Page 6, 7th January 1972

7th January 1972
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Page 6, 7th January 1972 — Laying down a bold blueprint for true ecumenism
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Organisations: US Federal Reserve
People: Jean Maxwell

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Laying down a bold blueprint for true ecumenism

The End of Religion. Autobiographical Explorations by Dom Aelred Graham (Harcourt Brace Novanovich Inc. £2.25) ON the theory of not preaching to the converted, it could he said that 'The End of Religion' should he commended less to the young (who will read it anyway) than to those on the other side of the generation gap. Dom Aelred Graham's spiritual climate is one already elected by the questing. "religious" of today's youth. But, although many middle-aged and elderly Christians are blessed with some measure of Dorn Aelred's own fluidity and open-ness of mind and heart, to many others this

searching, self penetrating chronicle will appear as challenging and disconcerting as they found Teilhard a decade back. More so: for Dom Aelred, though profoundly scholarly, offers no palaeontological or other "obscurities" to excuse incomprehension. The most defensive disclaimer of intellectual appreciation would be disarmed by his clarity— and absorbed by his journeyings, physical and spiritual.

Nonetheless, it could be hard going for Catholics fed from infancy on such unpalatable but obediently digested absolutes as "extra ecclesiam nulla salus" and now gallantly wrenching their thinking toward ecumenical concepts. Who can blame them for still preferring the 'security' of

static certainties to the openspace hazards of objective search for truth? The chapterheading, 'Is Christianity Enough?' alone could cause discomfort; yet if they read it, what more reassuring expression of Christian humility could they find than ". . . my kind of Christianity is not enough: I must have no sense of superiority or exclusiveness toward anyone."? Indeed, it is evident throughout his book that Dom Aelred is, as he says, a loyal and affectionate sun of the Church that formed him. His explorations of other great religions —which led him to invaluable encounters with eminent Buddhist and Hindu teachers. including the rare experience of an audience with the Dalai Lama—have not only immeasurably widened his understanding of real ecumenism but also enriched and reinforced his love of his own Order.

Recognition of the need to incorporate into the Christian virtues — prudence, justice, courage, moderation—the more characteristically Eastern counterparts—friendliness, compassion, joy, equanimity — provides Dom Aelred with the blueprint for true ecumenism. And for true empathy: in Walt Whitman's words. "I do not ask the wounded person how he feels, I myself become the wounded person."

Dom Aelred applies to his autobiography what Newman said of his Apologia: "I have done various hold things in my life; this is the boldest." Bold it is, in its honesty and fearless frontier-breaching . . . and in its enviable candour. How liberating to hear from so respectable a voice what many of us would fear to murmur: "When anyone mentions Vatican II or Church 'renewal,' I find it hard to respond with more than a flicker of interest"!

Jean Maxwell




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