are aimed most deeply at truth necessarily includes therefore a desire to share together in the truth with them, whether by receiving the truth from them, or bringing them to the truth, or resting with them in a shared joy in the truth. Love makes truth social and communal.

In his encyclical Caritatis in veritate, Pope Benedict XVI wrote:

Hence the need to link charity with truth not only in the sequence, pointed out by Saint Paul, of veritas in caritate (Eph 4:15), but also in the inverse and complementary sequence of caritas in veritate. Truth needs to be sought, found and expressed within the “economy” of charity, but charity in its turn needs to be understood, confirmed and practised in the light of truth. (Caritas in veritate, 2)

Because love and truth are the same in God, each is necessary to acquire the other, and a deficiency in one is a deficiency in the other. Love requires truth because love becomes authentic only as informed by the truth. Pope Benedict writes, “Without truth, charity degenerates into sentimentality. Love becomes an empty shell, to be filled in an arbitrary way.” (Caritas in veritate, 3) And the encyclical primarily develops that direction of the relation between truth and love. But just as importantly, truth is empowered, animated, authenticated, and thus made credible and communicable, only by love. Faith working through love is only a more specific and elevated application of truth speaking through love.

Because of the deep connection between truth and love, a failure in love leads to a darkening of the mind, whether on the part of the speaker or on the part of the listener. If the speaker is deficient in love, his words do not penetrate to the heart of those to whom he speaks; he fails to gain a hearing because he does not connect with his hearers at the heart. A deficiency of love for his hearers indicates an insufficient love for the truth, and thus undermines the speaker’s credibility.

Likewise, if the listener is deficient in love, the listener closes himself off to the truth he might receive from the speaker. Disdain or apathy for the speaker does not allow the truth he might be saying to be received and sincerely considered. The absence of love in his heart places an obstacle in his intellect to perceiving correctly and subsequently embracing the truth presented to him. Insofar as the listener departs from the principle of charity, he will distort even unintentionally, in a negative and further polarizing manner, what the speaker is saying, constructing a straw man and construing the speaker’s words as harmful or threatening either to himself or to what the listener loves. The greater the departure from the principle of charity on the part of the listener, the less he is able to listen and understand rightly what he is hearing. Love for the speaker is a necessary condition for hearing and interpreting the speaker rightly.

Without love, the intellect cannot penetrate to the heart of anything, and remains in the darkness of superficiality. And this darkness in turn hinders love, for in darkness one does not see the beauty of that which truly is. As St. Augustine says, we cannot love what we do not know. Yet neither can we grow in our knowledge of what we do not love, because without love we see it at best only from a distance, as a disengaged and apathetic outsider, and so its truth remains hidden from us. If we want to be truly loving, then we must seek out the truth, in love, so that our love is true love. And if we want to understand the truth, we must be saturated in love, for love gives us eyes to see the truth.

But is not love blind? Does not love blind us to faults we ought to see? No, love is not blind, because God is love, and God is not blind. Lust is blind, because lust clouds and obscures the truth from the intellect. Love, by contrast, as stated by Pope Benedict in the first quotation above, pursues the truth of the one whom it loves, enabling us to see deeply, and thus see truly — as things truly are, according to their true nature, order and worth. The wife who stays with her Marine husband after he loses both legs in an explosion in Afghanistan, is not blind to his disability; rather, in love, she sees the disability more clearly for what it truly is, in relation to who he is. Love, true love, see things according to their proper value and order, because true love is informed by the truth of wisdom, to which it belongs to order; “sapientis est ordinare” says St. Thomas. True love therefore is not blind to faults, but sees them truly, according to their actual significance and import in relation to their subject.

One who is deficient in love for others is deficient in love for the Truth who made them. Hence we see in the first epistle of John the continual interconnection of love and truth, as mutual indicators of the other’s presence. The one who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. (1 Jn. 4:7-8) He who hates his brother is in the darkness still, and does not know where he is going, but he who loves his brother abides in the light. (1 Jn. 2:9-11) By our love for the brethren we may know we are “of the truth.” (1 Jn. 3:19) He who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. (1 Jn 4:16)

Of course these passages do not exclude the need at times for ‘tough love,’ for discipline and rebuke. But they indicate that where love is lacking, truth is in some way lacking. And where love is present, truth is in some way present. These passages are not speaking of natural love by which one loves God as the source of all natural goods, but of agape, the supernatural love by which one loves God above all else, as Father, the source of the supernatural beatitude which He is in Himself, and loves one’s neighbor as oneself, for God’s sake. Nor do these passages entail that in any particular case, where agape is, no theological error is present. Nevertheless, they hold forth an undeniable relation between truth and love. A theology that fosters and nurtures the virtues of love, kindness, and mercy in the communities living out that theology testifies to its truth. Conversely, a theology that fosters unkindness or rudeness (1 Cor 13:4-5) or other qualities contrary to love in the communities holding that theology, testifies to its deficiency in the truth. Such communities cannot endure, but must fragment, and the relation of truth and love explains why such fragmentation is an indicator of heterodoxy.

Christians are called to communicate the truth of Christ in the love of Christ, with sincerity and good will to those with whom we engage. When Christ is lifted up in truth speaking in love, He will draw all men unto Himself. And Christ is lifted up in us when we are charitable, lifting up His truth in its beauty for His sake, sincerely loving all those who bear His image. The human heart does not ultimately rest in a mere abstract theological system, but instead in the living God who is Love. Because the one who abides in love abides in God, only in love do men encounter the living God: only in acts of love, lives of love and in communities living in love. No one argues against love as such. And only in love does genuine communication of the truth become possible. Without love there can be no effective evangelism, and no fruitful ecumenical dialogue.

Love rejoices even in the truth present in partial truths, and yet love does not limit itself only to part of the truth. Love rejoices fully in the whole truth. In that sense love itself is catholic. Love therefore is incompatible with that sort of ecumenism that sacrifices truth or ignores truth for the sake of superficial unity. In this way love is the precondition of genuine ecumenical dialogue, because love not only impels toward unity in the truth as the first mark of the Church, but also impels toward the Church’s third mark of catholicity in its embrace of the whole truth, and therefore toward unity in the whole truth. Provincialism and sectarianism, by their very nature, have a divisive, abrasive tone. Deficient in love, they seek not the whole truth; deficient in truth, they do not love the whole people of God. Ideology that does not love the whole truth manifests its defective relation to truth through inauthentic, sophistical engagement with beliefs it opposes, or selfish isolation. Catholicity, by contrast, and the ecumenical dialogue that leads to true catholic unity, is by its very nature characterized by a tone of love and grace, one that always speaks the truth in love, and thereby brings maturation and unity in Christ the Head to all those who enter deeply into this practice, or rather, to all those in whom this practice enters deeply, till Christ be formed within them.

Christ Washing the Apostles’ Feet
Dirck van Baburen (c. 1616)

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  1. Superb! Thanks, Bryan.

  2. My Reformed friends have accused me of becoming a Catholic because I wanted Catholicism to be true (indeed, my non-Christian friends make the analogous accusation regarding Christianity).

    I have thought a lot about this. Of course what they mean is that I don’t really care whether it is true or not. I became a Catholic because of the perceived benefits and am willing myself to believe it – indeed, two persons say I am ‘wilfully self-deceived.’ Naturally, I do not think this is so, and, indeed, my own struggle to find convincing reasons to believe it, and to overcome my fears, seem to me to encourage me to believe that I honestly sought (and seek) the truth.

    That said, I have decided that my critics are right in this, at least: that it was the inexpressibly good thing that the Catholic Church would be if it were true – I mean, the actual living Body of Christ, not only in some metaphorical or notional, but in a real, practical, visible sense; that the Eucharist was the real Body and Blood of Christ that I would receive into my physically as well as morally; that the teaching of that Church, if the Church were what it said, was something I could trust and didn’t have to prove for myself – al lthis was so wonderful that I could not imagine giving up on the search for the truth about it, so long as there seemed a reasonable possibility that it might actually be true.

    And that, it seems to me, was crucial. To see that something which, if true, was good – was enormously good – to see that it might be true – that love of that putative truth is the necessary driving force in order to reach it – this seems to me hard to deny. And it does seem to me that what lies behind a certain kind of scepticism, both as regards Christianity, and as regards the Catholic claims, is a substitution of … don’t know, something else besides love … for that love.

    So – truth speaks in love – and, it seems to me, love longs for truth.

    Not sure if I have expressed clearly what seems to me an important idea (nor if it is quite on topic :-)).


  3. Bryan, thanks for this post. You said,

    . The human heart does not ultimately rest in a mere abstract theological system, but instead in the living God who is Love. Because the one who abides in love abides in God, only in love do men encounter the living God: only in acts of love, lives of love and in communities living in love. No one argues against love as such.

    The whole interplay between love and truth makes things difficult at times when one is in transition into a change of theology. I have just come back from funeral of a dear sister in the Lord. She was from my former church, which is Episcopal. The hardest thing for me during the service was not being able to partake of the Lord’s Supper, since they do not hold to transubstantiation. This was one of the things that led me to the Catholic Church. But this division, especially in the Eucharist is heart breaking for me. I surely am united with these people in Christ and I have served with them for years. I meet regularly with a small cursillo type group with some from this church. There is always a partial pain within me , because although we all love Christ we are now not on the same page. This has been the hardest part for me in my transition. I am very thankful that my sons, and husband are Catholic. My daughter is not, and she remains strongly reformed. This has been very difficult , but we seek to fellowship around things we hold in common and of course still have a deep love for one another. I will have to think more about what you have said. I think many of the things you have expressed are beautiful. Thanks.

  4. Hello JJ,

    I always like to hear you chime-in. You’re sensible, candid, learned and appreciated.
    I’m still converting and the flack I’m getting from people has the same kind of accusation— that I really don’t care if it’s true or not. I’m told that I’m making a leap to trust the infallibility of the Pope, because I can’t hope to have the certainty I’m looking for, and that at some point down the road I will be pushed to atheism. They tell me that the differences within Protestantism are what testify to its truthfulness, being that this is what we should expect since we’re in a fallen world, but what’s interesting is that when you ask them if they are certain about the doctrines of sola scriptura and sola fide, and if they are certain that their view of The Lord’s Supper is correct, they don’t seem to understand that that is the certainty of which I am speaking of and not………something else. I’ve even directly asked whether or not sola fide is a doctrine that is absolutely true( inherent), because if it is, it would necessarily have been illumined to the authors by The Holy Spirit then codified and would stand as an infallible doctrine. As long as one doesn’t use the word, “infallible” to describe where one has gained their certainty, it’s all good.
    They continue to say that the reason that I feel epistemic quakes is because I am letting someone else tell me how to interpret the scriptures rather than reading them myself…..
    The problem is demonstrating to others the truth of Catholicism since merely using the word “truth” doesn’t convince because truth is a person not an institution, they will promptly remind you. When you remind them that they also worship inside of a tradition they then delineate the marks of the true church, and since Rome fails the Reformer’s test, it is inadmissible. I’ve told people that I am not becoming Catholic because I like incense and stained glass, but because it is the Truth, and I always get eye-rolls and “You only think it’s the truth but how can it be considering… ( list of objections)” or “How do you know it’s the truth? You are only presupposing it’s true” Arrgggh!
    I tell you that I went through what someone from this site termed, “Cartesian Despair” and I felt the absence of God. When I begged for Truth because I couldn’t bear the loss of Love, I found the Catholic Church.

    Hello Kim,

    I am now telling my friends that I am becoming Catholic and they all are being kind though they do express their disagreement. I hate the separation too. It’s very hard because to me they are not my enemy, but to them because of Trent, I am an enemy of The Gospel of Christ.
    Can we correspond?

    Praying for you.


  5. Susan (re:#4),

    Please know that you are not alone in walking this path.

    Our Lord *is* with you, the Spirit *is* guiding you, and Our Lady is praying for you. (I’m praying for you too.) They are doing for you what they have done for many people at this site, leading you away from the doctrinal reductionism and fragmentation of contemporary Protestantism (yes, even in Reformed camps)– expressed in the thinking of “We can agree to disagree on the so-called ‘non-essentials’, as long as we simply remain Protestant.” This mentality was decidedly *not* that of the first 1, 500 years of Christianity, before the Reformation, and it wasn’t even the thinking of the Reformers themselves.

    Martin Luther and John Calvin would be absolutely dismayed to see the “agree to disagree” attitude among today’s Protestants, on the nature of the Lord’s Supper, the meaning and timing of baptism, the sinfulness of artificial contraception, and various other issues which they (Luther and Calvin) did not view at all as “non-essentials.”

    In my last few months of being a Protestant, it astounded me how easily a Protestant friend of mine, a church elder whom I greatly respected and to whom I was very close, dismissed the fact that all Protestant denominations, from the 1500s until 1930, stood with the Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodoxy in affirming the grave sinfulness of *all* artificial contraception. Even if I were to cease being Catholic– which I could no more do now, than I could become an atheist– I still could never so easily live with the fact that Protestantism has done a virtual about-face on such a serious issue in the last 80 years. By contrast, the Catholic Church still teaches what she always has on this issue.

    Never be ashamed that you are joining a Church which, by the grace of God and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, still affirms life at every level, and as such, teaches *against* what the world, and even many other Christians, now consider to be basic “wisdom.” (i.e. the affirmation of artificial contraception) On this, and on every other matter on which she officially, authoritatively teaches, the Church is right.

    I write all of the above, sincerely not meaning to sound unduly triumphalistic. I am very aware, painfully aware, that many of my Protestant brothers and sisters are much better, stronger Christians than I am. It is very clear to me that many Protestants are better Christians, in their thinking and their living, than many professing Catholics. However, the hard truth is, Protestants are only Christian at all, to the extent that they are, often unknowingly, affirming and living out what the Catholic Church already teaches, and has long taught, in her Sacred Scriptures and Sacred Tradition.

    To anyone who wishes to reply to this comment, please do feel free, but I have to sincerely apologize for not being able to engage further at this time. Graduate school studies call. Pax Christi!

  6. P.S. I wrote what I wrote above, not at all to deride my Protestant brothers and sisters (many of whom, again, are much better Christians than I) but rather, to sincerely lament the reductionistic tendencies in much of Protestantism today (even Reformed Protestantism).

  7. Sue, (comment # 4), yes , you can email me at ;-)

  8. Christopher,

    Thank you for the reminder that God is with me and that Spirit is guiding me…..I really needed that;) Bless you my friend.

    You hit the nail on the head with this remark:

    ” Protestantism (yes, even in Reformed camps)– expressed in the thinking of “We can agree to disagree on the so-called ‘non-essentials’, as long as we simply remain Protestant.”

    [[ Keeping to topic on this thread is going to be difficult, I can see.]] Anyhow, what you have aptly called Reductionist “tendencies” is what will lead one to atheism in my experience. If dilution is happening to Truth, than it is a heterodoxy. How might one establish whether or not an essential has been lessened?….. This provokes thought on the possibilty:

    My mind went crazy searching for a church in which to lay my faith when I could not decide if I should be a Reformed Calvinist or a Reformed Lutheran, because the *bible alone* does not lend itself as a place to put faith. I felt like I do when standing in the cereal aisle, but knew I couldn’t make a decision according to my taste. I came to this conclusion recalling that my Grandma, who didn’t go to church but loved the Lord but devotedly read her bible through the Baptist ‘s “bible-view”, and that it was the the same thing for an elderly neighbor who lived down the road from us…… except she was reading it as a Pentecostal( and was probably stuck on Acts 2:4 ;)~
    Everything pointed to Protestantism being a heterodox of Catholic orthodoxy, and “orthodoxy” ….what a beautiful word! Still it is hard getting use to it because my mind wants to protest the Eucharist, but I keep humbling myself and just accept it and eventually I know I will come to rejoice in it. He who promised is faithful, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise him up on the last day.”
    When I think about it, if the Reformers would have completely done away with the Lord’s Supper then I wouldn’t have had something by which to compare the Catholic Eucharist, and could not have followed the bread crumbs back. Once you sett aside your own commitments and begin comparing , you are eventually be able to ask yourself, “Who says, that the Catholics are wrong? Aren’t those who call it heresy mere fallible men who have formed a consensus of like judgment because they found something to be repugnant?”, then you no longer have a principled reason to find it aberrant. As long as one is committed to the impossibility, even though, there is scriptural support for the Catholic view; one will not see the truth. Further, I don’t believe that I am entering the Catholic Church with my fingers crossed behind my back, because if I am mistaken, which I am not, I still look to no other advocate but Jesus Christ the righteous. (Rom. 10:13)

    Thanks again Christoher and well wishes on your grad studies!


  9. Susan (re:#8),

    Thank you for the good wishes regarding graduate school. (I need them– having been out of school for fifteen years makes going back quite an adjustment, though I have, obviously done much theological study in the interim!)

    I want to note, not only for you, but also, largely, for any non-Catholics reading here, that your move to the Catholic Church is very much “on-topic” for this post. That move is a matter of having sought and found more *objective truth from God*– quite contrary to the assertions of some people that such a move can only ever be about wanting more “religion” and not about any sort of true conversion.

    Becoming Catholic is not like changing denominations is for many Protestant Christians– it is, in a very real sense (at least in my view), a sort of *conversion*. Ironically, of the the best comparisons to Catholic conversion, that I personally can think of, is the kind of life-changing paradigm difference that becoming Reformed makes for many Protestant Christians!

    I remember well the sense of “conversion” that I had when I accepted the basic Reformed view of God. This acceptance made a crucial difference in how I viewed *every* aspect of my life– a difference that was not always easy to explain to non-Reformed Christians. (To be sure though, I did sometimes try to explain it, with enthusiasm and passion, but also hopefully in a non-offputting way!)

    Similarly, Catholicism really is a different way of viewing life, in total, different from *any* form of Protestantism, even the more liturgically oriented kinds. As many commonalities of belief and practice as Catholics do share with serious Protestants– and there *are* many–, Catholicism is still a different *worldview* than any form of Protestantism. Of course, some brands of Protestantism, today, are much further removed from Catholic thinking and practice than they *once* were– I think of historical Lutheranism, and most of today’s Lutheran denominations, and historical Anglicanism, and much of contemporary Anglicanism.

    As Catholic converts (or reverts, in my case) from Protestantism, I firmly believe that it is healthy for us to continue to remember, hold to, and cherish the objectively good things that we gained in our years of being committed Protestants. To that end, a helpful read for Catholics, and Catholic soon-to-be-converts, who either cannot see much that is good in Protestant Christianity, or who may have *forgotten* that good, might be Louis Boyer’s book, “The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism.” For that matter, the book might also be helpful for many still-committed, convinced Protestants to read!

    I pray, in charity, that I will never become a Catholic who cannot see or appreciate the rich truths about God and the Bible that *are* objectively affirmed and lived out in serious, thoughtful, Protestant Christianity. All of the Vatican II and post-Vatican II-era Popes have written about the real and great truths which Catholics and committed Protestants share in common. This Papal characteristic of especially the last fifty years is an objectively good thing, even as some zealous Catholics, sadly, do not always see it as such. The fact that all of the great Christian truths within Protestantism are also affirmed (and were affirmed many centuries prior) by the Catholic Church does *not* diminish the objective fact of their affirmation and practice in many circles of Protestantism.

    In the spirit of true ecumenism, seeking dialogue and truth together, I hope and pray that many of our Protestant brothers and sisters, reading here, are (or will be) open to at least the *possibility* that our having changed from a Protestant paradigm to a Catholic one has, indeed, been the result of having discovered *yet more* truth (about God, the Bible, and the Church) than even what we did objectively find in Protestant Christianity. I will always be grateful for the many ways in which serious Protestantism helped me to grow and deepen in Christ. Protestant Christianity brought me back to Christ, after years of barren, despairing nihilism and hedonism. Protestant Christianity, and much of what I learned and lived out therein, also, ultimately, helped me to return to the Catholic Church.

    It would be very foolish, indeed, for Catholic converts/reverts to make hugely life-altering paradigm changes if we weren’t convinced, for very good reasons, that in so doing, we were/are moving toward more objective truth from God. Indeed, I am confident to say that that is the first, last, and ultimate reason that anyone on this site has become Catholic or is seriously considering doing so.

    May we all be both courageous, in terms of the implications for our own lives, and loving, in true Christian charity (which includes speaking the *truth* in love), toward those who disagree with us, in our seeking and finding of God’s truth, in word and in deed, including in our conversations here.

    Now, back to my reading for graduate school! :-)

  10. Christopher and Susan,

    Just wanted to say I agree with Christopher on the helpfulness of Louis Boyer’s book, “The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism. I think this book displays what Bryan said here:

    Love rejoices even in the truth present in partial truths, and yet love does not limit itself only to part of the truth.

    He helped me see the good points of Protestantism, but then the need to go deeper and fuller. As the flyleaf on this books states:

    He saw the necessity of returning to that Church, not in order to reject any of the positive Christian elements of his religious life [as a Protestant], but to enable them, at last to develop without hindrance.

  11. Christopher (re#9)

    I want to be a part of the ecumenism and will try very hard to put aside my very raw hurt. I’m still in the middle of the fray. I have been told that Reformers aren’t interested in ecumenism. As a Reformer, at least in my church, we are discouraged from praying corporately during The National Day of Prayer because Christians are not the only ones who are praying, but Muslims and cults too. I’ve never been told that I shouldn’t pray with a Catholic; I just took it for granted that I shouldn’t. There was never any worry that I should be put in that uncomfortable position because I never had a friendship with a Catholic, only Catholics turned Protestant. Sadly, and to my heartbreak, I found that my suspicion was correct when I asked an elder, who I considered *and still do consider* a dear friend, out to lunch so that I could tell him of my becoming Catholic before he learned of it in a consistory meeting. When I asked him to pray over our food, he said that he couldn’t because I now had a different understanding of the Lord. I had to cover my face to hide my crying and it took a lot for me to continue in the lunch and during the rest of the afternoon, and evening’s conversation. Most recently, I’ve been told that when I say that I am having a very difficult time because I am truly frightened( actually I said, “scared as hell”) being that Catholic theology is an adjustment it was dismissed with, “Me thinks the lady doth protest too much”. People really do think that when given the choice between The Doctrines of Grace and Catholic soteriology, the easy and plain choice is Protestantism, but when one is then given further choices within the Protestant camp and will even presuppose the Reformed tradition( which isn’t a leap if you’ve been Reformed), the decision making becomes dizzying, primarily because of the lack of consensus on the doctrine of The Lord’s Supper(this was my stumbling block) and the violation of the 2nd Commandment in the Lutheran churches( my other confusion). But people think I’m just being obstinate and even lying. And this is really beside the point, isn’t it ? Sorry for the digression.

    Like you, I too am thankful for what treasure I was given from the Reformed tradition. I have never minded sitting through long sermons, because the heart of those sermons is worship of Jesus Christ. My soul has risen to the beams and toward the stained glass that is behind the pulpit when as a congregation we belt out the most beautiful hymns to the accompaniment of organ pipes. I started out in the Vineyard Christian Fellowship, then moved to Calvary Chapel, and then through reading, became Reformed. I had always desired the old paths, and I thought I had come to the place that I should stay until my death or our Lord’s return. I’ve even scoffed that anyone should leave my church, wondering the reason they should want to go anyplace else, when we had everything. But it is exactly because the Reformed churches value scripture and tradition that I could walk through the threshhold of the 16th century.

    Susan Vader

  12. Susan (re:#11),

    I resonate with your comments in #11 on all counts. Most of my old Protestant friends simply would find it baffling that my theological/ecclesiastical moves– from returning to Christ, via broadly evangelical Protestantism (emerging out of nihilistic, Godless despair, in the context of having been an ill-catechized, “fallen-away Catholic” who didn’t really grasp what I had left behind in the Church), to a deepening of my faith commitment through five-point Calvinism, to finally returning to the Catholic Church (knowing now both what I left behind *and* to what I have returned)– each of these moves has been a *deepening* of my walk with God and my trust in Him.

    Some non-Reformed, evangelical Protestants might well have thought to themselves, when I embraced five-point Calvinism, “Uh-oh! There Christopher goes, following the creeds of men, such as John Calvin, rather than holding to the clear teaching Scripture!” However, the *reality* was that encountering Calvin’s theology led me to a deeper understanding of God (even with Calvin’s serious errors) and a more radically sacrificial walk of faith with, and in, Him.

    Similarly, but much more seriously, over the last two years, many (most?) of my old Protestant friends seem to have been (depending upon the persons in question) either fearful of the prospect, or convinced, that, in returning to the Catholic Church, I am literally committing both apostasy and idolatry. However, the *reality* is that I have encountered deeper truth about God and Christ– truth which affirms *everything* that was right and good about my past Protestant faith (while having none of its errors, based on private interpretation of Scripture), but truth which also *transcends* the objective shortcomings of Protestantism by reaching back to the apostolic teachings of the Church through which we have the New Testament canon itself.

    No anti-Catholic Protestant would even *have* the New Testament, with which to argue *against* the Catholic Church, if not *for* the Catholic Church, which wrote, compiled, canonized, and safeguarded it, right up to the Reformation, when the Reformers, through their own interpretations, wrongly understood the New Testament to argue against the Catholic Church and her teachings. Once I understood that the Reformation was not actually a theological/ecclesiastical *reformation*, as such, but rather, a *revolution* built upon individual interpretation of the Bible, as against the authoritative teaching of the Church, in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition for 1, 500 years– once I reached this point of understanding, my Protestantism was now, simply, incompatible with my continuing to be a Christian. I could not abandon my faith in Christ, and in order to be *faithful to* Christ, I had to return to the Church which I now knew that He founded and which the Holy Spirit had guided, in official teaching on faith and morals, for 2,ooo years.

    As I’ve mentioned previously, when I returned to the Church, most of my Protestant friends, with some significant exceptions, ceased to relate to me as a bother on Christ. I encountered, variously, open rebukes and appeals to repent, and, more often, sadly, silence and shunning. (I appreciate and respect the former approach more than the latter from Protestant friends, though I do *understand* both, as Biblical texts are persuasively marshalled, and misinterpreted, to support both approaches by Protestants.)

    One Protestant friend still accepted me and embraced me as a brother in Christ, but in retrospect, the precondition therein seemed to be that I would return to the Catholic Church, while *still holding to* Protestant theology and practice, and helping the Catholic Church to move away from its doctrines and practices which supposedly “take the focus off of Christ.” I’m not 100% sure what those “non-Christocentric” doctrines and practices would be, in this person’s eyes, but from recent conversations, it seems that the references might have been to the Catholic understanding of the communion of saints and Marian theology and practice. When I recently wrote publicly that I had begun taking a graduate class on Marian theology in the Catholic Church, this person wrote to me in terms which indicated that he no longer considers me to be a brother in Christ. Susan, I tell you very honestly that his words deeply hurt me– but these things will happen, and when they do, we must turn to Christ for the strength to forgive and to continue to love those who rebuke us. They are still our brothers and sisters in Christ– the Church clearly affirms that they are–, and we can only pray for them and be open to dialogue, *if* they are open to *true* dialogue, which means actually listening to and considering the claims of the Catholic Church.

    I will pray for you, sister. I hear and care about the pain in your words. God hears and cares even so much more than I can. He is with you on this road, as are all of the Catholics here, I think it is safe to say. You are listening to the truth spoken in love, from the testimony of Scripture and Church history. The Spirit has spoken through the Church for 2, 000 years. You have counted, and are paying, the cost of listening to and obeying the Spirit. It can be very, very hard to pay that cost– I know that too well– but I give thanks and praise to God that you are not turning back. There is limitless reward in Christ for those who persevere, both in this life and in eternity.

  13. P.S. I meant to write, in #12, that “most of my Protestant friends, with some significant exceptions, ceased to relate to me as a *brother in Christ* (when I returned to the Catholic Church).” My mistyping reads, cringingly, as “bother on Christ,” which, unfortunately, is exactly how too many of our separated brethren view the Catholic Church– but again, without the Church, they would not even have the New Testament with which to argue against the Church!

  14. Dear Christopher,

    Thank you for encouraging me in this path. I know that you have suffered a lot of hurt too, and I am sorry that you have had to go through open rebuke and shunning. I’m with you, I’d rather deal with rough words than a cold shoulder;) I am meeting people in my new parish that have come from both Calvinist and Lutheran backgrounds. They too describe the riches their tradition gave them but also pinpoint the errors that hurt Protestant credibility. And, of course, I don’t mean that Protestants are nonChristians. I have met some of the best Christian people in the world in the Reformed church! In fact, my whole family goes to a Reformed church and I stay at home fearing derision, but when the family comes home, I am anxious to hear about all the people that I love there; most especially the pastors. Truth, wouldn’t let me stay where I was. If I believed the Reformers were correct, I could not in good conscience have ever left. Like you, the change I have experienced, both the good and the painful are causing me to grow in my faith and devotion. It’s a better place than I was almost a year ago, and for this I am so grateful.


  15. Susan,

    I am presently reading a book about change that has spoken to my heart because it expresses some of those feelings I have gone through in going deeper into the Christian faith. I feel I have gone , to some extent, from the shadows to the reality in going from Protestantism to Catholicism. For me, some of the pain I was feeling was not lack of love from the Protestant brethren , but the pain of separation from the doctrines I had held to for 40 years. When one changes doctrines it feels as if a foundation is crumbling, at first. The God I thought I knew is different! The lack of love, came mainly from those Christians who did not really know me; attacks came from those far and those near, but those near were basically stemming from their loving concern….however there were times of anger and sarcasm too.

    I like this article by Bryan because we should exemplify this combination of truth with love. This should be our goal.

    Now , here are a few quotes that have spoken to me about change from pages 93 and then 92 of When The Heart Waits:

    ………in the midst of pain and crisis God is drawing us to wholeness.

    Hope lies in braving the chaos and waiting calmly, with trust in the God who loves us. For if , like Dorthy [the author is referring to the OZ children books] , we wait, we may find that God delivers us somewhere amazing–into a place vibrant with color and startling encounters with the soul.

    I think this is what I have been feeling. I now look at my past Protestant faith, with thanks, for it was where I first came to know Christ, but the transition has felt like a moving from a world with limited color to a vibrant and richer world—a depth, a fullness and an amazing expansion with so much to learn. It has been going from shadows to reality.

    I thank the people here at C2C because they handle the truth with love.


  16. Susan and Kim,

    I sometimes have mixed feelings when I write here at CTC, *not* because I doubt the truth of the Catholic Church and her teachings, but because I painfully imagine my old Protestant friends reading my words and shaking and their heads, and possibly, praying for me to come out of the “heresy” which many of them believe I have embraced. (The reality may well be that none of them is reading my comments at all!) These are people who were once so kind to me, so loving, and now, many of them don’t seem to even believe that I’m a Christian anymore.

    The difficult thing for me to remember, at times, is that in their minds, rebuke and/or shunning (over my Catholic “reversion”) *are* actually forms of love. For many of them, I can have a pretty strong sense, from what I was taught as a member of their congregations, that they are shunning me, because they believe that in so doing, they are actually obeying Scripture and caring for my soul. My body has been “handed over to Satan,” via rebuke, excommunication, and now, shunning, so that my soul would hopefully be saved– that is, that I would return to their particular formulation of the Gospel, including Sola Fide and Sola Scriptura. This seems to be their understanding of “Biblical church discipline.”

    I understand the rebukes and the excommunication. What I don’t understand is the shunning, because, at least from my memory, we were not even taught by our *pastors* to shun those who apostatize (not that I’ve actually apostatized, but they believe that I have).

    If one truly believes that one’s former congregant, who (seemingly) worshiped God, along with oneself and others, in the same congregation for years, is now on the way to Hell, it seems to me that the loving thing to do would be to meet with that person, in person, if possible, and have *many* serious talks. To their credit, some of my Protestant friends who believe that the Catholic Church does not teach the “true Gospel” *have* actually written to me or called me, out of concern for my soul (and I appreciate them doing so!). However, most have not– and that is much harder for me to understand.

    In the end though, I can’t know or judge their hearts, and it’s not my place to speculate. I do hope that some of them have made their way here and are simply reading in silence. I am also bold enough to hope and pray that that they might be, even now, seriously considering the arguments made here for the Catholic Church, from Scripture and Church history. It would be such a joy for me if some of these strong, serious brothers and sisters in Christ simply came to believe that “consistent Catholics” are even Christians. If some of them actually became Catholic, themselves, I would literally be so happy that I would not even know what to do, other than praise God! These are *radically* Christ-loving, Christ-centered people who would make such great Catholics! If only they understood that Catholicism is a *deepening* and a *fulfillment* of all that is actually correct and good in Protestantism, rather than a heretical mockery of Christianity.

    However, I am increasingly coming to realize that, simply, some Protestants will be open to hearing arguments for the Catholic faith, and some won’t be open– possibly ever, in this life, unfortunately–, and I can only do so much about it. I should do what I can though, and I have been trying to do so, in Christian love, here and elsewhere, since I returned to the Church two years ago.

  17. Kim, firstly thank you for those quotes and fom engaging at this site. We learn the most from using each other as a sounding board, so I am grateful for CtC. You know….I am also experiencing the crumbling foundation of the doctrines that I put confidence in to be the truth(proof that sola scriptura is really ad hoc tradition), so I’m sure that the emotional pain is the change of doctrines and the broken fellowship. You are right about what we now have…..a Church that has better developed doctrines being that they make better philosophical sense, and that actually treats other things that are known by divine light, is to have found more depth, and color is a part of that depth;) I never minded the gray piety but becoming Catholic is like enjoying the sacrificial gift of Babette’s Feast.

    I am finding that in some ways there seems to be a lot of misunderstanding about Catholicism. For instance, at yesterday’s afternoon Mass( Anglican Use Ordinariate) I noticed that the prayer for preparation to receive the Eucharist read, ” not my own righteousness”. The other prayer that is repeated 3x’s “I am not worthy that Thou shall come under my roof, but only speak the word and my soul will be healed.” tells me that Catholicism does not teach that works righteousness. Even the doctrine of sola fide is faith that is not alone. This is my position. I am not saved by my own righteousness but faith without works is dead. I finally got this worked out in my thinking after years of trying to understand what the Lord’s Supper imparted to my soul. The ontology never made a bit of sense. And now I am onto receiving the fullness that Christ gave his people, and I pray that some of the people I love will come to know the fullness of the Truth too.


  18. Susan (re:#17), and everyone reading here,

    Amen to all that you wrote above, both to Kim and to me. The Catholic Church definitely does *not* teach “works-righteousness.” As you noted, in her very liturgy, the Church teaches what the Scriptures teach– that we are not saved by our own righteousness, *and* that faith without works is dead.

    *That* form of “faith alone” (faith without works) cannot save. However, quite contrary to what some Protestants assert, faith without works *is* an actual form of faith. St. James is clear about that. If it were not an actual form of faith, James would not ask, in chapter 2, verse 14, “Can his faith save him?” However, the hard, sober truth is that that kind of faith does *not* save anyone.

    14 What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. 18 But some one will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe–and shudder. 20 Do you want to be shown, you shallow man, that faith apart from works is barren? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by works, 23 and the scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness”; and he was called the friend of God. 24 You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the harlot justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead.


    It is also *not* the case that God partially saves us through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, and we then partially save ourselves with faith and works. Not at all. Our salvation, from beginning to end, is by *God’s grace*.

    However, if we claim (as I did as a Protestant) that, as Christians, our *only* form of righteousness, and the only righteousness that we *need*, in order to spend eternity with God, is “the imputed righteousness of Christ,” then we greatly misunderstand the teaching of Hebrews 12:1-15 (particularly verses 11-14), which are written to *believers*, exhorting them to discipline and perseverance, which do produce *righteousness*. We are not saved *by* that righteousness, but without with it, without holiness, we will not see the Lord.

    1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. 4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you forgotten the exhortation which addresses you as sons? –“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor lose courage when you are punished by him. 6 For the Lord disciplines him whom he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” 7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers to discipline us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time at their pleasure, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. 12 Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. 14 Strive for peace with all men, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one fail to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” spring up and cause trouble, and by it the many become defiled; 16 that no one be immoral or irreligious like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal.


    However, the Lord is faithful, and in His Church, He gives us all that we need to trust in Him, live for Him, die for Him, and be ready to stand before Him at any time. In the Church, Christ gives us His sacrifice on the cross for our sins. He gives us His very Body and Blood in the Eucharist. He gives us Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, including all of the seven sacraments. He gives us priests to administer the sacraments and to preach to and teach us. He gives us the teaching authority of the Magisterium, so that we will not be subject to the errors of private interpretation of the Bible. He gives us the prayers, the encouragement, and the fraternal correction of each other on earth. He gives us the prayers of all the Saints in Heaven. The Catholic Church is not a theological treadmill, in which we are desperately trying to “earn our salvation.” The Church is an incredible gift, in which, God, by His grace, gives us all that we need to be happy with Him in this life, and forever happy with Him in eternity.

    Speaking of perseverance and obedience though, a la Hebrews 2– alas, I have spent much time here today than I had intended! I must go now to read, study, and utilize the great gift of a class which God has provided for me to learn more about Mary, the Theotokos, the Mother of God (a title for her which, given that Christ is God, Protestants can only deny at the peril of falling into the heresy of Nestorianism).

  19. A la Hebrews 12, that is, not 2! :-)

  20. Bravo, Bryan. This is a very inspiring post.

    where love is lacking, truth is in some way lacking. And where love is present, truth is in some way present.

    I also liked JJ’s thoughts on being Catholic (or Christian in general) because we want it to be true. I think that is generally how we interface with reality. And that is a good thing. We are looking for the good, true, and beautiful we know should be there, and when we see some of it, we are magnetically drawn to it. And conversely, I truly believe that when we experience evil, we are repulsed by any and all philosophies that do not reject such evil.
    The entire reason I became a Christian at age 15 was because I wanted it to be true. Yes, I believed it was true, but that was not the initial, instinctual reason I was drawn to it. What drew me to it was the love of Christ shown to me by his followers (Pentecostals in my case), and the absolute rejection of evil as evil. Just the fact that Christianity maintains a clear distinction between evil and good is one of the largest motives of credibility it has going for it. And for me personally, having grown up in a broken home where the father left his wife and 4 kids destitute in order to “go to God”, I knew that evil was real and objective, and that even if we can’t see good, we can at least look at evil and turn 180 degrees from it and start walking.
    That is a mystery, but I believe it more and more as I live on this earth: A good way to find God when He seems to be hidden is to look at the evil around you, and look at the people practicing it, and understand their philosophy, and then to go in the opposite direction from them. If you do that sucessfully you will be headed straight for the truth.
    At every point in history I think this method will have different evils to bounce off of, and many of the evils of modernity can get us to Christianity fairly obviously. But right now I think the final distinguishers come down to divorce and contraception. If the evil of these is seen rightly, the Catholic Church is seen as the only refuge for a broken world. She is the only one left who maintains the truth on these issues.

  21. Oh, and I forgot to say my main point:
    Any and all religions, sects, philosophies, denominations or what have you that denigrate the work of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta…

    Those religions, sects, philosophies, and denominations show themselves to be false. When we see Mother Teresa, we see good. And we see truth. We instinctively and viscerally know we are seeing God at work. And anyone who denigrates her work (and I have seen it happen even among Christians) is showing themselves to be contrary to the truth. Turn around and go the other way.

  22. David (#20)

    Josef Pieper, in his superb book “Faith, Hope, and Love” (I think that’s the title), in the section on faith, says that, because faith means believing something on the word of another, it is based on our trust of that other as someone who is trustworthy – and, to that extent, is driven by love.

    I strongly recommend all of Pieper’s books. They have been of enormous help to me.


  23. David (re: #21),

    Since her death, Mother Teresa has received a lot of criticism so you might lead yourself into an ambush with that attitude. And, speaking for myself, I have a hard time dealing with some of these criticisms. You have probably read some of them: her dealings with controversial and villainous persons and the denying of pain medicine to those in her care.

  24. Regarding Mother Teresa:

    I have heard of some of the criticisms against her. I regret to say that I have. I think an article written by Robert Louis Stevenson about one of her favorite saints, Father Damien, accurately conveys both what I feel about any saint being criticized, and what I feel about the rivals and critics and armchair heroes who have taken upon themselves the office of Devil’s advocate.

    Father Damien by Robert Louis Stevenson

    I don’t think a good man spends time trying to uncover the faults and mistakes and frailties of anyone else. How much more in the case of a saint who has died gloriously on the field of battle. Because, yes, this life is a battle, and those who devote every scrap of energy and hope and courage they can find into living the best Christian life they possibly can are really warriors. And when one of those warriors competes far more thoroughly than we ever had, showing our own Christian life in all its weakness and hypocrisy by contrast, it is incumbent upon us, the Christians who know that we have failed, not to root in the mud for some kind of fault or miss-step to hurl in accusation at the victor.

    Stevenson had the following to say to a voluntary Devil’s advocate who had published accusations against the Catholic Father Damien (a priest who died gloriously after having contracted leprosy from the colony of lepers with whom he had chosen to live and protect):

    Your sect (and remember, as far as any sect avows me, it is mine) has not done ill in a worldly sense in the Hawaiian Kingdom. When calamity befell their innocent parishioners, when leprosy descended and took root in the Eight Islands, a QUID PRO QUO was to be looked for. To that prosperous mission, and to you, as one of its adornments, God had sent at last an opportunity. I know I am touching here upon a nerve acutely sensitive. I know that others of your colleagues look back on the inertia of your Church, and the intrusive and decisive heroism of Damien, with something almost to be called remorse. I am sure it is so with yourself; I am
    persuaded your letter was inspired by a certain envy, not essentially ignoble, and the one human trait to be espied in that performance. You were thinking of the lost chance, the past day; of that which should have been conceived and was not; of the service due and not rendered. TIME WAS, said the voice in your ear, in your pleasant room, as you sat raging and writing; and if the words written were base beyond parallel, the rage, I am happy to repeat – it is the only compliment I shall pay you – the rage was almost virtuous. But, sir, when we have failed, and another has succeeded; when we have stood by, and another has stepped in; when we sit and grow bulky in our charming mansions, and a plain, uncouth peasant steps into the battle, under the eyes of God, and succours the afflicted, and consoles the dying, and is himself afflicted in his turn, and dies upon the field of honour – the battle cannot be retrieved as your unhappy irritation has suggested. It is a lost battle, and lost for ever. One thing remained to you in your defeat – some rags of common honour; and these you have made haste to cast away.

    Common honour; not the honour of having done anything right, but the honour of not having done aught conspicuously foul; the honour of the inert: that was what remained to you. We are not all expected to be Damiens; a man may conceive his duty more narrowly, he may love his comforts better; and none will cast a stone at him for that. But will a gentleman of your reverend profession allow me an example from the fields of gallantry? When two gentlemen compete for the favour of a lady, and the one succeeds and the other is rejected, and (as will sometimes happen) matter damaging to the successful rival’s credit reaches the ear of the defeated, it is held by plain men of no pretensions that his mouth is, in the circumstance, almost necessarily closed. Your Church and Damien’s were in Hawaii upon a rivalry to do well: to help, to edify, to set divine examples. You having (in one huge instance) failed, and Damien succeeded, I marvel it should not have occurred to you that you were doomed to silence; that when you had been outstripped in that high rivalry, and sat inglorious in the midst of your well-being, in your pleasant room – and Damien, crowned with glories and horrors, toiled and rotted in that pigsty of his under the cliffs of Kalawao – you, the elect who would not, were the last man on earth to collect and propagate gossip on the volunteer who would and did.

    I would like to think that when men like Christopher Hitchens or like some of her Protestant critics choose to criticize Mother Teresa, they do so out of (an almost moral) jealousy: they know that they (the moral atheists, the Real Christians, the “true” good-guys) should have been the ones to show that they were the leaders of all that is good and right. They know that they should have spent their lives picking-up maggot-filled men from latrine-gutters and cleaning their sores by hand and kissing them and giving them a few moments of joy before death. But they didn’t, and they regret that someone from a rival community did. This is the most charitable explanation of their scorn for Mother Teresa and her work: their knowledge that she has shown that they are not as good as they thought they were, and their regret over this fact.

    So let me address the accusations directly. Suppose that Mother Teresa was, like you and I, a sinner. What difference does it make whether Mother Teresa made mistakes, even sins, in her attempt to live this harrowing and heroic life? I am sorry that the poor men dying in the gutters had to have dirty Mother Teresa with her inadequate medical supplies and superstitious scorn of modern medicine come to help them. What a pity those men had to have Mother Teresa, that associate of sinners, as their succor. But where were Christopher Hitchens and his friends with their advanced Western ways and their lack of sin? Where was I? Where were you? I don’t recall ever kissing a maggot-filled man as he died in my own arms. Do you? Are you ready to spend your whole life doing this, as your limbs give way to arthritis, your back bends and deforms, and your sight dims? Are you ready to give up spouse, and children, and sleep, and the simple joy of a break or a nap, for all the long decades until you painfully die in this mission?

    I don’t think I have adequately described what I feel about those who publish gossip and criticism of Mother’s character and work. So let me share the end of Stevenson’s essay, and be done with it.

    But I fear you scarce appreciate how you appear to your fellow-men; and to bring it home to you, I will suppose your story to be true. I will suppose – and God forgive me for supposing it – that Damien faltered and stumbled in his narrow path of duty; I will suppose that, in the horror of his isolation, perhaps in the fever of incipient disease, he, who was doing so much more than he had sworn, failed in the letter of his priestly oath – he, who was so much a better man than either you or me, who did what we have never dreamed of daring – he too tasted of our common frailty. “O, Iago, the pity of it!” The least tender should be moved to tears; the most incredulous to prayer. And all that you could do was to pen your letter to the Reverend H. B. Gage!

    Is it growing at all clear to you what a picture you have drawn of your own heart? I will try yet once again to make it clearer. You had a father: suppose this tale were about him, and some informant brought it to you, proof in hand: I am not making too high an estimate of your emotional nature when I suppose you would regret the circumstance? that you would feel the tale of frailty the more keenly since it shamed the author of your days? and that the last thing you would do would be to publish it in the religious press? Well, the man who tried to do what Damien did, is my father, and the father of the man in the Apia bar, and the father of all who love goodness; and he was your father too, if God had given you grace to see it.

    And the woman who tried to do what Mother Teresa did was my mother, and the mother of Christopher Hitchens, and your mother too, if God gives you the grace to see it.


    K. Doran

  25. K. Doran (re: #24),

    A critical study of Mother Teresa and the Sisters of Charity has been published in a Canadian journal of religious studies. This study was widely reported in the mainstream media last week, and I have yet to read any response to the claims of the study in defense of Mother Teresa. The study claims that Mother Teresa accepted millions in donations but used hardly any of it to better her facilities and the treatment she gave to the poor. It also claims that Mother Teresa promoted a “cult of suffering” and denied patients pain medication.

    K. Doran, I’m with you, I think the criticisms lodged at Mother Teresa come from a hatred of her and the “positive PR” she provides for the Church, but I do not want to leave these attacks answered. I want to defend God’s holy people. Don’t you think we should grapple with these attacks?

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