Sunday 23rd November 2014

Home » Frontpage » Currently Reading:

A Book Review . . . The Heart Of The Romantic

March 13, 2014 Frontpage No Comments
longnecker

By MITCHELL KALPAKGIAN

The Romance of Religion. By Dwight Longenecker (W Publishing Group: An Imprint of Thomas Nelson: Nashville, Tenn., 2014, 221 pp.). $15.99. Available through SpecialMarkets@ThomasNelson.com or www.amazon.com.

This is a lively, robust book that is as profoundly serious as it is lighthearted and mirthful. In short, crisp sentences that ring with a cheerful human voice and a playful, witty intelligence, Fr. Dwight Longenecker glances at the human condition, the classics of literature, and the familiar stories of the Bible with a human wisdom that engages and fascinates as it explains the importance of religion as a “romance,” a term rarely attributed to this body of knowledge that is commonly viewed with only high seriousness and solemn piety.
Many view religion as a set of rules, commandments, or prohibitions; many regard it a mark of respectability, culture, and refinement. Others consider religion as sentimental piety or naive belief for the simple, the uneducated, and the unscientific.
But Fr. Longenecker’s book professes religion as a heroic quest, romantic adventure, and noble battle in the spirit of Don Quixote’s glorious vision to transform the drab, dreary Iron Age of crass materialism into the beautiful, glorious Golden Age of the highest civilized ideals.
While the term “romantic” is rarely used to describe the religious sensibility that words like “zealous, “pious,” and “devout” normally define, this book lends religion an aura of enchantment that captures the heart and transforms life into a dynamic and thrilling experience that counteracts “the desperately dull and deadly lives most of us lead.”
The romantic, according to Longenecker, believes in ideals: “He believes in something bigger, older, and more eternal than his own small life.” He does not, like the logical positivist, reduce life only to the visible world or to its physical dimensions but believes in a supernatural world of invisible reality and sees the truth in fairy tales and myths: “We don’t just tell fairy tales. We don’t just believe in fairy tales. We live them.”
Inspired by a daring spirit that does not surrender to despair or cynicism, the romantic is a person “who is shaken from the slumber of his ordinary world and called to embark on a heroic quest.” Although an ordinary person (Don Quixote was a simple gentleman by the name of Alonso Quixada), he steps out of his comfortable life into the extraordinary realm of knight-errantry to battle giants and wizards “on a quest to find the pearl of great price, the secret treasure in the field, the lost coin, the lost sheep, or the lost child.”
Without this romantic quest, religion devolves into what Longenecker calls mere table manners: “a list of regulations and rules, doctrines and dictums, prohibitions and polite behavior.”
The quest of the religious romantic inevitably leads to the clash of war, the confrontation of good and evil and a battle between ideals (“a striving for what is beautiful, good, and true”) and ideologies (false gods that lead to death). The romantic believes in the reality of the soul — the soul of every human being created in the image of God — whereas the ideologue, who fantasizes about secular utopias and excludes the reality of life after death, does not believe in his own soul or the soul of any other person:
“Those who commit genocide do not believe in the human soul and do not believe in eternal consequences, because all they believe in is the physical realm.”
The romantic holds that at the center of the soul “burns an eternal flame,” a “mysterious energy . . . something that is bigger and better than the simple biological functions of any living being” that unites the visible and invisible worlds. A hint of the soul’s divine and eternal nature that links the natural and supernatural worlds is the experience of beauty’s wonder. The miracle of natural, human, and artistic beauty — rosebuds, sunsets, landscapes, woman, cathedrals, icons — radiates the mystery of unseen things mirrored by the things seen: “We transcend this physical world and look through a window into a world beyond.”
The romantic’s quest not only leads to contests between transcendental ideals and secular ideologies and between sophists and philosophers but also a search for love, “a great good, a prize to be won, a gift to be given, a reward to be earned.” This yearning of the soul to love and to be loved in its purest and most passionate form expresses itself as the disinterested gift of oneself that experiences its greatest joy more in giving love than receiving it:
“We want to be lost in love. We want to be submerged in love. We want to be overwhelmed by our own self-sacrifice and self-giving to the beloved. We want to die for love.”
This sacrifice of love is a manifest sign of the world above that the soul perceives in the exchange of giving: “In other words, the desire to sacrifice oneself is so otherworldly that it must have come from another world.”
The heart of the romantic, then, burns with a love on fire charged with a divine energy that the term Logos (reason, idea, word) signifies in the opening chapter of John’s Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God, and the Word was God.” Human love resembles divine love and intimates how human life prefigures eternal life. While on a great adventure inspired by noble ideals and engaged in battle, the romantic’s passion is moved not only by the power of beauty but also by the love of truth, a truth that transcends the rules of the Pharisees and the literalists.
The truth the romantic seeks is not merely intellectual or logical but an adventure with chances and dangers, “an experience and an encounter with a person who is beauty, love, and truth together, and who calls himself ‘the Way’.” The romantic’s desire of truth merges into the love of God.
The adventure of the romantic is not upward and onward but downward into the dark and deep into places like the classical underworld populated with ugly creatures and terrifying monsters — a descent of falling and rising that leads to the stark reality of death and then the ascent upward like Orpheus leading Eurydice from Hades. The romantic hero also suffers wounds as Don Quixote and Cyrano de Bergerac are ridiculed for their gallantry. From the beginning to the end of the quest the romantic is nourished by “the fire in the heart,” “the eternal flame,” and a mysterious energy that is the “Christ-life” in the soul.
The romance of religion, then, is this Christ-life: “Wherever the fire burns in the soul, it does the work of fire: It provides heat, energy, and light. Heat to warm the soul. Energy to enliven the soul. And light to illuminate the soul.” This eternal flame compares to the burning bush that Moses saw and reflects the truth St. Irenaeus expressed: “The glory of God is the human person fully alive.” The romance of religion is this transformation of lackluster man to glorious hero and saint-like lover.
More than rules, dogmas, and prohibitions, religion is the romance of an abundant, passionate life that begins in a human love and grows into a divine passion and culminates in an eternal life where “the road leads ever on.”
Without the romance of religion, life amounts to the drudgery of drones anxious about salary, insurance plans, and job security. Without the romance of religion, man is self-satisfied with “my iPhone, my latte, and my three-car garage.”
This is not the “abundant” life Christ came to give.

+    +    +

(Dr. Kalpakgian is a professor of humanities.)

Share Button

Comment on this Article:

TOP CATHOLIC BISHOPS AIDE ON EXECUTIVE AMNESTY: OBAMA’S ‘LAST CHANCE TO MAKE GOOD ON PROMISE’

In a statement last Friday in the New York Times, the top aide on immigration for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) said that executive amnesty is President Barack Obama’s “last chance to make good on his promise…Continue Reading

Catholics Want To Learn More About Their Faith, Bishops Report

BALTIMORE – For three and a half years, members of several U.S. bishops’ committees have been trying to pinpoint what Catholics in the pew are thinking and why they accept or reject church teachings. To this end, they have conducted…Continue Reading

Vatican cardinal: Catholic charity ‘is not only giving food … but giving God’

The Vatican cardinal who oversees the Church’s charitable initiatives has emphasized again that Catholic charities cannot be satisfied with meeting the material needs of those they serve. “Charity is very linked with the proclamation of the Gospel, and doing charity…Continue Reading

Prof at Catholic university tries to justify same-sex ‘marriage’ acceptance from Scripture

Professor Gerald Schlabach of the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota recently published a piece for The Christian Century utilizing the writing of St. Paul to create an argument legitimizing acceptance of same-sex marriage. In light of Schlabach’s article, The Cardinal Newman Society…Continue Reading

Pro-Life Group: “We Will Not Obey the Obamacare HHS Mandate, Not Today, Not Ever”

The pro-life group Priests for Life was one of the earliest organizations to file a lawsuit against the Obama administration over its HHS mandate. The mandate compels religious groups to pay for birth control drugs and drugs like ella that…Continue Reading

Court Says Obama Admin Can Force Pro-Life Group to Obey Pro-Abortion HHS Mandate

The pro-life group Priests for Life was one of the earliest organizations to file a lawsuit against the Obama administration over its HHS mandate. The mandate compels religious groups to pay for birth control drugs and drugs like ella that…Continue Reading

Where Are Our Young People Going?

During the 10:30 Mass in my parish a couple of Sundays ago 32 boys and girls stood in front of the altar, faced the congregation, and formally affirmed their desire to be confirmed. It was part of the preparation for…Continue Reading

US Bishops Elect New Secretary, Discuss Health Care Ethics Guide

Baltimore, Md., Nov 11, 2014 / 08:22 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops voted Tuesday on several committee leadership positions, also considering several liturgical proposals and moving forward with a New York canonization cause. At their fall…Continue Reading

Fidelity to Bishop of Rome crucial to evangelization, US bishops say

Baltimore, Md., Nov 10, 2014 / 12:29 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In a message to Pope Francis on Monday, the U.S. bishops vowed fidelity to the Holy See and voiced hope that Pope Francis will attend the World Meeting of Families…Continue Reading

Nation’s Catholic bishops gather in Baltimore Monday

Nearly 300 bishops from across the nation will determine the coming year’s agenda for the American Roman Catholic church when the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops begins its annual fall meeting Monday in Baltimore. The bishops will spend four days…Continue Reading

Pope names new ‘foreign minister,’ prefect of Apostolic Signatura; Cardinal Burke given new position

The Holy See Press Office announced on November 8 that Pope Francis has named Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, the Vatican’s Secretary for Relations with States, as the prefect of the Apostolic Signatura. Archbishop Mamberti replaces Cardinal Raymond Burke, who has served…Continue Reading

Cardinal Burke: Church Risks Serious Tensions in Months Ahead

Cardinal Raymond Burke has said he is at the service of Pope Francis, has no personal animosity towards him, and those who claim the American cardinal is an opponent of the Pontiff are trying to discredit him. The head of…Continue Reading

Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our new website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for over 145 years in our weekly print edition. Now we are introducing the online daily version of our print journal.


  Our daily version offers only some of what we publish weekly in print. To take advantage of everything The Wanderer publishes, we encourage you to subscribe to our flagship weekly print edition, which is mailed every Friday or, if you want to view it in its entirety online, you can subscribe to the E-edition, which is a replica of the print edition.
 
  Our daily edition includes: a selection of material from recent issues of our print edition, news stories updated daily from renowned news sources, access to archives from The Wanderer from the past 10 years, available at a minimum charge (this will be expanded as time goes on). Also: regularly updated features where we go back in time and highlight various columns and news items covered in The Wanderer over the past 145 years. And: a comments section in which your remarks are encouraged, both good and bad, including suggestions.

 
  We encourage you to become a daily visitor to our site. If you appreciate our site, tell your friends. As Catholics we must band together to rediscover our faith and share it with the world if we are to effectively counter a society whose moral culture seems to have no boundaries and a government whose rapidly extending reach threatens to extinguish the rights of people of faith to practice their religion (witness the HHS mandate). Now more than ever, vehicles like The Wanderer are needed for clarification and guidance on the issues of the day.

Catholic, conservative, orthodox, and loyal to the Magisterium have been this journal’s hallmarks for five generations. God willing, our message will continue well into this century and beyond.

Joseph Matt
President, The Wanderer Printing Co.

Untitled 1

'From our friends at The Foundry'


Today . . .

Pope Francis: Homily For Christ The King Canonization Mass

pope670

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis delivered the homily at the Mass celebrated in St Peter’s Square on Christ the King Sunday, during the course of which he canonized six new saints: Kuriakose Elias Chavara, Mother Eufrasia Eluvathingal, Amato Ronconi, Giovanni Antonio Farina, Nicola da Longobardi, and Ludovico da Casoria. Below, please find the full text of the official English translation of the…Continue Reading

Pope: All Christians Called To Be Missionaries, ‘Not Just The Few’

pope668

(Vatican Radio) All Christians and “not just the few” are called to intensify their missionary spirit and go out to proclaim the joy of the Gospel, said Pope Francis.He issued the call on Saturday in speaking at the Vatican to a group of more than 700 participants in Italy’s National Missionary Congress, which was organized by the Italian Episcopal Conference…Continue Reading

Pope Francis Pays Tribute To Blessed Paul VI’s Devotion To Mary

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis paid tribute on Thursday to Blessed Pope Paul the 6th and his great love for the Mother of God, saying he always turned to Mary at crucial and difficult moments for the Church and humanity. The Pope’s words came during a message which was read on his behalf by the Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin…Continue Reading

Pope At Santa Marta: Jesus Weeps

pope667

(Vatican Radio) Jesus weeps today when the doors of our hearts, those of the pastors of the Church, are closed to His surprises not recognizing the One who brings peace said Pope Francis at Mass Friday morning in Casa Santa Marta. Commenting on the Gospel of the Day, Pope Francis said Jesus weeps over Jerusalem because its people did not…Continue Reading

Culture Of Life 101 . . . “The Birth Control Pill: Unintended Consequences”

By BRIAN CLOWES Part 2 (Editor’s Note: Brian Clowes has been director of research and training at Human Life International since 1995. For a CD containing hundreds of patient information pamphlets showing that the most common methods of birth control are abortifacient in their actions, e-mail him at bclowes@hli.org.) + + + We have seen…Continue Reading

The Synod And The New Evangelization

By JOHN F. KIPPLEY (Editor’s Note: John F. Kippley is the author of Sex and the Marriage Covenant: A Basis for Morality and other books and articles. With his wife Sheila, he is a coauthor of Natural Family Planning: The Complete Approach and cofounder of NFP International. This commentary appeared on his blog [johnkippley.com] of…Continue Reading

A Book Review . . . Detailed Studies Of Galileo

By JUDE DOUGHERTY Finocchiaro, Maurice. The Trial of Galileo: Essential Documents, translated and edited by Maurice A. Finocchiaro. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Co., 2014. Pp. xii+160. This book draws upon Finocchiaro’s previously published works, The Galileo Affair: A Documentary History (1989) and Retrying Galileo: 1633-1992 (2005), at once making those masterful works more readily accessible,…Continue Reading

Reconnecting With Mary . . . The Apparitions At L’Ile Bouchard

By DONAL ANTHONY FOLEY Part 1 This is first of two articles about the Marian apparitions at L’Ile Bouchard, in northwestern France, near Tours, which took place from December 8-14, 1947. The situation in postwar France was very serious, and there was a real threat from Communism, and even of civil war, but, unknown to…Continue Reading

Applying Just War Theory

By JAMES K. FITZPATRICK The conditions that must be present before military force can be justified, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, are as follows: “1. the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain; “2. all other means of putting an end…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

Is The Rosary A Prayer Of “Vain Repetitions”?

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM Part 3 The visit I received from two Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs, for short) gave me the opportunity to demonstrate that repetitive prayer — especially the rosary — is entirely in line with Sacred Scripture. When they walked into my living room and did not miss the sight of my rosary on the mantelpiece, I knew…Continue Reading

Reading And Interpreting Scripture

By DON FIER We ended last week’s installment by launching into a discussion on a question of critical importance: “How is Sacred Scripture to be read and interpreted?” The significance and the relevance of this question become apparent if one examines findings outlined in the 2012 “Status of Global Mission” report, a publication of the International Bulletin of Missionary Research…Continue Reading

Catholic Replies

Q. We recently celebrated the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica. Why does the Church celebrate a church building in Rome? — P.R., Massachusetts. A. Because the Basilica of St. John Lateran is the oldest church in Christendom and is the church of the Pope, not St. Peter’s Basilica. The Lateran Basilica was built in the fourth century…Continue Reading

Be Watchful And Alert

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER First Sunday Of Advent (YR B) Readings: Isaiah 63:16b-17, 19b, 64:2-7 1 Cor. 1:3-9 Mark 13:33-17 In the first reading today we hear of the conflict that has tormented humanity from the very beginning. The problem is that we blame God for everything. Isaiah cries out to God in a lament, “Why do you let us…Continue Reading

In The Footsteps Of St. Paul… Bishop Conley’s Pilgrimage Teaches About Evangelizing Culture

(Editor’s Note: Below is the latest column by Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, Neb., for the Southern Nebraska Register. Bishop Conley, in conjunction with Spirit Catholic Radio and others, went on an October 31 to November 9 St. Paul Mediterranean Pilgrimage Cruise. (ZENIT News Agency provided the text. All rights reserved.) + + + The ancient Christian writer and theologian…Continue Reading

Cast A Gauntlet – Sola Scriptura: Part 1

Catholic Heroes… St. Cecilia

By CAROLE BRESLIN The Catholic Church has thousands of saints. For the last two millennia, people of great holiness, exemplifying heroic virtue, have been honored as saints, members of the Church Triumphant in Heaven giving honor and glory to God. Some have been formally declared saints by the Church, while others have been so honored from the beginnings of the…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Frances Xavier Cabrini

By CAROLE BRESLIN Since the United States is a relatively new country compared to the rest of the world, we do not have as many canonized saints as do France, Italy, or Spain. Elizabeth Ann Seton (died 1821) was the first person born in the United States to be canonized, although she lived many years after Kateri Tekakwitha (died 1680)…Continue Reading

A Powerful Weapon: 15 Quotes on the Holy Rosary

We live in evil times. I hardly need elaborate the multitude of crises that fill the globe. Sadly, many are being swept away by this flood of evil and are succumbing to an overwhelming anxiety and discouragement. But no matter how tempting it is, we must not shrink back. We must pray and fast with a living faith and a firm confidence—and there is no better way to…Continue Reading

12 Ways to Become a Committed Catholic Man

There is a Catholic “man-crisis.” Large numbers of men who were baptized Catholic have left the Church and the majority of those who remain are “Casual Catholic Men”, men who do not know the Catholic faith and don’t practice it. This large-scale failure of Catholic men to commit themselves to Jesus Christ and His Church has contributed to the accelerating…Continue Reading