Winter 2008

Catholicism: On “Certain Ideas”

Georges Chantraine

“The Church concentrates spirits and broadens them. In this she is catholic. She is ‘the concrete place of hope.’”

In his book, Catholicism, Henri de Lubac states that his goal is to highlight “certain ideas . . . so simple that they do not always attract attention, but at the same time so fundamental that there is some risk of our not finding time to ponder them” (18).1 We will try, then, to “pay attention” to these ideas and to see how de Lubac “ponders” them. He ponders and presents these ideas, he adds, “as impersonally as possible, drawing especially on the treasures, so little utilized, in the patristic writings,” since these are “our Fathers in the Faith” (C, 19). The “impersonal” presentation thus takes as its rule the manner in which the faith was engendered by the Fathers, in “the unity of this Tradition” (C, 20). Correspondingly, it proceeds according to “the logic of our faith,” to “the heart of its mystery . . . the essence of its dogma” (C, 15). Among the ideas to be found in Catholicism, we will select those which seem simplest and most fundamental, the most interconnected, and which shed the most light on what is catholic.

1R. Arnou notes that they cannot all be reduced to “the social aspects of dogma,” the book’s French subtitle (in Gregorianum 20 [1939], 302). All references to Catholicism: Christ and the Common Destiny of Man, trans. Lancelot Sheppard and Sister Elizabeth Englund, OCD (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1988), are cited hereafter in the body of the text: (C, page number).