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I believe we as Catholics need to begin thinking better, with the mind of the Church—with a Catholic ethos.
Catholic Ethos is dedicated to helping to recover an authentic Catholic worldview, a worldview that is more than just a set of beliefs and practices, but rather, allows those beliefs and practices to form us, and transform us into better human beings. A Catholic formation is not just about dates and facts, it is not just about knowing the 3 Theological Virtues, or the 12 Fruits of the Holy Spirit. A proper Catholic formation will lead to a complete shift in one’s worldview, in how one thinks and perceives the world. It will develop one’s conscience, one’s ability to judge right from wrong, and sharpen one’s intellect and reasoning. It will lead to a growth in all the virtues and an increase in wisdom, in the ability to see the bigger picture, to put all things in their proper order. In short, it will help a person see reality as it really is; to have a clear vision of the truth of the world, of man’s place within it, and how he is to walk through this life.
As we know, many Catholics do not desire to be formed, because they have not been made to see the beauty and richness of our faith. And so they remain stagnant, unable to develop this accurate view of reality. This is what can lead Catholics to, for example, misjudge the character of certain politicians, and vote for others who support abortion and culture-of-death policies. This is what can lead Catholics to over emphasize social justice and policy reform, while undervaluing the power of prayer and fasting. This is what can also lead Catholics in the opposite direction, toward a strict and hard-lined view of Church teaching, without a real understanding of the love behind the rules. It is a path that ultimately leads to a further disconnect from reality. And this, essentially, is the definition of insanity—to be out of touch with reality. It is the antithesis of Catholic formation.
I have come to believe that an important component in this formation, is regular reading of the saints—not just biographies of the saints, but the words of the saints themselves. The saints were the holiest men and women to walk this earth. They reached the heights of Catholic formation, because of their heroic virtue. When we prayerfully read their words, we begin thinking as they thought, and seeing the world as they saw it. They show us what it means to be Catholic. And thus they are a profound means conversion (And the saints themselves prove this—for example, when pope John Paul happened upon a book by Saint John of the Cross, which forever altered the course of his life).
The world today is becoming increasingly disconnected from reality. Catholics thus have a great burden, because the world, whether it knows it or not, is depending on them to be its anchor; its voice of reason; its conscience. If Catholics would only commit themselves to daily prayer and spiritual reading (especially of the saints), they would go a long way in the spiritual life and fulfill their calling to be a clear voice of truth and love in the world.
But the laity need incentive to begin on this path. They need someone to explain to them just how deep and profound our faith is. And our shepherds have not been given the tools to do so effectively. They have not been able to explain, for example, how the Church almost single-handedly built western civilization, or how it has been the greatest force for good in the world, or how it is the only religion to have preserved the all teachings of Christ in their integrity, and so on. It is the priest’s duty to equip the laity to engage the world. To do this, they must be able to answer the hard questions. While it is important to know what the colors green and purple symbolize, it is also important to able to show what distinguishes Catholicism from other religions, or to explain what love is, or why contraception is intrinsically evil, or what really happened with the Crusades. Thus the laity never come to fully appreciate the Church. And thus they do not commit themselves to their own formation.
The world today is screaming into our ears a message of cynicism and despair. It says the Catholic Church is “outdated,” “patriarchal,” “the cause of wars” “run by men,” “sexist,” “anti-woman,” “obsolete,” and “needs to get with the times.” And the response from our Catholic leaders has largely been silence. People do not know how to engage the world, to address the their most basic misconceptions, and thus they fail in their duty as laity to be leaven to the world.
And the people of God sense this. They sense that something is missing, that there is so much more to our faith than what we are getting. They realize that what we hear from the pulpit is only 10% of the richness and beauty in the Church. But they do not blame their shepherds, because they realize that seminaries have been ill-equipped to form then properly. And so, many of our clergy are stranded in the same boat as the faithful, unable to fulfill their most basic functions of teacher, to equip the people of God to engage the world effectively.
The Socratic Solution
Socrates once said that all wisdom begins in wonder. I believe many Catholics today have lost the sense of wonder, and therefore they have lost the ability to reason well. When one no longer wonders, one no longer asks questions. And when one no longer asks questions, one no longer seeks after truth.
Catholics need to start asking questions again. When one begins sincerely asking questions, the soul enters on a journey of discovery toward truth. And this inevitably leads deeper into the Catholic faith. Why? Because truth stands on its own two feet. It need only be presented [well], for it to be assimilated. And thus Catholics will ultimately come to a deeper love and appreciation for their Church, the keeper of truth.
This is why prayer and spiritual reading (most notably of the saints) are so important to Catholic formation. The saints encapsulate the very heart of the Church. They teach us about the important things, how to pray, how to live, how to reason, how to adore. When one reads their words, it helps to ignite a new fire, to orient the soul in this stance of awe and wonder, to marvel at the magnificence of God and the wonder of life (this is especially true of the mystics). It helps the soul on this path toward seeking truth, to begin asking more questions, and ultimately, to be formed Catholics—to see reality as it really is.
This in a nutshell, is the reason why this website exists. Granted, many of the articles herein will not be so heady and cerebral. But that is precisely the point; because to have a Catholic ethos is to be able to take the abstract and theoretical, and apply it to the practicals of everyday experience. I hope that by engaging in the current events and the ordinary issues of our time, I will reflect the mind of the Church in the process, and hopefully show how a Catholic worldview is to be lived out, yes even in politics.