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  • Writer's pictureDr. Anthony Lilles

The Dynamism of Truth's Splendor in Prayer

The splendor of the truth is a mystery discovered by the obedient, and this obedience, explains Saint John Paul II, is not easy. On August 6, 1993, on the very Eve of World Youth Day in Denver Colorado, the Pilgrim Pope proposed anew the Church's moral tradition. He did so precisely because the question about how one should live this life is the question that the Church is sent to help men and women discern. It is a question that opens to and ends in prayer and praise. It is a question that reveals how a human being is simply a work in progress. If we live well, an ever greater freedom and nobility is ours. If we fail our task, we can be trapped in the prison of our own selfishness. The truth contains its own compelling grandeur and its breathtaking horizons, but there is something in us that resists it. In his encyclical, Splendor of the Truth, Saint John Paul connects this to relativism and skepticism. No one can argue that the failure to rise to the occasion is an advancement of human freedom. No one truly believes that doubting the possibility of human greatness makes anyone great. Yet, whenever we allow relativism or skepticism to have a foothold, it is always diminishing for everyone—whether in marriage and family, or in healthcare and services for the most vulnerable, or our schools and places of work, or in our neighborhood and the public square. In an age of banal and odious nihilism, true greatness is realized in the humble recognition of what one ought to do in response to the truth, and the steadfast resolve to do it no matter what even in the face of one's own inadequacies. It is about faithfulness to our friends and to our commitments. It is also about the proper restraint and the readiness to give the benefit of the doubt. It is about vigilant awareness of one's own blindspots and the humility that allows another to help us see what we might have missed. It is about that courage that speaks the truth with love. John Paul II exemplified how such readiness to do what is right cannot be limited by selfish whims or lack of resolve in its devotion. Because he was steadfast in his love, he helped us see this freedom as taken up by Christ on the Cross to become a perfect offering to the Father. The splendor of the truth, the radiance of what we ought to do, raises a great moral (and therefore, an inherently human) question: will we rise to the dignity that has been given us by God, or will we betray ourselves? Progress in human maturity, for an individual and for a society, depends entirely on how this question is answered. This question is addressed in the depths of our hearts. It resounds in the ambiguous circumstances of the world. Resonating with our very being, it makes at once a gentle and irrevocable appeal, causing us to question our judgments and revisit our decisions. Those deaf to this call can be suddenly caught off guard by its beauty, and even those who are vulnerable to its sound never cease to be amazed and challenged.

For a heart vulnerable to this kind of beauty, the gravity of what is at stake draws it out of itself. There is a freedom from "self" when something more wonderful than self-concern has seized a soul. Such a heart discovers the freedom to let go of every blinding bias. Impossible situations cannot thwart its hope. Its resolve and integrity echo more loudly than the cacophony in which it would seem to be engulfed. Under the shadow of truth's splendor, the heart that is attentive has found ground to stand on, and in the shade of this peace, love has a place to make its stand. Silent prayer knows this splendor. The soul that attends to this still small voice knows that to render what this splendor evokes is to be filled with a fullness of life. Such a soul will suffer the truth in silent prayer because it knows that to fall short of the opportunity at hand is to diminish the whole of humanity. Indeed, when the prayerful find a way to be obedient to the appeal of the truth, they have "standing" in the shadow of this splendor—and by their standing magnify a little of heaven's light and warmth in a world that has lost its way.

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