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Henrik Hagnell wrote:

Hi, guys —

  • Does the Catholic Church have a special kind of definition when it uses the word fear?

When I hear this word I think of this: The fight or flight response refers to a specific biochemical reaction that both humans and animals experience during intense stress or fear.

  • How can we then talk about the Fear of the Lord?

I just read a commentary on it but it never even mentioned fight-or-flight.

  • Can we have fear without it?

Fear seems very unpleasant (at least to me) so I would not want to fear the Lord. It sounds like a really unpleasant and scary thing to experience.

St. Francis de Sales, is said to have wrote:

Fear is a greater evil than the evil itself.


  { Does the Church have a special definition for "fear" and how does the Catholic Church view fear? }

Bob replied:


The Catholic concept of fear of the Lord has two dimensions: awe and respect.

  1. We stand in awe of God's greatness and majesty, and
  2. we also acknowledge his great power, authority and justice.

It is more like the relationship between a child and parents; a desire to please, recognition of the right to punish for having done wrong, but mostly loving admiration.

Consider how we relate to the Police.

  • If we are a law abiding person, we have nothing to fear, but instead we admire and thank the police for what they do to protect us.
  • However, if we are a criminal, we constantly worry about and fear the police.

We do not see their good role but rather only the justice and punishment they can bring should they apprehend us in our wrongdoing.

Saint John tells us that perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18), and Saint Peter tells us that love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8). The Bible is full of places that tell us not to fear, but rather to trust and love God just as a child will trust and love his parents.

For those who stand outside of God's grace, wisdom would suggest they turn to God rather than continue in sin, for one would rather encounter God as a Savior than a Judge bringing retribution for offenses.


Bob Kirby

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