Monday, October 23, 2006

Mission, Meaning, and Posterity

This from John Henry Cardinal Newman:
God has created me to do him some definite service; he has committed some work to me which he has not committed to another. I have my mission – I never may know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. Somehow I am necessary for his purposes, as necessary in my place as an Archangel in his – if, indeed, I fail, he can raise another, as he could make the stones children of Abraham. Yet I have a part in this great work; I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not create me for naught. …

Therefore I shall trust him. Whatever, wherever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve him; in perplexity, my perplexity may serve him; if I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve him. My sickness, or perplexity, or sorrow may be necessary causes of some great end, which is quite beyond us. He does nothing in vain; he may prolong my life, he may shorten it; he knows what he is about, he may take away my friends, he may throw me among strangers, he may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hid the future from me – still he knows what he is about. [quoted: Magnificat, Vol. 8, No.8]
A link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons … this, as one grows older, seems to go to the heart of the matter. Scientific facts may exist independently of the acts that communicate them, but, in a world created by a Triune God, the supreme truth exists only where truthful people are willing and able to tell one another the truth. How we do this, and however well or inadequately we do it, the act of witnessing is integral to the mission. As R. R. Reno succinctly put it in the November issue of First Things:
None of us can reinvent a Christian literary imagination, political theory, scientific culture, or systematic theology on our own, because a Christian intellectual culture is a collective, multigenerational project.
So is Christian faith and the ecclesial community of the faithful. We belong to one another, and our duty is to those who will come after us.

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