I have come to believe that on every level of being a human person we co-exist with other human persons.
During the pandemic I have frequently looked through my bookcase. Finding Cooke’s book, which I had not looked at from the time I first read it, probably 40 years ago, seemed like a special grace. It was like meeting an old friend.
As I was reflecting on how to end this series of columns in which I have tried to use the novels and essays of Walker Percy (1916-1990) to provoke thought about the mystery of the human person, I spotted in my bookcase a book that I had read and enjoyed many years ago. It was Ralph McInerny’s “Some Catholic Writers” (St. Augustine’s Press, 2007).
Writing this series of columns, using insights from Catholic, existentialist novelist Walker Percy (1916-1990), has been an exceptionally pleasing experience for me.
The Catholic novelist Walker Percy (1916-1990) first appeared in print writing scholarly essays about the nature of language. However, such essays did not reach a wide audience. Percy believed that he had something important to say and he wanted to reach a wide audience so he turned to writing novels.
Besides scientism, another subject, perhaps the subject that Percy deals with more than any other is the mystery of the human person. In his six novels and his books of essays, Percy focuses on what it means to be a human person, what it means to be an image of God. Right now I cannot think of a more important topic.
The experience of the pandemic is an experience that we should never forget and pray that we never have again. Probably for each of us, the experience has been in some way a learning experience. It probably forced all of us to reflect deeply on our lives and our relationships. I have come to believe that all of us are a product of our relationships — our relationships with God and with others.
I think it was back in the 1960s, or the early ’70s, that I became very interested in the nature of life commitments, the kind of commitments that people make when being baptized, when marrying, when being ordained, or when taking religious vows.
I am hoping that what unifies and ties together this series of columns is my attempt to use insights from philosophy to deepen religious faith. It strikes me that the philosophy of Gabriel Marcel can help in this effort.
I have a priest friend who regularly mentions people he thinks are holy. Almost everyone he mentions would not be someone I would think of as an exceptionally holy person.