July - Live Your Faith
Friedrich Nietzsche, the late nineteenth-century German philosopher of the glorious walrus moustache, is generally considered as atheistic as you can get. Still, in his Human, All Too Human he wrote: ‘If those glad tidings of your Bible were written in your faces you would not need to insist so obstinately on the authority of that book: your works, your actions ought continually to render the Bible superfluous, through you a new Bible ought to be continually in course of creation.’
Nietzsche’s father was a pastor, and it sounds as if what’s really got his son’s goat is too much talk, not enough life. And it’s hard not to hear the real note of disappointment rather than rejection of Christianity in his saying that ‘… in truth, there was only one Christian, and he died on the cross’ (The Twilight of the Idols).
That’s why the third part of the ICCA, ‘Christian Morality: The Faith Lived’, is so important. It’s inviting us to get going with doing exactly what Nietzsche found was missing – living the Gospel so well that if all the Gospels in the world were destroyed, people could put them together from just watching how we lived.
In particular, I found the ICCA’s retelling of Frank Duff’s life a powerful underlining of all the things this part of the ICCA discusses – freedom, conscience, the beatitudes, virtues, etc. What comes across is that instead of crushing our freedom, God’s grace helps us – with our consent and cooperation – to be more free, more loving, more true, more genuinely human. Nietzsche certainly couldn’t have griped about Servant of God, Frank Duff!
Here at St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney, I’m ‘spiritual director’ of our lively Legion of Mary Praesidium, where we’ve had Sri Lankans, Indonesians, Vietnamese, Filipinos, as well as Australians, all of them finding inspiration for their Christian lives in the man from Phibsboro, Frank Duff. Though I think they’d be mighty embarrassed if they heard me say it, I find they live the beatitudes in the deepest way possible: not just by having a devotion to Mary and to Jesus, but by being Mary, by being Jesus in everything that they do. As Pope Paul VI reminded us, ‘Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.’ The third part of the ICCA can help us to do just that.