A Catholic Weltanschauung

A Catholic Weltanschauung

Of all the seasons, I like summer best because there always seems to be an abundance of sunlight. Not only does it warm the body, it illuminates the beauties of nature and the wonders of God’s creation. During one weekday Mass the celebrant commented about how our mutual faith gave Catholics a different perspective on the world.  The Germans have a wonderful word for this. They call a unique worldview, a Weltanschauung.

It occurred to me that because of the light of faith Catholics view things or should view things in a completely different way from non-believers. The Bible begins with the promise of God’s revealing light when God commanded Let there be light! (Gen: 1:3-5).

One cannot read John’s Gospel without realizing how important light is to the Catholic faith and to human beings in a spiritual way. Catholics should see things more clearly because Jesus promised us that He was the light of the world and those who follow me will never be in darkness but will have the light of life. (8:12) By nature of our faith we should be more hopeful and love more ardently than most worldly people do.

In a Men’s Bible study meeting years ago a pediatric eye surgeon opened our collective eyes to the fact that, next to raising Lazarus from the dead, the parable of the man born blind was the most miraculous event in the Gospels.

Medical science had taught him that a baby born blind would never have the necessary vision pathways that could be medically restored in adult life. He contrasted this with someone who lost his sight later in life to glaucoma or cataracts.

Jesus also uses blindness as a moral metaphor throughout John’s Gospel, especially in dealing with the willful sightlessness of the Pharisees who failed to see the miracles of Jesus in front of them. Their eyes had been shut with the cataracts of their pride and lust in order to maintain their political and religious power.

Consequently they were willfully blind to Jesus and His promise of eternal salvation. They also closed their eyes to the light of His divine truth. They personified St. Thomas Aquinas’ example where a man who in the presence of the morning sun covers his eyes and says that he cannot see.

This prompted a thought about elderly novelist Harper Lee’s “new” book Go Set a Watchman. In actuality it was written before her universally acclaimed To Kill a Mockingbird. (1960) Lee portrayed the Finch family several years after To Kill. Her title is pregnant with a profundity of thought. Lee adopted it from Isaiah 21:6, which reads: Go Set a Watchman and listen to what he saith. As Atticus’ brother Dr. Jack Finch tells his niece Jean Louise (Scout’s adult name), that verse means to listen to your conscience or moral compass.

One need only look to our decadent culture to see the eternal battle between light and darkness that was foretold in the Gospels. We have many people who analogous to the eye doctor’s infant patient never developed a moral conscience and then there are those who have deliberately or through Acedia or a hardness of heart have blinded themselves to the clarity of moral choice. They have become likened to Blind Watchmen who can no longer see the truth or the reality of God’s divine will.

Thanks to the dark solicitude of false promises, twisted and profane language and lethal expediency so many of our watchmen have gone blind that they seek the darkness to hide the evil of their vices. Their flight from the light underscores the fact that it was the darkness of sin that put Christ on His cross.

When the light of the world came out of the His tomb on Easter Sunday, He engendered a culture of life that revels in the light of love of neighbor, the warmth of truth and the joy of sacrifice that still lives in His Church. Through it Jesus offers healing, reconciliation and eternal life where the forces of darkness only offer momentary pleasures and lives of eternal regret.

The forces of darkness will never cease lurking in the shadows. During the Enlightenment of the 16th and 17th centuries they extinguished the cultural lights with their vain promises of ridding the world of the Church and its superstitions. In its place they have wreaked centuries of bloody revolutions with their guillotines, bastilles, concentration camps and gulags.

To paraphrase former Archbishop of St. Louis and Philadelphia, Cardinal Justin Rigali, light will be victorious when all of us shut out the darkness of sin in our lives and open our minds and hearts completely to the Light of the World.

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Written by
William Borst