The Guéranger Blog

Welcome to the Gueranger Blog! You have stumbled across the notebook I use to record my thoughts as I read through Dom Prosper Gueranger's 15-volume set, The Liturgical Year. I do not have any special expertise in liturgy, but I have some general knowledge of Catholic theology and an enthusiasm for Gueranger's magnum opus. Think of it as the Liturgical Year fan site!

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What to say about Mark the Evangelist?

Canisius | 25 April, 2006 17:24

Dom Gueranger's entry for the feast of Mark the Evangelist is rich with lively details, including Mark's method of writing the Gospel, where he preached, what institutions he founded, and even a vision given to Mark on the eve of his death. I cannot vouch for the historical accuracy of everything Dom Gueranger says, but his is an account steeped in tradition.

Fresh from a pleasant Gueranger session, I hopped in the car this morning and turned on the radio. A woman's voice was beginning the "Saint of the Day" entry, published by a Franciscan radio company. Here's the gist of what she said: we know that Mark wrote the oldest and shortest of the gospels, and that he probably was in Rome at some point, and we know that there are one or two Marks mentioned in the New Testament that might be the same person as Mark the Evangelist, but beyond that we know basically nothing about him.

Did you catch the discrepancy there? All the glowing traditions Dom Gueranger records are passed over in silence as historically discreditable: tradition is simply not a source of information about Mark. But we "know" that Mark wrote the oldest gospel! In other words, the scholarly theory that Mark wrote first has the status of established fact, while the most ancient of traditions about the man are not worth mentioning.

Frankly, I would be less bugged if the "Saint of the Day" person had simply said that we don't know anything about the author of Mark's Gospel. If she wants to discredit everybody across the board, there's something to be said for a critical (if hyper-suspicious) mind. But as it stands, the radio blurb betrayed an attitude common today: quasi-religious faith in the theories of modern scholarship and irrational fear of believing tradition.

To repeat: I can't say that all those marvelous traditions are true. I can't say that we should believe them all. But I do know that an excessive fear of being wrong is crippling in the pursuit of truth, and that an excessive fear of being perceived as gullible by a rationalistic modernity is even more crippling. To paraphrase an old saying, better to have believed and erred than never to have believed at all.


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