Seeing God, Making God Visible

pope emeritus benedict xvi

The saints are the true interpreters of holy Scripture The meaning of a given passage of the Bible becomes most intelligible in those human beings who have been totally transfixed by it and have lived it out.
Pope Benedict XVI

The organ for seeing God is the heart. The intellect alone is not enough. In order for man to become capable of perceiving God, the energies of his existence have to work in harmony.
Pope Benedict XVI

The Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI can accurately be described as an intellectual or, at any rate, an academic. Anyone who reads his books (and you really should) can have no doubt that he has a formidable mind which he feeds by wide reading and nourishes by deep reflection upon what he has read. He is then better placed than most of us to know that by the intellect alone we cannot see God. His life and work also stands as an eloquent and elegant refutation of the lie that Christians must abandon their intelligence in order to embrace their faith. Our discursive, cogitative, enquiring mind forms part of our God given personal apparatus as it were and so must play its part in our search for and encounter with Him but the part must not be substituted for the whole….click here to read more

Shakespeare & the Apostles

Agincourt, Imagination and the Bible


Then he took the twelve apostles aside, and warned them, Now we are going up to Jerusalem, and all that has been written by the prophets about the Son of Man is to be accomplished.  He will be given up to the Gentiles, and mocked, and beaten, and spat upon; they will scourge him, and then they will kill him; but on the third day he will rise again. They could make nothing of all this; his meaning was hidden from them, so that they could not understand what he said.
Luke 18:31-34

King of France
With pennons painted in the blood of Harfleur: 
Rush on his host, as doth the melted snow 
Upon the valleys, whose low vassal seat 
The Alps doth spit and void his rheum upon: 
Go down upon him, you have power enough, 
And in a captive chariot into Rouen 
Bring him our prisoner.
Constable of France.
 This becomes the great. 
Sorry am I his numbers are so few, 
His soldiers sick and famish’d in their march, 
For I am sure, when he shall see our army, 
He’ll drop his heart into the sink of fear 
And for achievement offer us his ransom
Henry V, Act III, Scene 5

The Apostles do not come well out of the Gospels. They seem to have a near perfect ability to misunderstand or not comprehend Jesus. It is tempting to dismiss them as unusually dense or at least woefully ignorant. It does not help much if we remember that we know the end of the story and they didn’t, that we have the benefit of the reflections on Jesus and His mission in the Epistles and two thousand years of Christian thought and they had to make do with very much less. The reason this is not helpful is because it is a purely intellectual exercise on our part. Most readers of the Gospels, Christian or not, are emotionally invested in Jesus, often to a great degree, and it hurts us when we see Him desperately trying and usually failing to make those closest to Him understand who He is and what He is doing. That emotional wound, that empathy which we feel, cannot really be touched simply by engaging in the mental exercise of adding up the things which the Apostles could have known and could have understood and comparing it with what our Lord was asking them to know and understand. Emotional wounds need to be treated with emotional medicines.

(enter Shakespeare)
One way of reading Scripture is to immerse oneself in it imaginatively. If we try to see the events unfolding before us not through the eyes and with the feelings of a 21st century person but as near as we can manage it with the feelings of the historical participants then our perspective will change. For most of us it will not be possible really to enter into the thought processes of the Apostles, the holy women or the Pharisees because their thinking was dominated by a framework of assumptions and experiences that only professional historians could really reproduce. Their feelings, however, would be akin to ones that we ourselves are familiar with because the lapse of two thousand years has effected no change in the human emotional range whatever it may have done to the world of ideas. In this context Act III, scene 5 of Henry V becomes a useful tool. Why? to read more click here


Mary & Eternal Life

 And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent
John 17:3

There are degrees of knowledge, particularly knowledge of persons. The longer we know them and the more intimately then the better we know them. In a life beyond the veil of death when we shall encounter Divinity face to face then, certainly we shall know Him far better than we can today. Nonetheless eternity starts now, that is, eternity enters into us and we into it to precisely the extent that we know God. Every moment where we meet Jesus, in the Gospels, in the sacraments, in prayer, in our neighbours is an occasion where time expands into timelessness. There can be no doubt that the human who entered most fully into this intense relationship with the Father, through the Son in the power of the Holy Spirit was Mary His mother. In the Old Testament Book of Ruth we can see a type or figure of this relationship.

Ruth is one of these Very Small Books of the Bible that I referred to in my blog Sense & Sensuality. It is a curious work to be incorporated into the Jewish scriptures and there is no obvious reason to account for its presence. It is a lovely story certainly but the Jews had many lovely stories that didn’t make the canonical cut. In the context of Jewish historical narrative it does tell us who King David’s great-grandmother was but since, as it turns out, she was not only not a Hebrew but, worse than that, she came from their hated neighbours the Moabites, against marrying whom there were strict regulations in much of Old Testament times, you might think that the Jews would be inclined to downplay this fact rather than canonise it. The author of Ruth and the compilers of the canon probably saw in the story not simply an historical account but one which was also profoundly symbolic….Click here to read more

A Sunday Reflection

“In this age, turning our backs on traditional Christianity is seen as original and a sign of free-thinking. What is truly original and a sign of free-thought is embracing tradition and love of Christ which stands in the face of this world and its idea of “values”.
The so-called Enlightenment of prior centuries has badly harmed Christians. One looks at the French Revolution and other revolutions that grew out of this movement and see how they have mocked and injured Christ. Brothers and sisters, we cannot free ourselves by breaking away from God’s hands, when we break away from God, we subject ourselves to the darkest form of slavery.
 Oh that we would give ourselves back to God! We were made for him to love Him and serve Him. When our service turns back on ourselves and becomes self satisfying, it is indeed slavery. But it is reward and preventable to be of service to Something greater. We are foolish to think we can ever break “free” of God. It is written in the Psalms “Where can I go from your Spirit. Where can I flee from your presence?” And the prophet Jeremiah did write “Shall a man be hid in secret places, and I not see him, saith the Lord? do not I fill heaven and earth, saith the Lord?”
He who made us will always be with us and any ideology which excludes Him seeks to take away our humanity and often does. Where else do we get our humanity but from Him. As did say Augustine of Hippo “Our hearts are restless, O God, untill they rest in you.”


Rachel M. Gohlman is a convert to Catholicism from Evangelical Protestantism. She is the author of the “Misadventures of Cardinal Fratelli” series and is known on facebook for her apologetics work. She is a graduate from Bradley University in Peoria.