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Faith seeking understanding


When St. Philip asked our Lord to "show us the Father" (John 14:8), he was an example of what St. Anselm called "faith seeking understanding."


Christ led Philip step by logical step to apprehend the mystery of the Father and the Son. Faith and reason are like the two wings of a bird, as the encyclical Fides et Ratio described them.

The Church fosters the physical sciences, as she does the arts, as part of the sacramental view of life. This avoids the pitfalls of fideism, which is irrational faith, and scientism, which is faithless reason. The harmony of things classic and innovative is well expressed in the use of the elegant sixteenth-century Casina in the Vatican gardens to house the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. The Pontifical Academy consists of some eighty international scientists and can claim roots in the oldest exclusively scientific academy in the world, founded in 1603. There is also the Vatican Observatory at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, as well as the Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope in southeastern Arizona.

A video of Pope Benedict XVI shows him speaking to the crew aboard the International Space Station on May 21 – the same day that some superstitious people predicted a "rapture" of God's elect into heaven. The Holy See arranged for the Pope to be televised, with a reciprocal transmission allowing the 12 astronauts, including the six who had recently arrived on the space shuttle Endeavour, to respond in their own languages to the Holy Father's questions as they floated free of gravity. The Pope spoke of their "great mission at the service of science, international collaboration, authentic progress, and peace in the world" and imparted his Apostolic Blessing to outer space.

When the Pope asked the crew what was their most important message, all agreed that "we can look down and see our beautiful planet Earth that God has made, and it is the most beautiful planet in the whole Solar System. However, if we look up, we can see the rest of the universe, and the rest of the universe is out there for us to explore."

Here at work in the idiom of our age, was the ageless wonder of the Scriptures: "When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have ordained; What is man, that you are mindful of him? And the son of man, that you visit him?" (Psalm 8:4-5)

What Dante called "The Love which moves the sun and the other stars," visited this beautiful planet in Christ, who "emptied Himself" to dwell among us in His own creation, though not a creatures. He who is "God from God and light from Light" asks us the same question He asked His apostle: "Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:9).



Father George William Rutler. "Faith seeking understanding." From the Pastor (May 29, 2011).

Reprinted with permission of Father George W. Rutler.

The Author

Rutler1rutler46smFather George W. Rutler is the pastor of St. Michael's church in New York City.  He has written many books, including: The Stories of Hymns, Hints of Heaven: The Parables of Christ and What They Mean for You, Principalities and Powers: Spiritual Combat 1942-1943, Cloud of Witnesses — Dead People I Knew When They Were Alive, Coincidentally: Unserious Reflections on Trivial Connections, A Crisis of Saints: Essays on People and Principles, Brightest and Best, Saint John Vianney: The Cure D'Ars Today, Crisis in Culture, and Adam Danced: The Cross and the Seven Deadly Sins.

Copyright © 2011 Father George W. Rutler
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