- Each month the team working on this catechism presents you
with two texts, and we hope that with your help and cooperation
they will improve. Any suggestions you may have would be most
welcome, as would ideas on subject matter.
- We look forward to hearing from you.
What is the soul? A classic in the queries of catechism. The
answer tries to make a distinction in human being of a spiritual
part created by God, the soul, and a material part coming from
our parents, the body. It is certain that a human being cannot
be reduced to the materiality of his body. For a human being,
the conscience of himself, his thoughts, his will, the liberty
that he can exhibit, his own feelings, all these are of a different
order than the organs and the functions of the body. It is understandable
that the philosophers of the Antiquity insisted on the duality
of a human being, this opinion was passed on to the Christian
world. With this view, the spiritual soul is pure and the body
is impure, the soul is the center for the highest virtues like
the will, the ability to go towards the good, then it has to
govern the body and it has to be free of the body, the soul is
seen as good and the body bad. It is the soul which makes man
in the image of God, it is why it is immortal while the body
is mortal, death being the separation of the two.
Such a language does not correspond anymore to the way we think
and that we experience. We know that some lost their intelligence
and memory without being dead. The existence of animals raises
questions. What makes them die? Would they have a soul? Their
conscience and their ability to communicate are better known.
Where the human being is specific? In the Bible neither the concept
of a soul is clear. Several words are used for this immaterial
principle: life, heart, breath
One thing is certain, there
is no opposition between the soul and the body but on the contrary
a unity of the person.
Shall we go further and ask if the very question of the soul
is a good question? In fact a person is his body. He does not
exist without his nerve cells that allow him to think. He does
not exist without being able to recognize his close relatives
and then to know who he is. The body is not only a tool serving
a thinking spirit. It is not the envelope of the soul. He is
the ability to communicate, to have links with the others; he
is capable of love. Without all this a person does not exist.
It is another logic of the human existence than the logic of
creating an all made person, coming from nowhere. It is a course
during which a person becomes himself. His identity is built
through the links with the others and with the world.
Christian faith is not opposed to this way of looking at a human
being. It tells us that God became man, he took the face and
the body of a man in Jesus Christ. And it is that body that God
has risen after Jesus death on a cross. It is the guarantee of
our own resurrection. We believe, the Christians say in the Credo,
in the resurrection of the flesh. The question of how is not
known, but the Christian hope is really a resurrection of the
person in his whole.