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Summary: As Dominic fought Catharism in the twelfth century, so we can witness to the Light of Faith in ours, to the Word made flesh.

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Feast of St. Dominic 2013 (II)

The Church was in disarray. Clergy often led dissolute lives; many quietly took wives or mistresses and had children. Preaching was mediocre; Mass attendance was spotty and only rarely was there true beauty, especially in the music. Sound familiar? It happens every couple of hundred years. The Church, after all, is an institution both human and divine. When the Holy Spirit is resisted, human weakness comes to the fore.

But I’m not talking about 1960, but rather 1160. Reacting to the corruption they saw in the Church, a purity movement that had begun in the Balkans spread to southern France. They called themselves Catharists, after a word that meant “purity.” They preached a dualism–matter is evil and under the enemy; only spirit is good, because only spirit is from God. Anything material was evil because it warred against spiritual goods. So marriage, they preached, is evil, and having children particularly bad. Since few could accept this, they divided their followers into two classes–the elite, the enlightened and pure and the 99% who were corrupt.

To combat this heresy, God raised up St. Dominic, and the Dominicans. They lived lives of purity and extreme poverty, and by their lives witnessed to the error of the Cathars or Albigensians.

This history points out the truth that faith is a Light, and that Light is not a thing but a person. “Those who believe, see; they see with a light that illumines their entire journey, for it comes from the risen Christ, the morning star which never sets.” Jesus belies the Cathar heresy, because He was like us, truly human, spirit, soul and body. This explains why the Dominicans preached the Rosary devotion, because the Creed and the Hail Mary emphasize that the Son of God became man, and that the ultimate end of matter is to be raised up to eternal life in Jesus, to the praise of God the Father.

Today many, like the fallen-away Lutheran Nietzsche, feel that humans have outgrown faith, that it is an “illusory light, preventing mankind from boldly setting out in quest of knowledge.” Over the next few weeks we will consider faith from the perspective of two Popes, and understand that faith is not a bar to understanding, that faith is not a blind leap, but a perfectly reasonable response to God’s seeking of us, and that religious truth and scientific knowledge are perfectly compatible. Let’s pray for this understanding to take root in our hearts and minds.


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