Spring 2007

"A Cloud of Witnesses": Introducing Why We Need...

Adrian J. Walker

But why do we need a series of articles about the Gestalten that we, as readers, know as Plato, or Claudel, or Dorothy Day—to name just three of many possible examples? The answer to this question is the same as the answer to the question “why do we read?” There are, of course, many kinds of texts to read, but the ones that make for the most satisfying kind of reading are the ones we read because we need to. Just as we need to remember our dead, because they make us who we are, so, too, we need our authors because we need to become who they can make us be. Reading, like all remembrance, is a two-way street: it is not just we who give the remembered their Gestalt, but the remembered who at the same time give us ours. The main reason why we are proposing a Why We Need . . . series, then, is the main reason why we continue to publish Communio in the first place. Very simply, our goal is to provide solid food capable of nourishing readers’ growth into the full stature of Christ, which includes the full stature of their humanity. Life is too short for anything else.

As for the seeming disparateness of our choices, we are confident readers will notice that the apparent eclecticism of the Gestalten presented in these pages is actually governed by a rigorous criterion of selection: does this man or woman belong in one way or another to the “vision” that inspired Balthasar, de Lubac, and Ratzinger to found Communio in the early 1970s? This question may sound self-serving, but if we think of the mission the journal’s founders bequeathed to us, and not of our own record in carrying it out, the question really means this: does the given figure belong (at least in some way) to the “cloud of witnesses” who remind us that Catholicism is the Son of God’s taking possession of the human condition in its height, depth, and breadth? In this sense, it is fitting that the first article in the series tries to explain “Why We Need Paul Claudel.” For, as D. C. Schindler shows, Claudel has a lot to teach us about the Gestalt we want to present through all of the particular Gestalten that appear in the series: the figure of the communio sanctorum, which both owes itself to, and fulfills “from above,” the human tradition of rememberers we need to be a part of simply in order to live.