Ignatians: Acquiring a Catholic Culture

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Inhaling Catholicism in Lung Loads!

The Ignatian, called to form creative Catholic minorities, will immerse himself in the richness, beauty, and depth of the treasures of Catholic culture.

He will steep himself in the Catholic identity not only by understanding the Faith through philosophy and theology but by travelling especially through the centuries of Catholic Tradition in which divine revelation has shaped a Catholic civilization: in art, architecture and sculpture; in  music and literature; in a distinctively Catholic language of prayer in the sacred liturgy and in devotions.

He will make his way through the vicissitudes and grandeurs of the Church’s history culminating in the masterpieces of grace, the saints.

Motivated by the Urgency of Acting in “Enemy-Occupied Territory”

For the sake of the alertness that should mark leaders of the Ecclesia Militans  who breathe and live in the “enemy-occupied territory” of the “Dictatorship”, it is important that future priests not only fill their lungs with the Catholic Faith but commit themselves to the intellectual formation needed to merit the title Defender of the Faith

This level of knowledge involves quality reading in Catholic philosophy, theology and history. The discipline of Apologetics (“a reasoned out explanation of one’s intellectual position”) is where we test our entire intellectual training in action, following in the footsteps of priests through the ages like St. Justin Martyr, St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Robert Bellarmine.

The justification of the truth of the Faith is the beginning of the adventure in discovering the summits and valleys of Catholicism: a joy that lasts a life-time as so many converts to the Faith remind us:

“My first visit to Rome, at the age of nineteen, came as a revelation to me. It opened out a new world of religion and culture. I realized for the first time that Catholic civilization did not stop with the Middle Ages, and that contemporary with our own national Protestant development there was the wonderful flowering of the Baroque culture… To me at least the art of the Counter Reformation was a pure joy, and I loved the churches of Bernini and Borromini no less than the ancient basilicas. And this in turn led me to the literature of the Counter Reformation, and I came to know St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross, compared to whom even the greatest of non-Catholic religious writers seem pale and unreal.” (CHRISTOPHER DAWSON, “Why I am a Catholic” in The Times, 1926.)

For the priest, to be quintessentially Catholic is to breathe with Catholic lungs: the Church’s ancient liturgy is close to his heart; her history is his family history; the saints are his heroes and friends; the liturgical calendar is the important marker of the passage of time.

This does not limit but widens his mind because it makes him a man with a 360 degrees vision – he becomes “catholic” [from the Greek “universal”];  with a magnanimous mind for whom truth is truth even if his bitterest enemy says it; for whom all men are actually or potentially his brothers and sisters in the Faith; for whom all people are beings loved by the God he loves, no one excluded.  Since all truths and all freedom flow from the God who has revealed the truths of the Catholic Faith, how could a man fail to be fully human by being fully Catholic?

The testimonies to this spirit of Catholicism are countless. The wife of the great philosopher, Dietrich von Hildebrand said that her husband’s conversion to the Catholic faith in 1914 was the most important and decisive moment of his life:

“Every time he mentioned this even his face lit up with joy…Beautiful and rewarding as his life had been… he was now entering into a radically new world, the world of the supernatural whose radiance, sublimity, and beauty were such that all his previous experiences paled by comparison.  He was overwhelmed by a light, the existence of which he had never suspected previously.  He could not learn enough; he could not read enough…  Every day brought new discoveries; every day was more uplifting than the preceding one.  Every instruction was received with attentiveness and gratitude.”

And precisely because the priest is Catholic he rejects all that is incompatible with the truth, goodness and beauty he has come to know so deeply through the Faith

Strongly Catholic in Identity in order to resist the Totalitarianism of the Dictatorship of Relativism

By being a man who is quintessentially Catholic, the priest leads his people by both teaching and example in a most natural way to make the Faith the ground on which they stand: a “must” for Catholics nowadays in a society where the average boy and girl, man and woman, finds it increasingly difficult to escape the anti-Catholic thought-patterns blatantly and subtly presented to them  in formal education (the state’s educational system)  and informal education ( the mass media).

 “Today this universal religious background of popular culture has disappeared, and even among practicing Christians religion no longer occupies the same psychic territory as it did in the past. Its ideological influence is weak, even where its moral influence is still active. And this provides the new socio-political ideologies both with an opportunity and a justification. For the greatest danger that threatens modern civilization is its degeneration into a hedonistic mass civilization of the cinema, the picture paper and the dance hall, where the individual, the family and the nation dissolve into a human herd without personality or traditions or beliefs.” (Christopher Dawson, Beyond Politics, Sheed and Ward, New York, 1939)

This is the secularized paradigm with which many Catholics now view the Church: “In a world which prizes, above all else, individualism and self-determination”,  said Cardinal Raymond Burke, “the Christian is easily tempted to view the Magisterium in relationship to his individualism and self-pursuit. In other words, he is tempted to relativize the authority of the Magisterium” even though  “the relationship of the Magisterium to our eternal salvation lies at the very foundation of our life in Christ”…”the phenomenon today is popularly known as “cafeteria Catholicism” (“Catholic Orthodoxy: Antidote against  the Culture of Death”)

To resolve this fundamental challenge it is not enough that we as priests reiterate the moral teachings of the Church nor is it enough even to ensure an excellent catechesis. Christian morals will only survive if there is a Catholic Weltanschauung [world-view] which grabs hold of, allures, excites, and inspires our Catholic children, youth and adults with the Catholic vision of man, time and eternity. This will occur through their contact with philosophy, history, literature, drama, sociology, politics, poetry, novels and art drenched in Catholicism.  And then the future generations of Catholics, imbued with a deep love for their heritage will be able to reinvigorate society with Catholic culture.

But of course it all depends on the quality of the priest’s depth of identity. For him Catholicism must be the ground of his existence as the natural outcome of acknowledging Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior: “None of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.”(Roms 14:7-8). For “the priest,” wrote Archbishop Mauro Piacenza, “is a man totally relative to God: the only relativism we can be proud of!” And since the objective fullness of God’s revealed plan is enshrined in the Catholic Faith, the more we enter into its depths by acquiring its world-vision  the more we will enlarge our horizons, deepen our hearts, strengthen our courage, inflame our inspiration. We must have a “Catholic Relativism” in which the positions  where we stand are determined by the polar star of the Catholic Faith and culture.

When this occurs, the priest will be capable of forming true Catholic leaders who hold their heads high because of their noble identity. Then and only then will a hand appear and begin tracing the ancient message once more on the walls of history for the “Dictatorship of Relativism” as it did once before in ancient Babylon: “MENE, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; TEKEL, you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting…” (Daniel 5:26-27).  And we will begin to see the rise of the new Civilization of Love and Life for all men and women founded on Christian principles