Dear Donagh, I enjoy my visits to your site, and may I compliment you on the new look! It’s quite lovely…. My son who runs a business was very impressed by it and asked me to ask you who your web designer is. He is not happy with his own website and would like a change.
Now for my own question. I have another son living in Canada who worries me a little. He’s a good-living boy, It’s just the way he talks sometimes that worries me. When I was over there in a few weeks ago he passed a remark on two separate occasions that life has no meaning. I put it out of my mind at the time, but it keeps coming back to me. I know that he goes to Mass and he’s interested in things like meditation. I feel he thinks too much about things, he’s very serious. Do you think I should say anything to him, and what should I say? Can you make any suggestions? Many thanks. I'll appreciate any help. God bless. Maudie
Dear Maudie, Thank you for asking an easy question along with the difficult one! There's an easy answer to the easy one. My nephew Ciarán designed and maintains our website. He does that kind of work for a living. Your son can contact him through Ciarán’s own website, "http://www.acorncode.com"
I wish there were an easy answer to the hard question too. Since your son is a serious person, practising his faith while searching into the heart of it, I don’t feel that you need to be worried. Deeply interested, of course, but not worried. Many people make such remarks as his only when they have already abandoned the search, but he is doing it from the inside; and that makes all the difference. It’s remarkable how many of the saints experienced that apparent loss of meaning. It doesn’t mean that they were convinced life had no meaning, but that the ready answers had become inadequate for them. As your son was constantly growing out of his clothes in the earlier part of his life, he is now growing out of the intellectual and religious answers that were adequate for him before.
If there’s anything in the following that you think might help him, you could paste it into an email to him, or print it out, telling him (truthfully!) that you found it on the internet. Don’t forget to edit it. I also wrote something in another page of this site (‘Jacob’s Well’) that may be of some relevance. And the passage from Bede Griffiths in ‘Wisdom Line’ is also related to the theme.
The gospel of John begins with the words, “In the beginning was the word….” In Greek, the language in which it was written, the word for ‘word’ is ‘logos’. But ‘logos’ in Greek has a far wider meaning than ‘word’ in English. ‘Word’, in English, refers usually just to the printed word on the page, or the spoken word in the air. But in Greek, ‘logos’ means in addition ‘meaning’, ‘inner principle’, ‘harmony’…. So you could read it this way, “In the beginning was the Meaning, and the Meaning was with God, and the Meaning was God…. And the Meaning became flesh and lived among us.” The Logos, the Meaning, became flesh - our flesh, our human nature. We are the Body of Christ, as St Paul kept repeating. (Have a look in ‘Jacob’s Well’ for instances of this.) A Christian doesn’t have a meaning; a Christian is the meaning - in Christ.
Does life have a meaning? What is a person looking for when he or she looks for the meaning of life? It can hardly be just a formula of words clipped onto it, some theory, some so-called explanation - like an additional page clipped onto the end of a file. This wouldn’t do justice to the struggle of the saints, nor to the struggle of ordinary Christians through the ages. They were searching for far more than a theory about life, or an explanation. They were seeking to satisfy not just their minds but an unquenchable hunger in their hearts and in their whole being. There are armchair seekers, of course, but they are just curious or clever people, not real seekers. You could say that life does not have a meaning; it is the meaning. Its meaning is not now something external to us, because the Logos has taken flesh in our nature. Its meaning is closer to us than the mind is able to discern.
Better than any other Christian writer St Augustine expressed this aspect of the search in his Confessions, particularly in the much-quoted passage: “Late have I loved you, O Beauty, so ancient and so new, late have I loved you! And behold, you were within me and I was outside….” That 5th-century classic has somehow shaped the thinking of everyone in the Christian tradition who has ever taken seriously the search for God and meaning. Some ‘things’ are hard to see and find, not because they are far away but because they are so near. It is our very thinking that puts them at a distance.
I don’t know what your son might think of that, Maudie. I hope anyway that it won't finish him off altogether! It was his mother’s prayers, interest, and support that sustained St Augustine. Without a doubt it can be the same in your case.