106 Chapter 8
PLENTY TO DO
St. Anselm gave a classic definition of Catholic theology which is
still quoted today: "fides quaerens intellectum": faith "searching" for
understanding. Fr. Keefe says that all dimensions of the Christian
existence are a quaerens, and that this is why Catholic theology is a
'private' work or prayer.
In other words, the work of a theologian has its meaning, its
dignity, and its usefulness because it is a 'private' prayer or work. The
work of a theologian has meaning and dignity for exactly the same
reason as the work of the juggler in the old story does. This uneducated
entertainer, "searching" to give something to Our Lady, and having
nothing else to give, gave what he had, and juggled in front of her
statue (which, to the amazement of scornful onlookers, came to life
and smiled at him). No more dignity -- and no less -- attaches to the
work, the prayer, of the theologian than to the work, the prayer, of Our
Thus all human activity -- both juggling and theology -- can be
'private' prayer or work, which is a "searching" to express or mediate
the public work or prayer of the New Covenant. Furthermore, this
'private' work or prayer is inexhaustibly mediative and expressive. St.
Therese has plenty to do in Heaven.
At this point it is worthwhile to examine a not-very-often remarked
phrase that St. Paul once used. Within the theological world of
Covenantal Theology, the phrase can be taken completely literally. If
we can understand that, we will be well on the way toward
understanding the words "covenantal" and "free" as Fr. Keefe means
them -- and well on the way toward understanding the extraordinary
fruitfulness of the thought of someone who is able to think like a child,
but not childishly.
Here is the phrase:
". . . in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's
afflictions . . . "
1. Colossians 1:24 RSV
There is very little doubt that only in a world with a Heaven like St.
Therese's could St. Paul be taken seriously here. No worlds with
Heavens that are 'Heaven' precisely because there is absolutely nothing
left even for saints to do need apply.
The meaning of "covenantal" and "free" within Covenantal
Theology is such that St. Paul's statement is literally true. It is not some
sort of pious exaggeration. Only if there were something wrong with
finitude, and therefore with time itself, so that time had to be
'perfected' (completed) by being annihilated, into the time-less, would
St. Paul's remark present any difficulty.
N.B. This is an html-ized copy of a page from the pdf file, The Knucklehead's Guide to Covenantal Theology.