Wednesday 6th May 2015

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:

Untitled 3

Pope FrancisAn Open Letter To His Holiness Pope Francis      Given the controversy and confusion surrounding the 2014 Synod on the Family, the staff of The Wanderer and its supporters thought it appropriate to address Pope Francis with an open letter . . .

Archbishop Cupich Getting Comfortable With Pro-Aborts On Immigration Reform

True to his claim that immigration reform is “God’s agenda,” Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich has been cozying up to pro-abortion Democrats to get his social justice initiatives underway.  On Sunday, the Archbishop joined Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Il), a…Continue Reading

Pope’s doctrine chief under attack as he takes strong stand for marriage and family

muller

ROME, May 1, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Pope Francis’ top advisor on Catholic doctrine is coming under attack as he continues to defend the Church’s teaching on marriage, family, and sexuality amid a campaign by a “progressive” faction of prelates. On…Continue Reading

Obama Admin. Denies Visa to Nun Pleading For Persecuted Iraqi Christians – Will Media Cover?

The Hudson Institute’s Nina Shea spotlighted the plight of a Catholic sister, who was denied entry to the U.S. by the Obama administration, in a Thursday item for National Review. She noted how “every member of an Iraqi delegation of…Continue Reading

States could force Catholic priests to perform same-sex ‘marriages’ or lose legal status: Justice Scalia

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 29, 2015, (LifeSiteNews.com) – If the Supreme Court rules that same-sex “marriage” is a constitutional right, one justice has said that the government could force clergy of all denominations to perform gay “weddings” or lose the ability…Continue Reading

The Attack on San Francisco’s Archbishop Cordileone–Who’s Behind It and Why?

In spite of a recent newspaper poll that showed 89% of the public supports San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, a small but vocal group of people are keeping up a campaign to get Pope Francis to replace him as archbishop…Continue Reading

Christian Leaders Threaten Civil Disobedience

“We will not obey.” That’s the blunt warning a group of prominent religious leaders is sending to the Supreme Court of the United States as they consider same-sex marriage. “We respectfully warn the Supreme Court not to cross that line,”…Continue Reading

Feminist Steinem Touts Abortion, Ridicules Church at St. Norbert College

gloria

Abortion advocacy, support for euthanasia and applause for excommunicated and “ordained” women priests—such were the highlights of last week’s “dialogue” with radical feminists Gloria Steinem and Bell Hooks on the Catholic campus of St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wis.…Continue Reading

Vatican hosts two leading pro-abortion, population control activists at climate conference

April 28, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) — Two of the world’s leading pro-abortion advocates were addressing a Vatican workshop on the environment today. At the same time, a press conference at the Palazzo Cesi, in Rome, organised by the Heartland Institute, was…Continue Reading

Climate Change Skeptics Write Open Letter Urging Pope Francis to Rethink Global Warming

ROME, Italy, April 27, 2015 (Thomas D. Williams, Ph.D.) – As the Vatican gears up for a high-level workshop on climate change this Tuesday, a group of 90 prominent scientists, religious leaders and academics have written an open letter to Pope Francis,…Continue Reading

Charlotte Bishop To LGBT-Advocate Nun Gramick: You’re Not Speaking in My Diocese

Charlotte Bishop Peter Jugis has cancelled a speaking event by Sister Jennine Gramick that was scheduled to take place at one of the parishes in his diocese. Sister Gramick is the founder of New Ways Ministry, self-described as a “gay-positive…Continue Reading

OVER 500 PRIESTS . . .PRIESTS INVITING PRIESTS TO WITNESS TO THE DIGNITY OF MARRIAGE AND FAMILY LIFE

As Catholic priests we commit ourselves anew to the task of presenting the teaching of the Church on marriage in all its fullness, while reaching out with the Lord’s compassion to those struggling to respond to the demands and challenges…Continue Reading

Cardinal Burke criticizes German cardinal’s ‘ridiculous’ claim that German Church is not a ‘subsidiary of Rome’

ROME, April 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – In an interview today with the prominent German newspaper, Die Welt, Cardinal Raymond Burke criticized Cardinal Reinhard Marx, who suggested German Catholic dioceses are not a “subsidiary of Rome” on the question of Communion…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

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

Today . . .

Pope Francis: Marriage Inscribed In Creation

2015-05-06 Vatican Radio   (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis held his weekly General Audience on Wednesday, during which he continued his catechetical reflections on the nature and purpose of marriage in the order of creation and in the Divine plan of salvation. This week, the Holy Father focused specifically on Christian marriage as a Sacrament: an efficacious sign of God’s love for each and every person, for all humanity and for the whole world, a means…Continue Reading

Pope Francis tells Swiss Guards they have a “significant” friendship

pope780

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis greeted the members of the Swiss Guard and their families on Monday, ahead of the annual May 6th swearing in ceremony for new Guards. Pope Francis said the meeting was an opportunity to “strengthen a [significant] friendship,” noting the words of Christ who said “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” “In the history of the Church, many men and women have embraced…Continue Reading

Pope: Bear The Fruits Of Membership In Christ And The Church

pope311

(Vatican Radio) On Sunday, Pope Francis spoke about Jesus’ parable of the vine and the branches – Jesus is the true vine, and we are the branches, dependent on Him. Through this parable, “Jesus wants us to understand the importance of remaining united to Him.” What is this new way, the Pope asked? Although Jesus is no longer with us as He was with the Disciples, we are able to remain united with Christ “in vital…Continue Reading

Pope Francis Attends Swiss Guard Flag Ceremony

swiss

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis attended a Swiss Guard ceremony Friday afternoon — unexpected by most of the people present — and addressed the corps, speaking as well about the characteristics of a commander, according to the Gospel. Following the nomination in February of Christoph Graf as the new Commander of the Swiss Guard, the military corps held a ceremony May 1 for the inauguration and blessing of its new flag. Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro…Continue Reading

Culture Of Life 101 . . . “Introduction To The Fight Over Homosexuality”

  By BRIAN CLOWES (Editor’s Note: Brian Clowes has been director of research and training at Human Life International since 1995.) + + + “Evil may have its day, but to God go the weeks and the years. It must ever be so” — Fr. Eugene Fahy, SJ. + + + So far, the Culture…Continue Reading

Betrayed By Culture

By DONALD DeMARCO I was reading, with genuine sadness, about a Jesuit priest who visits a Catholic home for unwed mothers three times a year to give weekend retreats. He describes the tragedies in the lives of these young girls as “appalling.” The age of these young mothers ranges from 13 upwards, with the median…Continue Reading

Can America Stop The Tide Of Assisted Suicide?

By CRAIG TURNER (Editor’s Note: Craig Turner is a graduate of the English honors program at the University of Texas and a former journalist who covered Capitol Hill. Since 1990, he has served as director of communications for three Washington, D.C., companies. Turner is the author of two books recently published by Saint Benedict Press:…Continue Reading

Reel Faith . . . An Interview With Catholic Actor And Filmmaker Eduardo Verastegui

By REY FLORES Eduardo Verastegui is a man on a mission. He is tirelessly traveling, either working on his latest film project or helping to promote his most recently completed one. On top of that, Verastegui (pronounced Ver-ah-steg-eeh) also helps run a crisis pregnancy clinic in one of the toughest neighborhoods in Los Angeles. The…Continue Reading

Give Every Child In Baltimore A $17,329 School-Choice Voucher

By TERENCE P. JEFFREY (Editor’s Note: Terence P. Jeffrey is the editor-in-chief of CNSnews.com. Creators Syndicate provided this column. All rights reserved.) + + + “The education system has failed them.” That is part of the explanation that Billy Murphy, a lawyer representing the family of Freddie Gray — who died after his spine was…Continue Reading

The Wanderer Interviews His Eminence Raymond Cardinal Burke . . .

burk10

By DON FIER Part 1 (Editor’s Note: Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, who previously served as Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura in Rome from June 2008 until November 2014, recently visited the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, Wis. Prior to that he served as Archbishop…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

Archbishop Sartain’s Homily At Cardinal George’s Funeral . . . We Only Take With Us What We Have Given Away

(Editor’s Note: Below is the text of the homily that Archbishop J. Peter Sartain delivered at the April 23 funeral Mass for Francis Cardinal George, OMI, the retired archbishop of Chicago. Before Sartain was named archbishop of Seattle in 2010, he was the bishop of Joliet, Ill. (Cardinal George died April 17 at the age of 78, after fighting cancer…Continue Reading

A Leaven In The World . . . Social Networks, Virtual Reality, And Trinitarian Love

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK The omnipresent cell phone is blamed as often as it is praised. We like our cell phones for the convenience of reaching out to others by voice or text whenever we like as well as surfing the Internet and obtaining information and directions whenever we need them. Electronic devices of all kinds have become a…Continue Reading

Did Jesus Christ Found A Church? If He Did, How Can She Be Identified?

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM Part 4 The Church is holy. Sanctam: The ultimate goal of the Church is personal holiness, identification with Christ, as St. Paul says, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2:20). It is not merely covering oneself with the Blood of Christ, and allowing the inside to remain sinful…Continue Reading

The Mystery Of The Church

By DON FIER The one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, as the “convocation” of God’s people, was prefigured from the beginning when our first parents sinned and were promised a Redeemer. Her remote preparation began with the calling of our father in faith, Abraham, and her immediate preparation began with the election of the Chosen People of Israel, a sign…Continue Reading

Catholic Replies

Editor’s Note: Writing in his blog (http://johnkippley.com) about the long-term consequences of dissent from Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae, John Kippley said that this dissent not only “entailed the rejection of the whole idea of natural law as the reasoned basis for Catholic moral teaching,” but it allowed Catholics to substitute personal preference for personal morality, which means…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Philip Neri

By CAROLE BRESLIN Throughout the history of the Church when great persecutions and heresies have been promoted, there were also great saints who underwent persecution in their attempts to protect the Deposit of Faith. Such was the case in the early 16th century, when the Catholic Church was suffering her greatest crisis to date with the Protestant Revolt. During this…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes . . . Pope St. Pius V

By CAROLE BRESLIN Can anyone imagine a more challenging time in the history of the Church than the 16th century — besides this century? The Protestant Revolt north of Rome decimating the numbers of faithful Christians; to the west, England persecuting all Catholics; to the southeast, the Turks of the Ottoman Empire conquering at will place after place, setting their…Continue Reading