Fr. Paul Scalia, son of late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, joined SiriusXM host Alex Marlow on Tuesday’s Breitbart News Daily to talk about his new book, That Nothing May Be Lost: Reflections on Catholic Doctrine and Devotion.
Scalia said he assembled his book from two decades’ worth of essays at a providential moment when “truth and Catholic doctrine [are] being neglected” by American culture.
“I think it’s timely precisely because people don’t regard truth enough,” he said. “They’re not devoted to it enough. In fact, they even see it as somehow a threat to them. The major theme in my book is that the truth of Christ and the truth the Catholic Church teaches is not confining or enslaving. It doesn’t threaten us, but it actually brings us true freedom, true fulfillment, and peace.”
Scalia said his book “answers the question of: ‘How does God’s life get to us?’”
“Jesus Christ makes some fairly serious demands on us, in terms of morality. In fact, the Gospel for today’s Mass is, ‘You must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.’ So this is more than just sort of being nice people. We’re called to sanctity,” he explained.
“How does that happen? How do we live the demands of the Gospel, except by way of the grace of Christ? How does that come to us? It comes to us through the sacraments, beginning in baptism. It comes to us by way of these ceremonies that have a physical component, and, obviously, a spiritual component,” he said.
“They also have a communal component,” Scalia continued. “These are sacraments of the Church – they are things that are received together. These are the channels of grace. These are the means by which the life of Christ is imparted to us so that we can live His life and so that we can live according to His commands. It would have been cruel of Him to have given the commands that He did, and to call us to the kind of life that He’s called us, if He did not at the same time grant to us the grace to live what He requires.”
“That is why the sacraments are so important – because it’s how Christ’s life gets to us. This gets to the heart of what it means to be a Christian, which is not just to go and do nice deeds, on the hope that we’re being nice to people and we’re being kind and all that. To be a Christian really means to continue the life of Christ in the world. That can’t be done apart from the sacraments,” he said.
Marlow asked Scalia if non-Catholics would benefit from reading his book.
“There is a lot in there, and I’ve thought this for a while. This is not just for a Catholic audience,” Scalia replied. “First of all, there is a lot in there that’s common to all Christians, not exclusively Catholics. Second, I wrote all of these with a view to explaining the faith more and drawing people to the faith more. I think those who are curious about the Catholic faith – whether just out of an intellectual curiosity or with a view perhaps to becoming Catholic – I think this is just kind of a nice, gentle entry into it.”
“As I say in the introduction, I’m not breaking any new ground theologically. What’s in the book is sort of the meat and potatoes of Catholic life. I think it gives a fair and rather simple and accessible presentation of the Catholic faith,” he said.
Marlow and Scalia discussed the importance of having a “continuous conversation with God,” rather than turning to prayer only at moments of great peril or gratitude. Scalia pointed to a line in the catechism of the Catholic Church, St. Paul’s exhortation to prayer, which says: “In order to pray always, or at all times, we need to pray at some times.”
“That continuous dialog with the Lord, it’s really brought into meaning by having occasional conversations with Him,” Scalia elaborated. “A friend of mine describes it as sort of power lines. In order for the power lines to go from one point to another, you have to have the poles at various intervals. It doesn’t do much good to have a pole every two miles. The power line can’t reach that. It’s a good image of the prayer life. These intervals are what keep us in sync with the Lord and in that conversation.”
“This is the meat and potatoes of Catholic devotion, to take various moments throughout the day to just pause and turn one’s attention to God, and maybe say a certain set prayer, or just one’s own spontaneous prayer, but having those set times at which we do stop what we’re doing, set it aside, and turn our attention to God,” he said.
“That way, when we return to what we’re doing, whatever ordinary activity with the family, at work, wherever, we’re more conscious of His presence there. Increasingly, we’re doing everything in union with Him at all times. Those periodic pauses to pray, those occasions help to buttress and to continue that constant conversation with the Lord,” said Scalia.
He described the spiritual state of the country as “confused.”
“Man will always have a spiritual yearning,” Scalia observed. “God has created us to yearn for Him, and to seek Him. We’re hardwired, if you will, that way. We will always be yearning spiritually. The reason that it’s confused now is, as I said before, we pushed truth and doctrine and organized religion to the side. We say those things sort of get in the way. But that’s wrong.”
“You’ve got charlatans throughout history who can mislead people,” he noted. “But this spiritual yearning every person has, it needs truth in order to be guided accurately. If it’s not, it’s really like an unguided missile. That spiritual yearning is launched, or rather it launches us. If it doesn’t have something to guide that, then it becomes a very dangerous thing.”
“I think a lot of the spiritual yearning now is just turned elsewhere,” Scalia proposed. “For some reason, we think that Christianity is not tenable or our nation really did not have this view of the importance of religion, the importance of God, and so the spiritual yearning is turned, I think, a lot of times, into the secular. A lot of times people can make a god out of the secular world, out of politics, out of the economy or whatever else, and try to find salvation in those things. I think that’s where we are most confused about this yearning that we all have.”
Marlow and Scalia both referred to G.K. Chesterton’s famed observation: “When men choose not to believe in God, they do not thereafter believe in nothing; they then become capable of believing in anything.”
“The American founding is based on a concept that there is something true about the human person,” Scalia pointed out. “The Founders were not Catholic, and some of them were actually quite hostile to the Catholic Church, but this is the common patrimony of Christianity, and I would say the Judeo-Christian tradition. There is something true about the human person, and from that truth arises, first of all, our obligations, but then also our rights.”
“What we’re seeing now is a confusion about the truth of the human person, and in many places, a denial that there is anything true about being human. What faith proposes is that, yes, there is something true about being human, and that unites all of us: our common human nature, what used to be called the brotherhood of man. When we have a concept that there is something true about the human person, then we can construct a society around that,” he argued.
“But if we deny that truth, then it’s every man for himself. Whoever has the most power wins. That’s why Pope Benedict, prior to becoming pope, wrote The Dictatorship of Relativism. Once truth is rejected, then it’s just a matter of power, and whoever has more power gets to set the rules. But when we have common truth to appeal to, then even the powerless have a voice because they can point to what is true,” said Scalia.
Marlow asked Scalia to tease something in That Nothing May Be Lost that readers will find surprising. He pointed to his writing on “the paradox of the faith.”
“Paradox is a way to truth and greater devotion,” Scalia explained. “I point that out because I think a lot of people will run into seeming contradictions in the life of faith, and when they run into them, those can be difficult. People confuse difficulty for doubt, and so they stop there. Instead of grappling with these things and trying to understand them more and show reverence for the mystery of what God has revealed, people just kind of stop because they think they’re doubting. But really what’s happened is, they’ve run into difficulty.”
“Paradoxes really are the way for us to grow, when we grapple with them and try to understand them more,” he said. “That, I think, is the most surprising thing in the book because it’s the most surprising thing in faith.”
Breitbart News Daily airs on SiriusXM Patriot 125 weekdays from 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. Eastern.