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ON NOT PRESUMING TO “KNOW THE MIND OF GOD” IN HUMAN EVENTS 

In 1857 Charles de Rémusat published an essay entitled “Du traditionalisme” (On Traditionalism). He observed that it was very presumptuous to claim to know, with moral certainty, what God’s providential purpose and plan was in any particular chain of human events, as many traditional-minded French Catholics were wont to do. He wrote: 

When you venture a detailed interpretation of the intentions of Providence from the course of events, then—recognizing as you must that the choice of means Providence reserves to itself is beyond human ken, and that there is neither any obvious analogy nor any apparent proportion in the divine calculation of cause and effect—then there is one small condition you must meet: you must be inspired. (Quoted in Catholicism and Democracy, by Emile Perreau-Saussine, 2012 English edition) 

This observation, made at a time when the Catholic Church seemed beset from all sides by the revolutionary currents set in motion by the French Revolution of 1789, was a good and salutary corrective to the providential reasoning of those Catholic believers who were inclined, too quickly, to conclude that God is doing this in such and such events, and it is this side which is God’s and it is that side which is Satan’s.  

I think it is a good principle for us to adopt for ourselves as well in the face of the times we are living through. We need to resist the temptation to “interpret” what God’s plan is behind the veil of secondary causes. Absent an extraordinary inspiration from God the Holy Ghost, we are not going to be accurate, however sincere we may be. Otherwise we are going to find ourselves successively crestfallen, angry, emotionally exalted, and then crestfallen again. Our inner peace, which God so much wants to give us, will be repeatedly overthrown.

When the Apostles ask Christ when the apocalyptic events of the world’s end will occur, He gives them a strong reply: “But of that day and hour no man knoweth, neither the Angels in heaven nor the Son, but the Father.” (Mk. 13:32) Just before His Ascension, the disciples seek to know the time-table of events. Christ replies: “It is not for you to know the times or moments which the Father hath put in His own power.” (Acts 1:7). 

It is a very great thing indeed to have the knowledge of the Revealed Truths which we do have as part of the dogmatic body of our Catholic Faith. It is both presumptuous and futile to seek to know with certainty what Christ has specifically told us He will not give us. 

Let it be enough for us to strive to cultivate the higher powers of our soul (intellect, understanding, will) in order to form the good habit of sound judgment in the affairs of life. Let us not be carried away by the passions of the moment. 

Fr. Higgins

About Our Parish

Mary Immaculate of Lourdes is Newton and Needham Massachusetts's oldest Roman Catholic Parish. Founded as Saint Mary's Parish in 1870 it was renamed "Mary Immaculate of Lourdes" when the new Church was dedicated on Thanksgiving Day, 1910. In addition to being a regular territorial parish of the Archdiocese of Boston it is also a "Mission Parish" since 2007 with a special apostolate for the Traditional Latin Mass (1962 Missal).

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"If you are willing to serenely bear the trial of being displeasing to yourself, then you will be for Jesus a pleasant place of shelter."
- St. Therese of Lisieux (+1897)

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