In this masterfully written book, Tomáš Halík calls upon Christians to touch the wounds of the world and to rediscover their own faith by loving and healing their neighbors.
One of the most important voices in contemporary Catholicism, Tomáš Halík argues that Christians can discover the clearest vision of God not by turning away from suffering but by confronting it. Halík calls upon us to follow the apostle Thomas’s example: to see the pain, suffering, and poverty of our world and to touch those wounds with faith and action. It is those expressions of love and service, Halík reveals, that restore our hope and the courage to live, allowing true holiness to manifest itself. Only face-to-face with a wounded Christ can we lay down our armor and masks, revealing our own wounds and allowing healing to begin.
Weaving together deep theological and philosophical reflections with surprising, trenchant, and even humorous commentary on the times in which we live, Halík offers a new prescription for those lost in moments of doubt, abandonment, or suffering. Rather than demanding impossible, flawless faith, we can look through our doubt to see, touch, and confront the wounds in the hearts of our neighbors and—through that wounded humanity, which the Son of God took upon himself—see God.
Preface to the English-language Edition
The Gate of the Wounded
A Torn Veil
A Dancing God
Worshiping the Lamb
Stigmata and Forgiveness
Knocking on the Wall
A Little Place for Truth
Veronica and the Imprint of the Face
The Last Beatitude
Tomáš Halík is a Czech Roman Catholic priest, philosopher, theologian, and scholar. He is a professor of sociology at Charles University in Prague, pastor of the Academic Parish of St. Salvator Church in Prague, president of the Czech Christian Academy, and a winner of the Templeton Prize. His previous books with University of Notre Dame Press, I Want You to Be (2016, 2019) and From the Underground Church to Freedom (2019), were selected as the Foreword Reviews’ INDIES Book of the Year Awards in Philosophy and in Religion, respectively.
Gerald Turner has translated numerous authors from Czechoslovakia, including Václav Havel, Ivan Klíma, and Ludvík Vaculík, among others. He received the US PEN Translation Award in 2004.
“Touch the Wounds will be a source of great insight and inspiration for seekers, drawn potentially to Christian faith, and will liberate many others from stultifying forms of false certainty. It will open others again to ecumenical exchanges that will enrich their faith. The world needs more Tomáš Halík.” —Charles Taylor, co-author of Reconstructing Democracy
“We’re part of a world full of wounds. For many people, the dark cloud of pain conceals the certainty of faith; the face of a benevolent God is hidden in the darkness that we are passing through together. But the Easter scene that inspired this book can speak to us with enormous urgency precisely at such a time. It is through Jesus’s wounds that the apostle Thomas sees God.” —from the preface
"One of the most profound meditations on suffering, from a Christian perspective, that I have ever read." —James Martin, SJ, author of Learning to Pray
"Tomáš Halík's Touch the Wounds is an elegant and profound set of meditations on the place and purpose and meaning of suffering. Halík shows that, and how, attention to suffering is attention to Jesus, and, therefore, a means of entry for Christians into the world's healing. It is a lovely book, and an inspiring one." —Paul J. Griffiths, author of Regret: A Theology
"Tomáš Halík is one of the most insightful voices in contemporary Catholicism, and his book on the wounded church and sin in the church is a turning point in the effort to make sense of the ecclesial crisis that has taken shape in the last few years: from the new phase in the abuse crisis to the pandemic." —Massimo Faggioli, author of Catholicism and Citizenship
"In this deeply personal narrative, Tomáš Halík invokes the figure of Thomas, less to affirm the importance of doubt in religious life than to remind us that Christian faith passes through our wounds and through the reality of pain and suffering. As ever, Halík manages to offer a fresh and hopeful Christian message without condemning the secular world." —Catherine Cornille, co-author of Christian Identity between Secularity and Plurality
"What we need now is the voice of a prophet in the tradition of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Isaiah, who were unafraid to confront hypocrisy in high places and fearless in identifying the self-inflicted wounds of a society in desperate need of a particular and urgent healing touch. That prophetic voice for our time and our world belongs to Tomáš Halík, an impressive scholar who writes with flawless grace and instinct so that truth is disclosed page after page in his latest, powerful book." —Doris Donnelly, editor of Sacraments and Justice
"Tomáš Halík's Touch the Wounds is a masterfully written, personal, and at the same time critical book that brings into dialogue contemporary life experience, biblical message, mystical tradition, and modern criticism of religion, all showing how in the wounds of our world as Christians we touch the wounds of God not by turning away from suffering but by confronting it. A fascinating, challenging, and encouraging vision." —Cardinal Walter Kasper, president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity
"Offers profound reflections on faith and its roots in suffering. . . . Halík’s erudition is dizzying . . . with a theological depth that makes for slow, rewarding reading. . . . those seeking deeper Christian insight will find much to gain." —Publishers Weekly
"Consistent with his numerous other writings on faith in a post-religious and post-secular age, Halik, a Czech Roman Catholic priest, offers a series of meditative reflections on finding faith amidst our personal, interpersonal, and social wounds. . . . [T]he overall effect is a beautiful and challenging account of a Gospel-inspired faith that highlights the extreme paradox of God becoming flesh, and thus a God who indwells our creaturely vulnerability without reserve." —Theological Studies
"A fine resource for Lenten and Eastertide reading—or, for that matter, in any season when wisdom is sought." —Commonweal
“Masterfully translated—conveying both the insights and personality of Halík—by the distinguished Gerald Turner.... A balm to the soul for those who are battered by this world and find their own faith wounded.” —Scottish Theological Journal
“A rich tapestry capable of nourishing and sustaining Christian faith and theology in a shifting cultural context. . . . Halík offers hope in rebuilding faith through facing up to the challenges of a future for which our recent past has not fully prepared us.” —Modern Theology
"A profound yet accessible meditation on faith in our secular age. ...Halík offers not simply a corrective on how to approach seekers, but also a rich spiritual reflection intended to help us lead with our wounds....Halík’s book is a provocation in the best sense of the term, one that pushes his reader to leave behind a pristine faith that prefers to rest in certainty in exchange for one that asks the 'agonized question' and, like St. Thomas, does not shy from the wounded world." — America
Thomas believed in Christ because of what he saw. He saw wounds transformed into precious stones, he saw how pain was overcome and that suffering and death did not have the last word. So he could believe in what constitutes the core of Christian belief: a God who shows himself in Christ, in the resurrection, in love that is stronger than death. But what about those who didn’t see anything of the kind?
Thomas was followed by countless more people who did not have his healing experience, who did not see the sun rise after the night of pain, the sun whose wounds were still festering and painful. What can we offer those who did see? They are the subject of Jesus’ final Beatitude.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Who is not familiar with the eight Beatitudes, the ceremonial gateway to Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount! At the end of John’s gospel in the scene of his encounter with “doubting” Thomas, Jesus adds another final Beatitude, when he says to the apostle: “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
Many gospel commentators maintain that the beatitudes at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount do not describe “eight types of people”, but eight aspects of the same outlook on life of a disciple of Jesus. These are now joined by this ninth one.
Isn’t this last beatitude in fact a key to understand the previous ones (or at least some of them)? Are we not poor, mourning and thirsting for righteousness because – or at least also because – we did not see and still cannot see? And even those who are pure in heart are so far only promised that visio beatifica, (beatific vision); not even they “see” yet.
Jesus came into the world “so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.” And when, after those words, the pharisees, the smug “possessors of the truth resentfully ask him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” Jesus answers them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.”
In the eight Beatitudes, Jesus prophetically turns our gaze from the past in which we did not see, and the present in which we still do not see, to the eschatological future of the Kingdom of God, where we will see God, where we will be filled, comforted, and receive mercy … But He does not add any further promise to the last beatitude. Does that mean those who endure the state of “not seeing” already have their reward in faith alone? Does it mean that faith alone fills this state with meaning, transforming it and conferring on it value and depth without removing the veil of mystery from sightless eyes? “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
In his encyclical Spe salvi, Pope Benedict recalls emphatically that the term elenchos (conviction) in that sentence does not mean simply the subjective opinion of the believer, but a “proof” (argumentum): “Faith is not merely a personal reaching out towards things to come that are still totally absent: it gives us something. It gives us even now something of the reality we are waiting for, and this present reality constitutes for us a ‘proof’ of the things that are still unseen. Faith draws the future into the present, so that it is no longer simply a ‘not yet’. The fact that this future exists changes the present; the present is touched by the future reality, and thus the things of the future spill over into those of the present and those of the present into those of the future.” Faith is the substance (hypostasis) of what we hope for. That means, the pope says, that “through faith, in a tentative way, or as we might say ‘in embryo’– and thus according to the ‘substance’– there are already present in us the things that are hoped for: the whole, true life. And precisely because the thing itself is already present, this presence of what is to come also creates certainty: this ‘thing’ which must come is not yet visible in the external world (it does not ‘appear’), but because of the fact that, as an initial and dynamic reality, we carry it within us, a certain perception of it has even now come into existence.”
It is important that in this major commentary, the pope places the words “proof” and “thing” in quotation marks. Proof in this context is not a proof as used in mathematics, and the natural sciences, nor even in philosophy or logic, which would not admit doubt and would definitively refute objections; the proof that we can and ought to provide “an unbelieving world”, is our “witness” the testimony of our lives. The “thing” that faith relates to has not yet become a “deed”, a fact that is evident to all – we can only enable a glimpse of it by our lives as witnesses. We have to “account for the hope” that is in us.
But how are we to do so if we ourselves are among those “who have not seen” – and are even warned not to present ourselves as those who “see” and “know”? The answer is that we are not asked to give an account of what we “see” or “think”, or what are our convictions, but of our hopes, our faith, and our love. These are what we must prove and demonstrate, so that more light may penetrate the dark recesses of the world.