Compare And Contrast Essay, Research Paper
A Comparison and Contrast of Joseph Cardinal Bernardin s and Benjamin Franklin s
View s on the Importance of God
Benjamin Franklin born in the 18th century was an avid reader with a
promising writing style. His last years were spent writing and publishing his
Autobiography, written for his son William. Joseph Cardinal Bernardin was born in the
20th century, and followed the teachings of Catholic spirituality throughout his whole
entire life. Before his death in 1996 Bernardin wrote a personal book covering the last
three years of his life and reflecting on issues during early life. Both Franklin and
Bernardin wrote a narrative of their life experiences. There are distinct contrasts and
comparisons between these two individuals related to their perceptions of God. The
literature written during these different time periods reflects the important part God
played during those changing times. The new world was struggling for a new identity and
purpose of God, and today s present world was struggling for peace with it.
Benjamin Franklin’s The Autobiography is an account of his life and begins
with his early life in Boston. He later flees to Philadelphia to escape his brother’s control
over his every movement. He relates how he was “dirty”, “fatigued”, and “Want of Rest.
Facing many inconveniences along his way to freedom he explains his struggle to keep on
going. Although Joseph Cardinal Bernardin did not face as many hardships in his early
years as did Franklin, He reflects in his book The Gift Of Peace, that as a young man he
left home and took up the teachings of the Lord. Throughout his spiritual journey his
biggest struggle was to become closer to God. He describes this struggle as letting go.
He felt that in the modern lifestyle of which he lived there were to many complications of
every day life that kept him from building a personal relationship to God. This longing for
the relationship which he thought was impossible to attain left him feeling helpless,
weary and distraught.
In these depiction s we can see an analogy. These individuals are removed from
their homes and families. Although both of their choices were on each of their own free
wills, they each suffered as they no longer had the comforts of stability and dependence.
Although Bernadin left home to find a closer relationship with God, and Franklin left to
escape a relationship with his brother; They were both on a journey to discover something
to keep them content in their life.
Bernardin s faith was remarkable considering all the struggles he endured
during his journey towards God. Although times were difficult and he felt disconnected
he never doubted God s love and compassion. Contrasting to Franklin s belief that man
controls his own destiny but can make reference throughout to God only when it is
needed. He also used God as a source of blame when issues surfaced to his dislike. Here
the difference is shown between Bernardin s and Franklin s faith. Bernardin s faith in
God is wholesome and consistence whereas Franklin s faith is inconsistent and weak.
Through out the narrative Bernardin continues to rely on his faith in God. He
incorporates numerous verses from the Bible to offer explanations for all the difficulties
he has approached during his journey Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall
strengthen thine heart: wait, I say on the Lord” . Here he is comforting himself with
answers to his own doubts. This is a contrast to Franklin in that he used various methods
for explaining the unimportance of God. Franklin, states, ” I had been religiously
educated, attended any Public Worship although I describe this dogma as unintelligible,
doubtful and somewhat purposeless.” He saw a need to centralize authority for our
ourselves but not in God. By noting “My conduct may be blamable, but I leave it without
attempting farther to alter it”. Franklin is explaining his behavior but not making any
religious effort to redeem his status in the eye s of God. Whereas Bernardin asked for
forgiveness in God and took blame upon himself for his wrong doings.
Franklin had also written a “Form of Prayer for my own private use.” In
Franklin’s “Thirteen Names of Virtues”, He lists the qualities he deems desirable.
Franklin also had a “Memorandum Book”, in which he kept track of his virtues. The book
was lined in red ink and his faults were marked in black, “which black marks I could
easily wipe out with a wet sponge.” It was as if Franklin felt he could govern his own
faith with out the presence of God in his heart, and erase any thing he felt he wanted to
from his life. With this Franklin is forming his own religion in relation with his beliefs.
The ideas he projects are integrity, justice and belief that happiness may be found in
physical values rather than spiritual. Bernardin s views contrast enormously with these of
Franklin. Bernardin felt that God was the supreme authority and his belief s were only
based on the teachings of the Lord. He felt that his weakness and strengths lay in the
hand s of God and their was nothing for him to do except welcome the virtues he
possessed. Also contrasting to Franklin s views Bernardin believed that only spirituality
and faith could bring qualities such as happiness and integrity into ones life.
Near the end Franklin reviews his purpose and claims it was not entirely
without religion but it did not necessarily reflect any “particular religious group .
Franklin here begins to show the start of a new world which offered religious freedom
with America in its infancy beginning an identity free religion. In his Autobiography
Franklin was seeking to establish a new identity for the new world; Where on the other
hand Bernardin was trying to establish a shared faith in America, and a consistent ethic of
life not only for himself but for the lives of everyone around him.
Our beliefs reflect what our purpose is, what our identity is, and furthermore who
we are. Cardinal Joseph Bernardin had a strong faith in the lord his whole life and became
a preacher and teacher of God s word. Furthermore in differentiation Benjamin Franklin
strived for independence with his religion and went on to pursuing his own belief in
diplomatic and personal issues. Cardinal Joseph Bernardin and Benjamin Franklin
journey s were setting the standards for what they struggled to become.