James V. Schall, S.J. (1928-2019): On Praying to an Abstract God (5.23.2017)

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Trinity icon by Andrey Rublev, c. 1400 [Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow]

By James V. Schall, S.J. (1928-2019), The Catholic Thing, May 23, 2017

James V. Schall, S.J., who served as a professor at Georgetown University for thirty-five years, was one of the most prolific Catholic writers in America. Among his many books are The Mind That Is Catholic, The Modern Age, Political Philosophy and Revelation: A Catholic Reading, Reasonable Pleasures, Docilitas: On Teaching and Being

When a priest, rabbi, or minister is asked to offer a blessing at some public event – something that happens less and less frequently these days – how should he pray on that occasion? Should he pray as he normally does in his congregation? Or should he assume the role of a “general” cleric who, along with his audience, abstracts from the way he prays before his own assembly?

This issue is not St. Paul before the Athenians “unknown” god for whom he presumed to speak. (Acts 17:23) The “unknown” god in Greece was not an “abstraction.” He was presumed to be an existing entity whose exact dimensions had not yet been figured out by the locals. The Hebrew God defined Himself as “I am”­ – no abstraction. …

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