One of my favorite quotes from St Therese of Lisieux is “There is no virtue in doing what is reasonable.”
She captured in that subversive little thought the whole genius of Christianity. Jesus himself throws out a similarly outrageous observation when he says “If you have faith as a mustard see you can tell this mountain to be thrown into the sea.”
This is the genius, the spark and the zeal of youth speaking. The elder nods and says, “Yes, dear, but take a deep breath. Consider your pension plan, your health insurance and your long term financial planning…”
Both quips undermine humanity’s boring, elderly inclination to be sensible, to do the reasonable thing, to keep an eye on the bottom line, to choose what is useful, what solves a problem most efficiently, most effectively and most economically.
Now, of course, doing the sensible thing and being a good steward of resources and finding quick and efficient solutions are all well and good, but St Therese and Jesus (and any other saint you can find) would argue that, while all that efficiency and dour reasonable-ness is perhaps necessary if that is ALL there is to life and decision making, then life is very boring indeed.
We long for the expansive vision, the daring dream, the impossible project. Last evening we had a meeting with architects to discuss the project to build a new parish school. The dreamers at the table were articulate: ” We have a chance here to do something great that will impact the lives of thousands of children over the next fifty years. We shouldn’t skimp and save and do it on the cheap. Let’s dream big and do something we can all be proud of!”
This is the thrill of the faith–to step out and dream the impossible dream–to build something beautiful and impossible. The penny pinchers and dull utilitarians grimace at such audacity, but people of faith are motivated by it.
The lack of this audacity is a sign of a lack of faith, and the energy released by such daring is the sign of faith in a family, in a parish and in the church.
There is much discussion about what is wrong with the Catholic Church today, and while the problems are manifold and the causes complex, I believe it is this core lack of faith and audacity that has crippled the church. She is weighed down by all the sensible men in their grey suits–the insurance men, the financial men, the HR women and the publicity experts. Always cautious, always watching their back, always suspicious, they quash initiatives, stifle creativity, staunch grass roots efforts and dampen enthusiasm.
At Pentecost they would have advised the apostles to close the windows lest someone catch cold from the draft and to man the fire extinguishers when those dangerous tongues of fire appeared.
Being reasonable? “There is no virtue in doing what is reasonable.”