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A.G. Sertillanges on Urgent Thoughtfulness

The Intellectual Life: Its Spirit, Conditions, Methods (CUA Press: 1987), pp. 14-15.

Here I am … living in a time of permanent drama, witnessing upheavals such as perhaps the globe never before saw since the mountains rose and the seas were driven into their caverns. What have I to do for this panting, palpitating century? More than ever before thought is waiting for men, and men for thought. The world is in danger for lack of life-giving maxims. We are in a train rushing ahead at top speed, no signals visible. The planet is going it knows not where, its law has failed it: who will give it back its sun?

All this is not intended to narrow down the field of intellectual research and to confine it to exclusively religious study. … I have already said that every truth is practical, that every truth has a saving power. But I am indicating a spirit, and this spirit, both in general and because of what is opportune at the present time excludes mere dilettantism.

It also excludes a certain archaeological tendency, a love of the past which turns away from present suffering, an esteem for the past which seems not to recognize the universal presence of God. Every age is not as good as every other, but all ages are Christian ages, and there is one which for us, and in practice, surpasses them all: our own. In view of it are our inborn resources, our graces of today and tomorrow, and consequently the efforts that we must make in order to correspond with them.

Let us not be like those people who always seem to be pallbearers at the funeral of the past. Let us utilize, by living, the qualities of the dead. Truth is ever new. Like the grass of morning, moist with glistening dew, all the old virtues are waiting to spring up afresh.