Saturday, November 6, 2010

Hey, Books for OLSWA!

Just in case I didn't make my self clear the other day: you, my readers are just what the great Canadian Catholic School (Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy) needs: with email and such sites as Amazon, it is so easy to make a tangible contribution to the education of Catholic young people in Canada!

Let me say something (more) about the effects that good books can have.

There are many ways people think that Catholicism can or should be taught. Too many people have opinions on this one. Anyway, some think that the truth should be told and error blankly condemned, and that is the end, from which you end up with a good, well-educated Catholic.


What happens when good-taught-evil-condemned young Catholic meets someone with a brain, even a little brain, who offers either a strong argument against Catholicism or a strong argument for an anti-Catholic position? Since this young Catholic was not actually well-educated, this person has only to fall back upon 'insider-speak' that means virtually nothing to an outsider.

The criticisms might include:

- Your Church has been a force for evil in the world, because of crusades, religious intolerance, anti-woman policies, witch hunts, pro-monarchism, etc.

- Your Church's philosopher is medieval and has no way to respond to positivism, evolution, modern science, dialectical materialism, Kantianism, Cartesianism, etc.

- Belief in God is a fantasy of anxious people who are looking for a father-figure, as psychology has proven.

- Christian ethics is anti-human in that it encourages people to build castles in the sky rather than make life better for people in the here-and-now.

- Christianity is anti-progress.

- Statistically speaking, less educated people believe in God, the more educated do not.

- The Bible is full of historical errors, and blatant contradictions.

- The Bible teaches immorality: polygamy, racism, violence.

- Catholics are superstitious: teaching that reciting streams of prayers gets people out of purgatory, the more prayers and masses offered/attended the better, that Mary speaks all over the place telling people random and morally senseless things.

Without good books how are you going to answer these things? I get really upset when I think that certain so-called education Catholic young people cannot respond to these things intelligently, let alone convince someone about the truth of Christ.

Do you know that articles are published in reputable scholarly journals advocating all of the above things all the time? Do you know that sooner of later that young Catholic will encounter the thought embodied in these criticisms?

What was it that made the Dominicans, first, and the Jesuits, next, so effective in their fight with the world? God blessed them in their mastery of knowledge, not because they side-stepped the issues and ran for solace to an inscrutable esoteric, 'insider' theology that could not be assailed because it was so obscure, and, thus, needed not to be defended.

I see people from good families with good Catholic education get eaten up all the time by the world, and lose their faith. I was not from a good (Catholic) family, nor was I provided with a good Catholic education, and yet here I stand. My faith was not eaten up by the world because God forced me into the good fight. He did this because He wanted me to come out on the other side stronger than other people. And I have to say, now with degrees in history and philosophy, and theology, I have seen it all. There isn't much that is going to knock me off balance intellectually speaking. Sure, I am bruised and scared, but an old vet ready for another tour. And isn't this the model of all the great theologians - Irenaeus, Augustine, Thomas, Newman, Wojtyla, Ratzinger, to learn the Gospel, learn the thinking of the worldly, so as to shine light on it and against it? What made this list of greats great? Not hiding oneself within the camp. Each one of them took on the world, with 100% confidence that the truth of Christ was able to conquer all errors.

In my 18 years now as a Catholic I have seen how weak so many who think they are strong and well-formed in the Faith really are. It is the pretension of various people and institutions who assert that they have all the answers and are ready to take on the world that bothers me, not weakness itself. It is the pretension that is based upon a mere superficial consideration of what the enemies of the Church are really saying that is disturbing.

I know that the Catholic response need not be pretentious and hollow. Why? Because I have read and absorbed the responses of the great, because I have read and pondered the objections of the critics. But you are not great just because you are Catholic; you are great when you become like the greats. Why do so many of us cower from true knowledge and true teaching? Is it a lack of faith - you do not believe the truth is really Catholic? Or is from a poor estimation regarding the ability of self and other to promote the faith and to persevere in the truth? If it is the former, why the pretence to great faith? If the latter, less knowledge will not make you and others better able to promote and persevere in the Faith.

The Faith is great and God is great. The truth is eloquent and powerful. God is with those who seek the truth. No one who denies any of these three truths can be said to represent the Faith. These three truths embody the intellectual convictions of the great Catholic thinkers and evangelists through time. Hesitancy, silence, timidity, over-caution, these things do not represent the Catholic intellectual life.

If you don't know the answer don't assume their isn't one, and don't raise and educate your children accordingly. Point them to books, point them to those who believe their are answers.

I would recommend to you the latest issue of First Things. It is their first issue devoted to education. It is exceptionally interesting and valuable. Yet amongst all of its virtues I noted something that really disturbed me. I have a friend who already assumed this was the case! - you know who you are: this is serious and lamentable! The thing I noticed was this: according to their investigation it appears that the academic excellence of a university stands in inverse relation to its religious side. This would be nothing new to our critics, but this JPII-generation theologian is shocked, upset and dismayed. Now, I have to investigate how they arrived at their results, but it seems clear that this new Catholic enterprise is not doing nearly what it claims to be doing, in the words of Steubenville, being academically challenging, passionately Catholic. According to their survey it seems you can be one or the other, but not both. Am I the only one this bothers?

O the days of the Jesuits long ago! (Hence the picture of St. Robert Bellarmine above.)

So to renew my request: help to turn OLSWA into a centre of vibrant Catholic intellectual life, of vibrant intellectual life. Our library holdings in the broad perspective are far from sufficient to properly support this goal. Please help us. Here is the link to our library page where I list some of the books we could use.

* As for First Things, you can read some of the stuff here online, but the key 'University Rankings' article is not part of their free content.

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