Eighteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

A few years ago I had the good fortune of paging through the Latin breviary of the great Jesuit priest and professor Fr. Walter Ong. As a college freshman, my intellectual curiosity had been awakened by a chance conversation with Fr. Ong while walking the campus of Saint Louis University. Then, as a Jesuit, I happened upon the breviary he left behind after his death. Tucked within the pages was a small piece of paper protected within a sheaf of clear plastic, upon which was imprinted in typeface the words from the eighth chapter of Romans: “What will separate us from the love of Christ….?”

Many times I have reflected upon the image of that great mind–perhaps the greatest the Society of Jesus has produced in this country–calling itself back to the truth that deeper than all intellectual conquest and understanding lies the mysterious foundation of the love of God. This love which surpasses all understanding is not the negation of all rationality. Irrationality is the last flaw of which Fr. Ong could be accused. Rather, can we not say that this love gives all inquiry, reasoning, and understanding it’s direction and motive force? The space of a brief reflection only allows the following suggestive statement and not it’s justification: unless human inquiry be directed by a reality greater than itself, a reality more personal than itself, it faces the danger of becoming solipsistic parody.

Throughout his fertile academic career Fr. Ong also maintained the pastoral ministry to which his priestly ordination called him. I was told by one of the men who cared for Fr. Ong during his declining years that after this great scholar’s mental acuity went into decline, it was those ministerial contacts who continued to visit and show appreciation for this man of God. Those relationships founded upon the love of Christ proved themselves the most lasting. Here in a very simple and human way Fr. Ong experienced the confirmation of the truth he contemplated daily for so many years.

August 3rd, 2014