Blogged by James Preece on 5th July 2012
Fr Ray Blake nails it...
I suppose what talking about is religious experience. Since the Council of Trent we have tended to be a little suspicious of it, since Vatican II we have become more suspicious of it, regarding it as pietistic or even superstitious. Ladies who do courses on Liturgy and priests who re-order churches despise it! It is essentially about a "feeling" a "sense", New Agers might call it "energy" or find some other word to define such as "otherness", Catholics might describe it as "an encounter with the Holy". It is essentially about "experience" beyond words, beyond explanation. Indeed the there seems to be a diminishing of the "experience" if it is over explained or rationalised because it is essentially something that happens deep in the soul and is beyond words.
I am convinced that we need to find ways to allow people to "experience" God: teaching prayer, sharing ritual gestures, teaching reverence, teaching silence and sense of awe, all these help to give a "vocabulary" that enable people come to and share in this experience. It is unfortunate that so much has been done to undermine, negate and cheapen this experience in recent years.
I would go so far as to suggest the catastrophic failure in Catholic education has been that rather than teaching people to "know" in the sense of experiencing God we have given people knowledge about him. God desires to "be known" and after knowing him we then have a need to understand him. Having first received the experience of faith we then, and only then, want to understand it: faith seeks understanding. To understand without having the experience faith seems disastrous and probably leads to atheism.
I would suggest that teaching a child to say prayers, to genuflect, to kneel, to bow, to hold their hands together in prayer, to be silent and whisper in Church, how to reverently make the sign of the Cross, to light candles, to bring flowers to a statue, to wear a miraculous medal, to use a Rosary, to put a crucifix and holy pictures in his room, to use Holy Water, to make sacrifices and fulfil promises to God, to keep the Commandments as best he can and later to receive Holy Communion with as much reverence as possible are all things that should precede the giving of religious knowledge in any academic sense because these things all provoke the question: "Why?". Doctrine and dogma are ways of understanding what we actually intuit which is the first of God's gifts. In the Gospels people wanted simply to see Jesus or be in his Presence before they came to know him and his teaching, the experience of Him led to the desire
Most people find it difficult to experience God in books, courses, seminars or intensive study. Relationships are not an intellectual exercise.
I know my children because I have spent years living with them, I doubt I would know them quite so well had I read books on parenting instead. I have no idea how many bones my daughter has in her body, or precisely what chemical processes are going on inside her liver, but I love her anyway.
This is not to say that time studying spiritual things is wasted, but rather to say that God is not a theory or an idea but three persons who can be known far better through relationship than academic study.
We relate to God through the physical signs and symbols of spiritual reality. We experience God in the beautiful (which is why ugly churches are such a crime) and we respond to Him when we kneel, when we sing, bring flowers, light a candle...
This is why the Church needs less study days and more pilgrimages. It's also why you should consider driving for three hours on Saturday to venerate the Heart of the Cure of Ars in Shrewsbury Cathedral.
I'm pretty sure that would be a better use of your time than reading blogs.