Himes Examines the Roles of a Catholic
Published: Sunday, October 6, 2013
Updated: Sunday, October 6, 2013 20:10
“This is an exciting time to be a Catholic, and who would have thought we would say that?” said Erik P. Goldschmidt, director of the Church in the 21st Century Center, introducing the organization’s first lecture of the year. Titled “Living Catholicism: Roles and Relationships for a Contemporary World,” Thursday’s lecture was presented by Rev. Michael Himes, BC professor of theology and Catholic author. Gasson 100 reached near seating capacity for the event, with a strong showing of faculty, clergy, and graduate students.
Himes’ lecture was adapted from his work as guest editor on the fall 2013 edition of C21 Resources magazine, published by the Church in the 21st Century Center under the same title as the lecture. Using America’s translation of the August interview with Pope Francis as his primary text, Himes focused on the communal nature of faith and the Jesuit virtue of discernment.
“In most distinctive Western countries, there has been a tendency in the last 35, 40 years to think of one’s personal relationship with God as being of great importance, but one’s communal relationship with one another and with God as relatively unimportant,” Himes said, setting his remarks to Pope Francis’ description of the Church as the “holy, faithful people of God.”
Himes described the relational nature of humans as an intrinsic piece of creation, as told in the Book of Genesis. To live in isolation was never God’s intent for human beings, according to Himes, and respectively, a relationship to God is always pluralistic.
“In order to be in the image of God, he made us male and female,” Himes said. “Now what does that mean? Now it does not mean that God is sexually indecisive.” This comment drew laughter from the crowd.
“Notice that what God does is to take the most obvious thing about us as human beings, the most obvious, unmistakable, and undeniable fact about what it is to be a human being, and say that’s what makes us in the image and likeness of God,” Himes said. “What is that undeniable fact about human beings? We’re gendered. We come in two varieties. We’re male and female. And what does maleness and femaleness tell you? It tells you that we’re made for one another. We’re supposed to be in relationship with one another.”
The idea of a committed Christian believer who is not part of Christian community is a misunderstanding of Christianity, as described by Himes—additionally, a Christian relationship with God should involve considerable discomfort, and a clear sense of mystery.
“If God meets your expectations perfectly, you are definitely wrong,” Himes said, a remark audibly stirring to the crowd.
Himes spoke of a necessity for uncertainty among the faithful, and warned of human conjectures of God’s will.
“Yes, there is something about God that is absolutely and simply true, and it is that there is nothing you can say about God that is absolutely and simply true,” Himes said, then referencing the absurdity of activist groups that claim to have a cause aligned with God’s will.
“My favorite way of putting this is that none of us has the truth—not one of us—but the truth has all of us,” Himes said.
Himes referenced Pope Francis’ remarks that God is to be found in a narrative, not a set of doctrines, and in time rather than space.
“If God is always in the processes, what you can never say is the story is now done,” he said.
The Jesuit virtue of discernment, emphasized by Pope Francis in his August interview, is a process grounded in finding God not in the biggest, but the least, in Himes’ interpretation. Himes referenced the Latin phrase non coerceri a maximo, sed contineri a minimo divinum est, a saying describing the vision of Ignatius. Himes offered with this his own translation of the phrase, one he believed faithful to the spirit of it: “God’s way is never to be overwhelmed by the biggest, but to be content in the least.
“God does not need our great deeds. God needs all those countless little deeds pushed together in the big deeds, the big events, the great occasions possible,” he said. “They’ve only become possible because of countless small deeds.”