For a culture to be founded upon true principles, it is necessary that it contain exact notions concerning the perfection of man—be it in the powers of the soul or in the relations of the soul with the body—and concerning the means by which it ought to attain this perfection, the obstacles it may encounter, and so on.
It is easy to see that culture, thus understood, must be entirely nourished by the doctrinal sap of the true Religion. For it belongs to the true Religion to teach us in what man’s perfection consists, the ways to attain it, and the obstacles opposed to it. And Our Lord Jesus Christ, the ineffable personification of all perfection, is thus the embodiment, the sublime model, the focus, the vigor, the life, the glory, the standard, and the delight of true culture.
This is to say that true culture can only be based on the true Religion, and that only from the spiritual atmosphere created by the interrelationship of profoundly Catholic souls can the perfect culture be born, as the dew is formed in the sound and vivacious atmosphere of the early morning.
This is also demonstrated in the light of other considerations. We said above that man is susceptible to the influence of all he sees with the eyes of the body or the soul. All the natural marvels with which God filled the universe are made so that the human soul, considering them, may refine itself. But the realities that transcend the senses are intrinsically more admirable than the sensible ones. And if the contemplation of a flower, a star, or a droplet of water can refine man, how much more the contemplation of that which the Church teaches us concerning God, His angels, His saints, paradise, grace, eternity, providence, hell, evil, the devil, and so many other truths? On earth, the image of Heaven is the Holy Church, God’s masterpiece. The consideration of the Church, her dogmas, her sacraments, her institutions, is for this very reason a supreme element of human refinement. A man born in the tunnels of some mine, who never sees the light of day, would lose a precious, perhaps even capital, element of cultural enrichment. He who does not know the Church, of which the sun is naught but a pallid figure in the most literal sense of the word, loses much culturally.
But there is more. The Church is the Mystical Body of Christ. In her circulates grace, coming to us through the infinitely precious Redemption of Our Lord Jesus Christ. By grace men are elevated to participation in the very life of the Most Holy Trinity. It suffices to say this in order to affirm the incomparable element of culture the Church gives us by opening the doors of the supernatural order. Therefore, the highest ideal of culture is contained in God’s Holy Church.
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