The Certainty of Catholicism
On Friday evening, a broad summer storm front roared through Virginia and Maryland at speeds up to 80 miles per hour. My wife and I went out on our screened porch to experience the storm when we first heard the rush of the wind, but we quickly realized this was not where we wanted to be. We were spared significant damage. Losing power for only four or five hours, we awoke the next morning to learn that well over a million people were without power and that five persons had been killed. Many will be without power for a week or more, with record high temperatures soaring over a hundred degrees.
All of us are wise to reflect on our littleness when God hints at his own might through the awesome power of created nature. So it was with gratitude that, over the weekend, as I continued reading through Fr. Saward’s wonderful anthology encompassing The Spiritual Tradition of Catholic England, I found the following excerpt from Bishop John Milner (1752-1826). We are little, truly, but we are blessed with the strength of a certain Faith:
When…will there be an end of the objections and cavils of men, whose pride, ambition, or interest leads them to deny the plainest truths? You have seen those which the ingenuity and learning of [so many of our modern thinkers] have raised against the unchangeable Catholic rule and interpreter of faith. Say, is there anything sufficiently clear and certain in them to oppose to the luminous and sure principles, on which the Catholic method is placed? Do they afford you a sure footing to support you against all doubts and fears on the score of your religion, especially under the apprehension of approaching dissolution? If you answer affirmatively, I have nothing more to say; but if you cannot so answer, and, if you justly dread undertaking your voyage to eternity on the presumption of your private judgment, a presumption which you have clearly seen has led so many other rash Christians to certain shipwreck, follow the example of those who have happily arrived at the port which you are in quest of. In other words, listen to the advice of the holy patriarch to his son: Then Tobias answered his father—I know not the way, etc.; then his father said—Seek thee a faithful guide (Tobit 5:4). You will no sooner have sacrificed your own wavering judgment, and have submitted to follow the guide, whom your heavenly Father has provided for you, than you will feel a deep conviction that you are in the right and secure way; and very soon you will be enabled to join with the happy converts of ancient and modern times, in this hymn of praise: “I give Thee thanks, O God, my Enlightener and Deliverer; for that Thou hast opened the eyes of my soul to know Thee. Alas! too late have I known Thee, O ancient and eternal Truth! too late have I known Thee” (St. Augustine, Confessions).
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