THE CHRISTIAN PHILOSOPHY OF LIFE (by Fr. Tilmann Pesch SJ)

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THE CHRISTIAN PHILOSOPHY OF LIFE (by Fr. Tilmann Pesch SJ)

Message  Javier le Jeu 20 Avr 2017, 4:37 pm

THE CHRISTIAN PHILOSOPHY OF LIFE

REFLECTIONS ON THE TRUTHS OF RELIGION

BY TILMANN PESCH, S.J.

TRANSLATED FROM THE GERMAN

By
M. C. McLaren

LONDON AND EDINBURGH :
SANDS & COMPANY
ST. LOUIS, MO.
B, HERDER, 17 SOUTH BROADWAY

Imprimatur.

Friburgi Brisgovia, die 27 Septembris 1905,
+Thomas,
Archiepps.

Imprimatur.
+Jacobus Augustinus,
Archiep. S. And., et Edimburgensis,

Edimburgi,
die 3 Maii 1909.

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Javier

Nombre de messages : 1772
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Date d'inscription : 26/02/2009

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Re: THE CHRISTIAN PHILOSOPHY OF LIFE (by Fr. Tilmann Pesch SJ)

Message  Javier le Jeu 20 Avr 2017, 4:43 pm

EDITOR'S PREFACE TO THE FIFTH EDITION

The author of "The Christian Philosophy of Life" has
reached the close of his earthly pilgrimage. " Finita sunt
omnia. In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti ! Amen"
Such were his last words. On October 18, 1899, death came
to end his sharp, prolonged sufferings. It found him an
exile at Valkenburg, a small town in the Netherlands, and
his mortal remains have been laid to rest - in foreign soil,
but we trust that his soul is at home once more in the
land where light and peace reign eternally.

Tilmann Pesch was born in Cologne on February 1, 1836,
and entered the novitiate of the Society of Jesus at Munster
on October 15, 1852. He was consecrated to the priesthood
in January 1866, by that splendid champion of the
liberty of the Church, Wilhelm Emmanuel von Ketteler,
in the chapel of the episcopal palace at Munich, and made
his solemn vows at Aix-la-Chapelle on February 2, 1871.
For the space of many years he filled the post of lecturer
on philosophy, first at Maria-Laach, and subsequently at
Blijenbeck, in Holland.

The numerous works for which we are indebted to his
pen form no mean contribution to Catholic letters, and attest
alike his intellectual gifts and industry, whilst through the
medium of his spiritual writings, sermons and conferences,
he has brought counsel and comfort to many souls. Wide
learning, in his case, was accompanied by a childlike
humility, and his gentle, benignant spirit knew neither fear
nor compromise wherever principles were at stake. The
fabric of a life so abundantly fruitful in its apostolic activities
was reared upon the sure foundation of faith and knowledge,
energetic action and quiet patience, born of a philosophy in
which natural and supernatural elements coalesced to form
one harmonious whole. By these his life's work was directed,
and rendered consistent and faithful in the service of God
and of the Church ; from these he drew the strength which
braced him to the endurance of long years of suffering without
a murmur. The closer the fetters which bodily weakness
laid upon him, the freer his soul became, the more stripped of
earthly desires, and the more perfectly purified by boundless
submission to the holy will of God.

The idea of a work on Christian philosophy had long
been in his mind, and such spare moments as his manifold
duties left to him were employed in the accumulation of
material. It was his habit, when possible, to devote the
last three days of Holy Week to this task. Increasing
illness, and the advice of Bishop Kneipp, led him at length
to Betzdorf, in Rhenish Prussia, to seek relief in a course
of the waters there, and the opportunity thus afforded was
utilised by him to reduce to order the mass of material
at his disposal. He was permitted the joy of witnessing
the strikingly favourable reception accorded to this, his last
work.

May it prove a source of comfort, edification and spiritual
healing to many souls in days to come ! Such was the one
heartfelt desire of its author.

HEINRICH PESCH, S.J.
Luxemburg (Bellevue), February 2, 1900.

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Javier

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Re: THE CHRISTIAN PHILOSOPHY OF LIFE (by Fr. Tilmann Pesch SJ)

Message  Javier le Dim 23 Avr 2017, 7:12 pm

First Week

PART I

THE LOVE OF TRUTH



CHAPTER I

THE STRUGGLE FOR EXISTENCE

1. " Man, born of a woman, living for a short time, is filled
with many miseries. Who cometh forth like a flower, and is
destroyed and fleeth as a shadow, and never continueth in
the same state."

Man is encompassed on earth by an abundance of good
things, destined, in part, to supply his needs, and in part to
minister to his enjoyment ; through the medium of the
senses he is endowed with a capacity to recognise these
things as good, to estimate them rightly and to derive
pleasure from them.

But physical life carries with it in addition the liability
to many evils ; human existence finds itself burdened with
cares, and the continual labours necessary to the attainment
of success. Man's near horizon is bounded by the desire to
obtain and to enjoy.

These onerous labours have been rightly characterised as
a struggle for existence, wherein the individual continually
finds himself face to face with adverse circumstances, and
with the hostility of his fellow-men.

Within its proper limits, this struggle cannot be affirmed
to be of man's choosing ; it is a necessity imposed upon him,
finding its source in man's own nature, whilst, viewed in the
light of human achievements, it reveals itself as a factor of
primary importance. The triumphs to which it has spurred
mankind represent a gain to humanity at large, and it would
be folly to undervalue them. But, after all, they fall short
of satisfying the heart of a man ; the most they can do is
to bring him temporary oblivion of the self within, whilst
the current of exterior activities bears him onward. Woe,
indeed, to him who flings himself so recklessly into the fight
as to suffer it to absorb the entire energy of his mind and will!

Up to now the struggle for existence has shown itself
incapable of diminishing in any practical way the sum of
human misery. " Here the tinkling of the lute, there the
mourner's wail,"
so we read in an old Eastern book ;
" here a gathering of learned men, there a drunken brawl ; here
blooming youth, there the ravages of foul disease ; truly, I
know not whether life be nectar or poison."
What men's eyes
lighted on then, ours light on today. Once the meaning
of life is restricted to the necessity of bearing our share in
the struggle for earthly existence, it becomes for us all, and
especially for the poor amongst us, a source of bitterness and
of grievous wrong.

No success in life, however brilliant, can bring the human
heart that abiding satisfaction for which it cherishes so
natural and invincible a longing ; hence the lament of the
preacher : " What hath a man more of all his labour that
he taketh under the sun ? " (Eccl. i. 3).
Given the fullest
measure of success, what more can it bring a man than those
fleeting enjoyments of which Goethe spoke such bitter words :
"I seemed to myself," he says, "like a poisoned rat, which runs
hither and thither, devouring everything it comes across, yet
unable to deaden for a moment the gnawing agony within."
Here was a poet to whom surely earth had been lavish
enough with her gifts, and who was yet found affirming in
his old age that " his life had been like that of the tortured
Sisyphus, nor had he known one single month of real wellbeing
during the whole seventy-five years of his existence."


2. How should it have been otherwise ? The earthly
good at which men aim leaves the real man still face to face
with hunger ; even if it were able to satisfy him, how
passing a thing it is after all ! The current flows unceasingly
by ; I am barely conscious of the present before it has
become the past, and my eyes light on a thing only to behold
it vanish.

The glory of this world is a transitory glory. Where are
those rich and powerful and learned ones who made the earth
ring with their name and fame, but whose lives held nothing
that was truly great or good ? Others have stepped into
their places and they are forgotten. And their souls, where
are they now ? What did all that seeming brilliance avail
them ? " I was once supreme—what use is that to me now ?"
asked the dying Severus. He who has no thoughts beyond
this earth climbs the green slopes of the hill of life only to
perish at length on the bare, deserted summit.

No single human soul has ever yet reached happiness by
an insatiate and reckless pursuit of earthly good. Can I then
look to attain that which has so far been denied to all others ?

3. The struggle for existence is inevitable, but nothing
can justify thee in making thy whole life subservient to it.
" In man," so wrote a noted sceptic of our day, " nature aimed,
not merely at exalting, but at transcending herself. He
must be something more and something better than a mere
animal, and his innate capacity to be that something better
is the demonstration of this necessity. The life of the senses
finds adequate and exhaustive expression in the animal
kingdom, hence it is not for the sake of this life that man
exists, since no creature exists for the sake of that which is
past, but by virtue of those new conquests to which it is the
first to attain. This implies the obligation on man to control
the animal self by means of those higher faculties which
mark him off from the brute. The fierce struggle for
existence has endured long enough. In so far as he too is
nature's handiwork, man cannot wholly escape it, but his
higher faculties must come into play, and the struggle be
ennobled by the consciousness of fellowship and mutual
obligations. The wild storminess of nature must sink to
rest in her supreme creation, man ; in him we behold that
"placidum caput " which Virgil's Neptune lifted above the
waves to still them " (D. F. Strauss : Der alte und der neue
Glaube, 9th edition, p. 163).


Therefore — sursum corda ! When we own a treasure, do
we leave it to lie unheeded on the ground ? Is earth's dust
a fitting place for the heart of man ?

But how can I rise to higher things ? The answer is
simple—seek the life which is above life.
History testifies amply to the fact that, apart from the
principles which Christianity inculcates, there is no power
known to man which can mitigate the fierceness of the
struggle for existence, and enable him to direct it to ends
commensurate with his own high destiny.


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Javier

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Date d'inscription : 26/02/2009

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Re: THE CHRISTIAN PHILOSOPHY OF LIFE (by Fr. Tilmann Pesch SJ)

Message  Javier Hier à 7:15 pm

CHAPTER II

THE PURSUIT OF THE IDEAL

1. In proportion as man's life becomes worthier of his
high endowments, we find the pursuit of the ideal inseparably
linked with the struggle for existence.

To seek for nothing beyond physical enjoyment in the
present life, and to esteem life good only in so far as it
procures this enjoyment, is to renounce any real claim to the
rights and dignity of manhood.

He for whom life holds a loftier meaning than this has
learnt to look beyond the sensible phenomena of daily
existence ; the truth and certainty of the convictions to
which he has attained can never be a matter of indifference
to him. The limits of this world of sense are soon reached,
but with the unfolding of nobler aspirations man himself
grows nobler, and rises to a conception of the ideal, of the
supreme and timeless, of a source whence all realities
derive, to which, at their highest, they approximate, whilst
from first to last they tend towards it. This ideal sheds
an unearthly radiance on life's meanest details, illumining
and hallowing them. In themselves these details are so
prosaic and trivial, so incomplete and void of power to satisfy !
Hence that yearning after the ideal, of which every noble heart
and mind is conscious.

2. The human mind is irresistibly attracted towards the
ideal, but there is a wide divergence in the views which men
hold concerning it. The modern world is prepared to define
it as the fullest possible measure of earthly enjoyment ; it
bids man's every faculty do homage to the idol of material
well-being. The intrinsic value of all human activities, it is
claimed, must necessarily be enhanced by an ideal which
tends to secure the welfare of society as a whole.
Where is the origin of this theory to be sought ?
In the first place, it is the inevitable deduction drawn by
those who claim that the world is nothing but dust, and that
chance is its ruler. Thanks to certain purely fortuitous readjustments
of matter, animal life came into existence, and we
see in man the ultimate member in the long series ; above
and below him there is nothing. Humanity can cherish
no truer ideal, therefore, than that of material well-being
conceived of at its highest.

Certain keener-sighted advocates of this theory have
advanced a step further along the road towards a more
spiritual conception of the universe. " No !" say these
" man is something better than mere clay, and the world is no
plaything of blind chance. Our wisest course is to say,
Ignoramus. It is clear that man has physical needs, and that
these must be met, but beyond this all is uncertain. Science
must be content to recognise the hard-and-fast limits of the
sense-world."

The consolation offered to a thinking mind which has
reached the conviction that human nature is not purely
animal nature, but has within itself a spiritual element
impelling it to transcend the limits imposed by the senses,
amounts practically to this : " Set your imagination to
work ; weave your own ideal out of what dreams you will,
or accept one ready-woven by your fellow-men : between
dreams and dreams there is little to choose. All that matters
is that your ideal should correspond to the needs of your own
temperament, whilst leaving you free to make the most of
what life offers."


Nevertheless, even the most ardent eulogists of modern
civilisation cannot point out to us one single individual who
has found satisfaction in this land of dreams. What the
mind desires at all costs is reality. "Virtue, thou art an
empty name,"
murmured Brutus as he lay dying on the
plains of Philippi.

3. Our own day claims to have solved the enigma.
Monistic (Pantheistic) doctrines are preached on every side ;
the ideal, so we are bidden to believe, flows indeed from a
divine source, but from one which is in no sense beyond our
ken. The world itself is the divinity we seek, and mankind
is the crown and mirror of that divinity.

This divine being, forsooth, has often enough found itself
at war with its own essential godhead ; to this the records of
our hospitals and prisons bear ample testimony. It is a hard
task indeed to trace the pure stream of the ideal from so
muddy a source. If there is no God above man, then
man himself is God. Assume this, and the sluice gates of
evil are forthwith opened, conscience is dethroned, egotism,
however shameless, finds its justification, error takes rank with
truth, vice with virtue, and civilisation itself becomes the veil
of an unspeakable corruption.

How eagerly men have sought to clothe earth's aims and
activities with the robe of high ideal ! Science, culture, a
lofty political standard, noble patriotism, the discipline of
character, ardent philanthropy, all these are lauded, and
justly lauded, in their turn, for all have their value. But,
none the less, it is a value of which they are possessed only in
so far as they derive from the source of all goodness and
truth and beauty ; apart from this source they are withered
flowers, snapped from the parent stem. Mere animal
existence can never impart high or permanent worth to the
delights it offers, and those who turn to it in their search after
the ideal are no whit nearer the attaining of their end.

4. Viewed in the light of Christianity, what a change is
wrought ! Man is divinely led to seek the one source of the
ideal in a being who is not merely other than the world, but
the world's Creator, an infinite Being, and infinitely perfect.
Here is no dream, however inspiring, but Reality itself, and
the Christian mind is borne on the wings of thought into a
region where apprehension of this Reality becomes possible.
The. Supreme Reality to which all nature bears witness is the
Personal God, the Creator of Heaven and earth.

It is lost labour to try and extinguish in man's heart
the conviction that a Divine and Eternal Being truly exists.
Hold the burning torch downwards if you will, its flame still
seeks Heaven.

In the light of Christianity, the entire universe exhibits
itself as a wide-open book, written by the finger of God, and
replete with lessons of divine lore. But merely to spell out
the syllables of this book is not enough ; he who would read
it aright must become alive to the inward significance underlying
all phenomena.

Here is that fount of ideality to which all existence, and
this human existence of ours in particular, ultimately tends.
We are destined to felicity, but earthly life offers us, not
felicity itself, but a road to it. The beauties surrounding us
are like wayside flowers, given to refresh our hearts ; they
were never meant to retard us on our journey. The sorrows
we meet with here below are sent to free us from terrestrial
affections, and to increase within us the love of those things
which are eternal. All the conditions of this human life, its
differing vocations and manifold toils, are of God's ordering,
and every smallest detail is ennobled by the relation in which
it stands to the eternal will of God. Patriotism, high capacity
of whatever kind, the earnest effort which brings success, all
alike find their true and permanent worth in this supreme
ideal.

This Fount, or rather very Ocean of Ideality, the great
and good God, has drawn nigh to us, and revealed Himself
in the person of Jesus Christ. Beholding Him, we see not
only the Godhead, but the ideally perfect Man, who, like the
sun shining through innumerable dewdrops, kindles the
hearts of His saints and humblest followers to a hope and
an ideal which the world is powerless to conceive. His
presence is abidingly with us in His Church, and within that
Church, even in the domain of art itself, Divine ideals are
being continually wrought into the texture of our human
life.

All that is fleeting is but type and symbol ; here is
substance in place of shadow, here our eyes contemplate that
which no human tongue can utter.

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Javier

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