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Vincent of Lérins

Believed Everywhere, Always, and by All?

Vincent of Lérins

The “Canon of St Vincent” is often quoted (especially the part I have put in bold italics):

in the Catholic Church itself, all possible care must be taken, that we hold that faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all (Quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est). For that is truly and in the strictest sense Catholic, which, as the name itself and the reason of the thing declare, comprehends all universally.

This is from Chapter 4 of the Fifth-Century Commonitorium. A “canon” is a standard, a measuring rod against which things are measured.

When people quote this line, they often go on to denigrate someone who does not conform to their opinion of what “has been believed everywhere, always, by all” as a “Cafeteria Christian”, picking and choosing his or her own plate of what s/he will hold to and what s/he will leave to one side.

But it is time to come clean. It is difficult to impossible to make much of a list that “has been believed everywhere, always, by all“. We are all Cafeteria Christians, picking and choosing from the thousands of cafeterias (read “denominations”) available to us (Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican, Mormon, Adventists, Jehovah Witnesses, …)… picking and choosing which papal teachings we will follow, which Bible verses will be our canon-within-the-canon, which scientific approaches will be the lenses through which we look at our faith…

I can see three ways forward:
1) A bit more humility: we might be wrong; I might be wrong…
2) A deeper acknowledgement that the mystery we call “God” may lie more beyond our mental reach
3) A greater acceptance that our different belief “signposts” might ultimately point to the same mystery, and that the mystery we call “God” is multifaceted.

What do you think?

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2 thoughts on “Believed Everywhere, Always, and by All?”

  1. The thing is, Bosco, “believed by most people most of the time in most places” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it!

    But something like that does distinguish us from JWs, Mormons, does it not?

    1. Yes, Peter. But it also would distinguish all Christians from what has been “believed by most people most of the time in most places”. Blessings.

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