Monday, December 1, 2008

"Action is an Epiphany of Being"

Last week I was rummaging through the Jubilee magazines in the archives of the St. Louis University library, and I stumbled upon an article about Jacques Maritain. It was titled: “Action is an Epiphany of Being”. The article was a collection of Maritain quotes from different sources, and photos that were taken during Maritain’s visit with Thomas Merton. The photos were probably taken by John Howard Griffin, but I didn’t notice an acknowledgement.

Though I'm captivated with the title of the article: "Action is an Epiphany of Being", I can’t remember any of the quotes exactly. But what I came away with was the notion that Truth – the rhyme and reason of our existence – is, in fact, knowable, and that the Catholic Church can, in some way, relay this truth among the peoples of the ages. One does not need to be an intellectual or even studious, to be able to grasp this truth, but once grasped, one’s life would be changed (or perhaps “charged” is a better word).

I don’t believe that the Catholic Church is the only way that one can come to this truth, Merton’s conversations with Asian religions showed his awareness of other ways. But to his last day, Merton remained steadfastly grounded in a Catholic sacramental and liturgical response to Reality.


  1. The Truth, it is said, will set you free. I recently noticed that on two extremes of the Catholic position, Malcolm Muggeridge and Daniel Berrigan, the same proposition: that it is impossible to be free in our society unless you are in prison.

  2. I've heard that proposition before, Marc ... and knowing some prisoners, I'd say that the proposition is being made by those who are NOT in prison.

    I think that what Berrigan means is that in order to be spiritually authentic (or something like that) you must counter the premises on which society is based - greed, war, getting ahead at the expense of another, etc. And if you truly do protest the mechanisms of a war-society, you are likely to end up in prison.

    I'm not sure about Malcolm M. Don't know anything about him.

  3. I just looked up Malcolm M. and found this quote: "The only fish swimming with the stream, are dead fish". You're right, it sounds pretty much like what Berrigan would say.

  4. Whenever I think of Maritain, I think of Rouault and his paintings and a novel which featured an imaginary correspondence between Rouault and the main character. The main character is dissuaded from joining Maritain and Rouault (I guess Maritain had kind of a group)by a decadent Parisian. The book is called "Sophia House".

    I read the Muggeridge thing a couple of days ago from an on-line book. As I remember, he was saying the nature of our society is such that we're all susceptible to the lures and complications of money and so on, or our egos are, which messes with our spiritual life which is where our freedom resides. In prison you don't have to be concerned with such things - I'm sure he was exaggerating to make a point, as is his style.

    I worked with a guy who spent much of his life in prison, and he did tell me it was the best thing that happened to him: he wasn't able to control his life otherwise.

  5. That looks like an interesting book, Marc.

    This may be presumptuous of me, but I think that most people (including me) don't know what they are talking about when they speak of prison, and being in prison.

    I know several people who are in prison now, and 1 or 2 of them are probably safer and better cared for there than they would be out of prison. They have been there so long that they would have a very hard time just surviving outside.

    But I consider the prison and justice system to be the darkest, most evil aspect of America today. Children are locked away for life, with no chance to ever get out. There are no 2nd chances or reasons to rehabilitate. I don't even know where to start to address this kind of systemic evil.

  6. I guess I got carried away there, Marc :-( -- what I wanted to say was that I think that Muggeridge is making a good point.

  7. No - you didn't get carried away - I agree the prison system is satanic - I worked for the D.A.'s office in New Orleans and what you said about children being locked away, it's hard to believe but there were cases where it was literally true - a mother looking for her son who had been incarcerated and "lost" somewhere in the system. My boss told me she didn't have much chance at being heard because she was poor and black.

    The prison system - it's so lucrative. I was thinking about going back to work part time at the Drug Rehab here and then I talked to my friend who works there last night and he was talking about U.A.'s The Detox center is the main place for doing urine drug tests on prisoners - part of the job I detested: you have to go into the bathroom with them: there's an undercurrent of class and race when you're a middle-class white guy and you're required to watch black convicts pee and bust them when they don't pass- but the drug testing thing is another cash cow, for which certain officals perhaps, get kick-backs.

    I didn't mean to romanticize prison -it's hard to think of many things worse. My working with the guy who'd been in prison - it had quite an effect on me -


From Dorothy Day’s editorial in the Catholic Worker on the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.