Katie van Schaijik


Dec. 2, 2009, at 12:06pm

The December issue of Magnificat opens with an exceptionally beautiful and deeply personalistic meditation by Peter John Cameron, O.P. on the mystery of communion. That mystery—the mystery of a person’s being defined simultaneously by his essential self-standing and self-possession and by his being ordered-to-communion with others—is the central philosophical preoccupation of personalism.

Here is Fr. Cameron:

The loneliness that once afflicted Adam in Eden has never left us alone. Deep inside each one of us knows to be myself I need someone else. We are made with a capacity for personal life which is so profound that we cannot realize it alone. This capacity we call “communion.” In fact, things start to go wrong the moment we perceive that we do not belong—that we are not wanted, loved, prized, protected, and provided for. To belong is to have others inside us. The very way we approach life—seeing, feeling, judging—come from what we belong to.
Conversely, if we were to belong to nothing, we would be nothing. And that nothingness, we know, quickly overwhelms us whenever we find ourselves isolated or alienated or left in solitariness.

Then, showing the paradoxical link between self-giving and self-standing, he quotes Pope Benedict writing, “true relationship that becomes ‘communion’ can be born only in the deep places of the human I.”

This is a point that needs further developing.  It is a point, in my experience, that tends to be underplayed by many Catholic personalists, namely that a strong sense of my individual selfhood and self-possession is the condition of the wholesome self-giving and other-receiving of true communion. For anyone with this tendency, John Crosby’s Selfhood of the Human Person is the needed antidote.

Steve B • Dec 8, 2009 - 1:08 pm

Hi Jules,

Looks like a very interesting book - one I will definitely add to my “books to read” list….

Question though - in his “Christianity” chapter, does de Lubac cover the apparent paradox between the dignity of the human person & our call as Christians to “die to self”? 

This, sometimes, is difficult for Christian believers to articulate to non-believers.

If de Lubac doesn’t address this particular “paradox” head-on in this particular book, do you know of where else he does, or anyone else who does?

Take care, and God bless,

Steve B
Plano, TX

Jules van Schaijik • Dec 8, 2009 - 2:40 pm

So far I have not come across a text that deals specifically with the paradox you mention, Steve.  But the following passage from the chapter on Christianity, might be of interest to you. It has to do with the paradoxical relation between freedom and obedience (which, I think, is somewhat parallel to that between dignity and self-denial).

Just as faith is a principle of understanding, so obedience must be a principle of freedom. You do not deliver yourself into the hands of authority like a man tired of using his initiative, abdicating; or like a sailor happy to find a quiet at last after a stormy passage. On the contrary, you receive from authority the Duc in altum. You entrust yourself to it as to a ship leaving port for a glorious voyage and high adventure.

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