Reason vs Mystery


My husband is a devout non-catholic. He bases his Christian belief on pure reason. He can’t accept that the True Presence is a mystery. “Why would a church claim to be THE church yet expect you to accept a ‘mystery’ that bread and wine become Jesus’ actual body, blood, soul and divinity? And Mary’s perpetual virginity? So what? Another ‘mystery’ to just accept.” He claims that he would be Catholic, but doesn’t like “being told” what to believe. Unfortunately, we have yet to meet a Catholic who can defend these positions to him. Myself, I find it hard to articulate. I have been blessed with the gift of faith through my research and “reversion” to the Catholic Faith.

Thanks! God Bless!


Dear Blessed,

There have been others who insisted that they could not accept anything that they could not understand through reason. Descartes is famous for his “I know, therefore I am.” For centuries before him the Hebrews knew, “I am commanded, therefore I am.” They had Divine Revelation—some of which I expect your husband accepts in that he considers himself to be a Christian. One cannot accept any part of Judeo-Christian Revelation if he doesn’t want to be told what to believe. To accept Revelation is to be told—big time! The Ten Commandments are not ten suggestions given for our perusal.

We are steeped in mystery. Who understands his own existence? Why not nothing? But
the greatest mystery we have is the mystery of the Infinite. Everything we know is limited. How do we grapple with the mystery of an infinitely loving God? Fortunately for us, He has given us a window into this Love as demonstrated in His becoming incarnate and suffering such torture and actually dying at the hands of His creatures—when He didn’t have to. This is the central belief of Christianity. How does one’s finite mind wrap around that?

The Church teaches that reason is a great gift that God has given to us. While theology cannot explain the various mysteries we believe, it can show us that it is not unreasonable to believe them. We believe that the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of the Son of God because He said so. This is no less an example of Divine Revelation than are the Ten Commandments. If God can create us out of nothing, He can surely keep Mary a perpetual virgin.

The Apostle Thomas was adamant about his refusal at accept the mystery of Christ’s resurrection—until He saw His living Body before him and touched His wounds. Then he finally acquiesced, falling on his face in adoration with the words, “My Lord and my God!” It was at this point that he recognized the arrogance and fear that kept him from believing. He was fortunate that this recognition came before he died.

Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.

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