Friday, July 15, 2011

Saint of the Day

Saint Bonaventure
combination of piety and intellect
Before returning to the Ottonian Reformation, a final diversion and that is on today’s Saint—Bonaventure of Bagnoreggio.  I have never been overly drawn to Bonaventure, except for his  being from Bagnoreggio, a town I have visited only once but where I learned to like figs and in retrospect I think is one of the more charming towns I have been to.  But this will be about Bonaventure and not Bagnoreggio.  And the only reason that I am thinking of him is what the priest said at Mass this morning—that Bonaventure as a pious man but who did not let his piety degenerate into the heresy of pietism.  I had not thought of pietism as a heresy—as a flaw yes, but not a heresy.  But this priest, an Indonesian, explained that the anti-intellectualism that marks not piety, but pietism, is in fact contrary to the teaching of the Church.  The Church is not opposed to intellectual soundness, and in fact requires rigorous intellectualism for its theological formulations.  What struck me about this is how our experience of Church so often declines into anti-intellectualism.  I hear people complain about Sandra Schneiders or Joan Chittester, or Elizabeth Johnson and their criticisms are without intellectual soundness.  I am not saying that these thinkers are above critique—far from it—but rather that the articles I read in various Catholic periodicals about them don’t offer sound critique of their thought but paint them broadly with a brush that is far more emotionally inflammatory than intellectually sound.  Indeed, the authors that go after them lack the credentials and even the credibility of the people they are criticizing.  Bonaventure was a man of simple piety but also a masterful theologian in his day.  I find today that many priests offer us afar too much of a smarmy piety that lacks any sound theological foundation and not an adult faith that makes use of our human reason.  But then, perhaps the problem is nemo dat quod non habet.  Is it wrong to ask the Church for pastors who are intelligent and articulate men who can present the richness of our Catholic heritage in a way that doesn’t make us look foolish for holding on to a mush of emotions with no sound basis in scripture, philosophy, or human reason?

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