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Posted June 14, 2003

Book: The Great Mysteries: Experiencing Catholic Faith from the Inside Out
Author: Andrew M. Greeley
Sheed & Ward, New York, pp.158

Excerpt from Jacket:

At a time of intense spiritual seeking, Father Andrew Greeley’s The Great Mysteries offers a rare and exciting exploration into the questions of faith by grounding them first in human experience. Like the early followers of Jesus who preached the risen Christ long before they created categories to explain their faith, Greeley searches in life for hints that point at religious truth. He uses symbols (stories that tell what human life means) and mysteries (truth that is so dazzling we barely comprehend it) to interpret how the central truths of a Christian tradition enhance the meaning of life . . . .

The Great Mysteries [are organized] around 12 questions that go to the heart of human life — Is there any purpose in my life? are there any ground for hope? Is it safe to trust? Why is there evil in the world? Is human nature totally deprived? Can our guilt be swept away? Is it possible to have friends? Can there be unity among humankind? Can we live in harmony with nature? Can we find our sexual identity? Why is life not fair? Will we ever find peace? He reveals how the symbols, rituals, teachings, and mysteries of Catholicism both shape and respond to these profound questions.

Excerpt from Book:

“Every man comes into the world noble and at the same time wretched, rich in a magnificent future and yet inclined to evil.” The root predisposition — not yet the flaw — from which evil comes is to be found not in the fact that humankind is a composite of body and soul but rather in the fact that humankind is finite like every creature and knows it finitude, unlike any other creature save the angels. Because we are moral and are capable of reflecting on our mortality, unlike any other bodily creature, we are also capable of fear, as are all bodily creatures, and distrust — a uniquely human characteristic.

The sin of the human race is the sin of distrust — of cosmic distrust; it is the sin of refusing to believe that the universe in which we find ourselves is trustworthy and therefore the sin of refusing to believe that the power that produced the universe and placed us in it is trustworthy. Since we cannot trust the cosmos or its creator we cannot trust anyone but ourselves and hence are driven to put our security and our confidence solely in our own powers and abilities. Thus, we cannot even take the risk of treating other humans as trustworthy.

Refusing to believe in the trustworthiness of others is called hatred. Making an act of faith in the trustworthiness of others is called love. The sin of the race, therefore, is the sin of hatred. We commit our own personal sins of hatred but we are also born into a sinful race that has accumulated predispositions to hatred and the results of hatred down through the generations. The blend of our own predisposition to distrust and the accumulated distrust of the centuries s what constitutes the evil in us.

But there is also the contrary and very powerful predisposition towards trusting union with others — our nature as social beings thrusts us powerfully in that direction. Thus the human personality is the arena in which conflicting forces of trust and distrust, love and hatred, fear and faith conflict. The Catholic Christian believes that there is more good than evil in human nature, more cooperation than selfishness, more trust than distrust, more love than hatred — though sometimes just barely. He believes that in the human personality there is the capacity for reconciliation, reconstruction, restoration.