"I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history." -Cardinal Francis George

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Protestant Superstition

God coming to earth bodily
 G.K. Chesterton writes,
“All these are possible as general views of life; and there is a [fifth] that is at least equally possible, though certainly more positive. The whole point of this last might be expressed in the line of M. Cammaerts’s beautiful little poem about bluebells; le ciel est tombé par terre. Heaven has descended into the world of matter; the supreme spiritual power is now operating by the machinery of matter, dealing miraculously with the bodies and the souls of men. It blesses the five senses; as the senses of the baby are blessed at a Catholic christening. It blesses even material gifts and keepsakes, as with relics or rosaries. It works through water or oil or bread or wine. Now that sort of mystical materialism may please or displease the Dean, or anybody else. But I cannot for the life of me understand why the Dean, or anybody else, does not see that the Incarnation is as much a part of that idea as the Mass; and that the Mass is as much a part of that idea as the Incarnation.

“A Puritan may think it blasphemous that God should become a wafer. A Moslem thinks it is blasphemous that God should become a workman in Galilee. And he is perfectly right, from his point of view; and given his primary principle. But if the Moslem has a principle, the Protestant has only a prejudice. That is, he has only a fragment; a relic; a superstition “If it be profane that the miraculous should descend to the plane of matter, then certainly Catholicism is profane; and Protestantism is profane; and Christianity is profane. Of all human creeds or concepts, in that sense, Christianity is the most utterly profane. But why a man should accept a Creator who was a carpenter, and then worry about holy water, why he should accept a local Protestant tradition that God was born in some particular place mentioned in the Bible, merely because the Bible had been left lying about in England, and then say it is incredible that a blessing should linger on the bones of a saint: why he should accept the first and most stupendous part of the story of Heaven on Earth, and then furiously deny a few small but obvious deductions from it—that is a thing I do not understand; I never could understand. I have come to the conclusion that I shall never understand. I can only attribute it to Superstition.”
Any Catholic who tries to defend his Catholicism for more than a minute has run into this in a hundred forms: Pick a doctrine that is shared by Catholics and Protestants out of a hat... say, the Trinity or the incarnation. And compare it with one we disagree on like... say, the Eucharist and mass. How in the world could they get up in arms about the latter and sit quietly by happily defending the former.
Take the Trinity. It's a crazy doctrine! Last Sunday was Trinity Sunday and I was sitting on my porch smoking my pipe after mass and asking my kids to explain it to me. They mostly could, but I couldn't blame them for not understanding it. I don't understand it myself. Three persons in one God? Eh? How is that again? Oh and the incarnation. The uncreated God who is being in himself becomes part of creation? Huh? Don't get me wrong, I believe these mysteries with my whole heart. They are beautiful. But, with Chesterton, I cant help be perplexed when incarnation-Trinity-believing Protestants get up in arms about bread becoming the Body of Christ! (next Sunday is the feast of Corpus Christi btw)

What is harder to believe?-
A. Uncreated God takes on human flesh.
B. A piece of bread becomes that same flesh.
Hmm. Both are pretty mind blowing to think about. But to get up in arms about B while affirming A as quite reasonable -as Protestants do- is just baffling. It is Superstition.


  1. Hello David,

    I'm not saying you need this, but I would strongly recommend you read this three page excerpt from Theology And Sanity by Frank Sheed:


    Frank Sheed was one of the leading Catholic street preachers of the century, as well as one of the best lay teachers.

  2. Thanks Nick,

    I read through it. Honestly I want to read through it again later. It was quite meaty for my mind. Perhaps that shows what I was sayiing a bit? ;-)

    I get what he was saying about the sort of throw-your-hands-in-the-air dismisal of the Trinity as incomprehensible. I absolutely fall into that rap sometimes, and probably did in this post to a degree. But the fact is that even with what we are able know, not everyone can attain that knowledge. I am pretty sure St. Thomas Aq. will know more than I ever will about the Trinity. And even he was probably scratching the surface. For me, after exerting all my mental powers, I still just feel inadequate to understand it beyond afirming the truths of it. I want to work on that though.


  3. Exactly, that kind of article cannot be fully understood unless it's read at least twice.

    The Trinity certainly is something that you can never wrap your mind about, but certainly the more holy the saint the more soul-piercing appreciation they had when contemplating the Mystery. Yet it's just as important to not have the 'throw your hands up' dismissal or even ignorance since we have so many chances to learn.