Interview with Pater Edmund Waldstein OCist – Looking at the Deepest Desires of Your Heart

As there were some messages concerning the interview with – Roman Catholic – Pater Edmund on the blog I can let you know that there will be of course soon interviews with members of other religious communities. The next will be the Protestants as my friend doctor Gisela Heldt is a Protestant and a very active member in her community. I am a Catholic and this is one of the reasons why I started with Pater Edmund and asked him this time: Can you explain me why you are a Catholic?


A: To say that I come from a devoutly Catholic milieu hardly begins to capture it. An aunt of mine once said that in our family being Catholic is like being Jewish — you couldn’t get out even if you wanted to. It’s not just that everyone in my family for generations has been Catholic; it’s how Catholic they have been. Both of my parents are Catholic theologians, of the sort whose loyalty to the Magisterium seems to be in the marrow of their bones. My father has been an expert on various Vatican commissions. My late American grandfather, Philip Burnham, was an editor of a journal of religion, and my Austrian grandfather, Wolfgang Waldstein, is a traditionalist Catholic jurist who has been quoted by Pope Benedict XVI. My Austrian grandmother is (if possible) even more devout than her husband, and my late American grandmother was pretty much the most devoutly Catholic person I have ever met. And it’s not just that I come from a highly Catholic milieu; it’s that I’ve never left it.

Q: Now I want to ask you once again to find an answer or even a solution to a problem. There is somebody severely ill. The person was never religious, she or he was agnostic or atheistic. How can she or he find the way to God? This question relates to what Dr Gisela Heldt always says: one has to believe in anything, especially when you suffer from a severe illness.

Photo: Stift Heiligenkreuz

Photo: Stift Heiligenkreuz

A: Certainly faith has been of great help to many persons in struggling with illness and other difficulties. Think of Alcoholics Anonymous, and the idea of appealing to a “higher power.” One can learn a lot from people such as recovered alcoholics and their experience of faith. But as human beings I think we have to be devoted to the truth, even if it turns out to be a sad truth. So I think it is important to make an honest search for the truth. To look honestly at the world, at one’s own experience, and at the deepest desires of one’s heart, and not to be prematurely certain that one has everything figured out. I believe in God not principally because it helps me make it through life (though it certainly does), but because I think it is really true that there is a reality that transcends this sensible world. But being able to believe that truth has a lot to do with habits of thought, and presuppositions that one has to examine. Is atheism really the best explanation for my experience of reality? Or is there something more …?

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