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Not to be taken literally – I do not live in the city of Rome – but rather in the spirit of the late Catholic philosopher and champion of Christendom Frederick D. Wilhelmsen’s book, Citizen of Rome: Reflections From The Life of a Roman Catholic. They are citizens of Rome, I take it, who strive “to incarnate the Truth and the Grace of Christ” in the civilization within which they live.

Here is an excerpt from that book:

Religion means, as the word itself suggests, a binding back of man to the source of his being and a recognition by him of his own contingency. Since this is true, and all sound scholarship on the meaning of natural religion affirms that it is, then we must admit candidly that orthodox Christianity is much more than a religion. The Catholic Faith cannot be fitted into the category “religion” as though it were an instance or a species of some common genus.

The Catholic Faith is unique. While paganism in all its forms manifests an acceptance of contingency and thus binds man back to a divine source identified ultimately with the order of nature, Catholic Christianity is not satisfied with this: it proclaims, through its faith in the Incarnation, a vocation to fashion creation anew and to hallow all things so that they might participate in the Redemption of Our Lord Jesus Christ. This is spelled out explicitly in Pauline theology which insists that The Fullness of Time Who is Christ calls upon men to “fill up what is lacking in the sufferings of the Cross.” We thus assume a burden that otherwise would be Christ’s.

In this awful mystery we see God’s infinite graciousness to man in permitting him to lift from God Himself a portion of the burden of Redemption. This is the very meaning of human freedom: I am free to help Christ help me. Any other freedom condemns itself to triviality and vulgarity.

We live now in the Last Age, insists St. Augustine; and an aging world, hurtling like an arrow toward Apocalypse and Judgment, cries out for Redemption. Nature, crippled by sin, cannot come even into the fullness of its own promise unless it be quickened from within by the grace of Christ that pours through the veins of the Mystical Christ, the Church. As St. Thomas Aquinas taught: in no sense shackling or inhibiting creation, grace perfects nature and thus enables nature to be not only what it would have been without the Fall but to be more than itself. This is why the Church can sing on Holy Saturday – felix culpa – “blessed fault that merited for us so glorious a Redemption.”

Christian religion is thus marked by an internal experience which consists of two moments: an initial acceptance of our utter dependence upon the Lord of Being, and our response to His call to sanctify the whole of creation and to lead it back to the Father through the Son and in the Spirit. This means, in technical theological terms, that whereas there are only seven sacraments there are as many potential sacramentals – every one of which conveys actual grace – as there are beings themselves. This sacramentalizing of the real, be it the high act of anointing kings in medieval Christendom or the picturesque blessing of the Portuguese fishing fleet today, is the essence of what I would like to call the civilizing aspect of the Incarnation. We are called upon not only to save our souls but, in so doing, to save the world. Hillaire Belloc exaggerated when he wrote that “Europe is the Faith and the Faith is Europe”, but this famous statement would have been theologically unshakable had Belloc not inverted the terms of the proposition. Europe, in the sense of Christendom, was the historical consequence of the call to Catholic men to incarnate the Truth and the Grace of Christ in a civilization whose lineaments bore the marks of the Faith.

(from the chapter “Hallowed Be Thy World” in Citizen of Rome: Reflections From The Life of a Roman Catholic Frederick D. Wilhelmsen, LaSalle, IL: Sherwood Sugden & Company, 1980)


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