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The Glory of Conformity to Christ

  • THOMAS HOWARD

To be Catholic is to have, at the far end of one's picture of things, the vision of God, the beatific vision.


benscholThe supreme attempt on the part of human imagination to catch even the dimmest and most fugitive glimpse of this vision will be found in Dante's Paradiso, where the imagery of light — of dazzle, even — suffuses all.  Dante ends his immense saga of hell, purgatory, and paradise by pointing us all to "the Love that moves the sun and other stars."  It is that, really, toward which a Catholic sees himself moving.  Every aspect of the Catholic's religion bids him thence.

His baptism: in this event he is taken into Christ and stamped with the indelible identity of Christian, that is, one of those who, by being found in Christ, will one day hear: Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  All of the sacraments, baptism being the first that the new Christian encounters, stand on the cusp between the seen and the unseen, and mark him as one whose life — including his physical life — is destined for eternity and already participates in the eternal.

Prayer: here he finds himself among the whole family in heaven and earth (Eph 3:15) — angels, saints, all who have preceded him in death, all who accompany him on this earthly pilgrimage, the Mother of God herself, and our great High Priest, Jesus Christ, into whose self-oblation we have all been drawn.

The Church's Magisterium: to be Catholic is to rely on this exercise, apostolic in its character, of the Church's identity as the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Tm 3:15), and to be spared, as it were, the perpetual uncertainty that accompanies the notion of the Church as only invisible.

To be Catholic is to see one's entire identity and calling to be nothing other than configuration to Christ and union with him, in his humiliation, his self-oblation, his resurrection, his ascension, and his intercessory office in behalf of the world.  For the life of the world: to be Catholic is to see oneself as for, not against, the world.  For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.  Patriarchs, prophets, kings, apostles, fathers, confessors, martyrs, virgins, widows, infants, and all the faithful from the beginning testify to this.  To be Catholic is to share in this identity.

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Acknowledgement

howardtThomas Howard. "The Old Myth and the New." from  Chance or the Dance?: A Critique of Modern Secularism (Ignatius Press, 2018): 1-4.

Reprinted with permission from Ignatius Press.

The Author

HowardThomas Howard taught for many years at St. John's Seminary College, the Roman Catholic seminary of the archdiocese of Boston. He became Episcopalian in his mid-twenties, then entered the Catholic Church in 1985. Among the books he has authored are Chance or the Dance?The Night Is Far Spent, Evangelical is Not Enough, If Your Mind Wanders at Mass, On Being CatholicDove Descending: A Journey Into T.S. Eliot's Four Quartetsand The Secret of New York Revealed. Howard's story of why he became Catholic is called Lead, Kindly Light: My Journey to Rome.

Copyright © 2018 Ignatius Press
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