| Rev. Schall: 'Everything fits together,'
has purpose for being
With a deeply reasoned belief in God, Father James V. Schall, SJ, challenges Catholics to know the arguments against God.
"You do not know the truth of a thing unless you know the arguments against it," Father Schall emphasized at a recent Catholics at Work breakfast in San Ramon.
"The Catholic church is the religion of intelligence, the intellectual religion."
In a wide-ranging call to read, Father Schall, reasons that the world does not need to exist, since God as the supreme being does not need a world as we know it. So it exists for a purpose, and as people explore that reality the church becomes "the center of the notion that everything fits together."
Father Schall, 86, spent 35 years as a professor of political philosophy in the government department at Georgetown University, challenging students to learn how to think for themselves.
In his widely watched last lecture in 2012, "The Final Gladness" (www.youtube.com), he emphasized that a key to understanding God, and humanity, is to recognize the importance of friendship, which is personal and close. And friendship is a key to understanding God, Father Schall said, emphasizing that God says in the Bible "I call you friends!"
This challenges us to think about our relationship to God, and to realize that God offers us friendship.
True friends are few in number and valuable to each of us, Father Schall said, quoting Aristotle.
"If you tell me who your 4,000 best friends are, I'd think you don't have any!"
He went on to ask "What happens to our friendships when we die? If they are meaningless, in some sense we are incoherent." So friendship with God is vital to humans.
Quoting Aristotle, Father Schall said that the beginning of thinking is wonder.
"The question is: to know what?" Father Schall asked, answering, "everything we can know!"
But humans cannot know everything on their own, and that is where God's revelation extends our knowledge beyond our human capacity to understand from our own experience.
When God created humans he created beings who are not God, but are able to participate in God's understanding of what is. God gives humans the ability to think and understand, but does not force them to conform to God's thinking.
The poor choices some humans make led God to become human, to suffer death and then resurrect.
"The New Testament," Father Schall said, is "intended to tell about our relationship to God ultimately."
For good measure, Father Schall added to parents "When you begat a child, you are begetting them for eternity."
Father Schall linked his challenge to learn to dozens of people, beginning with Socrates and Aristotle—"God moves by reason and love"—through Augustine and Thomas Aquinas—"the only saint canonized just for thinking"—to contemporary thinkers, including C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton.
And he encouraged people to read substantial books many times. "I read books 25 or 30 times. They are never the same. You learn more, have more insights" with each reading.
Turning to education — he taught in college for 48 years — Father Schall said that students waste their time if they go to school to learn the official teaching on a subject. Rather, they should strive to figure out what is true.
One of his books, "Another Sort of Learning," is a challenge to read voraciously to keep learning. Its bibliography lists about 400 books. Chapters include "Straining for the Highest Things," "On Prayer and Fasting for Bureaucrats," and "On the Seriousness of Sports" as well as more predictable titles such as "The Mortality of Immortal Men."
He has degrees from Santa Clara University, Gongaza University and Georgetown University.
Father Schall now lives in the Jesuit retirement house in Los Gatos, but continues to write, blog and challenge people to think for themselves, to discover the richness of God, as he continues to do.
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