Maritain on Catholic Action, part 2

The second thing Maritain observes about Catholic action is that it will overcome the “separatism and dualism which have reigned too long in the Christian world.” Modernity has fractured life: “the Christian world obeyed two opposed rhythms, a Christian rhythm in matters of worship and religion, and, at least among better men, in things of the interior life; and a naturalistic rhythm in things of  the profane life, the social, economic and political life, things too long abandoned to their proper carnal law.” An “organic and vital unity” must be restored. Maritain argued against the dualism and separatism from the beginning of his career. Catholic action is a “precious sign” and actually “efficacious” of the restoration.

Pope John Paul II gives an example of this restoration of the unity of faith and life in his letter to the Americas:

“On a continent marked by competition and aggressiveness, unbridled consumerism and corruption, lay people are called to embody deeply evangelical values such as mercy, forgiveness, honesty, transparency of heart and patience in difficult situations. What is expected from the laity is a great creative effort in activities and works demonstrating a life in harmony with the Gospel.” (Ecclesia in America #44)

Pope Pius XI called Catholic Action the “apple of his eye.” The Fathers at Vatican II challenged Christians to overcome the split between faith and life.  Maritain’s remarks on Catholic Action help us to understand the continuity of the Church’s attempt to engage secular and modern culture from within..

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