Sunday, December 23, 2007

Lessons in Pelagianism

A friend recently mentioned the 'blog of the Seraphic Single and reading through the archives I've found it to be some of the most thoughtful, reflective and witty writing in the Catholic Blogosphere. This post, amongst others, caught my attention:
This week the parish was celebrating the graduate students in particular, and so two graduate students gave short addresses. One was by a sweet young woman who said when she arrived in Cambridge she was 'just some kid from South Carolina' and was very intimidated. But then she found out that, thanks to a priest friend, a whole impoverished village in Latin America was praying for her every week. This was heartwarming. But then a sleek young man took over and lectured us on Success.

Standing a little to the side of a huge wooden crucifix, where Christ was dying the death of a slave, the speaker reflected on what had made him, the speaker, such a success. He told us about how impressed and proud he had been to be working in a top Manhatten office over the summer, but when his wife gave birth, he realized that he was more than a top Mahatten office worker but a Co-Creator. (Blah blah blah.) True Success comes about through Catholic Virtues, he told us, making Catholic Virtues sounding like the handmaids of Capitalism.

"But what else brings Success?" he asked.

Being Catholics listening to a sermon, we waited obediently for the answer.

"Work!" he shouted.

"Acck!" I replied.

"He's a Pelagian!" I told Volker 2.

Volker 2, who had been well aware of my shifting and muttering, sighed sympathetically.

The reflection didn't get better than that. The theology was atrocious, and I began to really dislike this Rich Young Ruler. He counselled us to get to know our Faith better, and I imagined what would happen if St. Francis confronted him at the door, never mind St. Augustine. But then I also realized that I was envious of this young man. He has a very marketable degree. He has worked the classy office job. He has a beautiful wife. He has a beautiful baby. He really looks like he has everything---except a grasp of Catholic theology, of course.
Of course, this touches on an interesting problem for anyone who tries to live by and preach the Gospel - so much of being Catholic seems to be both good practical sense and yet also a particular sort of divine foolishness.

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