Sanity and Sanctity

By Engr. Carlos Cornejo

Sanity is defined as being in a right mind.  It can also mean as having a rational or reasonable behavior.  In short it is using more our head rather than our heart or our feelings.  Sanctity on the other hand is holiness or saintliness.  It is associated with seeking sanctity or trying to become a saint.

These two terms are actually synonymous.  Seeking sanctity or trying to become a saint is the sanest thing we can do.  It is the most reasonable thing to do because it means trying to achieve goodness to a highest degree because that is the calling of our nature as humans.  Philosophy teaches us that we call a car good if it functions well and serve its purpose of transporting people from one place to another without breaking down or with no hitches.  A human being will likewise function well if it practices good acts.

Sanctity as sanity can be well more defined if we analyze what sin is.  Sin which is commonly defined as a violation of God’s commandments is also defined as a word, deed or thought that goes against right reason.  Here’s how the Catechism of the Catholic Church defines sin, “Sin is an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience; it is failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods. It wounds the nature of man and injures human solidarity. It has been defined as “an utterance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law.”  (CCC, 1849) First, any violation against God’s commandments is a violation of our human nature because the commandments are based on human nature.  That is why the commandments are also called the natural moral law.  The word ‘natural’ here means it is based on nature or man’s nature.  And man’s moral nature is to do good and avoid evil.  If man violates the Ten Commandments he therefore goes against his nature.

Second, by proving that all sins go against reason, let’s look at what happens in the aftermath of sin.  When we feel guilt for having done something wrong it is usually because of having gone against our conscience and also because we also realize the foolishness of our action.  This happens especially if we have done something very wrong such as insulting another person out of burst of anger for example.  When we come to our senses, we often say to ourselves, “Why the heck did I do that?” or say, “That was so stupid of me doing that!”  It only means that all wrongdoings are irrational in nature.

Dr. Peter Kreeft would say that we people are often times morally insane.  We know that it is wrong and yet we do it.  This is the after effect of original sin within us that makes our passion (or feelings) go haywire and obscures our right reason.  It doesn’t mean we are totally incapable of choosing the good, but it just makes seeing and the doing the good harder.

Morality is not something that is hard to know but hard to do.  God has placed His law within our hearts.  St. Paul wrote about this in his letter to the Romans, that minus the knowledge of the Ten Commandments the non-Jews or Gentiles are judged by God based on their conscience.  “Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law.  They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them. This will take place on the day when God judges people’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.”  (Romans 2:14-16)

We get to know the law of God even before we get to know God.  This tells us how important morality is to God.  God does not mind not being known right away because God knows that if we just follow our right reason, or always doing the right thing, it will just be a matter of time of knowing the right God.  This is the basis for the Catholic Church’s teaching that people can still go to heaven without knowing Christ through no fault of their own provided that they follow the natural moral law written in their hearts.  People in the far-flung isolated places of Africa who belong to a tribe and who have not heard of Christ will be judged upon death based on how they have followed their conscience.