Catholics have an unprecedented opportunity in modern times refusing to embrace the contemporary zeitgeist and instead directing discontented and anxious souls to transcendentals, to God. Those who say it can’t be done have no experience with it. Although there are different ways to direct one’s attention to transcendental concerns, the ability to do so successfully brings great rebirth among people.
A student I know and work closely with at university, an enthusiastic English student and aspiring writer, learned about the RCIA while finding renewed faith. He was raised Baptist but was agnostic when we met and recently woke up. This movement towards Catholicism and (re)embracing Christianity has also changed his temperament, the way he walks and moves, the general happiness that radiates from his soul. He told me that he now wanted to write a three-part epic covering the Passion, the Tearing and the Ascension that mirrors and rivals that of Dante. divine comedy. God bless him if he undertakes this journey.
We are told to meet people where they are. I agree, but not in the way that the dominant ideology of this statement implies or is often employed. The current interpretation of meeting people where they are, especially when promoted by clergy and dissident media, really means abandoning Church teaching and embracing the spirit of whatever the people want. (read: progressive reformism). And what people want, we are told, are the burning social issues we all know.
On the other hand, to meet people where they are to raise them towards the transcendental ones is another business. It marries the teaching of the Church with the complexities and diversity of human existence. Not everyone is the same. A lecture on transcendentals to graduate students will not work with teenagers. Likewise, the inability to explain and highlight Christian values and the virtues of love, forgiveness and redemption in cultural trends only cripples our work and restricts the source of cultural material in which we can draw to reach others and teach the essences of the Faith and the Gospel.
The call to meet people is not intended to abrogate revealing truth. The call to meet people is to bring them into the deposit of truth given to the Church.
Humans, being created in the image of God, were created in wisdom and love for wisdom and love. Humans are spiritual and metaphysical creatures who yearn to be united with God. Separated from God, however, we are subject to the crises and struggles that come with being confused and lustful creatures.
When I met this student, it was originally for private lessons in English and writing. He, of course, knew that I was Catholic. But as I got to know him for the tutoring, I also started asking about his spiritual state because he had mentioned some things about theology and the Bible.
He was, in fact, intellectually curious but did not find the sustenance he hoped for in his Baptist faith.. Because of this disappointment, he abandoned Christianity in general. However, by informing him of the fourfold interpretation of Scripture from the Catholic point of view, expressing to him the marriage of literature and theology in the Catholic tradition, and exposing the long history of theological depth and diversity of our theology, his moving curiosity was redirected towards the transcendental, towards God, towards Christianity.
It didn’t involve lectures or the kind of tutoring I did at Yale. It involved a personal connection and understanding, realizing where he was and what I could bring to him – not to confirm him in his state of agnosticism, but to bring him back to the Love and Wisdom that is God and embodied in the person of Jesus Christ. . While doing so, he also began to attend Mass and read various Catholic theologians and books, depending on his time, which I provided to encourage him on his journey to the Church.
As Catholics, the awakening of the soul to the Good, the True and the Beautiful is what should be one of our main tasks. We do not come as zeitgeist apologists seeking to affirm the souls adrift in the city of man with the ethos of the city of man. We come as shepherds bringing God’s love and wisdom to souls in need. When we actually meet people where they are with the intention of pointing them back to God, we see conversion and transformation.
The problem many in the Church have today is the refusal to direct souls to what they need.. There’s a lot of talk about “community,” “benevolence,” “compassion,” and other buzzwords that aren’t inherently bad; but in their imprecision they lead one to wonder what really motivates these preoccupations. Community, care and compassion without Christ are nothing more than the outward signs of Christianity without Christ. Community without Christ is transitory. Care and compassion without God’s healing grace are theologically callous and cruel. Coming to the people without the saving gospel, and without caring about transcendents, condemns souls to the fallen condition.
Participation in the Good, the True and the Beautiful through Christ is an exalting reality. Those who have been deprived of it but who are confronted with it later often find their life and their soul transformed, converted, reoriented (conversion) goodbye. There is no field hospital or human healing without real medicine for spiritual disease. The opportunity to bring the medicine of the Good, the True and the Beautiful to others always presents itself. We must have the courage to undertake this work; and we can often be surprised by its results.
[Photo Credit: Pixabay]