Curiosity

This past Monday Pope Francis, in his daily Mass homily, asked that Christians beg God for the grace to be able discern between good and bad curiosities and to open their hearts to the Holy Spirit.

In Monday’s Gospel (Jn 14:21-26), St. Jude the Apostle posed a question to Jesus at the Last Supper: “Master, then what happened that You will reveal Yourself to us and not to the world?” The pope described this question and the resulting response from Jesus as a “dialogue between curiosity and certainty.”

The Holy Father said that Jude’s question reflected a healthy curiosity, like that of children who ask questions because they are trying to figure out why things are the way they are. This can develop into a “contemplative curiosity,” the pope said, “because children see, contemplate, do not understand and ask.”

An example of bad curiosity which the pope condemned was gossip, including being nosy about the lives of other people. This is not limited to children; rather it “accompanies us all our lives. It is a temptation that we will always have, to inquire about things which we have no right to know.”

Without citing the old TV show “Hogan’s Heroes,” the pope essentially said that at times we need to imitate the attitude of Sgt. Schultz. Pope Francis said that we should repeat to ourselves, “I’m not asking that, I’m not looking at that, I don’t want that.”  

Children can stumble across bad curiosity via cell phones and the Internet, where the can encounter “many evil things. There is no discipline in that curiosity,” the pope warned and he lamented that many people become “prisoners of this curiosity.”

Meanwhile, the Apostles’ curiosity at the Last Supper about the future was a good one and Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit, Who would satisfy their longings for truth.

The “Catechism of the Catholic Church,” at #2522, advises us: “Modesty protects the mystery of persons and their love. It encourages patience and moderation in loving relationships; it requires that the conditions for the definitive giving and commitment of man and woman to one another be fulfilled. Modesty is decency. It inspires one’s choice of clothing. It keeps silence or reserve where there is evident risk of unhealthy curiosity. It is discreet.” This virtue of modesty helps us to overcome unhealthy curiosity about other people. 

Our human curiosity also is directed at Jesus. At paragraph 514 of the “CCC,” it is written, “Many things about Jesus of interest to human curiosity do not figure in the Gospels. Almost nothing is said about His hidden life at Nazareth, and even a great part of His public life is not recounted. What is written in the Gospels was set down there ‘so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name’” (Jn 20:31). Here our curiosity is not evil — although if we just focus on trying to find answers to these questions, instead of believing in Jesus and truly living in Him, then we are wasting the limited time we have on earth.

At paragraph 2115, the “CCC” advises us, “God can reveal the future to His prophets or to other saints. Still, a sound Christian attitude consists in putting oneself confidently into the hands of Providence for whatever concerns the future, and giving up all unhealthy curiosity about it. Improvidence, however, can constitute a lack of responsibility.” That last sentence warns us against doing nothing to prepare for the future, while trusting in God’s Providence means not demanding that God give us a road map for the future.

The following paragraph in the “Catechism” tells us, “All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to ‘unveil’ the future. Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm-reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone.”

Pope Pius XII in his encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu, said about the Bible: “For the Sacred Books were not given by God to men to satisfy their curiosity or to provide them with material for study and research, but, as the Apostle observes, in order that these Divine Oracles might ‘instruct us to Salvation, by the faith which is in Christ Jesus’ and ‘that the man of God may be perfect, furnished to every good work’” (2 Tim. 3:15, 17).

St. Pius X, founder of the Diocese of Fall River, said in his encyclical Pascendi Dominici Gregis, that the sin of modernism was rooted in bad curiosity. “The remote causes seem to us to be reduced to two: curiosity and pride. Curiosity by itself, if not prudently regulated, suffices to explain all errors. Such is the opinion of Our Predecessor, Gregory XVI, who wrote: ‘A lamentable spectacle is that presented by the aberrations of human reason when it yields to the spirit of novelty, when against the warning of the Apostle it seeks to know beyond what it is meant to know, and when relying too much on itself it thinks it can find the fruit outside the Church wherein truth is found without the slightest shadow of error” (Encycl. Singulari nos, 1834).

We do not want curiosity to kill us cats (especially Spiritually). To paraphrase Dave Jolivet on page 13, we want to be good dogs, faithful to our Master Jesus, Who does not feed us scraps of information, but rather all the messages of love that we would ever need.


© 2018 The Anchor and Anchor Publishing   †   Fall River, Massachusetts