Because of Faith and Reason

If you’re intellectual, if you’re a smart, sophisticated person, you can’t possibly have faith in God, right? We’ve been hearing this for centuries. “Every sect, as far as reason will help them, make use of it gladly; and where it fails them, they cry out, “It is a matter of faith, and above reason.” So said John Locke, English philosopher, political theorist. He founded Empiricism, the school of thought that tell us if we can’t measure something with our senses, it doesn’t exist.

That’s a fable. And this morning brought more proof. I attended the funeral of a man whose career brought him to the forefront of the development of the cable television industry, a man who prayed the rosary with his wife. Donald Patton Buckelew was an engineer who was president of his parish council and who worked with homeless men and battered women. Who brought this man to live among us? How do you measure the love Christ had for him? How do you measure the love Mr. Buckelew showed his neighbors? How do you measure how Christ worked in him and through him?

Mr. Buckelew’s life gave lie to the claim that faith and reason are incompatable, said Msgr. John Mraz of Saint Ann’s Parish in Emmaus, Pennsylvania, who celebrated Mr. Buckelew’s funeral Mass, which was attended by his wife of nearly 57 years, Anna Mae, by his three adult children, his six grandchildren and his great-granddaughter. His daughter-in-law is one of my dearest friends, and Godmother to our oldest son, Gabriel.

It was good for our boys to learn that a man who embraced technological change he encountered also embraced our Lord. Christ infuses our world, the reality we inhabit every day. In 1998, Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Fides et Ratio (Faith and Reason), 12 years in the making, explored the relationship between the two. “Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word, to know himself—so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves.”

One of Mr. Buckelew’s granddaughters read this passage from Saint Paul during his funeral Mass.

What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? As it is written: For your sake we are being slain all the day; we are looked upon as sheep to be slaughtered. No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us. 

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Mr. Buckelew, a child of the Great Depression, was 78 when he died on Tuesday. He was a U.S. Navy veteran who during his lifetime experienced sweeping technological change and unshakable faith. As Msgr. Mraz reminded those of us attending the funeral Mass, we are just travelers in this world; it’s a proving ground and our true home is heaven. Saint Paul, a prisoner of the Romans, wrote

“Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body by the power that enables him also to bring all things into subjection to himself.”

May Donald Patton Buckelew’s soul and the souls of all the departed faithful, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

  • Hypatia

    I don't know if in America you're familiar with the name of John Polkinghorne, who was Professor of Mathematical Physics at Cambridge (England)before stepping down from academia to become an Anglican priest. Throughout his life and work he has had no problem at all in believing that science and religion address the same underlying reality, much to the apoplectic rage of those who would prefer to view the universe through the monocle of God-free empiricism. He wryly notes that he is generally treated with the same suspicion as 'a vegetarian butcher'!The ability to hold two seemingly opposing viewpoints cannot be tackled through the application of logic. It reminds me of my children's claims when younger that, although too full to finish off their main course at dinner, they could manage dessert because 'there was a separate place for pudding'. Two separate areas of appreciation in one body…..hmmm…..out of the mouths of babes and innocents!

  • Mark and Mary Ellen

    Allison:Thanks so much for your beautiful Tribute to Dad. It is truly a privilege to have such talented and sensitive friends like you.Your reference to Pope John Paul II's quote about faith and reason as two wings bring back the vision of the white doves flying off at the end of Dad's funeral on Saturday.Dad often commented that his favorite bird was the crow because of it's intelligence. The image of the white dove (faith and spirit) and the black crow (reason and intelligence) bookend so nicely with the ideas bring to light here.To Hypatia's comment: I believe it is the ability to bring together, grasp and communicate two opposing ideas that distinguishes us as human, of being able to understand logic and spirit as one thing.Thanks again Allison.Mark Buckelew

  • Allison

    @Hypatia: I am not familiar with Prof. Polkinghorne. Are there writings of his available? He sounds like a fascinating man.And I love your anecdote about your children. Thanks so much for sharing.Blessings to you

  • Allison

    @Mark: That crow/dove imagery is amazing.Please know I lifted your dad up in prayer yesterday at Mass, as well as his family here on earth. My love to you all.