Truth Is Not an End in Itself

“Truth perceives God, and wisdom contemplates God, and from these two comes the third, and that is a holy, wonderful delight in God, which is love. Where truth and wisdom are, in truth there is love, truly coming from them both, and all are God’s creation” (Julian of Norwich, Showings, 44, in Give Us This Day, Nov., 2015).

Julian of Norwich
David Holgate, Mother Julian of Norwich (detail), west porch, Norwich Cathedral, Norfolk, England

The wisdom of Julian’s “showing” is that truth always ends in love and that if it doesn’t then its pursuit has gone astray.

The search for truth abounds. The Church seeks it in contemporary pastoral theology regarding marriage and the family. Our community seeks it through questions of human sexuality and racial diversity. Both the Church and the College join the world to seek it in building a just society. As educators we struggle to get at the truth of things, a truth that speaks to the heart of people, especially our students.

Truth is reached through more than experience. Our lives and the things that happen to us give us insight into the reality of things and the ability to judge between the true and false coin of what others tell us. But we are not universes unto ourselves. The experiences of others and the distillation of experience captured in the words and remembrances of others can and should shape and reshape the sense that we have made of the world.

Truth is reached through more than tradition. Pope Francis, addressing the bishops of Italy gathered in Florence last week, spoke of the limits of the formulas of the past in the light of present cultural realities: “Before the troubles or problems of the church it is not useful to search for solutions in conservatism or fundamentalism, in the restoration of obsolete conduct and forms that no longer have the capacity of being significant culturally. Christian doctrine is not a closed system incapable of generating questions, doubts, interrogatives — but is alive, knows being unsettled, enlivened” (Pope Francis, “Address to the Fifth National Convention of the Italian Church,” Florence, November 10, 2015). New experiences and new learning call for new expressions of pastoral care for a world waiting to hear the Good News in our time.

Truth is achieved through common striving. Belief in the deep-down goodness of things, the contemplation of the universal application of this belief, and the love for the common humanity contained therein, compel us to search for answers together, leaving no one behind. The Second Vatican Council taught us to be a Pilgrim People. The delight of that realization is that when we have finally reached the truth of things together, our pilgrimage has only just begun. Our pilgrimage begins and ends in love. If we have strayed from love, individually or as a community, then let us go back and begin again in the Gospel hope that we can get it right.


Photo by Leo Reynolds on flickr.com

2 thoughts on “Truth Is Not an End in Itself

  1. tywoniak says:

    I’m constantly challenging my students to search for “capital T” truth, and the following quote from this essay captures that thought beautifully: “Truth is achieved through common striving. Belief in the deep-down goodness of things, the contemplation of the universal application of this belief, and the love for the common humanity contained therein, compel us to search for answers together, leaving no one behind.” Beautiful — thank you, Br. Charles!

    Like

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