The forgotten value
Florence Allshorn

There was a mystery before which you could only stand like a child wondering. A child, who sees for the first time or hears someone who knows more than he does and listening, never questions. After all, our knowledge of God can be little more than the fantasy of an ignorant child. And the question is: ‘Do you believe Jesus Christ was the Word, the Truth, or do you believe only the reasonable word of the brain? Do you think he saw further behind the facade of things than the earthly mind, or do you think he was living in a realm of fantasy himself?’ It is the crucial question and, unless you answer, it is impossible to believe. Everything that is evil, cruel and corrupt rises up to defeat you when you face that most difficult-to-believe statement: ‘God so loved the world.’

There is a revolt of human pride against God. We have fallen sick over values. The saints met just such a sickness, and they pulled it right by insisting with all that was in them that God was the most important thing in the Universe. They wrote this fundamental truth in letters a yard high so that people couldn’t side-step seeing what they were doing. They told us in most certain voices of that central and easily forgotten truth that we exist for God – the value people have forgotten.

Every time when the Church has failed to hold true to that supreme value, it has been the saints, the remnant, who have brought back the norm. When Benedict went into his mountain retreat near Subiaco he did what most of us would have called an ‘escape’; what he really did was to take a band of laymen, and because God had been pushed into the background and was being written small in the contemporary world, he put him in the foreground and wrote him large.

We need not approve their choice, yet we must grasp their motive, for it is the turn of the remnant again – who can doubt it? They were defenders of the norm, upholding laws which they considered more fundamental than those the world was upholding. They came to be called the ‘Fathers of Europe’ and they kept the world of their time stable and sane.

The world is faced with bad news, and yet there is a great Christian Church which is the custodian of good news; there is the Church’s awakened evangelistic concern, and the world’s bewildered groping for the light, and yet they seem to pass each other in the dark. It was just such a bewildered man facing this situation, a young RAF pilot, who said to a Christian, ‘Don’t try to help me or preach to me, or tell me what I ought to think yet. Don’t work for my salvation, show me yours, show me it is possible, and the knowledge that something works will give me courage and belief in mine.’

That is all we are asked to do at the moment, and nothing less will do.

From the Notebooks of Florence Allshorn, founder of the St Julian’s Community ND