Catholic Self-Help?

"Into all lives some rain must fall,but Dear Lord, why do I have to get monsoons?"

One of the more interesting oxymorons I've run across is "Catholic self-help." This seems to be the idea that you can solve all your problems by reading the right book.

Pelagius, back on the fifth century British Isles, taught that a person can come to total Grace through sheer will all by themselves--that one can basically lift themselves by their sandal straps (give this stunt a try sometime if you have nothing better to waste time on). St. Augustine of Hippo argued that Grace is a gift of God and a human can't attain it through his own efforts. Both the Council of Carthage (418 AD) and the Council of Ephesus (431 AD) came to the conclusion that the Brit was all wet, and that man can only come to Grace through God.

When I first heard this idea of a "Catholic" self-help book, the Bible popped into mind as an example. You got troubles, check out the the Old Testament's Book of Job. For somewhat newer works, Father Benedict J. Groeschel's Tears of God and Dr. Viktor E. Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning might fit the requirement. What do these three have in common? Well, aside from all three being good reads, they also provide guidance when all hell breaks loose in one's life.

The magic word here is "guidance," not all the answers. Far too many authors try to sell their book as the answer to all questions. What they end up with is a one-size-fits-nobody philosophy of how to get through life with no pain. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) it ain't gonna happen. As in the story about the New Englander, life is "just one long frazzle." What these three works offer is a path to the only Threesome Who knows what the heck is going on and why. When we go to Them, we get information not on a need-to-know basis, but rather on an ability-to-understand basis. The folder I receive tends to be pretty thin because I'm not the brightest bulb in the pack. Other, more intelligent folks get thicker folders--St. Thomas Aquinas comes to mind (he must have got bales by the forklift load).

Should we worry that somethings are beyond us? Not necessarily. This is where faith comes in--one has to have faith that when one is ready for understanding, the knowledge will come. For mere humans, this most probably will be in the next life (and boy, have I got a list of questions!). For me to try to understand the workings of the All Mighty is probably on par with my daughter's toy poodle understanding what I'm doing while tangling with filing the taxes. He settles for having faith that we love him and his food dish will be full each day. Me, I settle for pretty much the same.

Note to FTC: Bought 'em myself, guys.

18 April 2010: Feast of St. Wicterp of Augsburg. Cornerstone of present St. Peter's Basilica laid 1506, American Revolution's fighting begins and ends eight years later on the same day 1775-1783, Dolittle Raid on Japanese Home Islands 1942, Pawtucket Red Sox and Rodchester Red Wings play longest pro baseball game in history lasting 33 innings 1981.

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