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Catholic imagination

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Catholic imagination refers to the Catholic viewpoint that God is present in the whole creation and in human beings, as seen in its sacramental system whereby material things and human beings are channels and sources of God's grace.

Origin of the term

Comparing 'Catholic imagination' to 'Protestant imagination'

This terminology was popularized by Andrew Greeley, a Catholic priest. He wrote:

"The central symbol (of religion) is God. One's "picture" of God is in fact a metaphorical narrative of God's relationship with the world and the self as part of the world... The Catholic "classics" assume a God who is present in the world, disclosing Himself in and through creation. The world and all its events, objects, and people tend to be somewhat like God. The Protestant classics, on the other hand, assume a God who is radically absent from the world, and who discloses (Himself) only on rare occasions (especially in Jesus Christ and Him crucified). The world and all its events, objects, and people tend to be radically different from God."

Protestants as 'pilgrims'

According to Runar Eldebo (a Swedish correspondent for Pietisten--an on-line Catholic newspaper) who teaches in the Swedish Seminary, Greely makes a clear distinction between Catholic imagination and Protestant imagination. Regarding Protestant imagination, Eldebo said:

"Protestant imagination is dialectic and makes people pilgrims. It is deep in conflict and antagonistic to the ingredients of a common, human life. Catholic imagination is analogical. It is founded in creation itself and views creation as God in disguise. According to Catholic imagination, God lurks everywhere. According to Protestant imagination, Karl Barth for example, God is hidden everywhere but found only in the revelation of Jesus Christ. Therefore, according to Greeley, Protestants are never at home on earth, they are pilgrims on their way. Catholics, meanwhile, like to dwell on earth. They enjoy life and are not in a hurry to get to heaven because God lurks everywhere, especially where you do not expect her (sic) to be."

Views of Catholic writer Flannery O'Connor

American Catholic writer Flannery O'Connor also discussed these ideas in her work Novelist and Believer:

St. Augustine wrote that the things of the world pour forth from God in a double way: intellectually into the minds of the angels and physically into the world of things. To the person who believes this - as the western world did up until a few centuries ago - this physical sensible world is good because it proceeds from a divine source... The aim of the artist is to render the highest possible justice to the visible universe... The artist penetrates the concrete world in order to find at its depths the image of its source, the image of ultimate reality.

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