Friedrich von Hügel: On Christianity's Diseases and Aberrations
Excesses or defects are no reason to reject Christianity
Friedrich von Hügel1, alongside Francis de Sales and François Fénelon, holds a special place among my favorite Spiritual Directors. His warmth is contagious. In this letter, he helps his niece understand that Christianity’s defects are not a reason to reject it. This resonates with me since I often find myself disillusioned with disgraced Christian figures and institutional structures. In the final paragraph, he gives his niece the secret to finding God. Enjoy. And I’d love to hear from you in the comments.
I find I can scribble a bit this afternoon, so I will write you a letter, Dear. You gave me no coming address, so I will just send this to Friendly Green, where you may still be. At least, they will forward all right, I do not doubt…
I well understand what you feel about religion, suffering and caring. But please notice carefully, and for a general principle of wise judgment, that religion, on its human side, in so far as it is a human activity – is subject to excesses and defects, to diseases and aberrations more or less special to itself but which no more prove anything against religion at its best – religion as it is on God's side – than do the corresponding excesses and defects, deflections and diseases of Art, of Science, of Politics, of Marriage, prove aught against these kinds of life and of reality, taken at their best and in their intendedness on God's síde...
...But as to God, we can, indeed, be very sure of Him ... And we can, we do, gain vivid experience of Him, if only we will die, die, day and night, to self. We can thus increasingly apprehend Him - can know really about Him, the head, the source of all reality and of all sense of reality. But we cannot encircle Him, map Him out, exhaustively explain Him.2
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Friedrich von Hügel, a devout Christian, was an influential figure in the early 20th century. Born into a noble Austrian family, he devoted his life to theological study and promoting Christian values. With his warm personality and open-mindedness, he attracted a wide range of followers and held engaging discussions on faith, spirituality, and social issues. Despite his privileged background, von Hügel championed social justice and advocated for the marginalized. His insightful writings and lectures continue to inspire Christians around the world, making him a beloved figure in Christian theology and philosophy.
Von Hugel, Friedrich. Letters to a Niece. Vatican City: Regent College Publishing, 2001.