On the Preventative Medicine of The Church’s Wisdom and Experience (As seen on T.V.)

071213As a teenager I remember resenting how adults would try and prevent me from doing what I pleased. They would often warn me not to “learn the hard way” that something was wrong. I would often be told that I should learn from them and their experiences not to make the same mistakes they did. The rebel in me thought that it might be fun and pleasurable to “make a few mistakes of my own.” Of course I pridefully thought that I would escape the consequences.

In the end of course they were right, and one the most valuable gifts I have received from others to have learned from their experience. As a pastor too I must say that my staff has preserved me from innumerable errors through their expertise and long experience with the parish.

The word “experience” comes from the Latin experientia, meaning the act of trying or testing. More deeply it comes from two Latin words, ex (out of) + periri (which is akin to periculum, meaning peril or danger). Hence “experience” refers to those have endured trials, perils, testing, and dangers, and speak out of these to us so we don’t have to endure such things. It is a very great gift!

The Church too offers us the great gift of long experience. Indeed, one of the great advantages of making our home in the Catholic Church is that we are at the feet of a wise and experienced teacher who has “seen it all.” The Scriptures, the Catechism, the lives of the Saints, all the Church’s teaching, is a wealth of knowledge and collected experience for us. Through this vast treasury The Church, as a good mother and teacher, helps us to learn from the experiences of others.

At this point I would like for G.K. Chesterton to do the talking:

The other day a well-known writer, otherwise quite well-informed, said that the Catholic Church is always the enemy of new ideas. It probably did not occur to him that his own remark was not exactly in the nature of a new idea. …Nevertheless, the man who made that remark about Catholics meant something….What he meant was that, in the modern world, the Catholic Church is in fact the enemy of many influential fashions; most of which … claim to be new. [But] nine out of ten of what we call new ideas, are simply old mistakes.

The Catholic Church has for one of her chief duties that of preventing people from making those old mistakes; from making them over and over again forever, as people always do if they are left to themselves….There is no other case of one continuous intelligent institution that has been thinking about thinking for two thousand years. Its experience naturally covers nearly all experiences; and nearly all errors.

The result is a map in which all the blind alleys and bad roads are clearly marked, all the ways that have been shown to be worthless by the best of all evidence: the evidence of those who have gone down them. On this map of the mind the errors are marked…[but] the greater part of it consists of playgrounds and happy hunting-fields, where the mind may have as much liberty as it likes. But [the Church] does definitely take the responsibility of marking certain roads as leading nowhere or leading to destruction…
By this means, it does prevent men from wasting their time or losing their lives upon paths that have been found futile or disastrous again and again in the past, but which might otherwise entrap travelers again and again in the future.

The Church does make herself responsible for warning her people against these; she does dogmatically defend humanity from its worst foes… Now all false issues have a way of looking quite fresh, especially to a fresh generation. ..[But] we must have something that will hold the four corners of the world still, while we make our social experiments or build our Utopias. (From Twelve Modern Apostles and Their Creeds (1926). Reprinted in The Collected Works of G.K. Chesterton, Vol. 3 Ignatius Press 1990)

Yes, what a gift. Many may take of the role of a pouting  teenager and be resentful at any warning from the Church. But in the end, It’s a mighty fine gift to be able to learn from others and benefit from their experience.

Here’s a funny commercial that shows the value of learning from others experiences.

12 Replies to “On the Preventative Medicine of The Church’s Wisdom and Experience (As seen on T.V.)”

  1. What a good post! By the way, I have often thought that I could escape the consequence of my mistakes. This has never panned out. I have always paid for any deviation from failing to follow Christ completely.

    1. Me too! It’s impressive and now it’s the main drive of my faith, surpassing Aristotle, St. Anselm and St. Thomas Aquinas. What is this doctrine?

  2. Why does the Church teach such and such is a always a wonderful place to begin. It always leads us back to God through scriptures and prayer and quite often the Church Fathers, Doctors of the Church, the Saints, science, history, logic, philosophy, theology, …

  3. Reminds me of that bit of advice: “If at first you don’t succeed, DON’T try skydiving!!!”

    Love your homilies, Msgr. Pope

  4. The only institution that remains after all kingdoms, military mights and philosophies had come and gone, it is the Church that continuously direct man to just and righteous path. Seemingly new ideas and inventions of the mind are nothing but previously found wanting by the wisdom of the Church Magisterium and its sacred traditions and the holy scriptures. Man’s concupiscence, yes, that where the problem lies. We always want to deviate. How pitiful are we and we will be if we do not accept the truly absolutes of life? Even now, we see the results of experimentation of the American ideals beginning to crumble after more than two centennials of ‘pursuit of happiness.’ Without the right adjective as to what kind of happiness we are pursuing, we will find ourselves wayward and empty and depressed. A ‘conscientious’ happiness? Let us seek The Way, The Truth and The Life, HE is The PERSON JESUS CHRIST. HE is the Absolute and HE is in the Church. YHWH Shekinah.

  5. Very funny video. The G. K. Chesterton quote seemed to be mainly about the the specific kind of doing that is called thinking, whereas the body of your text, Monsignor, as I read it, was about doing in general. It may have well have been true for Chesterton that “…[but] the greater part of it consists of playgrounds and happy hunting-fields, where the mind may have as much liberty as it likes,” which is why people still read people like Aristotle and St. Augustine and G. K. Chesterton.–not so for the many of the rest of us.

    In the Confessions, Augstine mentions that he read The Categories by Aristotle and that he understood it. He then lists the categories. In On the Trinity, Augustine not only mentions the categories, but gives an example of each one, so clearly they were non-trivial to him. Here they are with his examples:

    1. He is a man. man–SUBSTANCE
    2. He is four feet in measure. –four feet–QUANTITY
    3. He is white. white–QUALITY
    4. He is near. near–RELATION (father/son, half/double are also relations)
    5. He lies down. lies down–POSITION
    6. He is armed. armed–CONDITION (I think awake and asleep are also conditions.)
    7. He is of yesterday.–of yesterday–TIME
    8. He is in Rome. in Rome–PLACE
    9. He smites. –ACTION
    10. He is smitten. is smitten–PASSION

    White or black or whatever color falls under the category of quality. Which of the ten categories of Aristotle does skin and ears fall under? I think quality also.–by a process of elimination. It seems odd that skin, liver, heart, eyes, smooth, and green all would fall under the same category. If this is right, then the different categories of the category of quality should be discernible and able to be put in words. Maybe Aristotle does that somewhere. I haven’t read as much Aristotle as I would like to have read. Also, time to me seems like a subset of relation, since any past or future time is spoken of in its relation to now.

    Good day.

      1. I was commenting on G. K. Chesterton’s claim that the mind is “playgrounds and happy hunting-fields” with a concrete example. For me, just understanding what category things such as skin, kidneys, ears, etc. fall under is difficult. After, I posted the comment I realized that all of those things are parts. A body is understand as having parts outside of parts. So, a clearer way to state what I was wondering about is: What category does having parts fall under? Maybe, having parts are most clearly understood as the condition of a body.

        Also, I thought the comment might spark someone. Also, what I like about the categories is that they give a person a reason to consider reality in way that isn’t grasping.

  6. You always find the best videos, Msgr.! Don’t you just love the Internet, for you can do a power point presentation at anyttime!

  7. Msgr. Thanks for this wonderful reflection. I have come to understand that no matter how often and frequent THE WISE MOTHER makes her warnings, it is still NECESSARY that some Sturborn and Obstinate kids, met their DESTRUCTION and then learn it the hard way, if not for any reason, let their destruction serve as a PROOF to the obedient kids that THE WISE MOTHER wise RIGHT, and I think this will make them MORE OBEDIENT.

Comments are closed.