CLASSIC CATHOLIC BOOK
Theology and Sanity
BY F J SHEED
If it were not for Theology and Sanity, which I read first as a very young man, I doubt if I would be writing in this newspaper now. I might not even be a Catholic.
Sheed opened the door to a new and wonderful world. I re-read the book in the 1978 revised edition (plenty of copies available on Amazon at various prices), but I want to record here the particular points which have remained active in my mind since the Fifties.
The first point I recall was his discussion of religious mysteries. He taught me that mysteries were not to be seen as a block but as an invitation to explore a pathway. You would never get to the end of the pathway this side of heaven but the journey would be increasingly fruitful as your understanding deepened.
And that leads naturally to a second point. He made sense to me of the Trinity. Until then, the Godhead had been no more than formulaic to me. Indeed, it sounded to me unnecessarily over-populated. I learnt how the Father was fully expressed in the Son, and how the love between Father and Son was fully expressed in the Holy Spirit. The mystery remained but the concept of the divine community of love gave me the starting point.
Sheed, who was the great luminary of the Catholic Evidence Guild – which addressed the passing crowds at Speaker’s Corner and other places – was a wonderful communicator of the Trinity. He could hold a secular audience in the Fifties, teaching the Trinity. And I am prepared to bet that he could still do so today.
He wrote, and I quote from memory: “Many Catholics would die, and have died, for the Mass, but how many live for it?” That nugget took time to mature in me until I came to realise that to attend Mass in the meanest church, with the most mumbling priest, was still to be present at the act which is the fulcrum of the world.
But the deepest impression which he made on me – and I can fairly claim that 50 years later I still think of it every day – was his statement that every atom of the universe exists through the active exercise of God’s creative will that it should. Were he ex hypothesi to withdraw his will, that atom would revert to the nothingness from which it came.
Of course everyone will take from a book what he needs. I am merely recording what I needed, and what I took.
Quentin de la Bédoyère