I recently acquired The Mystical Evolution in the Development and Vitality of the Church, a two volume work by Father John G. Arintero, O.P. (1860-1928). According to the preface, Fr. Arintero was a first rate scientist, an apologist for the true faith, and a prolific author. Initially he devoted his energies to rebutting the arguments of the materialist scientists and philosophers of his day. Although these apologetic works were well received by the faithful, they did not win many souls over to Christ. But as Fr. Arintero matured, he gradually became engrossed in the study and practice of the mysticism of the Church, that is, the life of the regenerate soul that dies to itself in order to live hidden away in God. He abandoned his scientific and philosophical works and wrote only about the love of God.
Father Arintero learned by experience that even the most sophisticated arguments in defense of the faith could not win souls to Christ. Of themselves, such dialectics were as so much straw, pointless exercises in controversy. He became convinced instead that the Church was her own best defense. In other words, the best way to convert atheists and materialists to the true faith, and thus to save their souls, was to expose them directly, unabashedly, to the interior life of a Christian soul. If only they could understand the happiness that comes to those men who abandon themselves for the love of God, and the infinite privilege of being made His sons, they would naturally begin to desire it. In the introduction to his book, the wise priest points out that this was precisely how the Apostles and Fathers spoke about the faith: with earnesty and simplicity, as overflowing from an abundance of that fire of divine love kindled in them by the Holy Ghost. We should try to emulate them by growing as much as possible in holiness. Then our words, however humble, will be the words that God wills us to say; God, not ourselves. And they will not fail to ignite the hearts of all who hear them.
Traditional Catholics today would find an instructive example in Fr. Arintero (and his book is, so far, very edifying). Speaking for myself, I am just plain sick and tired of all the pointless, even uncharitable, polemics that we putative Catholics are hurling at one another from behind our computer screens. So much of it is ideological in nature, or revolves around matters of free opinion. To all of these, I invoke Socrates, who did not even have the infused virtues of the Holy Ghost, yet nevertheless had wisdom enough never to hold onto a mere opinion! This is a fact: that opinions are like the shadows cast on the cave wall, and should never be confused with knowledge. Another fact: there is no gift of the Holy Ghost called Opinion, but there are Wisdom, Understanding, and Knowledge, all of which are categorically different from the first. I simply point out these facts, which are incontrovertible in themselves.
Do you, dear reader, want to save souls? Then cast off your opinions, and grow in knowledge. Do you want to grow in knowledge? Then cast off the pomps of your worldly sophistication, and grow in holiness. I say it as much to myself as I do to you.
Yes, I want to save souls. Yes, I want to grow in knowledge. Yes, I will grow in holiness, God willing. I pray our good God to provide sufficient graces for this end, confident that He has heard my plea before I uttered it.Arboretus