Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Jacques Maritain

He was a Catholic philosopher (1882-1973) who was deeply involved in the political life of the early and mid-twentieth century in Europe and America, and whose work will enrich the Church for centuries.

Also, which few people know, he carried on a many year relationship, brightened by letters now published, with Saul Alinsky, a political activist who influenced our president and secretary of state.

In one of his greatest works, Integral Humanism, he wrote this.

“For medieval thought, man was also a person; and one must remark that this notion of person is a notion, if I may so speak, of Christian indication, since it was disengaged and clarified thanks to theology. A person is a universe of spiritual nature endowed with freedom of choice and constituting to this extent a whole which is independent in face of the world—neither nature nor the State can lay hold of the universe without its permission. And God himself, who is and acts within, acts there in a particular manner and with a particularly exquisite delicacy, which shows the value He sets on it: He respects its freedom, at the heart of which He nevertheless lives; He solicits it, He never forces it.

“And moreover, in his concrete and historical existence man, for medieval thought, is not a simply natural being. He is a dislocated being, wounded—by the devil who wounds him with concupiscence, by God who wounds him with love. On the one hand, he bears the heritage of original sin; he is born divested of the gifts of grace, and not, doubtless, substantially corrupted, but wounded in his nature. On the other hand, he is made for a supernatural end: to see God as God sees himself, he is made to attain to the very life of God; he is traversed by the solicitations of actual grace, and if he does not oppose God his power of refusal, he bears within him even here below the properly divine life of sanctifying grace and its gifts.” (The Collected Works of Jacques Maritain, Volume XI: Integral Humanism, Freedom in the Modern World, and A Letter on Independence. (1996). Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press. p.158)