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Rousselot's The Eyes of Faith is an extraordinary work on all accounts. Pierre Rousselot,

S.J. was one of the most promising and intellectually gifted of the twentieth century Thomists. His

brilliant and undeservedly neglected work, L 'Intellectualisme de Saint Thomas, constitutes a bold

and provocative reading of Thomistic thought in open dialogue with modernity. His brief work on

The Eyes ofFaith was written just after Rousselot attained his doctorate from the Sorbonne and as

he was preparing to teach at the Instituit Catholique in Paris. Sadly, the promise of Rousselot would

never be realized, Rousselot died in 191 5 at the battle of Les Eparges. He was a medic and chaplain.

Thus, Rousselot would have only seven years for academic work and much of that time was

interrupted by war and the preparation for war. Hence, he would never have a chance to revise this

text. Nonetheless, "despite its imperfections, The Eyes of Faith, must serve as a stimulating

introduction to one of the most profound thinkers of modem Catholicism. It remains the most

penetrating and influential analysis of the act of faith in modem theology."'

Rousselot confronts a central problem of modern theology. Since the bifurcation of faith and

reason which is instigated by the Cartesian experiment of radical doubt, reason and faith have tended

to function in an autonomous manner: philosophy no longer relies on theology for guidance or

heuristic limitation; theology no longer employs philosophy's search for truth to assist in the search

for God. Put simply, modernity grants to reason a virtually unlimited domain and faith is left to find

its way in the undisciplined realms of emotion and pure practicality. The claims of reason are no

longer tempered by theological limits. Hence, the knowledge claims of reason have tended,

throughout modernity, to grow more and more extravagant and absolute. So much so that, as one

'Pierre Rousselot, The Eyes of Faith, translated by Joseph Donceel, introduction by John McDermot (New York: Fordham University Press, 1990), 2.

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notices in Hume, the claims are no longer even supportable as knowledge. Puffed up with

presumption, reason collapses beneath the weight of it own arrogant audaciousness. One is ...

reminded of the medieval cities which, in their competition to build the highest spires, built higher

than even flying buttresses could support and watched their churches crumble like medieval Twin

Towers.

In all this, Kant is often viewed as the "bad guy." But, in a certain sense, Kant is very useful

to the modem theologian. Kant highlights precisely where the problem is and even points the way

to its eventual solution. Kant sees that the stronger claim (i.e., knowledge claim), is the weaker

argument. Kant realizes that reason and it claims must be limited in order to be justified. In

previous times, pre-modern times, theology served as the heuristic limit to reason and, hence, in an

odd manner of speaking, saved philosophy from itself. Kant, while not a theologian per se, realizes

that the space vacated by theology needs to be filled. Kant will fill the hollowed out space of

theology with critique. While the Catholic theologian might not approve of the substitution, Kant

must be credited with seeing the problem clearly and pointing Western thought in the direction of

a possible and viable solution.

The genius of Rousselot consists in recognizing that Kant, indeed the moderns in general,

were not bogeymen to be exorcized by the power of the Gospel of Thomas Aquinas. Instead,

Rousselot realizes that in order to enter into a fruitful dialogue with modernity, he would have to

- take modernity seriously and debate with modernity on its own terms. This realization is explicit

from the first page of The Eyes of Faith, where Rousselot asks if it possible to resolve the apparent

antinomy of reason and faith. This question shows what an extraordinary, daring and creative ;.I

thinker Rousselot is and makes one wistful for what a mature Rousselot might have accomplished.

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Rousselot incarnates in his thought a profound engagement of the best in Thomas Aquinas with the

best in Irnmanuel Kant.

So, let us read Rousselot and read him with three important interpretive questions in mind

- questions of theological, philosophical and pastoral significance: 1. How does the truth of faith

reconcile itself with the historical character of faith? 2. Is faith fundamentally a gift of grace or a

natural organization of beliefs? 3. Ultimately, the question comes down to this: is it possible to find

a middle ground between the opposing, and both heretical, extremes of fideism and rationalism.

In order to negotiate a non-heretical passage between these two extremes, "many modem

theologians look for a middle term to use as a kind of schematism in order to explain the meeting

of infused faith (supernatural power of knowing) with dogmatic faith (the ensemble of objects

k n o ~ n ) . " ~ At first glace, it may be a bit difficult to understand Rousselot's language at this juncture.

This is because he makes use of scholastic language and a set of subtle distinctions with which we

moderns tend to be unfamiliar. The suspicious modern mind fears that Rousselot is positing a

distinction without a difference: where is the difference between infused faith and dogmatic faith?

Is not faith simply faith and what is the point of this fine distinction?

Part 11-11, Q. 1, article 4 of the Summa theologica explains the importance of this distinction

by holding that there are two different senses of belief. Faith may be said to be dogmatic when it

pertains to that which the intellect assents to as a first principle or as conclusion. This type of belief

is distinct from knowledge insofar as it is more inferred than directly seen. For example., I believe

that there must be a first cause even though I, clearly, never actually witness the first cause.

Likewise, I believe that all finite processes are necessarily moving toward completion, even though

2Rousselot, The Eves of Faith, 23.

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I am not there to witness said completion. This is the meaning of dogmatic faith: I do not see the

object of faith but infer it from what I see. Therefore, dogmatic faith is still the substance of things

unseen - even though the unseen may be coherently inferred from the clues of the visible. If I get hit

in the head with a rock, I presume that the rock came from somewhere even if I can not see or deduce

the place from which it came, Second, the intellect assents to that which has been given as gift. For

example, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. This is infused faith, faith which my intellect

consents to because it has been illuminated by the gift of grace.

As Rousselot points out with reference to the antinomy of faith and reason: "Two solutions

are excluded: one claiming that grace has no cognitive activity, the other asserting the necessity of

an inner objective revelation, perceptible to e~eryone."~ In other words, on the one hand, it cannot

be that the act of faith is a pure act of the will. Were such the case, the claims of religion would not

be truth claims at all. The pietism which views religion in such purely practical terms is, precisely,

the result of modern scepticism. If God cann6t be known as true, it is necessary for the will to

consent to belief in God because it is expedient, pleasurable or just plain useful to do so. On the

other hand, I do not believe, the way I believe that it is sunny outside my window at this moment.

I can see that it is sunny outside and faith is not the substance of things seen; faith is the substance

of things unseen, as Augustine reminds us with such poetic force.

Hence, the importance of the Thomistic distinction is clear: faith arises from being infused.

In a certain sense, faith is a gift given at baptism (habitus infusus). Likewise, faith, for its

specification, depends on being understood (credibilium determinatio). Put in simple terms, it comes

to this: the act of faith is not and cannot be coherently understood as pure act of the will, it requires ;.I

'Rousselot, The Eves of Faith, 23.

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also the assenting cooperation of the intellect for its specification; likewise, the act of faith is not and

cannot be coherently understood as a pure act ofthe intellect, it requires the consenting cooperation

of the will for its justification. Grace works with nature, grace builds on and completes nature.

I have been teaching seminarians philosophy for 12 years now and have taught ethics each

year in that period. The most difficult aspect to teaching ethics in particular is helping the students

to "unlearn" the implicit yet pervasive ideas they already have in their heads when they begin the

study of philosophy. Most of the students, first of all, enter seminary with a predominantly

Protestant approach to the questions of sin, guilt, sexuality and the world. Moreover, this culturally

transmitted form of Protestant theology is not even the subtle and sometimes brilliant theology of

a Calvin or a Luther. Instead, it a set of half-baked, half-truths which have been acquired

accidentally and do not even constitute a coherent or unified set of beliefs. Jerry Farwell, Jimmy

Swaggart and Pat Robertson are very entertaining but I would not call them systematic theologians.

In fact, I would not call them theologians at all. Second, most of our students are far more

comfortable with a simplistic and fundamentalistic approach to authority and Scripture than they are

with the modal and allegorical approaches to these issues, which by the way are far more in keeping

with the Catholic tradition. Finally, most of our students, even though they do not know what the

word "escathology" means are far more influenced by the separation of faith and reason and

Lutheran pessimism in this regard than they are with a more traditionally Catholic notion which

insists on seeing the ontological goodness of the created order and viewing evil as a deprivation or

a lack of good.

As for sin guilt, sex and the world, a theology professor once remarked at lunch: "I spend half

my class debating about matters which one would have thought would have been addressed in basic

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catechesis." I often annoy my first year seminary students by telling them that their basic problem

is that they are far more Protestant than Catholic in their outlook (actually I probably annoy some

of you as well, but the job of a teacher is much like the job of a prophet - to comfort the d i c t e d and

to afflict the comfortable). he problem is that these young and earnest new Zwinglis are not even

very good or consistent Protestants at that. Which is to say, the Protestantism which dominates our

culture is not the sophisticated and nuanced theology of a Karl Barth or a Paul Tillich. It is the

Protestantism of the televison preachers and the revival tents, a simplistic and pietistic

sentimentalism which purports to love Jesus Christ while being blithely unconcerned about any sort

of Christological sophistications.

Sad as it may be to admit, many of our students today come to seminary and are basically

unchurched upon their arrival. They have not raised been Catholic despite what might be written

on their baptism certificates. They pick up whatever theological and religious sensibility they may

possess from culture and mass media. Of course, the difficulty is that this unconscious and

subliminal education teaches many lessons of dubious value. For example, a child who has grown

up watching Beavis and Butthead, listening to countless tasteless jokes about the human anatomy,

has been formed and deformed by what he or she is watching. The child learns that sexuality is

shameful and embarrassing. The child learns that the naked body is to be ridiculed and treated as

something filthy and comical. Doubtless, it was not the intention of the makers of Beavis and

Butthead to teach such lessons, but these messages persist in at least a subliminal manner. Of

course, the same criticism could be leveled against The Simpsons or Southpark However, I would

contend that the fact that The Simpsons, and to a lesser degree Southpark, are so much more clever ;J

than Beavis and Butthead, which is basically a crude compilation of witless toilet humor, leads one

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to suspect that the Simpsons and Southpark actually contain an implied polemic against the very

things they are laughing at or maybe I just like the Simpsons and Southpark and do not like Beavis

and Butthead.

In any event, the basic idea in most of my young students' minds is this: the world is suspect,

the flesh is evil, sexuality is a corruption and women are to be feared being that they are the

temptresses. Any mention of sexual functions, or even bodily functions, are a cause of shame and

embarrassment. Hence, seminary locker rooms, like all locker rooms everywhere, are bastions of

misogyny, self-loathing and fear, thinly hidden behind crude machismo and embarrassed giggling.

Before a student can seriously consider matters of right and wrong, it is necessary that he, first, make

these implicit notions explicit and, second, fi-ee himself from these notions by the liberation that goes

by the name of ed~ca t ion .~ The famous contention of Luther that "nature unaided by grace is a dung-

heap which is covered over by the white sheet of Christ's mercy," would not be too jarring a notion

for many of our young seminarians to accept. After all, they have listened to homilies and television

shows which, implicitly and explicitly, have drilled those ideas into their heads since their youth.

Moreover, religious fundamentalism and Scriptural literalism so dominate our culture and

world view that it would be a very unique or isolated person who might escape from its clutches.

The average student holds all sorts ofunconscious beliefs which are at best questionable and at worst

absurd, for example: it is a greater act of faith to believe something which I do not understand at all

than to believe something I partially understand; the act of faith is a pure exercise of the will; the one

who takes Scripture literally, performs a more perfect act of faith than the one who interprets

Scripture allegorically; suffering is the key to holiness. Each of these presumptions has a Protestant

4N.b. Literally from the Latin e-ducare which is to lead out of.

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etymology, yet many of today's students believe themselves to be orthodox because they hold to

them. The was an old priest of Miami named John McKuen and he used to say, upon meeting

someone who was extremely fundamentalistic, "Son, Jesus came to take away your sins, not your

brain."

The student who clings tight to these presuppositions is, strictly speaking, uneducable. His

or her basic anthropology is so defective and narrow that it will not allow in anything new. As

Socrates famously asserted, ignorance is the first stage of wisdom. Before I might come to know,

I need to realize that I need to know. I have watched with sadness and dismay as some students have

moved through philosophy, unmotivated and unchanged. They hear something new and immediately

feel threatened. Henri de Lubac has famously asserted in this regard: "Every time man gives up a

particular way of thinking, he fears he is losing God."'

Finally, as to the more complex matter of "escathology," our students today view the world

along strictly bifurcated lines. Few of them have read Descartes but most of them have picked up

the notion that grace and nature, philosophy and religion, the natural and the supernatural are warring

camps. Such a view is radically "unCatholic," at least if you will grant that Augustine of Hippo and

Thomas Aquinas exemplify Catholic thought. For Augustine and Thomas, there is not a radical

separation between the natural and the supernatural or between grace and nature. Insofar as, the

natural and the supernatural are each part of the great outpouring of Divine Esse which is God's

Creation. To set the natural against the supernatural is to imply that there is a created and an

uncreated order. Of course, such an implication would be absurd and incomprehensible, heretical

'Henri de Lubac, cited in J.B. Metz, "Gort vor uns, " in Ernest Bfoch zu ehren (~rankfirt: Suhrkamp, 1964), 233.

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too! It is not as if God created supernature and the devil created, or at least corrupted, nature. God

created both nature and supernature and both, for that precise reason, are intrinsically good.

'

Rousselot serves as a not so gentle reminder of the necessity to maintain balance in this

regard: "The documents of the Church ... require that faith be not blind but reasonable, and all the

theologians accept the.principle that St Thomas formulated as follows: non crederemus, nisi -.

videremus esse credendum ['we would not believe if we did see that we ought to believe'].'& Yet,

there is a difficulty in understanding what precisely St. Thomas means. Most of us did not first come

to believe because we understood the rational structure of faith, much less were we persuaded by the

force of some rational demonstration or another. Most of us came to believe because we were

taught by our parents to believe and we trusted their word to us: "If the young Catholic is right in

believing his mother orhis pastor, is the young Protestant wrong in believing his minister or his

m~ther?"~ Faith makes its entry in a somewhat disorderly fashion and, at least with reference to the

faith of children, it is obvious that faith cannot be adequately accounted for outside of grace.

Likewise, when I say I believe in God I do not mean I believe something I understand not at

all. I do not believe something which is self-contradictory or utterly absurd: "The real movement

of the intelligence remains unexplained unless we view it, above all, as an active power of

synthesis."8 The intellect is not merely coerced into belief by the sadistic and coercive force of the

consenting will. The intellect cooperates with the will to be sure but, in the final analysis, the

intellect is moved to assent. The intellect assents because it has seen a certain light [lumen].

6Rousselot, The Eves of Faith, 24.

'Rousselot, The Eves of Faith, 25.

'Rousselot, The Eyes of Faith, 27.

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Rousselot offers an analogy which greatly clarifies the situation:

Take the case of two scientists, both looking for the exact law that explains a set of obscure phenomena and both directed in their search by the thought of the same hypothesis. Or consider two detectives, both examining the scene of a crime and both inclined to suspect a certain individual. Let us assume that the same phenomenon comes to the attention of both scientists, or that the identical detail is simultaneously considered by both detectives. It does not follow that both will necessarily arrive at identical conclusions. One of them may immediately leap to certainty, while the other remains in the dark. Yet materially - that is, in its individuality - the new fact is represented in like fashion in both minds. But one man has perceived it, not as a raw and isolated phenomena, but as a clue pointing to the law or conclusion both were seeking. He has perceived the fact in its connection with the law, made the synthesis of the fact with the law, and instantly affirmed the connection as real. Not so the other. He "does not see." He has the same representations of both the hypothesis and the new fact, and with the same material accuracy as his colleague; he may even think or their relation if his partner explains it to him. Yet the connection escapes him; the synthesis remains unmade. So the difference between the one who sees and the one who does not does not consist in any difference in the notes of the representation, but in the greater or lesser power of their intellectual a~tivity.~

This is a fascinating thesis: it is possible not to pick up on the clues of faith due to the fact that one

lacks intelligence or imagination. Take for example the movie Seven. There are two detectives in

the film who are trying to catch a killer. The older detective, Somerset, is a cultured, educated and

gracious man. It is as if the clues of the case constitute a discussion between Somerset and the killer.

The younger detective, Mills, is a crude, violent and ignorant man. The clues of the case go right

over his head. How can he catch the references to Dante, Virgil or Thomas Aquinas if he has never ... . -. - -,..

read Dante, Virgil or Thomas Aquinas?

The modern view of the mechanics of faith is self-consciously perverse. The modem view

on faith presumes that faith should be equally accessible to all minds. This is a very democratic ideal

but not a very coherent one. My brother and I are both doctors, I of philosophy and he of urological

9Rousselot, Eyes of Faith, 27-28.

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medicine. If you want to know where to insert the knife in your private parts, ask my brother. If you

want to understand Thomistic metaphysics, ask me. Modernity, for its part, has forgotten that one

cannot separate truth from the fine sense of truth. Moreover, truth does not merely fall into the lap

of any lazy dullard who turns his or her hazy eyes toward truth. Truth is beautiful, complex and

subtle and, hence, requires preparation, passion and prayer on the part of the one who would receive

it. We must make ourselves ready for truth.

We live in a time of devalued truth, of cut-rate truth, of desiccated truth, of facile truth.

Gone from our social and cultural world-view is the notion that truth is precious, is sacred, is

something that must be deserved in order to be attained. The Church Fathers, for example, affirmed

that contemplation was the highest form of human activity. In the world of today, where frantic

activity seems to function as its own justification, such a view is utterly out of fashion. Gabriel

Marcel quotes Peter Wust in this regard, "we modems have to proceed by way of a metaphysic of

knowledge to the slow and painful recovery of something which was given in the Middle Ages

through mysticism veiled in mystery and awe. I think we could put this more simply by saying that

we may have lost touch with the fundamental truth that knowledge implies previous askesis--

purifi~ation."'~

Rousselot completes the application for us: "One of the characters in Loss and Gain tells

Charles Redding: "'I enter into your reasons; I cannot for the life of me, see how you come to your

conclusion.' And the convert answers, 'to me, on the other hand, Carlton, it is like two and two

' O Marcel, Beina and Having, 190; "Nous modernes reconque'rir lentement et ptniblement sous les espBces d'une me'taphysique de la connaissance ce qui e'tait donne'e au Moyen Age sous la forme d'une mystique enveloppe'e de mystBre ef de respect. J'exprimerais ceci plus simplement en disant que nous avons peut-&tre perdu contact avec cette ve'rite'fondamentale que la connaissance implique une ascbe pre'alable--clest-ri-dire au fond une purijication" [Marcel, Etre et avoir, 1381.

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make four.'"" In a similar manner, Somerset, throughout the film, Seven, attempts to help Mills to

see the clues. But Mills, due to a failure of intelligence, patience or imagination, simply cannot see

and interpret the clues which are presented to him.

Rousselot restates this idea in beautiful and mystical language at the close of the chapter, "the

lover recognizes the Spouse 'by a'single hair of her neck.'"'* There is an old story told of Teresa of

Avila who was counseling a ,young nun on prayer. The young sister complained of dryness in her

prayer life, that nothing could hold her attention for long. Teresa picked up a dried and desiccated

leaf and told the young lady, "if you were just able to realize that this leaf "is," you would fall down

and quiver with ecstacy for all eternity." Thomas More said of the nobility of England that they

would snore through the sermon on the Mount. Indeed, I went to a very fine concert last week and

watched a young lady sleep through Mozart and then through Stravinsky. Such persons should not

be allowed to buy a ticket. Yet: "some saints went into ecstacy on viewing a blade of grass. So, too

when it comes to faith."I3 For some very subtle and profound souls, the slightest clue leads to

surety and peace. For others, a direct revelation from God would not suffice. The lover'recognizes

his beloved by a single hair on the back of her neck. ',

As for the origin of the act of faith, one must recognize that there is, "a reciprocal priority

between the affirmation of the law and the perception of the fact that serves as a clue."'4 Which is - '_

to say, we see the proof of what we believe and what we believe in a single unified grasp of insight:

"Rousselot, The Eves of Faith, 29.

lZRousselot, The Eves of Faith, 35.

"Rousselot, The Eves of Faith, 35.

14Rousselot, The Eves of Faith, 29.

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"Depending on one's point of view, the particular is both cause and effect, proof and application,

clue to and consequence of the law. The law is seen through the clue, but it is only in seeing the law

that the clue is seen as clue. The fact cannot be known as a clue unless we affirm the law."15

A practical example will help to understand the nature ofthis hermeneutical reciprocity. One

of my favorite texts is the Confessions of Augustine. I have read it many times over. Every time I

read it, I see more or I see it differently. There is a particular passage in Book Ten which reads that

desire I feel for my God, "is a bond of union that no satiety part.'"' I have certainly read that passage

many times in my life and I understood what the words meant in a literal sense the very first time

I read them. But for all those years of reading and re-reading, I did not get it. A few years ago, in

Lent, I read again and it was like I was reading for the very first time. The words jumped off the

page and made perfect sense to me. Augustine means that he feels in his heart a most unusual

longing. He longs for his God but, unlike normal desires, the more he satisfies his desire for God,

the more he desires his God. No satiety sunders his desire. At that moment, the words of Augustine

became more than words on a page for me. At that moment, I realized their power to signify

meaning for me. But notice, the law-like meaning arises simultaneously with the realization that the

words are a clue to that meaning. Hence, "perceiving the connection and giving one's assent are

one and the same thing."I7 Or in a more direct language: "Perception of credibility and belief in truth

are identically the same act."18 In short, if you do not understand a tenet of faith at all, if it is utterly

'SRousselot, The Eves of Faith, 29.

I6Augustine, Confessions, translated by Henry Chadwick (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), 183.

"Rousselot, The Eves of Faith, 30.

"Rousselot, The Eyes of Faith, 3 1 .

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incomprehensible to you, it is impossible to believe it. When you say you believe that which you

do not understand at all, that which seems absurd to your intellect, you are not being faithful or

obedient. Plainly and simply, you are a coward and you are lying. While we never exhaustively

understand the truths of faith, faith still takes it stand on the ground of truth. I cannot believe unless

I see that I ought to believe. Put even more simply, faith must be reasonable.

One fears a perhaps vicious circularity here, something like: I believe because it is credible;

it is credible because I believe it. However, the circularity is removed if we are able to distinguish

between a vicious circle and a hermeneutical one. Paul Ricoeur writes, in The Conflict of

Interpretations, "hermeneutics buries itself in what could be called the hermeneutical circle of

understanding and of believing, which disqualifies it as science and qualifies it as mediating

th~ught."'~ As Augustine held, "Credo ut intelligani, intellego ut credam." This is a circle but it is ,

not a vicious or deadly one. One must believe in order to understand. One cannot make sense of

any text without allowing a certain suspension of belief. For example, one could never begin to

understand the point of Hamlet without giving Shakespeare the benefit of the doubt. One must

presume that the text is true in some manner in order to discover the truth of the text, which is

precisely the reason why persons of an overly literal frame ofmind make for incompetent interpreters

and incoherent philosophers. Yet, is it only by understanding that we can believe: "Such is the

circle: hermeneutics proceeds from the pre-understanding of the very matter through which

interpretation is trying to ~nderstand."~'

I9Paul Ricoeur, The Conflict of Interpretations, translat'ed by Don Hyde (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1974), 30. ;.I

"Ricoeur, Conflict of Interpretations, 298.

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As Ricoeur concluded in The Symbolism ofEvil, "the symbol gives rise to tho~ght."~' The

external signs or symbols which give rise to the act of faith are multiple, "the holiness of a good

priest, the healing of a sick person, the impression produced by a religious feast, and so on. But such

a sign is always known both as a real fact, interwoven with the entire fabric of the human experience,

and as a clue pertaining to the same order as the truth to which it pertains."22 When 1 say, "I believe

in One God," I am confessing a particular determination of faith, made partially comprehensible by

the intellect and, at the same time, recognizing that my faith depends for its justification on an

infused gift of grace.

Rousselot has framed the question perfectly so as, in the second part of his work, he might

be able to expose the epistemological foundation of the act of faith. The task of the second section

we be to show that the freedom and the reasonableness of the act of faith are to be found in its

supernaturality. If he is able to achieve this, he will have gone a long way toward spanning a bridge

from Aquinas to Kant.

Bonus homily ... I. Lent, sin and salvation

As we start Lent, it might do a bit of good to reflect on the nature of sin and salvation. This past

week, I was reading a marvelous book for my philosophy class. It is called "The Eyes of Faith" by

a French Jesuit named Pierre Rousselot. At the end of the first chapter of "The Eyes of Faith,"

Rousselot wrote a sentence that took my breath away. I almost wept, it was so tender and beautiful.

"Paul Ricoeur, The Symbolism of Evil, Emerson Buchanan (Boston: Beacon Press, 1967), 347-357.

22Ro~sselot, The Eves of Faith, 33.

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I nearly wept - I must be one of the oddest priests in the Archdiocese to weep over philosophy

books. Of course, my students very likely weep over philosophy books as well but for different

reasons. Rousselot writes about how the act of faith is akin to picking up on clues. The believer is

like a good detective. The believer see signs of God's presence like a detective sees clues at a crime

scene. The believer then comes to believe because he or she reads beauty, goodness, truth and love

as signs of God's presence. Summarizing this idea, Rousselot writes, "the spouse recognizes her

Beloved by a single hair on the back of his neck." What an amazing and gorgeous sentence, "the

spouse recognizes her Beloved by a single hair on the back of his neck."

11. Sin and salvation?

We believe because we-see signs of God's presence everywhere, not proofs, but signs, clues and

hints. Oddly, some people do not believe in God because they lack intelligence or imagination.

Notice we are all living in the same world but some people see in beauty, truth, goodness and love,

signs which point to God and some people do not see these realities as pointing to anything. Hence,

"the spouse recognizes her Beloved by a single hair on the back of his neck." And for the

unbeliever, a million clues would be insufficient. What might this have to do with sin and salvation,

much less Lent, you might well ask. It is quite simple. You see the believer recognizes his or her

need for God in a single one of his or her sins. Lent is not a time of gloom and darkness and despair,

not a time of harsh penance and spiritual flagellation. Actually, Lent is a time of deep joy, or at least

a time when we are supposed to be chasing our deep joy. Lent is a time to search our hearts and ask

ourselves one centrally important question: What will it take to make us happy and whole? What

kind of person do you want to be? If you could be anyway you wanted to be, how would you be? ;J

111. How do I want to Be?

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Yesterday, I took the entire afternoon and asked myself just that question. As a priest, I want to

mediate mystery for people. To know that I have helped someone find mystery satisfies my soul and

my heart more completely than anything else I can imagine. As a teacher, I want to help instill in

others a passion for learning and a desire for truth. As person, I want to be happy and free. I want

to be able to bring joy to others and help them to be happy and free as well.

IV A Brief story of two Italians adrift in Belgium

I have told you about many of my adventures and misadventures in Belgium. One person I have not

told you about was dear friend of mine named Tony. Tony, like myself, is Italian and like myself,

he found the grayness and wetness and coldness of Belgium somewhat oppressive. Every Sunday,

I would go to Tony's apartment and we would cook, not mean, stingy Belgium food, but warm,

generous Italian food. We would invite people in and cook and eat all day long: eggplant and

lasagna and ravioli and mussels and rabbits and pastafazzu and tira misu and express0 and brandy

and whole fish and vegetables swimming in olive oil ... not all in one meal of course Once a Welsh

priest friend of mine came to dinner and we spent all day eating. At the end we were sitting outside

smoking cigars and sipping brandy. Tony was singing Italian songs and my friend said to him,

"Tony, you are a movable feast." That 's what I want to be when I grow up. I want to be a movable

feast for others. My sins are anything that gets in the way of me being that. Just as the lover

recognizes her Beloved by a single hair on the back of his neck, we would clearly see our need for

God if we truly understood a single one of our sins. Lent is not a time to be sad; lent is a time to

chase your deepest joy and, thereby, make yourself free.

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In the second chapter of The Eyes oflaith, Rousselot undertakes one of the most ambitious

and daring projects of modern theology. He attempts to show that "certitude of an act of faith is

derived fro111 its freedom."' Anyone even remotely familiar with the storms and struggles of lgth

century theology immediately sees the doctrinal importance of this task. Nineteenth-century

theology vacillated wildly between the twin heretical extremes of rationalism and fideism. The

fideist sees the act of faith as a perfectly free, and a somewhat arbitrary, act of the will. The

rationalist sees the act of faith as little more than a clever calculation, a certain affirmation of the

intellect. Obviously, if Rousselot can show that certitude is derived from freedom, he will overcome

the antimony and forestall the dual heretical tendency.

However, this project is also ofprofound philosophical significance. Freedom and certitude,

like faith and reason, have been unreasonably and illogically set against one another within the

context of modernity. The human being can never function as a pure intellect, like a brain in a jar.

~ikewise, the choices made by the will are always informed and guided by the intellect. The will

without the intellect is blind; the intellect without the will is lifeless. Each needs the other, not to

function properly, but to function at all. As Rousselot contends, both of the following statements

must be true for either of them to be true: "It is because man wills that he sees the truth. It is because

man sees the truth that he ~ i l l s . " ~

Rousselot holds,

human life furnishes quite a number of occasions on which free will, by the very act of choosing one side over another, or, more generally, of choosing some good, engenders, or opens the entryway for, a new light, one that modiJies the coloration

'Rousselot, The Eyes of Faith, 45. ;J

ZRousselot, The Eyes of Faith, 48.

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[emphasis mine], as it were, of the objects perceived, and thus makes a decision seem rea~onable.~

Consider the choice a young man might make to pursue a priestly vocation or to marry a

beautiful and wise young woman. Either choice involves the choosing of a good, it is not as though

priesthood is sacred and marriage is profane, or as if marriage is the healthy choice and priesthood

the psychologically sick one. Moreover, it is not as though one choice is more reasonable than the

other. Rather, each path is littered with the snares of grace and the pitfalls of disgrace. A happy

marriage can help to save your soul. An unhappy and bitter priesthood places your soul in jeopardy.

Grace is not an eitherlor proposition, not grace or nature, freedom or faith. Grace functions

according to the generous logic of bothland. To cooperate with grace demands that one first

recognize that there is no nook or cranny of Creation where grace is not present. The choice to

believe is informed by the heart and the intellect. God and God's grace speak to the individual and

particular human being, both heart and mind are illuminated.

Some persons find grace burning most brightly in priesthood, others in marriage. Grace is

to be found and found abundantly, in both priesthood and marriage. Leaving aside the contentious

question as to whether these two vocations are necessarily mutually exclusive-after all, whatever the

theoretical possibilities, the practical question of priestly celibacy, in the Roman Catholic Church

at least, is not open at the present time-the bottom line is that the question of priesthood or marriage

is a personal and intimate one and cannot be answered in general or universal terms. The truth of

a vocation is one that is forged in a particular human heart. Where do you find grace burning most

brightly? What is the deepest and dearest desire of your heart? Answer these questions and you will

'Rousselot, The Eves of Faith, 48.

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begin to make sense of your true vocation. The call to priesthood, if it is a true vocation, is part'of

a deeper and more profound call, the universal invitation to all human beings to heed the whisperings

of grace.

As Rousselot, intimates, the truest and deepest actions we perform are the ones for which we

can give no practical motive, are the ones which trail off into mystery. I do not fully understand how

or why I choose to become a priest except from within the concrete commitment to do so. There is

a scene in a film called the Milagro Bean Field War, based on the books by John Nicols. Diego is

an old man who sits around all day talking to his pet pig and the ghosts of his friends who have died.

One day Diego and a ghost friend are looking down into a field and watching Joe Mantegna open

the county water onto his father's bean field. The ghost says, "oooohhh, Joe Mategna vould not doo

deese theeng if he knew vhat eee was een for." Diego says, "Go way you stupid old ghost, no one

would do anything if they knew what they were in for." When a man gets married or becomes a

priest, he speaks the incredible and audacious words of a vow. He promises to do this thing and to

do it forever. He has no idea how or whether he will be able to do such a thing. We learn the how

and the whether in the living of the vow. The truth of a vocation is manifest in the living of a

vocation. It is a song, to paraphrase Augustine, that only the lover sings.

The act of faith is made not once and for all in the safety of the mind but is an act that is

made in the making, as Rousselot holds, "not the decision qua made, precisely, for there is not yet

a made 'decision, but the decision is in the m~k ing . ' ~ All free acts are thusly constituted. I do not

choose to love someone once and for all by a sudden whim of the will, the way I choose to,take a

swim or to eat a meal. I choose to love, and in the act of loving, I come to love. The parallel to the ;J

4Rousselot, The Eves of Faith, 48.

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conversion of Augustine is hidhly illustrative. Augustine says I do not confess because I am

converted, I confess to be converted.

For the sake of faith, love, or any other deep act of the soul, the will does not dominate the

intellect in an extrinsic sense. It is not as though one can choose to see black as white or that one

plus one equals six. Such a domination of the will over the intellect vitiates the nuanced and

mutually reciprocal relationship between these two faculties which is absolutely pre-requisite for a

legitimate act of faith. However, "A man in the grip of passion sees things with new eyes, sees in

them a new 'formal object,' as it were."5 For example, right here by my desk I have a photograph

of my niece Adrianna. If showed you her picture, you would "see" a very pretty little girl with hazel

eyes and reddish curly hair. I, on the other hand, see more in her. My vision of her is colored by my

love for her. In a psychological, spiritual and perhaps even physical sense, I "see" more in her.

Notice particularly that this coloration is not a distortion. Precisely to the contrary, it allows me to

see more deeply and more penetratingly into her. You, quite literally, "see less" because you do not

' love her. Rousselot has helped us to attain an astonishing level of insight into the act of faith.

My choice to love my niece is a free choice. Yet the more I love her, the more certain my love

becomes and the more freely I am able to choose that love. I come to know her more deeply by

loving her. Love allows me to see, opens my eyes as it were. This is not a matter of self-deception

on my part: "The will has freely chosen, not the new knowledge as such, but love, the manner of

living that necessarily implies that love."6 Notice that I do not choose to see whatever intimate

knowledge I might have of my niece. I merely choose to love her and, as a result of that love, new

SRousselot, The Eyes of Faith, 49.

6Rousselot, The Eyes of Faith, 49.

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ways of seeing her are made possible. Love gives way to new knowledge and knowledge opens the

possibility of deeper love.

Applied to the act of faith in God, freedom and certainty are shown to support one another:

"Love arouses the faculty of knowing, and by the same stroke, knowledge justifies that love."' Here,

~ousselot's description of the act of faith is at it most theological and most philosophical at once.

The medieval form of voluntarism, ala Scotus, which understood that the intellect is left behind by ,

the will which completes the journey to the beatific vision in a pure act of love has undergone

something of a re-birth in the philosophies of Henri Bergson and Maurice Blondel. Rousselot,

against voluntarism medieval or modern, defends the position of intellectualism. Rousselot contends

that intellectualism constitutes the true position of Thomas Aquinas. At first glance, rationalism

looks similar to rationalism. Distinct from rationalism, intellectualism holds that both intellect and

will are necessary for the attainment of the beatific vision, being that the beatific vision is a vision

of the real and, hence, of the true. This is a subtle and highly significant distinction.

Rousselot elaborates by posing a rather simple question in technical and complex language:

what is the nature of the "reciprocal causality between the voluntary homage owed to God in faith

and what is called the practical j~dgement?"~ Normally, we consider that one first determines that

belief is reasonable (a practical judgement) and then one accedes to belief by a movement of the will:

"The judgements are generally represented aspreceding the act of faith."9 Thus, the act of faith is

seen to be, first, certain and, then, free. Such a view is nice and neat, very simple, but perhaps a bit

'Rousselot, The Eyes o f Faith, 50.

'~ousselot, The Eyes o f Faith, 50.

9Rousselot, The Eves o f Faith, 5 1.

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too simple to be true. The act of faith is more complicated than this. It is not a matter of faith, first,

being certain and, then, being free. Instead, as we saw above, the act of faith is always certain and

free at once. It is not a matter of certitude simply handing the ball to freedom. Instead, certitude and

freedom are involved in a perpetual dance, a hermeneutical pas de deux. The free act of faith

involves a certitude which is grounded on love, a strange sort of certitude, but a certitude

nonetheless.

We must pause here and investigate the sort of certitude of which Rousselot speaks insofar

as it is, most certainly, not certitude in the common and everyday sense of the word. Clearly, by

certitude, Rousselot does not mean to imply that truth must have the character of indubitability, or

even the marks of clarity and distinctness. By certainty, Rousselot intends something more like

existential certitude, or what we might call an "assurance." Existential, for Gabriel Marcel, bears

the marks of an assurance as opposed to a certitude: "A certitude is generally expressed by an

impersonal verb, such as constat in Latin, or es stehtfist in German."" Matters of certitude are

matters of fact which do not take into account the being of the knower, much less the passions and

existential projects of the one who knows. For example, it is certain that water at sea level boils at

100 degrees centigrade or that in any triangle the sum of the angles equals two right angles. These

facts are not of existential importance. Faith is a matter bearing on existential, not certain, truths.

This is necessarily so insofar as certainty is a rather low order virtue, which bears on relatively trivial

facts. I am certain that one plus one equals two and that it is sunny outside my window right now.

But these facts do not matter too much to me. I am not so certain as to the status of my soul or the

existence of God but those questions matter a great deal to me.

'O Marcel, Authentic Humanness, 83.

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The truths of faith are the truths which pertain to what Marcel terms, "authentic humanness

(das wahre ~ench-sein)."" Such truths are beyond the scope of natural science and are not matters

of behaviouristic or even psychological import: "From this point of view, I believe we could say that

the essential characteristic of man is, in a sense, to bear witness."" "Bearing witness" is the key

religious term. When I say, "I believe in one God," I am saying something very strange and very

complex. I am bearing witness to an ontological depth within myself and a relation to others, to a

community. Perhaps, the language of the Creedal formulation itself is in need of investigation. As

Levinas contends:

The idea of God is God in me, but it is already God breaking up the unity of consciousness that aims at ideas, already differing from all content. There is a difference that is not, to be sure, an emergence, as if encompassing the idea of God had ever been possible; neither is it some escape from the empire of consciousness, as if a comprehension could ever have been effected there."

Perhaps, the affirmation of God's existence cannot legitimately be made by an individual

thinker, however brilliant that thinker may be. The affirmation of God's existence can only be made

within the context of a community of persons because actual faith is essentially a communal act. The

affirmation of faith is essentially intersubjective. The formulation "I believe in one God [Credo in

unum Deum]" tends toward absurdity and is, perhaps, self-contradictory. The formulation should,

I' Marcel, Authentic Humanness, 83.

I Z Marcel, Authentic Humanness, 84

"Emmanuel Levinas, Of God Who Comes to Mind, translated by Bettina Bergo, (Stanford: Sranford University Press, 1998), 63; cJ, "L 'ide'e de Dieu, c'esl Dieu en moi, mais d e b Dieu rompanl la conscience qui vise des ide'es, d~re'rant de rout conlenu. D~flkrance qui n'est, certes, pas une kmergence, comme si un englobemen1 avail jamias e'tk possible, ni un e'chappement quelconque b I'empke de la conscience, comme si une compre'hension avail jarnaispu ici, se faire" [Ernmnauel Levinas, De Dieu aui ~ient B I'idCe (Paris: Librairie ~ h i l o s o ~ h i ~ u e J . Vrin, 1998), 1051.

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always and ever, be rendered "We believe in One God [Credemus in unum Deum]." Such a

formulation protects, on the one hand, the essential communal and intersubjective nature of belief

and, on the other hand, the essential personal nature of the Divine Being. Rousselot implies this

caution by his claim that the fiee act of faith involves a certitude which is grounded on love: "the fiee

act of faith can encompass a certitude that depends on love and is oriented toward r e a l i ~ . " ' ~

The act of faith is "for us" and depends on our capacity to love and be part of a community

as the absolute condition of its possibility. Philosophers tend to attempt to think sub specie aeterni,

under the aspect of the eternal, the unchanging, the immutable and the universal. As Rousselot

realizes, there is a grave danger here-it is the danger which hazzards the rationalist. Thought which

aspires to universality tends to be rendered cold, clinical and devoid of particular and contingent

characteristics--denuded precisely of the elements which make thought thoughtful and interesting.

Yet, thought need not founder in self-absorbed, self-infatuation. Another more hopeful possibility

lingers in consciousness. To adequately account for the philosophical challenge contained in the

concrete and fleshy face of the other is the key to unlocking the mystery of Being and believing.

Hence, the way to begin to philosophically comprehend, if not exhaustively comprehend, faith lies

in an exploration of a metaphysic of Being. However, "it is a metaphysic of we are as opposed to

a metaphysic of I think."" Belief in God is not a proposition that an individual holds to, like, for

example, I believe it is raining" or "2+2=4." We are existing within our belief in God. The

affirmation is not propositional. The affirmation of God's existence, and perhaps non-existence, is

'4Rousselot, The Eyes of Faith, 5 1.

"Marcel, Mystew of Beinn II,9; cJ, "c'est une m6taphysique du nous somnespar opposition b une mktaphysique du je pense" [Marcel, Wstbre de ~ 'E t r e 11, 121.

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essentially existential and communal.

It is nigh unto counter-intuitive in our individualistic, isolated, fragmented modem society

to claim that truth is essentially communal in nature. Why would truth require the presence of others

for its expression, let alone its validation? In order to grasp the necessity of the other for sake of the

constitution of truth, it is necessary to take into account concrete and particular examples. These are

a sporting event, a profession of love and a religious ceremony .

In the summer of 1999, the French won the World Cup. The normally staid and reserved City

of Light went crazy. Over a million joyful Frenchmen thronged the Champ-de-Lysees. It was a

celebration, a carnival--no doubt bearing similarities to the day Paris was liberated. The point of

interest in this discussion is that this outpouring of joy and pride is essentially communal and

intersujective in nature. One does not celebrate such an event alone. In fact, it may very well be that

the meaning of such a communal celebration may lie in its ability to bring individuals together in a

common enterprise. Such an outpouring of unity and common affection may well be the low water

mark of a kind of love which, at its highest and purest level, could only be expressed as a liturgical

approach to the sacred in shared religious belief. In both the sporting event and the Cathedral, there

are songs and ritualized gestures which serve to highlight and forge the unity which is the

springboard of community.

For a few days in the summer of 99, the streets of Paris were changed and charged with an

extrovert and ebullient energy for which the French are hardly renown. Women, who usually

practice a cool and Chanel-swathed disdain, were kissing strangers on the street. Old men, who

normally grunt disgust at the sound of English being spoken on their streets, were smiling at ; J

American teenagers who were waving French flags. Ofcourse, the mere event of winning a soccer

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match cannot really change a city or a people. The event merely brought to light what was always

there, slumbering beneath the surfaces. It awakened a ubiquitous, though often ignored, sense of

community. There is a wary intersubjectivity brooding beneath the cold alienation of modem life.

Dasein ist mitsein. The subject in splendid isolation is an illusion, a ruse, an impossibility, aposture

and a lie. An event as trivial as a sporting event bursts the bubble of monadic isolation. The 'I exist'

is a non-autonomous part of the we exist, just as 'I think' founders in incoherence outside of the

logical and social matrix ofwe think. We believe in one God is the right way to say it. Because the

claim of faith cannot be made outside of the context of love. The old Latin of the creed should be

amended from, Credo in unum Deum to Credemus in unum Deum.

Rousselot, as a good disciple of St. Thomas, is careful to question his position most brutally.

He asks himself: But wait, are you not simply handing the game over to the voluntarists? In other

words, "By making a free act of love prior to the act of knowing, you have come down in fact, to

defending the voluntarist coup d'e'tat. " I 6 Some interpreters have, indeed, read Thomas' description

of the act of faith in De Veritatae as precisely such a capitulation to fideism: "We (Christians) are

inclined to believe the Word because we are promised the reward of eternal life if we believe; it is

this reward that induces the will to believe, in the absence of every intellectual m~tive." '~ Such

voluntarist interpretation misreads Thomas in the most common manner in which Thomas is

typically misread. Thomas is explaining the practical rationale and reward of belief. However, in

other places, he will highlight the theoretical aspects and rewards ofbelief. Returning to Rousselot's

bold self critique, are we not requiring of reason, "that it be so throughly seduced as to lose all

'6Rousselot, The Eyes of Faith, 5 1.

I7Thomas Aquinas, De Veritatae, q. 4 , art., 1 .

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awareness that it is being sed~ced?"'~

Rousselot will give answer. to this objection with an implicit, but nonetheless devastating,

critique of the modern tendency, seen so clearly in Kant, to divide the soul into conflicting and

warring faculties. Rousselot rejects the notion that the faculties of the soul can be regulated to proper

or legitimate domains, much less will R~usselot accept that understanding, reason and feeling

produce different versions of truth,

we come to acknowledge that intelligence itself is the expression of a natural appetition for the supreme and subsisting Truth. Not only does every afective habit define a vision of love, but every vision also is a vision of love, and is defined, in beings affected by potentiality, by an appetitive habitus, whether conscious or unconscious. Enchanted, as it were, charmed and fascinated by the God who made it capable of Him, reason itself is nothing other than a pure love of Being.I9

Hence, all of the projects of the soul bear on the same ultimate object. The will, in its search for the

Good, seeks God. The intellect, in its search for truth, seeks God. The senses, in their desire to be

satiated by beauty, seek God. Reason is not involved in a different sort of project than the will, each

seek completion in God. 'The act of faith is free for the will and legitimate for the intellect. These

two titles do not constitute a conflict of the faculties, Kantian or otherwise, because they bear on the

Selfsame Object, who is God. There is perhaps no other aspect of Thomistic thought that more

clearly highlights Thomas'debt to Augustine. One might easily expand on the famed Augustinian

slogan to ascertain what Rousslot and Thomas mean: Our hearts, our minds, our wills, our senses,

each of these, were made for You, Oh Lord, and they are restless, they will remain restless, until they

rest in you. The restlessness of the mind for truth, like the restlessness of the will for good, or the

'8Rousselot, The ~ v e s of Faith, 52.

'9Rousselot, TheEves of Faith, 52.

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restlessness ofthe senses for beauty, are the selfsame restlessness-they are proximate projects which

comprise the ultimate project of the soul which seeks to rest in God.

Far from perverting or subverting the intellect, the coloration of reality by love serves to

deepen the intelligence and expand its powers: "This transformation by love will be identical to an

increase of intelligen~e."~' We continually return to the hermeneutical circle in attempting to

circumscribe the act of faith: "in the act of faith love needs knowledge as knowledge needs love.

To return the above example of my niece, my love for her, gives me new eyes, allows me to see that

which is invisible to the cold, detached and clinical gaze.

Let us take another example. I did a wedding this past Saturday at St. Kevin's. In my 17

years of priesthood, I have never married a couple without a wedding license. Those you of a legal

mind-set know that it is illegal to do so in the State of Florida. The bride, being very organized,

turned the paper in weeks ago and somehow, with me at seminary and all, the papers got misplaced.

I spent all afternoon on Friday looking for them, and I have known the bride for a very long time and

know that if she said she brought them, then it must be true. I was talking with her on Friday at the

rectory explaining that I would do the wedding on Saturday and we would go to the county clerk on

Monday and explain what happened. The young lady started to cry. I told her not to worry that we

would work things out, that she actually had a wedding license on file and it was just a matter of

getting another copy. She said, "I understand. But it's my wedding day and I wanted everything to

be perfect." I felt such an outpouring of sympathy for her that I was afraid my heart would break.

Immediately, I began praying madly to St. Anthony and by, what I consider a bona fide miracle, the

wedding license turned up just a few hours before the wedding. But the most important part of the

-- -

20Rousselot, The Eves of Faith, 54-55.

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story for me was those few agonizing moments in the rectory when a girl who I taught religion to

in 8'h grade cried and told me that she wanted her wedding day to be perfect. ~ l l of a sudden, it went

from just a very annoying everyday problem to a moment of sheer grace. I was, at that precise

moment, able to see the young lady with new eyes. Because of what I felt for her, I was able to quite

literally see more into her. Love colors, and by colors I do mean discolors but deepens, reality.

Sometimes, so suddenly, there is grace. Sqmetimes in the midst of all this ordinary stuff, there is

the shining of transfigured, uncreated, light. But, of course, that is a matter for a homily.

Even so, I would hope that seminarians would allow a philosopher to "borrow" a bit of

theological language. The act of faith is in need of what one might call hermeneutical

transfigurations. The clue is seen as a witness to a new truth and hence is reasonable. Likewise:

"The act is free, since man, if he so chooses, can refuse to love his supernatural g ~ o d . " ~ ' The mind

is at work recognizing the clue as clue. The will is at work choosing the good as good: "But we do

not have here two really separable processes; the living unity of the one selfsame act integrates all

this."22 I do not love my niece for her goodness with my will and for her truth with my intellect.

Likewise, I do not believe in God with my will in one way and with my intellect in another way. I

believe God. Will and intellect are each employed for the sake of that one unified and seamless act

of the soul.

Rousselot summarizes: "For us, feeling is not a seducer of intelligence; freedom actually

engenders evidence . . . Grace gives intelligence a perfection proper to it, the perfection of seeing

Z'Rousselot, The Eves of Faith, 56.

nRousselot, The Eves of Faith, 56.

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(videre esse cerdendurn [to see that it ought to be believed~).'"~ Hence, grace does not replace nature

or even provide a substitute for the broken light of reason. Instead, faith perfects and expands

reason, just as grace builds on nature. In short, love gives us new eyes and opens the way to a more

thoughtful thinking. Love presents us with new evidence. I could have spent a week looking at the

nervous young bride I married last Saturday (not an unpleasant prospect by the way), but no amount

of staring could have produced the evidence I saw in her outside of a movement of love. Moreover,

notice that this movement of love is not utterly personal to me and, hence, incommunicable to you.

If you listen carefully and with an open mind and heart, it is possible for you to "see" what I mean.

As Augustine claims in The Confessions: "I also, Lord, so make my confessions to you that I may

be heard by people to whom I cannot prove that my confession is true. But those whose ears are

opened by love believe me."24 It is not proof which is at issue but assurance. As with all matters of

great subtlety or depth, certainty is no ontological guarantee. Truth is stirred up in the soul by love.

To know the truth, one must love the truth. As Mario de Armas once claimed in a paper on

Augustine, "there is a God-sized hole in our hearts."

Ultimately, the act of faith requires that the believer possess a spiritual sympathy for the

object of belief which is called the supernatural grace of faith. The act of faith needs this sympathy

the way we need eyes for seeing and intelligence for recognizing being. This is a complex way of - ,

saying that, while faith makes use of intelligence and will, it is a supernatural faculty which allows

us to freely adhere to the objects of faith as certain. Faith is a gik, gift which can only be received

23Ro~sselot, The Eves of Faith, 60.

24 Augustine, Confessions, 180; c$, "dici; enim eis caritas, qua boni sunt, non metiri me de me confirentern, et ipsa in eis credit mihi" [Augustine, Confessions 1 1 , 801.

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by free and intelligent beings, but a gift nonetheless.

Rousselot makes the point with force that the act of faith is not the same as the act of mere,

or simple, credence. I might tell you that there is a snake in the tabernacle. You would be either

very trusting or very naive if you simply believed me. However, if there actually were a snake in the

tabernacle, it would be dangerous but very easy for me to acquire enough evidence of the fact to

convince each one of you, no matter how cynical you might be. However, should I tell you that God

is in the tabernacle, we have come upon a very different matter and are dealing with a very different

kind of evidence. It is not a matter, in the second instance, of acquiring sufficient evidence in the

quantitative sense. Instead, I will only be able to demonstrate the presence of God in the tabernacle

to you if I am able to appeal directly to you as a human being. In this case, "according to the Gospel,

a trifle should be enough to make us see, and, what amounts to the same thing,. to believe . . . the

livlier God's love is in a soul, the more some slight clue suffices for that soul to discern the

As Augustine said of a Gospel passage, "Nihil igitur vacat, omnia innuunt, sed intellectorem

requirunt [Nothing is meaningless. All things whisper suggestions. But what they require is

someone {literally, an intelligence) to understand them]."26 The world is a great books of signs,

symbols and signifiers. We are, each of us, even those who are strictly speaking illiterate, involved

in a massive project of reading, interpreting and gazing with a fiery gaze. It is as though all things

are icons, windows into heaven.

Rousselot concludes with one of my favorite quotes from the New Testament: Daemones

credunt et contremiscunt, "You believe that God is one. Good for you! The demons believe and

2SRousselot, The Eves of Faith, 68. ;.I

26Rousselot, The Eves of Faith, 69.

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tremble." Jesus, in the Gospel, is always casting out demons. But he is also always rebuking them,

telling them to be silent, because they know who he is. As Alice would say, this is, "curiouser and

curiouser." If the demons know who he is, and the demons are accurate at least insofar as he is

indeed the Son of God, then, why would Jesus demand that they be silent? To understand this, one

must understand what the fundamental sin of the demons actually is. The demons are not stupid.

In fact, they are smarter than we are. The sin of the demons is not ignorance. As St. Thomas

implies quite clearly, the sin of the demons is malice. St. James warns us, "You believe that God

is one. Good for you! The demons in hell believe and yet they tremble."

The problem of the faith of the demons at first seems like a very obscure and archaic

problem, one that is pretty much irrelevant for we moderns who do not really believe in demons

anymore. Consider, if you have nieces or nephews, how very easy it would be to tell them that there

are no such things as monsters, demons or bogeymen (notice how the feminists never complain about

the sexism of bogeymen and the masculinity of the devil). Yet the problem of the faith of demons,

"helps to point up the difference between the two conceptions of knowledge that inexorably clash

throughout the treatise of faith."27 One the one hand, if your belief is entirely in your head, is a mere

and cold assent of the intellect, without the participation of the will in an act of love, you possess the

faith of a demon in hell and it has no power to save you. One the other hand, if your faith is nothing - -,

but a fundamentalistic and voluntaristic leap of faith, then you are a liar. You do not actually believe

anything at all, for you do not see that you should believe. Faith stakes its claim on the ground of

truth, not practicality and not mere emotion

Jesus does not silence the demons because they are wrong. He silences them because they

27Rousselot, The Eves of Faith, 71

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are malicious. Beware! No matter how smart we might be, we will not think our way into heaven.

A brilliant mind and a bitter heartwill take us straight to hell where we can dispute with the demons

about the Dicinity of Jesus Christ and the Oneness of God. Likewise, no matter how tender hearted

we might be, religion takes its stand on the ground of truth. If you claim to believe, that means that

you claim to believe that what you believe is true. In short, both the assent of the intellect and the

consent of the will are absolutely necessary for a legitimate act of faith. Should one side of the

tension overwhelm the other, the hermeneutical circle begins to collapse and we fall ineluctably into

both theolbgical heresy and philosophical absurdity.