Posts Tagged ‘Karl Rahner’

Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, December 21, 2016 — “If the Lord is to dwell in our hearts, we must make time for silence and prayer.”

December 20, 2016

Wednesday of the Fourth Week in Advent
Lectionary: 197

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Reading 1 SG 2:8-14

Hark! my lover–here he comes
springing across the mountains,
leaping across the hills.
My lover is like a gazelle
or a young stag.
Here he stands behind our wall,
gazing through the windows,
peering through the lattices.
My lover speaks; he says to me,
“Arise, my beloved, my dove, my beautiful one,
and come!
“For see, the winter is past,
the rains are over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth,
the time of pruning the vines has come,
and the song of the dove is heard in our land.
The fig tree puts forth its figs,
and the vines, in bloom, give forth fragrance.
Arise, my beloved, my beautiful one,
and come!“O my dove in the clefts of the rock,
in the secret recesses of the cliff,
Let me see you,
let me hear your voice,
For your voice is sweet,
and you are lovely.”

Or ZEP 3:14-18A

Shout for joy, O daughter Zion!
Sing joyfully, O Israel!
Be glad and exult with all your heart,
O daughter Jerusalem!
The LORD has removed the judgment against you,
he has turned away your enemies;
The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst,
you have no further misfortune to fear.
On that day, it shall be said to Jerusalem:
Fear not, O Zion, be not discouraged!
The LORD, your God, is in your midst,
a mighty savior;
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
and renew you in his love,
He will sing joyfully because of you,
as one sings at festivals.

Responsorial Psalm PS 33:2-3, 11-12, 20-21

R. (1a; 3a) Exult, you just, in the Lord! Sing to him a new song.
Give thanks to the LORD on the harp;
with the ten-stringed lyre chant his praises.
Sing to him a new song;
pluck the strings skillfully, with shouts of gladness.
R. Exult, you just, in the Lord! Sing to him a new song.
But the plan of the LORD stands forever;
the design of his heart, through all generations.
Blessed the nation whose God is the LORD,
the people he has chosen for his own inheritance.
R. Exult, you just, in the Lord! Sing to him a new song.
Our soul waits for the LORD,
who is our help and our shield,
For in him our hearts rejoice;
in his holy name we trust.
R. Exult, you just, in the Lord! Sing to him a new song.


R. Alleluia, alleluia.
O Emmanuel, our King and Giver of Law:
come to save us, Lord our God!
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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The Visitation By Philippe de Champaigne.

Gospel LK 1:39-45

Mary set out in those days
and traveled to the hill country in haste
to a town of Judah,
where she entered the house of Zechariah
and greeted Elizabeth.
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting,
the infant leaped in her womb,
and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit,
cried out in a loud voice and said,
“Most blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
And how does this happen to me,
that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears,
the infant in my womb leaped for joy.
Blessed are you who believed
that what was spoken to you by the Lord
would be fulfilled.”


From Living Space from The Carmelites

Commentary on Song of Solomon 2:8-14 and Zephaniah 3:14-18

We have a choice of two First Readings today. The second, which is from the prophet Zephaniah, is for those who may find the passionate love implied in the passage from the Song of Songs a little strong for a liturgical celebration. The Song of Songs (also known as The Song of Solomon) is a collection of about 25 poems or parts of poems about human love and courtship, suitable for singing at weddings. “The poetry is graceful, sensuous and replete with erotic imagery and allusions to the ancient myth of the love of a god and a goddess on which the fertility of nature was thought to depend. (The New Oxford Annotated Bible, loc. cit.). The pronouns (He, She…) imply that the speakers are a bridegroom (Lover), bride (Beloved) and chorus. Although it is called ‘The Song of Solomon’ the actual author is unknown. And, although dating from about the 3rd century BC, the symbols and motifs date from early mythology and have become the language of human love and courtship.

Strangely enough, the book has no obvious religious content compared to other books in the Bible and it can only be given such an interpretation by finding a deeper symbolism in its highly graphic language. Its inclusion in the Old Testament can be explained by the Lord being called the “husband” of his people (Hos 2:16-19). In the Christian tradition, it has been understood as an allegory of the love of Christ for his bride, the Church (Rev 21:2,9), or as symbolising the intimate experience of divine love in the individual soul. The links between mystical experience and sexual ecstasy are not so far apart. We should be grateful that such a beautiful work has been included in our collection of God’s Word.
The choice of the reading for today is obviously linked to the Gospel account of the Visitation of Mary and Jesus to Elizabeth and John. The love expressed in the First Reading clearly points to a close, warm relationship between Jesus and John, where John represents each one of us. Perhaps we do not use this kind of passionate language when speaking to Jesus but there have been mystics who have not hesitated to do so. One thinks of John of the Cross or Ignatius of Loyola and even more of Teresa of Avila.

As the passage opens, it is the Beloved, the girl who is speaking. She is living with her parents in the city. Not unlike the lover in one of Shakespeare’s most famous tragedies, the Lover appears at the Beloved’s window. The door is closed and there is a forbidding wall. “He looks in at the window, he peers through the lattice.” He urges her to come away with him to the countryside. “Come then, my love, my lovely one, come.”

The cold of winter, which is also the rainy season is past. It is now spring, the time of new life. Nature is bursting out in leaf and flower and the migrant birds have returned to make their nests. The cooing of turtle doves is heard, the first figs are appearing and the vines are in fragrant flower. And, of course, for humans, too, it is the season of love.
The Beloved is hiding in the clefts of the rock, a euphemism for her home, a place inaccessible to the Lover. “Show me your face, let me hear your voice, for your voice is sweet and your face beautiful.”

Jesus, too, is still hidden in the womb of his mother. His mother’s voice is enough to create a joyful reaction in John, in Elizabeth’s womb. He knows that where the Mother is, the Son must also be close by.

It is important to realise that our Christian faith is not just a list of intellectual doctrines. Ultimately it is a life based on love, intimacy and affection for our brothers and sisters.

ALTERNATIVE  FIRST READING – from the prophet Zephaniah (Zephaniah 3:14-18)

Zephaniah was a prophet during the reign of King Josiah (640-609 BC) who did much to restore traditional Jewish religious customs. But his example was not followed and Zephaniah foretold disaster and this indeed happened with the collapse of the Assyrian empire brought about by the Babylonians who went to attack Egypt, an ally of Assyria. Josiah took sides with Egypt and was killed in a battle. It was to set the stage for one of Israel’s most painful memories – the Babylonian Captivity. While much of Zephaniah is a condemnation of religious infidelity, the last part from which today’s reading comes is a promise of better times to come for those who wait patiently for the Lord.

Today’s passage consists of two psalms or hymns looking forward to the full restoration of Jerusalem to its former glory and religious faithfulness. The whole people (“daughter of Zion…daughter of Jerusalem”) are invited to celebrate the coming salvation. Words echoed in the words of the angel to Mary: “Rejoice! The Lord is with you.”

In today’s celebration, it is the close presence of the Lord which is emphasised. “The Lord, the King of Israel, is in your midst; you have no more evil to fear.” And again: “The Lord your God is in your midst.”

Again, “The lord your God is in your midst…
He will exult with joy over you,
he will renew you by his love;
he will dance with shouts of joy for you…”

There is also an air of joy. “Shout for joy, daughter of Zion!.. Rejoice, exult with all your heart, daughter of Jerusalem.”

All of this can fittingly be applied to Elizabeth as she welcomes Mary and Jesus and indicated by John jumping for joy in the womb of his mother. Let us too share their joy as we prepare to welcome the coming of our God among us in Jesus.





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Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1606–1669). The Visitation, 1640

Rembrandt uses light and shadow to train the viewer’s eye through the canvas. The brightest light falls on Mary and then Elizabeth. Mary has just traveled to see her cousin, whom the angel told her would be with child in her old age. There they both stand, pregnant by divine intervention—Elizabeth with John the Baptist and Mary with the Christ.

Rembrandt’s light focuses on the two women like a spotlight coming down from the heavens. As our eyes adjust to the scene we see the two servants. Beyond them at the edges of the frame we see Elizabeth’s husband, Zechariah the priest, to the left and Joseph down and to the right.

A few years ago this Rembrandt traveled to my city as part of an exhibit about the Dutch Golden Age. I was struck by small size of the painting. It is just a little bigger than two by two and half feet. Still, Rembrandt doesn’t waste an inch of composition space, filling the dark background with an elaborate cityscape and the foreground with detailed foliage and architecture. The peacock looking on from the bottom left signifies Jesus’s royalty and immortality. Peacocks were regarded as kingly and there was a myth in Rembrandt’s day that their flesh never decayed.

The scene shows an ornate world in motion, but the meeting between these two women, though their pregnancies would transform that world forever, takes place with no fan-fare. As Isaiah said, there would be nothing about Jesus’s coming that would capture the world’s attention.



“When the angel Gabriel stood before Mary, the hypothetical gave way to the real. The ordinary stories all at once glistened under the extraordinary light of this celestial storyteller.

“As she listened, there rose inside her a sense that the glory of his tale was nothing new, but rather was older than time. She only needed uncommon light to see it. She had, Gabriel told her, found favor with God. She shouldn’t fear this visit or the message he brought.

“It must have been strange to stand before this seraph dressed in light, strong and otherworldly, and hear him tell her not to be afraid. Perhaps it was even stranger for Mary to discover that God had formed an overall impression of her. She was known by God, and he favored her. He liked what he saw?

“The angel then came to the reason for his visit. He told Mary she would conceive a son, who would rescue his people from their sins. God had already chosen his name— Jesus, which meant “salvation.”[1]



What do you think the angel means when he tells Mary she has found favor with God?

In what ways is the Christmas story globally epic? In what ways is it deeply personal? Are you drawn to one of those poles more than the other? Which one? Why?

Where are some places in your life where you need the help of a God who governs the cosmos? Where are some places in your life where you need a God who can cut into the deeply personal details of your heart?


Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
21 DECEMBER, 2016, Wednesday, Weekday of Advent

SCRIPTURE READINGS: Song of Songs 2:8-14 or Zep 3:14-18a; Ps 32:2-3,11-12,20-21; Luke 1:39-45   ]

Christmas is often associated with joy.  One of the carols that we like to sing is “Joy to the world!”   What is the basis of this joy?  Namely, that the savior has come and that Christ has come to reign with His love and truth.  With Christ’s coming, there will be peace in our land and there will be love among men.  The thought of Christ’s coming therefore fills those without love and without peace with expectant joy.  This joy is born out of this promise.  This is the message of today’s scripture readings as we enter the 5th day of the “O” Antiphons that prepare us for the coming of Christ.

Indeed in the first reading from the Book of Songs, the mystical love and union between God and His bride, the Church is portrayed in terms of human love between two lovers.  The Book of the Song of Songs is really a compendium of love songs for a wedding.  Love is full of joy and admiration at the beauty of our loved ones.  “I hear my Beloved.  See how he comes leaping on the mountains, bounding over the hills. My Beloved is like a gazelle, like a young stag.”  She says, “My dove, hiding in the clefts of the rock, in the coverts of the cliff, show me your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet and your face is beautiful.”  Love is attentive, always paying attention and observing the details of our beloved.   “See where he stands behind our wall. He looks in at the window, he peers through the lattice.”   Where there is love, there is newness of life and we see things in a new perspective.  “For see, winter is past, the rains are over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth. The season of glad songs has come, the cooing of the turtledove is heard in our land. The fig tree is forming its first figs and the blossoming vines give out their fragrance.”

Indeed, anyone who is in love with God is filled with joy.  When the love of God fills the person’s hearts, the things of this world pale in comparison with His love.  “If one offered for love all the wealth of one’s house, it would be utterly scorned.” (Songs 8:7b) Love gives us meaning and purpose in life.  To fall in love with God is the greatest thing on this earth.  When God’s love is in our hearts, we find deeper inner peace, joy and security.  St Paul says, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”  (1 Cor 13:19b-20)

Secondly, the joy of Christmas comes from liberation.  In the optional reading from Zephaniah, the prophet said, “Shout for joy, daughter of Zion, Israel, shout aloud! Rejoice, exult with all your heart, daughter of Jerusalem! The Lord has repealed your sentence; he has driven your enemies away.”   Indeed, the Lord has come to take away our shame.  He has come to take away all that harm and destroy us.  He will help us to overcome our inner enemies, that is our sins and selfishness; and He will liberate us from our external enemies, pain, suffering and injustices.  The prophet assures us that God is our warrior.  He will fight the battle for us.  We only need to rely on His strength and might.  “The Lord, the king of Israel, is in your midst; you have no more evil to fear. When that day comes, word will come to Jerusalem: Zion, have no fear, do not let your hands fall limp. The Lord your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior.”   Both in today’s acclamation before the gospel and at the Magnificat at vespers, we pray, “O Key of David, who open the gates of the eternal kingdom, come to liberate from prison the captive who lives in darkness.”

Truly, when the Lord is in us, we feel liberated from all fears, worries and anxieties.  All our sins come from fear and the desire to protect our self-interests.  We fear death, hunger and pain.  But the Lord shows us that love is stronger than death and selfishness.  So like the lover, we say to the Lord, “Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; for love is strong as death, passion fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, a raging flame. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it.”  (Songs 8:6-7a)

The Good News is that the Lord is coming and He has come.  “My Beloved lifts up his voice, he says to me, ‘Come then, my love, my lovely one, come.”  The Lord is saying to us, “Come then, my love, my lovely one, come.”  In a real way, the Lord comes to us in the Incarnation.  In the gospel reading, we read of how the Lord came to visit Elizabeth in the womb of Mary.  “Now as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.”   The coming of the Lord filled Elizabeth with joy and John the Baptist also leapt for joy.

The Lord comes to us again and again.  He comes to us when we receive Him in the Eucharist, just as our Blessed Mother carried the Lord in the tabernacle of her womb.  Whenever we receive the Eucharist with a pure heart, a clear conscience and a devout spirit, the Lord enters into our lives and renews the Holy Spirit given to us at our baptism.   If our disposition is right, the Lord comes, but most of the time we do not recognize His real presence in the Eucharist.  This explains why although many Catholics receive communion every Sunday, nothing is happening in their lives. They receive without reverence, without a conscious recognition of Christ’s presence in the bread and most of all, in the seriousness of their sins.

Still, the Lord can come to us anew if we receive Him in the sacrament of reconciliation.  The Lord wants to set us free from our prison of sin and misery.  Our pride, self-righteousness, egotism and anger often blind us to the reality of the truth.   If we want to be set free to find love and peace, then we need to seek His forgiveness; and then extend this forgiveness to our fellowmen and all those who have hurt us.  So if we have not yet frequented the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we will be losing a great opportunity of grace.  How can there be peace and joy at Christmas when one is not reconciled with God and with our loved ones and our fellowmen?  If we want peace, let us make peace with ourselves, with God and others.

The Lord comes especially also in the compassion and mercy that others show to us, or vice versa.  Mary, hearing that Elizabeth was pregnant in her old age immediately responded to her help.  She travelled a great distance to help her cousin.  We too like Mary are called to be channels of grace and love.  She not only literally brought Jesus to Elizabeth and John the Baptist but she herself became the presence of Jesus to them.  Through her kindness and graciousness, Elizabeth immediately sensed the divine presence in her heart and womb.  We too must do the same.  As we reach out to the lonely, the sick, the wounded, the hungry and the poor, we come to encounter Christ in them and they encounter Christ in us.

If the Lord were to dwell in our hearts, we must make time for silence and prayer.  “Give thanks to the Lord upon the harp, with a ten-stringed lute sing him songs. O sing him a song that is new, play loudly, with all your skill.”  This last week of Advent is an intense period of expectancy which is aroused and strengthened by prayer, meditation and contemplation.  We must seek and desire that our Lord comes into our lives.  Like the love who said, “Upon my bed at night I sought him whom my soul loves; I sought him, but found him not; I called him, but he gave no answer. I will rise now and go about the city, in the streets and in the squares; I will seek him whom my soul loves.” (Songs 3:1-2)  Let us wait for the Lord in prayer and good works.  “Our soul is waiting for the Lord. The Lord is our help and our shield. In him do our hearts find joy. We trust in his holy name.”  Let us not delay any longer but have faith.  “Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.”

Written by The Most Rev William Goh






Edward Leen totally believes in the “indwelling of the Holy Spirit” in every human being. His book “Holy Spirit” works for everbody.

Karl Rahner also believed in the gift of the Holy Spirit in every human being. Rahner says, “To get more, give more.”


Worrying claim: Professor Patrick Pullicino said doctors had turned the use of a controversial ¿death pathway¿ into the equivalent of euthanasia of the elderly

Worrying claim: In Britain, Professor Patrick Pullicino said doctors had turned the use of a controversial ‘death pathway’ into the equivalent of euthanasia of the elderly


Man’s Desire To Know God — “In love the gates of my soul spring open.”

September 13, 2016
Fr. Karl Rahner S.J. (5 March 1904 – 30 March 1984), was a German Jesuit priest and theologian. He is considered one of the most influential Catholic theologians of the 20th century.
Fr. Rahner was completing his seminary education at about the same time that Adolph Hitler was coming to power in Germany. Fortunately for us, Father Rahner was able to keep from getting swept up into the turmoils of that time. One of his first writings that came to public notice was his treatment on the necessity and need for prayer.
Rahner believes that the very nature of the human being contains an inescapable orientation towards something greater than ourselves, often called God. But Rahner also believes that God cannot be explained or scientifically proved because of the limits of our nature requires us to understand that God’s nature is often intrinsically “mystery.”
He identifies the God of Absolute Being as Absolute Mystery.
Rahner says that God communicates Himself to us in what many call “grace” or the “Holy Spirit.” Rahner says Grace is God within us and all around us.
We at Peace and Freedom claim no mastery of Rahner’s very difficult writings. He seems a befitting messenger who transmits a powerful belief and faith rather uncommon in our everyday life today. He challenges us all to seek and find God through prayer and living out The Word of God.

Some quotes from Karl Rahner’s teachings:


“When man is with God in awe and love, then he is praying.”



“In the days ahead, you will either be a mystic (one who has experienced God for real) or nothing at all.”

“The number one cause of atheism is Christians. Those who proclaim Him with their mouths and deny Him with their actions is what an unbelieving world finds unbelievable.”

“Only in love can I find you, my God. In love the gates of my soul spring open, allowing me to breathe a new air of freedom and forget my own petty self. In love my whole being streams forth out of the rigid confines of narrowness and anxious self-assertion, which make me a prisoner of my own poverty emptiness. In love all the powers of my soul flow out toward you, wanting never more to return, but to lose themselves completely in you, since by your love you are the inmost center of my heart, closer to me than I am to myself.”

“For it is the bitter grief of theology and its blessed task, too, always to have to seek (because it does not clearly have present to it at the time)…always providing that one has the courage to ask questions, to be dissatisfied, to think with the mind and heart one ACTUALLY has, and not with the mind and heart one is SUPPOSED TO have.”
“Childhood is not a state which only applies to the first phase of our lives in the biological sense. Rather it is a basic condition which is always appropriate to a life that is lived aright.”
“In the midst of our lives, of our freedom and our struggles, we have to make a radical, absolute decision. And we never know when lightening will strike us out of the blue. It may be when we least expect to be asked whether we have the absolute faith and trust to say yes”
“Meditating on the nature and dignity of prayer can cause saying at least one thing to God: Lord, teach us to pray!”
“The dead are silent because they live, just as we chatter so loudly to try to make ourselves forget that we are dying. Their silence is really their call to me, the assurance of their immortal love for me.”
“The task of the theologian is to explain everything through God, and to explain God as unexplainable.”
“For a Catholic understanding of the faith there is no reason why the basic concern of Evangelical Christianity as it comes to expression in the three “only’s” should have no place in the Catholic Church. Accepted as basic and ultimate formulas of Christianity, they do not have to lead a person out of the Catholic Church. . . . They can call the attention of the Catholic church again and again to the fact that grace alone and faith alone really are what saves, and that with all our maneuvering through the history of dogma and the teaching office, we Catholic Christians must find our way back to the sources again and again, back to the primary origins of Holy Scripture and all the more so of the Holy Spirit.”

“If we have been given the vocation and grace to die with Christ then the everyday and banal occurrence which we call human death has been elevated to a place among God’s mysteries.”



More Quotes by Karl Rahner

“So You haven’t really sent me away from You, after all. When You assigned me the task of going out among men, You were only repeating to me Your one and only commandment: to find my way home to You in love. All care of souls is ultimately possible only in union with You, only in the love that binds me to You and thus makes me Your companion in finding a path to the hearts of men.” (Encounters with Silence, Karl Rahner, translated and foreword by James M. Demske, SJ, South Bend, IN: St. Augustine’s Press 1999, p. 67.)

“Thanks to Your mercy, O Infinite God, I know something about You not only through concepts and words, but through experience. I have actually known You through living contact; I have met You in joy and suffering. For You are the first and last experience of my life. Yes, really You Yourself, not just a concept of You, not just the name which we ourselves have given to You! You have descended upon me in water and the Spirit, in my baptism. And then there was no question of my convincing or excogitating anything about You. Then my reason with its extravagant cleverness was still silent. Then, without asking me, You made Yourself my poor heart’s destiny.” (Encounters with Silence, p. 30.)

Related Links

Blog posts about Karl Rahner, SJ.

Why Become or Remain a Jesuit? by Karl Rahner, SJ

Karl Rahner and Ignatian Spirituality

By Philip Endean

Limited preview on Google Books includes all of Chapter 1, a significant portion of Chapter 2, “The Immediate Experience of God,” and portions of Chapter 11, “Ignatius, Rahner, and Theology.”

Karl Rahner (1904-1984)

Edited by Derek Michaud

An accessible and fairly comprehensive review of Rahner’s thought, based primarily on Foundations of Christian Faith: An Introduction to the Idea of Christianity.

It is our belief that Rahner would endorse the thoughts of Matthew Kelly, author of “The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic.”

Karl Rahner is a thinker and theologian. Matthew Kelly is a practical map reader on the road to bringing ordinary people closer to God.

Rahner gives us theory. Matthew Kelly tells us what to do about it that could be pleasing to God and Helpful to our Souls!

In our view at Peace and Freedom, Matthew Kelly’s book could easily have been called “The Four Signs of a Dynamic Christian,” or “”The Four Signs of People in Twelve Step Recovery Programs.”

There are Matthew Kelly’s “Four Signs” —

  1. We Pray and Meditate
  2. We study (spiritual works, like the scripture)
  3. We pour ourselves out in loving service to others
  4. We evangelize. A Christians talks about his faith — he is not ashamed. A person in AA or another 12 Step recovery program, does 12 Step work.


 (By Bishop Robert Barron)


Sermon of Pope Francis at the Saint Francis of Assisi Hospital, Rio de Janeiro, Wednesday, July 24, 2013.

(Many in the audience were drug addicts and alcoholics in recovery.)

Dear Archbishop Tempesta, brother Bishops,
Distinguished Authorities,
Members of the Venerable Third Order of Saint Francis of Penance,
Doctors, Nurses, and Health Care Workers,
Dear Young People and Family Members, good night!

God has willed that my journey, after the Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida, should take me to a particular shrine of human suffering – the Saint Francis of Assisi Hospital. The conversion of your patron saint is well known: the young Francis abandoned riches and comfort in order to become a poor man among the poor. He understood that true joy and riches do not come from the idols of this world – material things and the possession of them – but are to be found only in following Christ and serving others. Less well known, perhaps, is the moment when this understanding took concrete form in his own life. It was when Francis embraced a leper. This suffering brother was the “mediator of light … for Saint Francis of Assisi” (Lumen Fidei, 57), because in every suffering brother and sister that we embrace, we embrace the suffering Body of Christ. Today, in this place where people struggle with drug addiction, I wish to embrace each and every one of you, who are the flesh of Christ, and to ask God to renew your journey, and also mine, with purpose and steadfast hope.

To embrace, to embrace – we all have to learn to embrace the one in need, as Saint Francis did. There are so many situations in Brazil, and throughout the world, that require attention, care and love, like the fight against chemical dependency. Often, instead, it is selfishness that prevails in our society. How many “dealers of death” there are that follow the logic of power and money at any cost! The scourge of drug-trafficking, that favours violence and sows the seeds of suffering and death, requires of society as a whole an act of courage. A reduction in the spread and influence of drug addiction will not be achieved by a liberalization of drug use, as is currently being proposed in various parts of Latin America. Rather, it is necessary to confront the problems underlying the use of these drugs, by promoting greater justice, educating young people in the values that build up life in society, accompanying those in difficulty and giving them hope for the future. We all need to look upon one another with the loving eyes of Christ, and to learn to embrace those in need, in order to show our closeness, affection and love.

To embrace someone is not enough, however. We must hold the hand of the one in need, of the one who has fallen into the darkness of dependency perhaps without even knowing how, and we must say to him or her: You can get up, you can stand up. It is difficult, but it is possible if you want to. Dear friends, I wish to say to each of you, but especially to all those others who have not had the courage to embark on our journey: You have to want to stand up; this is the indispensable condition! You will find an outstretched hand ready to help you, but no one is able to stand up in your place. But you are never alone! The Church and so many people are close to you. Look ahead with confidence. Yours is a long and difficult journey, but look ahead, there is “a sure future, set against a different horizon with regard to the illusory enticements of the idols of this world, yet granting new momentum and strength to our daily lives” (Lumen Fidei, 57). To all of you, I repeat: Do not let yourselves be robbed of hope! Do not let yourselves be robbed of hope! And not only that, but I say to us all: let us not rob others of hope, let us become bearers of hope!

In the Gospel, we read the parable of the Good Samaritan, that speaks of a man assaulted by robbers and left half dead at the side of the road. People pass by him and look at him. But they do not stop, they just continue on their journey, indifferent to him: it is none of their business! How often we say: it’s not my problem!  How often we turn the other way and pretend not to see!Only a Samaritan, a stranger, sees him, stops, lifts him up, takes him by the hand, and cares for him (cf. Lk 10:29-35). Dear friends, I believe that here, in this hospital, the parable of the Good Samaritan is made tangible. Here there is no indifference, but concern. There is no apathy, but love. The Saint Francis Association and the Network for the Treatment of Drug Addiction show how to reach out to those in difficulty because in them we see the face of Christ, because in these persons, the flesh of Christ suffers. Thanks are due to all the medical professionals and their associates who work here. Your service is precious; undertake it always with love. It is a service given to Christ present in our brothers and sisters. As Jesus says to us: “As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40).

And I wish to repeat to all of you who struggle against drug addiction, and to those family members who share in your difficulties: the Church is not distant from your troubles, but accompanies you with affection. The Lord is near you and he takes you by the hand. Look to him in your most difficult moments and he will give you consolation and hope. And trust in the maternal love of his Mother Mary. This morning, in the Shrine of Aparecida, I entrusted each of you to her heart. Where there is a cross to carry, she, our Mother, is always there with us. I leave you in her hands, while with great affection I bless all of you. Thank you.


Pope Francis greets a man as he meets with patients, family and staff at St. Francis of Assisi Hospital in Rio de Janeiro July 24, 2013. The pope addressed a group of recovering drug addicts offering them a message of compassion and hope as well as a call to self-determination. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis at the St. Francis of Assisi Hospital in Rio de Janeiro talking to recovering drug addicts, July 24, 2013


Is it hopeless, the situation of the blocked-up heart? — Why We Need To Pray — By Fr. Karl Rahner S.J.

September 11, 2016

Fr. Karl Rahner S.J. (5 March 1904 – 30 March 1984), was a German Jesuit priest and theologian. He is considered one of the most influential Catholic theologians of the 20th century.

As you can see from his picture, Fr. Rahner is not known for his nonsense. What he is known for is a very serious and often dense discussion of the Catholic Faith. We at Peace and Freedom have had the pleasure of “getting to know him” through his many writings.

Fr. Rahner was completing his seminary education at about the same time that Adolph Hitler was coming to power in Germany. Fortunately for us, Father Rahner was able to keep from getting swept up into the turmoils of that time. One of his first writings that came to public notice was his treatment on the necessity and need for prayer — a portion of which is reproduced below.


By Karl Rahner

Is it hopeless, the situation of the blocked-up heart? Is the danger of collapse and of inner suffocation unavoidable? What are people to do if they are to manage an escape from the dungeon of the cold despair and disappointment that they disguise? How does the heart’s opening take place? We can say it in a word: in prayer, prayer to God, just in prayer. But because we’re still trying to understand what “prayer” means, we need to go slowly and talk cautiously. Let’s ask what people need to do when they find themselves in this situation with their hearts blocked up.

The first is this. They must just stay there and let go. When people notice that in fact their souls are blocked up, they either begin to defend themselves with the desperation of a person drowning, indeed of a person being buried alive – plunging into everything, into every form of activity and busyness that gives them hope of fooling themselves about their despair. Or else they really despair: either in overt frenzy or else quietly and icily they curse, they hate themselves and the world, and they say there is no God.

They say there is no God because they are confusing the true God with what they took to be their God. And as regards what they are actually referring to, they are quite right. The God they are referring to really does not exist: the God of earthly security, the God of salvation from life’s disappointments, the God of life insurance, the God who takes care so that children never cry and that justice marches in upon the earth, the God who transforms earth’s laments, the God who doesn’t let human love end up in disappointment.

. . . The truth is that . . . you can happily let despair seem to take away everything from you, but in truth it’s only what is finite and null that is taken, no matter how great and wonderful it was, no matter indeed if it’s your very self – you yourself with your ideals; you yourself with your life-projects, all so very cleverly, so very precisely, so very nicely set out; you with your image of God, the image that was like you rather like the Self of the One past all grasp. What can be taken from you is never God. Even if all your exits are barred, it’s only the exits into what is finite that are blocked, the exits into what really are dead ends. Don’t be shocked at the loneliness and desertedness of your inner prison, which seems to be filled only with powerlessness and hopelessness, with tiredness and emptiness! Don’t be shocked.

For look, if you stand firm, if you don’t run away from despair, if in your despair at the idols of your life up till now, idols of body and mind, beautiful and honorable idols (for yes, they are beautiful and honorable), idols that you called God – if in this despair you don’t despair of the true God, if you can stand firm in this way (this is already a miracle of grace, but it’s there for you) then you will suddenly become aware that you’re not in fact buried alive at all, that your prison is shutting you off only from what is null and finite, that its deathly emptiness is only a disguise for an intimacy of God’s, that God’s silence, the eerie stillness, is filled by the Word without words, by Him who is above all names, by Him who is all in all. And his silence is telling you that He is here.

And this is the second thing you should do in your despair: notice that He is here, know that He is with you. Be aware that for a long time He has been waiting for you in the deepest dungeon of your blocked-up heart. Be aware that He has been listening for a long time, to see if you – after all the busy noise of your life, all the talk that you call your “illusion-free philosophy” or perhaps even your prayer, noise, and talk in which you are only talking to yourself, after all the despairing, weeping and silent sighing over the need in your life – He has been listening to see if you might finally be able to be silent before Him and let Him have the word, the word that appears to be the person you were up till now only as a deathly silence.

When you give up your frantic, violent inner anxiety about yourself and your life, your feeling should not be that you are in any way falling; when you doubt yourself, your wisdom, your strength, your capacity to make life and the happiness that comes from freedom for yourself, you should not despair. Rather, you should feel you are with Him, suddenly, as through a miracle that must happen every day anew and that can never become routine. You will suddenly realize that the petrifying face of despair is only God’s rising in your soul, that the darkness of the world is nothing but the shadowless radiance of God, that what seems a dead end with no way out is only the immensity of God, God who needs no ways because He is already here.

– Excerpted from “Opening the Heart” in Karl Rahner: Spiritual Writings, edited by Philip Endean (Orbis Books, 2004).



  (Man cannot exist independently of God)



“The Catholic Guide to Depression,” by Aaron Kheriaty, MD and Fr. John Cihak, STD.

Serenity Prayer

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.


The Dalai Lama prays as he arrives at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) to hold a discussion on “Happiness, Free Enterprise, and Human Flourishing” in Washington, DC, February 20, 2014 (AFP Photo/Jim Watson)



Buddhist monks launch paper lanterns into the sky at a temple in Suphan Buri province Jan 9, 2013.

Karl Rahner: Christian Spiritual Teacher

September 2, 2016

Not too long ago, I was with a friend as he was completing the last chapter of his life. He had stage IV cancer and despite trying all the treatments, he got weaker and sicker. But his mind never faltered so we talked and laughed much of the time we spent together.

After he died I started to become something of a student of that last phase of life — the part of life many of us don’t want to speak about and surely want to put off until the last possible time!

Karl Rahner and his little red book, “On The Theology of Death” helped me to see what I couldn’t see; so that (hopefully — when the time comes) I can go where we have to go — or where we GET TO GO!

John Francis Carey

Background on Karl Rahner, SJ (1904-1984)

One of the most important theologians of the 20th century, Karl Rahner was born in March 1904. He was the fourth of seven children, the son of a local college professor and a devout Christian mother. In 1922 Karl followed his older brother Hugo and entered the Jesuit community. As a Jesuit novice Rahner was formed in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola. This formation had a lasting influence on his spiritual and intellectual development.

But I think that the spirituality of Ignatius himself, which one learned through the practice of prayer and religious formation, was more significant to me than all the learned philosophy and theology inside and outside of the Order. (Karl Rahner, William Dych, NY: Continuum 2000, p. 7)

In his studies Rahner also became thoroughly conversant with the thinking of the Fathers of the Church, especially on topics such as grace, the sacraments, spirituality, and mysticism.

Karl Rahner’s Academic Studies

In 1934 Rahner was sent to the University of Freiburg to study philosophy. In Freiburg Rahner studied with Martin Heidegger whose philosophical approach raised serious questions as to how the western philosophical tradition should be understood. Influenced by Heidegger, Rahner wrote his dissertation (later published as Spirit in the World), which taught that the human search for meaning was rooted in the unlimited horizon of God’s own being experienced within the world.

Rahner’s Catholic advisor, Martin Honecker, found his thesis unacceptable and refused to approve it. Rahner moved to the Jesuit University in Innsbruck where he completed a dissertation in theology in 1937.

A number of years later Rahner was asked by one of his students how disappointed was he when he received Honecker’s rejection letter. Rahner replied,

“I was not disappointed at all.” Had the dissertation been accepted he would have had to interrupt his theology studies, return to Freiburg, and spend months preparing for and taking his comprehensive examinations to finish the doctorate. “I was relieved to be delivered from that work,” he said with a smile. (Dych,  p. 7)

Rahner taught at Innsbruck between 1937 and 1939—when the university was taken over by the Nazis. Rahner went to Vienna, Austria where he spent the war years teaching and as a pastor. After the war, Rahner returned to Innsbruck and later taught in Munich and Munster until his retirement in 1971.

In his “retirement” years Rahner lectured, wrote, and did pastoral work in Innsbruck and Munich until his death in 1984.

Karl Rahner’s Involvement in Vatican II

In 1962 Rahner was appointed as a peritus (expert advisor) by Pope John XXIII for the Second Vatican Council. Cardinal Koenig in Vienna selected Rahner as his private adviser on the Council documents. During the Council, Rahner worked with Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) to prepare an alternate text on the issue of the relationship between Scripture and Tradition that was accepted by the German bishops. (Later Rahner and Ratzinger would disagree on the direction of some of Rahner’s writings.) Other topics discussed during Vatican II that showed Rahner’s influence included the divine inspiration of the Bible, the relationship of the Church to the modern world, and the possibility of salvation outside the Church even for nonbelievers.

Publications by Karl Rahner

In an interview later in life, Rahner said he did not think people would find his life that interesting as it was basically concerned with studying and writing. The Church can be grateful for Rahner’s attention to his studies when we consider the astonishingly productive works of scholarship that are the results of his efforts.

Rahner’s publications include:

Twenty-three volumes of Theological Investigations, acting as coeditor of Herder’s ten-volume Lexicon fur Theologie und Kirche; the six-volume Sacramentum Mundi:An Encyclopedia of Theology; Encyclopedia of Theology: The Concise Sacramentum Mundi; and a 30-volume encyclopedia, Christian Faith in Modern Society. In all there are over 3,500 published works written or edited by Rahner.

Rahner’s Pastoral Concerns

Rahner’s academic interests were rooted in his pastoral concerns. Academic theology was never an end in itself, but always a way to serve the life and mission of the Church. Rahner’s pastoral concerns are also revealed in the many retreats he conducted and the many prayers he wrote, gathered in Prayers and Meditations: An Anthology of the Spiritual Writings by Karl Rahner.

Rahner’s students found him a simple and holy priest whose concern for them was expressed in many kind actions on their behalf. He was a close personal advisor and spiritual director. The students also speak of Rahner’s continuing concern for those in need. They would spend hours with him finding money, food, clothing, and shelter for the needy. His outreach included missionaries working with the poor in foreign lands. At the academic convocation celebrating his 80th birthday Rahner made a public appeal for money to provide a motorcycle for a priest in the African missions.

To the end of his life, Rahner was ever more convinced that the meaning of life was bound up in the experiences, history, and sacramental life that are God’s world of grace.

Throughout his spiritual writings and with greater vehemence in the latter part of his life, Rahner portrays God as inspiriting the world to shape human destiny and to liberate people to see God in all things, in order to know in that freedom that their search for meaning can only end in God. (Karl Rahner: Theologian of the Graced Search for Meaning, Geffrey B. Kelly, ed., Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress Press 1993,  p. 29.)

Rahner was active in his last years until illness and exhaustion took their toll. He died peacefully on March 30, 1984, in the University Medical Clinic of Innsbruck.

By Jim Campbell
Quotes by Karl Rahner

“So You haven’t really sent me away from You, after all. When You assigned me the task of going out among men, You were only repeating to me Your one and only commandment: to find my way home to You in love. All care of souls is ultimately possible only in union with You, only in the love that binds me to You and thus makes me Your companion in finding a path to the hearts of men.” (Encounters with Silence, Karl Rahner, translated and foreword by James M. Demske, SJ, South Bend, IN: St. Augustine’s Press 1999, p. 67.)

“Thanks to Your mercy, O Infinite God, I know something about You not only through concepts and words, but through experience. I have actually known You through living contact; I have met You in joy and suffering. For You are the first and last experience of my life. Yes, really You Yourself, not just a concept of You, not just the name which we ourselves have given to You! You have descended upon me in water and the Spirit, in my baptism. And then there was no question of my convincing or excogitating anything about You. Then my reason with its extravagant cleverness was still silent. Then, without asking me, You made Yourself my poor heart’s destiny.” (Encounters with Silence, p. 30.)

Related LinksdotMagis Blog Posts

Blog posts about Karl Rahner, SJ.

Why Become or Remain a Jesuit? by Karl Rahner, SJ

Karl Rahner and Ignatian Spirituality

By Philip Endean

Limited preview on Google Books includes all of Chapter 1, a significant portion of Chapter 2, “The Immediate Experience of God,” and portions of Chapter 11, “Ignatius, Rahner, and Theology.”

Karl Rahner (1904-1984)

Edited by Derek Michaud

An accessible and fairly comprehensive review of Rahner’s thought, based primarily on Foundations of Christian Faith: An Introduction to the Idea of Christianity.

“Our kids look unintelligent and un-courageous” — “They Cave in To Societal Pressure Instead of Thinking Critically For Themselves” — “Our Young People Are Not Reading Great Teachers and Thinkers” — “Abandoning God Is The Answer of The Hopeless Dope”

August 28, 2016

Fr. Robert Spitzer

“We need some radical surgery, we don’t need Band-Aids.”

Interview by Connor Malloy with Fr. Robert Spitzer

Detail from the cover of “Finding True Happiness,” by Robert Spitzer, S.J. (Cover design by John Herreid)

When he’s not lecturing around the world, giving interviews, producing documentaries, appearing on his EWTN show, developing curricula, chairing boards, and deepening his own spiritual life as a Jesuit priest, Father Robert Spitzer can be found writing his latest book out of his Magis Center office on the Christ Cathedral campus in the Diocese of Orange.

[One of the things that drew Peace and Freedom toward Father Spitzer is this: Father Spitzer is a living example of someone who might have embraced his suffering as a “burden” and been lost in self loathing, resentment and a lack of will to go on in life. But he didn’t and he isn’t. Father Spitzers deep faith in God not only keeps him going but despite needing many helpers because of his loss of eyesight, his is a more prolific writer and author than any current Christian thinker. He is a role model to all the people who believe, Christ sometimes gives us challenges so we have an opportunity to show we can get past them!]

The former president of Gonzaga University (1998-2009), Father Spitzer launched the Magis Center with the stated mission “to restore, reconstruct, and revitalize belief in God, the transcendent dignity of every human person, the significance of virtue, the higher levels of happiness, love, and freedom, and the real presence of Jesus Christ.” Father Spitzer has breathed new life into Catholic apologetics, utilizing his grasp of science, philosophy, and the Catholic intellectual tradition to lift the veil imposed on modern society by secularism and the dictatorship of relativism.

This is the first of a two-part interview with Father Spitzer about his work at the Magis Center, as well as about his Happiness, Suffering, and Transcendence quartet of books, two of which (Finding True Happiness and The Soul’s Upward Yearning) have been published by Ignatius Press and one of which (God So Loved the World) is now available for pre-order.

The second part of the interview can be read here.

Robert Spitzer, SJ (Image courtesy of the Magis Center)

This interview was conducted by Catholic World Report — CWR: In less than one year we’ve seen an entire series emerge from you, the Happiness, Suffering, and Transcendence series—a quartet of volumes on mankind’s relationship with the divine. Is the sense of urgency intentional?

Father Robert Spitzer, SJ: I think it is very intentional. It comes from my own intuitions teaching college students, originally. Then, when I saw the Pew survey and other surveys that tended to verify it, I became extremely concerned. The Pew Research surveys, both 2012 and 2015 surveys plus the 2010 survey of millennials, are all pointing to one thing: that millennials are becoming unbelievers—a category the Pew Forum calls “nones”—at about a rate of 1 additional percent per year. So that’s a rate of acceleration. About 11 years ago, we were at about a rate of 25 percent among millennials; today we’re at about 36 percent. If this keeps up, we’ll be at 50 percent or more unbelievers in just 15 years. And there’s no reason to suggest that it won’t keep up. So yes, the sense of urgency is there. If we don’t turn it around and soon, it’s going to really become an epidemic.

The other thing that’s really clear is that this has a lot to do with what’s going on in education—or should I say “mis-education”—starting not just in high school and in college, but also in seventh or eighth grade, where the kids are already online, looking at the Science Channel, getting a certain view of reality. Now, much of the Science Channel is great and I love it, but much of it has that hint of the pure Darwinian viewpoint, the materialistic viewpoint, a viewpoint that’s exceeding agnostic, a viewpoint that’s undermining the faith even in times of suffering. These are the kinds of things that need to be redressed in a hurry. Frankly, morality—as Pope Benedict pointed out many times—has become relativistic among young people. They are so convinced it’s all a mere matter of opinion…. But there are signs of hope, things we can use that God has given us. I think we have an interesting opportunity but, unfortunately, in the midst of an almost pandemic crisis.

CWR: Are there specific things that you see as blocking millennials from experiencing the divine in their lives?

Father Spitzer: I think it’s four basic factors that are coming into play. They aresearching for authentic happiness. I think they would go up to transcendent happiness if they weren’t blocked, but here are the blocks that I see.

The number-one block, and the one that is definitely part of the whole propaganda scheme of many of the secular materialist people in our culture, is faith and science. The basic syllogism is this: faith and science are contradictory, science is truth, therefore faith must be false, a fantasy. This is, of course, not true, but it’s been propagated by the media and certain very vocal champions of science. I would say that 20-25 percent of our young people believe that cultural myth.

The second thing that is going on is the old “crutch argument” that was put together by Freud and Feuerbach a long time ago, but which has now reached the level of a huge cultural myth: that religion is reducible solely to human individual thinking. “We have suffering to contend with, feelings of darkness, we are restless and not at peace. So what do we do? We invent God. And we make God a very, very nice and benevolent God who protects us from suffering, darkness, emptiness, and death.” This is completely unfounded. No one ever invented a God who was nice—this came from Jesus! In the history of religions, gods are really capricious and mean, but starting with Israel and Christianity we begin to see who God is. But the problem with young people is that they get chided into it: “Oh dear, I see you are believing in a crutch. Little Johnny here has naively turned to religion, I’m so sorry to hear that…” Any kind of chiding which makes our kids look unintelligent and uncourageous is exceedingly difficult for them to deal with if they don’t have really good rational arguments and defenses. C.S. Lewis saw this in the 1940s, but it has made its resurgence today with social media and people like Richard Dawkins, a media darling, and now the kids are really up against it. I’m working with a high schooler now who literally gives me 15 questions a day; he is getting chided so much. Other kids are just throwing that Nietzschean-Freudian accusation against them and they’re falling prey to it at a fairly significant rate.

It’s not surprising, then, they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.
— Barack Obama

There’s a third problem with the more affectively-oriented kids, the heart kids: the seeming irreconcilability of suffering with God. They’ve been taught that God is a loving God, but when they come into their critical consciousness, they see the earthquakes, diseases, friends suffering, their suffering—the failure to address this question head-on is a really vexing thing for these kids. They believe that love and suffering are opposites. And Christianity has this incredible history of the reconciliation between love and suffering. Martin D’Arcy, C.S. Lewis have written wonderful works, but we need a contemporary re-interpretation of this and we need to get it out there as quickly as possible so they can see that love and suffering are not incompatible, that many times suffering leads us to love; suffering frees us from our narcissism, as Paul tells us in the Second Letter to the Corinthians. But the kids don’t have the ammo.

I’m not blaming the Church. I’ll just simply say we haven’t done any apologetics in a concerted fashion since Vatican II. I don’t know why. I’m still trying to figure this out myself—why did apologetics became a bad word, why did it become a reflection of some kind of inauthenticity of faith? We’ve somehow drifted into a Kierkegaardianism—we have to take a leap of faith across an infinite chasm. But I’ve never thought that at all! I luckily had great teachers who believed reason and faith came from the same source, with God never intending us to jump over an infinite chasm. We build a bridge over 99 percent of the chasm and then we jump, with the bridge constructed out of all the clues He has left us in nature, in the universe, in proofs of God, in miracles, in Jesus’s own life, and everything from the Shroud of Turin to near-death experiences. But you have to make the information known. And what has happened is we have now built up this incredible and wonderful curriculum from the bishops for high schools…with almost no apologetics built into it at all. They’re not addressing the faith and science question, they’re not addressing the question of the crutch argument, they’re not addressing the question of the reality of Jesus, they’re not addressing the question of suffering on any level that’s significant enough for students to be reinforced in their faith. If apologetics has to precede catechesis in order to engage kids both analytically and affectively, and if we are doing a great job on the second level but not on the first level, then we are building statues with clay feet.

The fourth problem is what I call “the Jesus doubt.” Even though there have been the likes of John P. Meier, Raymond Brown, and N.T. Wright, our kids don’t know they have crushed the Jesus de-mythologizers. So the History Channel (which does play good things) goes out and interviews these de-mythologizers…and these kids are uncritical: they don’t know the difference between a good or bad scholar. The kids hear this stuff—they hear Jesus was just a political guy or didn’t really rise from the dead.

But we have one other problem. It’s what I call perennial distraction by new media, by the Internet. These kids, even though they’re intrigued—“There’s a game to play, a website I got to go to.” Continual distraction. We are entertaining ourselves to death and I’m not sure if there’s the depth to ask the questions with all the multitasking. So when you combine the four problems, plus the continual distraction, they are in a tough situation.

We need some radical surgery, we don’t need Band-Aids. We’ve got to change our viewpoint.

CWR: It seems apologetics now is more about defending the Church’s positions on social issues than about clarifying her theological tenets.

Father Spitzer: Or defending the existence of God, the existence of a transcendent soul. We’ve taken the easier path. By the way, I am a big advocate of the Church’s social teaching, and I certainly think it’s absolutely important that it be taught well, and it’s certainly a big part of the Church’s contribution to world culture. However, if you don’t have faith, what is the Church’s social teaching? It’s just a bunch of moral aphorisms and it’s subject to exactly what Friedrich Nietzsche said: this is your view, I’ve got my view. There’s nothing to your God because you haven’t defended your God, you’ve defended social justice teaching.

But apart from God, what’s to say Nietzsche’s not right? We have to get back to fundamentals. The social teaching of the Church alone is not going to do it. It leaves us wide open not only to Nietzsche, but the critiques of Darwin, the critiques of Freud, and all the other critiques that are compounding their critiques in the 21st century. If all we can offer up is just a secular social teaching, and our people have no idea whether God exists, or if this is what his will is, or if this is what he’s asking us, or whether there’s objective morality or real spiritual evil or good—if we can’t defend those positions, then as Chesterton would say, you can forget it. All the other positions will fall like dominoes. Because, of course, feet of clay. We’ve built a statue with feet of clay.

CWR: Benedict XVI, in his 2008 address to Catholic educators at the Catholic University of America, suggested that we’ve lost “the will.” Is that what you’re seeing? A basking in mediocrity?

Father Spitzer: He’s right. We have lost the will to defend our faith and defend it intellectually and intelligently. And the reason we have lost it is because we’re not confident ourselves. But why? Because we haven’t studied it. There are some high school teachers who know this. There are some high school teachers who if they were to know it would have to pass it on—and they don’t want to commit themselves to the intellectual enterprise! They don’t want to do it. They don’t have the will.

Something more is needed if we are going to get out of mediocrity, and that’s a solid and intellectual defense of the faith, and it has to be done by religion teachers in high schools, confirmation teachers, adult education curricula in parishes, campus ministries in colleges—we have to have champions who will stand up for the faith and give evidence.

Yes, not everybody is analytically oriented or has the desire to defend the faith intellectually on a public stage. However, that’s a very different thing than trying to present people with the evidence in the classroom. That’s doable if we but learn it. And that’s the Magis mission: we have to get out and teach high school teachers and have classes teaching the teachers; reorient the way religion is being taught. Catechesis is not enough. You can’t leave these kids defenseless. Sometimes we get too satisfied—“We’ve got a great Catechism of the Catholic Church!” It’s not enough. “We’ve got a great catechetical structure for our high school kids.” It’s not enough.

You remember the old logical adage, the first rule of all logic: there are far more errors of omission than commission. And right now, we have a real error of commission. We have a giant scotoma (a self-blinding, a screen, past which obvious data cannot get) and that’s what’s going on right now, and it’s wide and shared by just about everyone in Catholic education. There’s a bias against apologetics at the very moment we need it. Perhaps it is a devilish plot to make everyone really, really self-satisfied with a bunch of nice things…but it will not satisfy intellectual requirements and needs.

CWR: So Cardinal Ratzinger was on to something with “the dictatorship of relativism”?

Father Spitzer: [Laughs] Absolutely! As I said, there are signs of hope. Somehow kids are beginning to think, “Maybe there’s some sense of authority that goes simply beyond the instruction of my parents; I feel like there’s an imperative here.” And then, of course, the whole idea that there’s no such thing as an objective moral principle—how did Darwin get away with it? How did Freud get away with it? How did Hume get away with it? How did it become pandemic on not only the collegiate level, but in secondary education? Because they deconstructed God and Jesus. That’s how they did it. If you deconstruct God, evil spirits disappear, and if you deconstruct Jesus, who claimed to win a complete victory over evil, it’s so much easier to kill objective moral principle as a medieval vestige. If divine goodness is gone, what’s the ground for good at all? It was brilliantly done.

But there’s opportunity to reconstruct God, reconstruct the afterlife on good evidence. The main thing, though, is that we have to get the information to the kids and that is a challenge. There’s the old sales expression: unless a person sees that you have a solution to the problem he has, he’s not going to buy anything from you. Now I don’t want to sell anything to anybody—I want to give it away.

But we are living in a little bubble and the bubble is going to burst when our kids have nothing left. “No transcendence? Oh but we gave them the best computer equipment and the best this and the best that”…but no sense of ultimate dignity and meaning and transcendence is left. So the parents have to recognize the problem, Church authorities have to recognize the problem. Yes, we have scandals we need to take care of, yes, we have tremendous needs in the world, but we better take care of those problems of faith, because if we get lazy, if we content ourselves with the mediocre, if teachers don’t want to help the kids get over the hump, I just shudder to think what will be left of Christian culture. God is always in charge, but I hope we have a lot of young people with fire in their bellies wanting to do something more than lie around and wait for the inevitable to happen.

CWR: Can one find God without “religion”?

Father Spitzer: If you go to people like Rudolf Otto, who wrote a book called The Idea of the Holy, where he describes the numinous experience, the answer is “no.” If you go to someone like Mircea Eliade who shows why the vast majority of the world is naturally religious, the answer is “no.” But you don’t have to turn to people like Rudolf Otto or Mircea Eliade or John Henry Newman, who had a very keen sense of how intrinsic God is and how transcendence works. You can go back to Plato. It is Plato who, 2,400 years ago, describes in the Phaedo a desire for perfect love, truth, goodness, beauty, and home—and that’s God. God alone can satisfy us. Plato in his later period recognized this is precisely it. We’re only going to be satisfied by the divine, it’s only going to happen if we’re immortal and eternal, so here’s this pagan 400 years before Jesus and he’s already saying this.

But if you really want to get fancy, how about atheistic existentialism? Now, they’re not going to admit that there is a God, but do they all admit that we have a yearning for the divine, a yearning for ultimate meaning, a yearning for ultimate authenticity, that we feel these deep feelings of cosmic emptiness and loneliness and alienation and guilt? Yes, they totally admit it: Sartre does, Camus does, Kafka does! But instead of taking the Kierkegaardian move—which is the leap to faith—Camus and Sartre just say, “Unfortunately, there is no God, these feelings are going to be unfulfilled, and life is completely absurd and meaningless, so the only thing you can reasonably do is despair!” So can we be whole without God? The answer is: of course you can’t be whole without God.

Karl Rahner wrote a book called Foundations of Christian Faith and in it, that’s basically the entire case he’s making—we are born into the world with a yearning for God and with God present to us, which is making our transcendental yearnings possible, the numinous experience possible, our intuition for the sacred possible, the voice of God and conscience possible. And so the theistic existentialists—Søren Kierkegaard who was a Protestant, Karl Jaspers who was a Protestant, Max Scheler and Gabriel Marcel who were Catholics, the Jewish existentialist Martin Buber—all are saying one thing: we can’t possibly be whole, fulfilled, have meaning, or be ultimately at home without God. God exists, and if you just have faith and start praying you’re going to find out he exists. Just say, “Lord Jesus, I put my trust in you,” and keep putting one foot in front of the other, and you’re going to find in that transcendent mode of being some glimpses of home—“stabs of joy” as C.S. Lewis said—through which you’re not only moving home, but you’re able to do tremendous good for yourself, your family, and others in the culture around you. And at the end of the day, that makes all the difference.

Easter Is Not The End Point of Holy Week, But The Beginning a Deeper Understanding of Our Spiritual Life Leading Us Into Eternity

March 30, 2016


Many have just finished celebrating Easter, which is often seen as the end point of Lent and Holy Week.

If we end Easter just with chocolate eggs and good memories, we may have missed the point.

Actually, one might hope that the end point of Lent, Holy Week and Easter is a better way of living that leads us toward eternal life.

Karl Rahner in his classic,  “On The Theology of Death,” writes:

The real liberty in the courage  to die has to be a submissive liberty, a liberty which says “yes” not only to death itself, but also to its meaning, [and] to the meaning of human existence.  Man should not hurry towards his death as toward the finite end of his existence, but as towards an infinite end.  Not towards death which is the consummation of vacuity, a final emptying of life into meaninglessness, but toward a death which is the valid fulfilment of his existence. This, however, can be only done in faith. The eternally valid fulfilment in death cannot be grasped by mortal men, who is to posit death freely, as something that is simply there; for death as the pitch of evanescence, of all that is transitory, which is all that is perceptable in it, does not fulfil existence but seems finally to annihilate it.

What this means to me, as I grow older, is that death gets closer each day. And, as Jesus and others often say in the gospels, “Do Not Be Afraid.”

So after experiencing again Lent, Holy Week, the passion and suffering of Christ and the fact of Resurrection, I (WE) are challenged anew each year to contemplate our own readiness to meet The Lord On His Terms. Without fear. In fact, if we obey the commandments, listen to The Word of God, follow the life Jesus modeled for us, eat his body and drink his blood as he commanded, whenever death comes we will be ready. And we’ll be joyfully ready — despite the pain and suffering which often becomes a part of the human end of us.

John Francis Carey
Peace and Freedom


The essay below “On the Theology of Death” further maps out the thought process Karl Rahner, a Jesuit priest, left for us to consider.


“On the Theology of Death”

I found the essay, “On the Theology of Death” by Karl Rahner at a garage sale last weekend, where it was given to me, gratis. I couldn’t resist the title, even though Rahner—though admittedly a brilliant theologian—was a peritas at Vatican II (that confusing but valid, non-dogmatic council of policies; instead of formulating doctrine and house-cleaning, as most councils are intended to do, VII opened the Church’s windows and invited the world to dirty the house some more). Rahner is a golden-boy of the Catholic left. He was admonished by the Vatican to quit advocating for interfaith services. So, I entered this book with some trepidation, even though the title was alluring enough for me, and, as an ex-firefighter, who used to deal with death on a daily basis, I felt compelled to read it.

At the outset, before looking at this book, let’s make very plain the concept of death, since many in our culture seem to forget about its true reality. We live in a materialistic age where matter becomes more significant to the average person than the maker. We all fancy nice cars and i-phones, even while the average person in the world lives in abject poverty. Christ said, “blessed are the poor.” Last Sunday’s reading was on-point, Luke 12: 16 – 21:

The land of a certain rich man brought forth plenty of fruits. 17 And he thought within himself, saying: What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? 18 And he said: This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and will build greater; and into them will I gather all things that are grown to me, and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul: Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years take thy rest; eat, drink, make good cheer. 20 But God said to him: Thou fool, this night do they require thy soul of thee: and whose shall those things be which thou hast provided?

If any of us love this life, we will “lose it.”

In the context of the modern world, man forgets about his final end. Let’s realign ourselves: Everyone reading this shall die. We all will end in the grave; our bodies will corrupt until they become bones or dust, until the general resurrection at the end of time, which is a dogma of our faith. Your soul will leave your body, our God will draw your soul. Your body will corrupt. Your skin will “leather”, your eyes will shrink, first into pea pods, but then they will crumble. Your hair will matte, and begin to fall out, until all falls away. Your skeleton will remain for a time longer, as it is of stronger substance, but it too will crumble and fall away. Only your soul will live on, and that is for eternity. Eternity is a long, long time. Imagine all of the particles of sand on all of the sea shores on earth, trillions of pieces of sand, to say the least, and pretend that each piece of sand equals a billion years, and pretend that you spend this amount of time in eternity. That, of course, does not equal even one day of your life in eternity; not even one second of eternity’s time, but of course God is outside of time.

I am not illustrating anything new here–even a child can understand that point—but meditating upon this is beneficial in the context of situating our souls to face eternity. Death is the beginning of our eternity either in union or separated from God.

Like I said, I approached Rahner’s essay with great caution. Although Rahner flirts with the heterodox notion that God might have saved humanity in a perfectly non-violent, unbloody, manner, he nevertheless comes to the Orthodox conclusion that Christ’s bloody Sacrifice was not only salvific, but that God could not have saved us by any other means:

“His life redeems, inasmuch as his death is axiologically present in his entire life. And in so far as any moral act of man is to be considered as a disposing over his entire person with regard to his interior destiny, and in so far as such a disposition receives its final character only in death, it is clear (on the supposition that Christ assumed the flesh of sin and death) that we cannot really say that Christ could have redeemed us through any other moral act than his death, even had God been disposed to accept some other act.” (Herder, New York, 1961, pg. 63.)

Rahner is a notoriously hard read, and you can almost see him strain to say the words, but he did: even God, according to Rahner, could not have saved us through any other means then through the death of Christ, His Son, the Second Person of the Trinity. Some Christians tend to meditate exclusively on Christ risen (even some Bishops do this). It’s much “cleaner” to think of Christ this way. It’s more happy-clappy, feel-good. They think of Christ’s earthly ministry, His miracles, and on the periphery acknowledge that Christ’s blood washes away our sins. But, strangely, they steer from the Passion Narratives in the Bible, even though this is the summit, the apex of why Christ came among us. We don’t like to think of bloody death, but Christ and the martyrs teach us otherwise. Even Rahner dedicates the last forty pages or so of his essay to the Christian martyrs, because they were the perfect embodiment of what it means to be Christian: giving up one’s life on earth in a Christ-like sacrifice:

“[A] martyr is one who freely accepting his death in faith, is killed by powers inimical to Christ, and bears a noble testimony as a ‘witness’ to faith in Jesus Christ…Martyrdom has to do with death. In order to understand martyrdom, death must be understood. And so the mystery of death enters into martyrdom, and makes martyrdom itself a mystery. One only dares approach the subject of death hesitantly. For the hidden incomprehensibility of death is also concealed from the average everyday mind, by the fact that death happens daily, and the dullard thinks that what happens every day must be understandable.” (pg. 82-83).

But the average Christian must, too, die in Christ to attain everlasting life. Every action that we make has everlasting impart:

“But the affirmation of faith concerning the definitive ending by death of the state of pilgrimage means, as well as the survival of man’s conscious personal existence, that the fundamental moral decision made by man in the mundane temporality of his bodily existence, is rendered definite and final by death. This doctrine of the faith involves taking this earthly life with radical seriousness. It is truly historical, this is, unique, unrepeatable, of inalienable and irrevocable significance.” (pt. 27.)

Rahner doesn’t shrink from the concept of original sin; what else explains the often absurd dimension of sin and suffering on earth?

“[D]eath is a visible expression of the disharmony between God and man in man’s very being which supervened at the beginning of his spiritual and moral history. Because man has lost the divine life in union with God by grace, his earthly existence also disintegrates. Man’s subjection to death is the manifestation of his disharmony with God.” (pg. 34).

“The end of man, considered only from man’s point of view, presents an inseparable and irreducible unity an ontologically dialectical opposition of elements…with no assurance that it [death] will strike him at the moment in which interiorly he has completed his life. Death is a blow of fate, a thief in the night, an emptying and reducing of man to powerlessness, in fact, the end.” (pg. 40).

“It [death] will always, therefore, include the character of a divine judgment among its notes. But it is sin that is manifested in death. The emptiness, hopelessness, the transitoriness, indeterminateness, the inextricable confusion of noblest action and most humiliating passivity, of plain meaning and ultimate ambiguity, all these characteristics of the death which we must actually die are nothing but the manifestations of sin, to which in some higher and hidden dimension these characteristics analogically belong. Because a creature belonging to God, it shrinks back, by a movement of its very essence, from this last mystery of emptiness, of finality, of nothingness, form the mystery of iniquity. Because this same creature, whether holy or sinful, is driven as long as he lives by the power of the divine life which calls him and works in him, he will always experience a mysterious horror of death, which can never be explained by himself, or from what he can observe in himself. In this horror of death, there emerges on the visible surface of human life, the horror of that death which alone is true death. If men try effectively to hide the reality of this horror from themselves by explaining it away by their manner of life, by taking refuge either in frivolity, despair or tragic heroism, then by this very act they make of it what they will not admit terrifies him in it, the beginning of eternal death. Death and man’s attitude towards it, which of course is really part of its very nature, is not abolished or extinguished by is permanently transformed only when in the light and power of Jesus Christ who died and rose again, it is seen and borne as what is can be, the darkness of that night of the Cross in which eternal life penetrated in death the very depths of the world, in order to give life to the world.” (pg. 55).

The Bible is full of passages concerning death, and the Christian’s relation to it. (Cf. Rom 1:32; 7:9-10; 6:16, 21, 23; 7:5; 8:2; James 1:15 and much of St. John, etc.) But it’s Christ’s death, and dying in Christ, which is the refuge, the final hope of the Christian:

“A Christian in the state of grace dies a different death from that of the sinner…the Council of Trent…states…that the death of the Christian in the state of grace no longer has the mark of a punishment for sin, but, like concupiscence in the justified man, has the character of a mere consequence of sin (poenalitas sed non poena)” (pg. 67).

To die in a state of grace we must frequent the Bread of Life. In John 6:54-59 Christ tells us:

Jesus said to them: Amen, amen I say unto you: Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you. 55 He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up in the last day. 56 For my flesh is meat indeed: and my blood is drink indeed. 57 He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, abideth in me, and I in him. 58 As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father; so he that eateth me, the same also shall live by me. 59 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead. He that eateth this bread, shall live for ever.

St. Paul writes in 1 Cor. 24-26:

24 And giving thanks, broke, and said: Take ye, and eat: this is my body, which shall be delivered for you: this do for the commemoration of me. 25 In like manner also the chalice, after he had supped, saying: This chalice is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as often as you shall drink, for the commemoration of me.

Catholic priest celebrates mass at the South Cathedral in Beijing

26 For as often as you shall eat this bread, and drink the chalice, you shall shew the death of the Lord, until he come.This is why the traditional Latin Mass is so important, and has been the source and training-ground of so many Catholic Saints. In it, we “shew the death of the Lord.”

Rahner writes:

“The second sacrament which repeatedly and visibly reveals and deepens this companionship in suffering and death with our Lord, by grace throughout the whole course of the Christian life, is the sacred mystery of the Eucharist. This is the continuously renewed celebration of the death of the Lord, making that death present here and now in our lives.

In the Eucharist, according to his command, we announce his death, which is our death and our life, again and again until he comes once more and it is no longer revealed in ritual sign but in the radiance of his visibly manifested glory, that in his death our death is swallowed up by the victory of life. What is done in this mystery is the sacramental enactment of Christ’s death, and what we receive in this mystery is the grace which became ours, n his death…In this sacrifice and sacrament, not only is the mystery of the Cross brought near to us in a spatio-temporal relation, but it actually produces its effect on our own lives, drawing us into itself, subjecting us to its own unfathomable laws and communicating its strength to us. Of necessity, therefore, anyone who takes part in this mystery in divine worship, announcing in it the death of the Lord, must also announce this death in his own life, by experiencing it in himself in the reality of his life…For we must consider as the effect of this sacrament all that Scripture means by our communion in the passion and death of Christ: that we must suffer with him, in order to be glorified with him (Rom 8:17; that though participation in his passion we are conformed to his death (Phil 3:10); that he has to be glorified in our bodies in life and in death (Phil 1:20); that for Christ’s sake we are constantly delivered into the power of death (2 Cor 4:10f.); that with him who was crucified in infirmity, we also are weak (2 Cor 13:4); that it is a grace, not only to believe in Christ, but also to suffer for him (Phil 1:29; that only if we have died with him shall we live with him (2 Tim 2:11). We share his death because we daily celebrate and receive the sacrament of his death.” (Pg. 76-77)

I will end by quoting that beautiful passage in the Bible of the raising of the twelve year old daughter of Jairus Luke 8:41-55:

41 And behold there came a man whose name was Jairus, and he was a ruler of the synagogue: and he fell down at the feet of Jesus, beseeching him that he would come into his house: 42 For he had an only daughter, almost twelve years old, and she was dying. And it happened as he went, that he was thronged by the multitudes.
49 As he was yet speaking, there cometh one to the ruler of the synagogue, saying to him: Thy daughter is dead, trouble him not. 50 And Jesus hearing this word, answered the father of the maid: Fear not; believe only, and she shall be safe.

51 And when he was come to the house, he suffered not any man to go in with him, but Peter and James and John, and the father and mother of the maiden. 52 And all wept and mourned for her. But he said: Weep not; the maid is not dead, but sleepeth. 53 And they laughed him to scorn, knowing that she was dead. 54 But he taking her by the hand, cried out, saying: Maid, arise. 55 And her spirit returned, and she arose immediately. And he bid them give her to eat.

On The Theology of Death, By Karl Rahner

February 16, 2016

“Man is the strange yet intimate union of personal, free spirit and matter. His death, consequently is both an end and a fulfillment. His temporal bodily life is ended by the separation of body and soul; in the same process, his personal fulfillment, in which he brinks the total result of his life’s activity to its final state, is achieved from within. In the sources of faith, death is described as a separation of body and soul, in so far as it is the end of the bodily life striking man from without, and as the end of our pilgrimage on earth, it is a personal consummation.

This separation results in an opening of the soul to a new relationship to the world in its inner unity, one which is no longer mediated by a body with space-time limitations…”

— From: On The Theology of Death By Karl Rahner


Below from The Encyclopedia of Death and Dying:

The Jesuit priest Karl Rahner is widely regarded to have been one of the leading Catholic theologians of the twentieth century. Rahner’s early writings on death were published at a time when academic theology gave little serious consideration to the topic. Less sophisticated believers generally assumed that they knew what death was, and quickly moved on to mythological conjectures about the afterlife. Rahner sought to illuminate death’s religious and theological significance. These initial publications and later writings are typical of his pioneering investigations, which creatively appropriate diverse theological and philosophical sources (e.g., Ignatian spirituality, Thomas Aquinas, Catholic neoscholasticism, Kant, Hegel, and Heidegger). Notwithstanding their uncompromising rigor, most of his articles had a broadly pastoral concern to explore ways of recovering the meaning of Catholic doctrine in an intellectually plausible and contemporary idiom.

The density of Rahner’s work is rooted in the subject matter itself. God, Rahner insisted, is not— and cannot—be an object for thought the way the things of our world are. But a person can know God by attending to the movement of knowing itself toward its objects, which reveals that human thinking always reaches beyond its immediate objects toward a further horizon. The movement of knowing, and the ultimate “goal” toward which it reaches, can be grasped only indirectly (or “transcendentally”) as one’s thinking turns back on itself reflexively. Rahner identified the elusive and final “term” of this dynamism of knowing with God, and argued that the same kind of movement toward God as “unobjectifiable” horizon is entailed in freedom and love.

By conceiving God, who always exceeds human reach, as the horizon of the movement of knowing, freedom, and love, Rahner emphasized that God is a mystery—a reality who is known and loved, but only reflexively and indirectly, as the ever-receding horizon of the human spirit. God remains a mystery in this sense even in self-communication to humanity through Jesus and the Holy Spirit. With this participation of God in an earthly history of human interconnectedness, something of God is anticipated—known reflexively and indirectly—at least implicitly whenever we know, choose, or love a specific being, particularly a neighbor in need. Conversely, God is implicitly rejected in every refusal of truth, freedom, and love.

Because it is often the good of a neighbor or the world, rather than God or Jesus which is directly affirmed or refused, it is quite possible that the one deciding will be unconscious or even deny that the act is a response to God. In either case, however, one turns toward or away from God and Jesus in turning one’s mind and heart freely toward or away from the realities of the world.

Death is a universal and definitive manifestation of this free acceptance or rejection of God’s self-communication (“grace”). In that sense, death is the culmination and fulfillment of a person’s freedom, the final and definitive establishment of personal identity.

Karl Rahner's wide-ranging concerns encompassed questions about the nature of God, Christ, and the relation of the Christian belief to modern understandings of the world. BETTMANN/CORBIS

Karl Rahner’s wide-ranging concerns encompassed questions about the nature of God, Christ, and the relation of the Christian belief to modern understandings of the world.


It is not simply a transition to a new or continued temporal life. If there were no such culmination, no ability to make a permanent and final commitment of self, then freedom would be an illusion. Genuine self-determination would be denied because every choice could be reversed. If everything is reversible, no act or succession of acts could definitively express an individual’s identity. The Christian conviction that this life is the arena in which human fate is worked out, requires the freedom for such definitive acceptance or rejection of God’s self-communication. But any anthropology that takes seriously the human capacity for free self-determination would also be required to see death as a kind of culmination and definitive expression of personal identity. Hence death is not something that happens only to the physical body. Death involves and affects the person as a whole. It involves consciousness, freedom, and love. It is not endured passively.Hence, death as a personal and spiritual phenomenon is not identical with the cessation of biological processes. For example, illness or medication can limit personal freedom well before the onset of clinically defined death. Moreover, insofar as all the engagements of one’s life anticipate death, Rahner maintained that every moment of life participates in death. Hence he disputed the notion of death as a final decision if this is understood to be an occurrence only at the last moment.

The Christian tradition has emphasized the definitive and perduring character of personal existence by affirming the soul’s survival after death. Rahner warned that this way of conceiving of death can be misleading if one imagines that the separation of soul and body, entails a denial of their intrinsic unity. The contemporary appreciation of the bodily constitution of human reality was anticipated by the scholastic doctrine of the soul as the “form” of the body and thus intrinsically, not merely accidentally, related to it.  Personal identity is shaped by one’s embodied and historical engagement with the material world. So the culmination of freedom in death must entail some sort of connection with that embodiment. Rahner’s notion of God as mystery, beyond objectification in space and time, provides a framework for affirming a definitive unity with God that does not imagine the unity as a place or as a continuation of temporal existence. In the early essays, Rahner addressed the problem of conceiving the connection to embodiment, particularly in the “intermediate state” before the resurrection of the dead on judgment day, with the hypothesis that death initiates a deeper and more comprehensive “pancosmic” relationship to the material universe. In later essays, he recognized that it was not necessary to postulate an intermediate state with notions such as purgatory if one adopts Gisbert Greshake’s conception of “resurrection in death,” through which bodily reality is interiorized and transformed into an abiding perfection of the person’s unity with God and with a transformed creation.

The Christian doctrine of death as the consequence and punishment of sin underscores its ambiguous duality and obscurity. If the integrity of human life were not wounded by sinfulness, perhaps death would be experienced as a peaceful culmination of each person’s acceptance of God’s self-communication in historical existence. But death can be a manifestation of a definitive “no” to truth and love, and so to God, the fullness of truth and love. Ironically, this results in a loss of self as well because it is unity with God’s self-communication that makes definitive human fulfillment possible. In the “no,” death becomes a manifestation of futile self-absorption and emptiness, and as such punishment of sin. Moreover, everyone experiences death as the manifestation of that possibility. As a consequence of sin, people experience death as a threat, loss, and limit, which impacts every moment of life. Because of this duality and ambiguity, even a “yes” to God involves surrender. Just as God’s self-communication to humanity entailed fleshing out the divine in the humanity of Jesus, including surrender in death on the cross, so death-to-self is paradoxically intrinsic to each person’s confrontation with biological death.

See also: Heidegger, Martin ; Kierkegaard, SØren ; Philosophy, Western


Phan, Peter C. Eternity in Time: A Study of Karl Rahner’s Eschatology. Selinsgrove, PA: Susquehanna University Press, 1988.

Rahner, Karl. “The ‘Intermediate State.'” Theological Investigations, translated by Margaret Kohl, Vol. 17. New York: Crossroad, 1981.

Rahner, Karl. “Ideas for a Theology of Death.” Theological Investigations, translated by David Bourke, Vol. 13. New York: Crossroad, 1975.

Rahner, Karl, ed. “Death.” Encyclopedia of Theology: The Concise Sacramentum Mundi. London: Burns and Cates, 1975 .

Rahner, Karl. On the Theology of Death, translated by Charles H. Henkey. New York: Herder and Herder, 1961.


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Lenten Reflection On Death — “The only real personal act any human being makes takes place at the moment of death.”

February 15, 2016

Catholic theologian Father Karl Rahner, after Vatican II, posited the fact that the only real personal act any human being makes takes place at the moment of death. When we encounter death, we give ourselves totally to God, believing totally in his goodness, even though for most we have no specific ‘proof.” At the moment of death, out faith gets tested “finally and really.”

this is an encounter with Christ, when man makes his only really personal act.  Presumably, one who has been against God his whole life can now choose Christ, and one who has been for him can reject him. For Rahner and his followers, man is a zein zum tode (a being made for death), and it is in death he finds his fulfillment.

Once the soul leaves the body, death occurs, man’s pilgrimage ends, and so does his ability to merit or demerit. The particular judgment is based on the whole of a man’s life, and may be completed in the final choice at the hour of death—or may not. Some people are not even conscious at the time they die, and it is difficult to see how this could be the only personal act for such a person. Any choice made throughout life is sufficient to merit Heaven, and any mortal sin sufficient to merit Hell if one dies unrepentant.

From “Questions Answered by Brian Mullady



From Peace and Freedom

What Rahner wrote about is also what Mullady has come to believe and teach:

— Every human being is a living human with a spiritual part often called the soul.

— Every human being has, to some extent, some pull toward God.

— Life is a journey or pilgrimage to allow each human being opportunities to find God. Each man retains his freedom of choice throughout this pilgrimage.

— God is not interested in your material “stuff.”

— Death is the end of the unity of the soul and the body. At death, we all make one final decision to go with God or to reject him.

See also:

Fr. Mullady is the author of “Man’s Desire for God” and “Christian Social Order.”

“Christian Social Order” gives readers an understanding of how Christianity was an essential part of the growth of world social order. During the current years of disorder due to the Islamic State and other, this is a great time to encounter this wonderful book.



On The Theology of Death By Karl Rahner


Prayer and Meditation for Friday, December 18, 2015 — The angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said: “Do Not Be Afraid” (The Most Repeated Message in the Gospels)

December 17, 2015

Friday of the Third Week of Advent
Lectionary: 194

Reading 1 JER 23:5-8

Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD,
when I will raise up a righteous shoot to David;
As king he shall reign and govern wisely,
he shall do what is just and right in the land.
In his days Judah shall be saved,
Israel shall dwell in security.
This is the name they give him:
“The LORD our justice.”Therefore, the days will come, says the LORD,
when they shall no longer say, “As the LORD lives,
who brought the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt”;
but rather, “As the LORD lives,
who brought the descendants of the house of Israel
up from the land of the north”–
and from all the lands to which I banished them;
they shall again live on their own land.

Responsorial Psalm PS 72:1-2, 12-13, 18-19

R. (see 7) Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
O God, with your judgment endow the king,
and with your justice, the king’s son;
He shall govern your people with justice
and your afflicted ones with judgment.
R. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
For he shall rescue the poor when he cries out,
and the afflicted when he has no one to help him.
He shall have pity for the lowly and the poor;
the lives of the poor he shall save.
R. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel,
who alone does wondrous deeds.
And blessed forever be his glorious name;
may the whole earth be filled with his glory.
R. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.


R. Alleluia, alleluia.
O Leader of the House of Israel,
giver of the Law to Moses on Sinai:
come to rescue us with your mighty power!
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 1:18-25

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.
When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph,
but before they lived together,
she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.
Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man,
yet unwilling to expose her to shame,
decided to divorce her quietly.
Such was his intention when, behold,
the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said,
“Joseph, son of David,
do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.
For it is through the Holy Spirit
that this child has been conceived in her.
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,
because he will save his people from their sins.”
All this took place to fulfill
what the Lord had said through the prophet:Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,
which means “God is with us.”
When Joseph awoke,
he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him
and took his wife into his home.
He had no relations with her until she bore a son,
and he named him Jesus.
The Dream of Joseph by Rembrandt, 1650

Commentary on Matthew 1:18-24 From Living Space

Today’s passage follows immediately on yesterday’s account of Jesus’ genealogy.

There were three stages for Jews getting married in Jesus’ time. There was the engagement, then the betrothal, and finally the wedding. The betrothal was a serious commitment. It was already the first part of the marriage. There would be no sexual relationships as the couple would not yet be living together but it was a binding relationship. Normal married life began some months later when the husband took his betrothed into his home. To violate the betrothal by having sexual relations with another person was equivalent to adultery.

Imagine, then, the horrific dilemma of Joseph. He discovers that the woman to whom he is already betrothed but with whom he has not consummated their relationship in marriage, is already pregnant. There could be only one explanation; she had been unfaithful and was having another man’s child. It was a very serious matter and, if brought out into the open, would have made Mary liable to death by stoning.

But Joseph was a “righteous” man. As a devout follower of the Mosaic Law, he would want to break the union with someone who had so seriously broken the Law. And yet, because he was such a good man, he did not want to expose her to a terrible punishment. In this, for his time and indeed for our own time, he shows extraordinary forbearance. Few men would accept such a situation with such calmness and self-restraint. Most would find it a terrible blow to their manhood.

It is at this point that there is divine intervention and God communicates the true situation to Joseph who is assured that no other man is involved, that she has conceived through the power of God’s Spirit. Joseph is further instructed to call the newborn child Jesus. Jesus, in Hebrew Joshua, had the meaning at this time of “Yahweh saves”. Jesus is so called because he will save his people from their sin.

And, as Matthew likes to do, he shows that all this is in fulfilment of an Old Testament prophecy (following the Septuagint text of Isaiah 7:14) that a virgin will bear a son and he will be called “Emmanuel” or “God-is-with-us”. This will be re-echoed when, at the very end of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus says to his disciples just before he ascends to his Father: “I will be with you all days to the end of the age”. Jesus remains with us for ever.

Joseph, now at peace, took Mary to his home as his wife. And he had no sexual relations with her until after Jesus was born. Thus there is no mistaking the origins of Jesus. He has a human mother but a divine Father. He will be the perfect Saviour of his people: in a fully human person the power of God himself will be at work.

Jesus is still our Emmanuel, God still lives with his people. And he does that through the Body of the Risen Jesus, the Church, the Christian community and its communities all over the world. Each one of us is called to be Emmanuel. Through us people can meet God and hear the message of love and salvation and forgiveness and reconciliation. Let us renew our commitment to be Emmanuel for the people in our lives.



Blessed Art Thou among Women, by Walter Rane


First Thoughts from Peace and Freedom:

Has an angel ever come to you in a dream? If your answer is “no,” this may be a good time to start to practice listening, meditating and prayer.

When we talk to God in prayer, we need also pledge that we will listen for his guidance. Our ability to listen can be developed with practice, just like anything else we want to learn. Everyone who sincerely submits and listens to God will find him. Everyone who seeks to develop his or her spiritual nature, with proper guidance will flower and gain. Nobody who seeks will be left empty.

A theme repeated over and over again in the scriptures is, “Do not be afraid.”
When someone today asks, “What do we get as Christians?” We might answer: “Do not be afraid. Everything is possible with God.”
In today’s Gospel, Joseph gets some direction in his sleep. After he wakes up, he follows those Holy directions and  he “did the right thing.”
One of the most respected theologians of the last century, Jesuit Karl Rahner, wrote in “On The Question of Formal Existential Ethics” —
Deep within his conscience man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he must obey. Its voice, ever calling him to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil, tells him inwardly at the right moment: do this, shun that. For man has in his heart a law inscribed by God. His dignity relies upon observing this law…”
The “Indwelling of the Holy Spirit,” if we seek — will reward us with a good conscience — an inner feeling or voice that drives us always toward, love, the good and the right. If we work to develop this indwelling we will be rewarded.
Unfortunately, in today’s secular society, we seem to have fewer who are seeking. So how can they possibly find?
The Gospels tell us to pray, meditate and consume Christ — make him a part of us and us in him.
This is intertwined with the mystery of the Eucharist….
We don’t have to “get it.” But we’ll be a lot happier if we do it!
Related here on Peace and Freedom:
God, I offer myself to Thee –
to build with me and do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them may bear witness
to those I would help of Thy Power,
Thy Love and Thy Way of Life.
May I do Thy will always!
Thank You God, AMEN!


The book Holy Spirit by Edward Leen can help seekers find the Holy Spirit within us….




Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
18 DECEMBER 2015, Friday, 3rd Week of Advent


Peace and joy have often been associated with Christmas.  It is the hope of the world that with the coming of Christ, there will be true peace and joy.  Yet peace can only come about when we live integrated lives.  Indeed, the real reason for the lack of peace within ourselves is the lack of integrity in our lives.  By this I do not mean so much moral integrity but personal integrity.  In other words, we live fragmented lives.  We allow our lives to be dictated by endless demands made upon us, and then we get stressed and lose our sense of direction.  We become so caught up in our work, which seems never ending, so much so that we do not even have time for prayer.  When we are in this situation, then we are just like the Israelites in exile in Babylon to whom the prophecy was addressed.  Like them, we feel dispersed and scattered.  We are not at home, not living on our own soil, so to speak.  We become shaken and lose our confidence, just like them.

How then can we regain our peace?  The answer is clear in today’s scripture readings.  The motif that prevails in both readings is the theme of integrity.  We need to live an integrated life.  But what does it mean to live such a kind of life?  This is where we are called to reflect on Joseph who was portrayed in today’s gospel reading as the just man.

We are told that he was a just man and a man of honour.  He did not want to do anything that would offend God.  Consequently, when he found that Mary was with child, he understood that he could not be the father of the child.  He wanted to put Mary away, not so much to protect her from an apparent wrong doing.  If that were so, then he would have been an accomplice to the crime since under the law, the penalty for adultery was stoning.  This would surely not be consistent with a just man like Joseph.  No, in his case, he felt that he was unworthy to be the father of Jesus.

It was this fear that the angel tried to allay by assuring him that he had a role to play in the messianic redemption.  He was to be the foster-father of Jesus and he had to name Him Jesus.  He was called to accept Jesus as a gift from God.  But more importantly, he was called to adopt Jesus as his son.  To speak of adoption, of course, is to speak about a relationship.  Joseph was called in a special way to relate with Jesus as His foster-father.  It is fundamentally a relationship of love and care.  By so doing, Joseph proved himself to be truly a just man.  He did what God wanted him to do.  Like Mary, Joseph was faithful to God in every way.  In this way, Jesus truly was born of the lineage of the Davidic dynasty and thus fulfilling the prophecy that the Messiah would come from a virtuous branch of the throne of David.

In a similar way, we can dare to posit that like Mary, who conceived Jesus in her heart and in her womb,Joseph too conceived Jesus in his heart.  In both Joseph and Mary, we can say that the Emmanuel was real for them.  Emmanuel, which means God is with us, was truly with them in a special way.  And because God was with them, they too were saved by Jesus, the name which means ‘God saves’.  And this was possible only because Joseph and Mary both lived lives of integrity.  They were one with God.  Conversely, Jesus was also one with them.  Jesus also lived a life of integrity, as Jeremiah prophesied of the future Messiah.  Jesus was both faithful to His divinity and humanity.  He wants to save us by being with us.  He wants to be with us so that we can be one with God.

Now, what is true of Joseph and Jesus is also true of those of us who are in leadership or in positions of authority.   What is the role of a leader or of parents if not to maintain the unity and integrity of those individuals and groups under their care? The task of a leader is not so much to dominate others, but simply to serve the interests of everyone and to guard the common good of the organization he or she is heading. Hence, those in authority would require the gifts of wisdom, honesty and integrity in order to act as true leaders of unity, like the messianic king Himself.

And in order to gain credibility and respect from those who are placed under our charge, we must first live lives of integrity.  This is what the prophet has to say about the messianic king ”who will reign as true king and be wise, practising honesty and integrity in the land.”  Only when leaders are living lives of integrity, can they earn respect and trust from those under their care.  This is what the prophet says, “In his days Judah will be saved and Israel dwell in confidence. And this is the name he will be called:  The Lord-our-integrity.”

Secondly, those in positions of authority must be one with their members.  This was the way of Joseph and Jesus.  The former was one with God whereas the latter was one with us.  Only in this way could a real relationship of love, understanding and care be forged.  Without this mutual identification, it would indeed be very difficult to speak of a loving and trusting relationship between authority and subordinates.  There can be neither trust nor confidence without mutual understanding.  Consequently, the leader would not be seen as the Emmanuel of God, but a tyrant and a dictator of the community instead.  Hence, like the psalmist, it is important to pray for our leaders that God will endow them with justice, so that they can govern with fairness and integrity.  Of course what is said of the leader applies equally to the rest of the members as well.  All of us are called in our own way to live an integrated life, guided by those who are responsible for the overall unity of the organization and our commitment to God’s will.

In the final analysis, all these can only make sense when we are all one in mind in doing God’s will and searching for God’s will together.  The problem comes only when our will becomes more important than His.  Let us pray during this Advent season of grace that we might have the attitude of Joseph and Mary in their utter fidelity to God’s plan for them in their lives.  Once we have such an attitude, then we can be sure that our family, and whichever organization we are in, will be united and that we will all live in peace and integrity.  In such a house and community, we can truly say that God is with us – Emmanuel!

Written by The Most Rev William Goh