Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

Whatever it will take to share the Bread of Life

September 7th, 2011, Promulgated by b a

One of the latest Catholic Courier articles “Focusing on faith on campus” speaks in great length about programs put in place to help young Catholics in college learn about other faiths – namely Islam.  I have no problem with such endeavors, but I fear that these programs are over emphasized and that learning Catholicism in depth (beyond an childish understanding) and the skills required to evangelize the Gospel is too often under emphasized.  What I wonder is how well the majority of these kids know what their own faith teaches and can articulate it well.  If they don’t understand how well developed their own faith is, then they shouldn’t be “dialoguing” with other faiths because they run the risk of unknowingly bearing false witness against their own faith with lines like, “I’m a Catholic but I think that teaching X is stupid” or “I’m a Catholic and I think the Vatican ought to change their stance on Y.”  I’m not saying this is always the case, but in my experiences it has been. I recently heard Scott Hahn on Catholic Answers Live (2011-08-24) address this question with such grace.  Here’s that clip:


So this is all fine and dandy to expand your horizons, but I think what our teens really need is to be clothed in the armor of Christ in order to stand against the seductive, secular world. They need to be confident in saying NO! to the hook-up culture, to binge drinking, to wallowing in video games, and all the other vices that are so prevalent at our colleges. As Fr. Barron so eloquently described in this post:

John Paul put his finger on a problem typical of our time, namely, that people think that they can do lots of bad things while still remaining, deep down, “good persons,” as though their characters are separable from the particular things that they do. In point of fact, a person who habitually engages in self-absorbed, self-destructive, and manipulative behavior is slowly but surely warping her character, turning herself into a self-absorbed, self-destructive, and manipulative person.

Now apply this principle to sexual behavior. Study after study has shown that teenagers and college students are participating more and more in a “hook-up” culture, an environment in which the most casual and impersonal forms of sexual behavior are accepted as a matter of course. As recently as 25 or 30 years ago, there was still, even among teen-agers, a sense that sexual contact belonged at least in the context of a “loving” or “committed” relationship, but today it appears as though even this modicum of moral responsibility has disappeared. And this is doing terrible damage to young people.

It seems to me that what we need is a re-emphasis on the power on the Gospel.

Here’s some other links and snippets that are somewhat related…

Luther was wrong about many things, but this post on First Things highlights something we can agree with Luther on:

“Peace if possible, truth at all costs!” Thus heralded Martin Luther half a millennium ago, and let no man accuse him of failing to practice what he preached. Of course, whether or not a Christian agrees with Luther’s particular interpretation of truth will determine whether he is a Catholic or a Protestant. But less obviously and perhaps more interestingly, whether or not a modern American agrees with Luther’s principle—that despite the very real goodness of peace, truth trumps it each and every time—will in large part determine whether he is a conservative or a liberal.

So, who is correct, the conservative or the liberal? Which is the higher good: truth or peace? To ask that question is to answer it, for of course what the question wants to know is the truth of the matter about which is better.

So while the liberal’s desire for peace is good, he errs in putting peace first, making toleration the summum bonum, and embracing moral relativism for the sake of avoiding conflicts. The conservative on the other hand, following in the longstanding tradition that stretches back to Aristotle and beyond, recognizes that our political order ought to follow from the moral order, which itself flows from our human nature.

Where does this battle between conservatives and liberals finally end? If our opponents emerge victorious, nowhere good. For the logical conclusion of liberalism—which liberalism fights against in the name of peace, but which liberals insofar as they are men must be led towards by the natural reason they try to suppress—is Nihilism, the most terrifying worldview imaginable. Eventually, “my truth” and “your truth” are seen for what they really mean: No truth. And a culture without any grasp of truth is a culture without any connection to reality, a culture thus doomed to die. We can still avoid demise, but to do so, we need a hefty dose of metaphysics, a serious consideration of truth to serve as the guiding principle of our civilization.

And one more random quote from Dave Armstrong that I thought beneficial for those us who try to balance peace and truth:

If one is loved by one and all, I question whether they are vigorously defending Holy Mother Church, because many people get offended when you disagree with them (believe me, I know, after 30 years of apologetics in both the Protestant and Catholic worlds). This is a dynamic that hold true in all times and places because it is the perpetual struggle of truth over falsehood; right over wrong. We don’t want to be despised because we are truly jerks and uncharitable (because of our own poor behavior), but if we are loathed because we proclaim Catholic truth, then that is exactly what our Lord predicted would happen. It does not necessarily reflect badly upon how well we did our job, at all.

If you doubt Dave Armstrong is a Catholic apologetical rock-star (yes, I understand that phrase is an oxymoron, but you know what I mean), just see his plethora of articles on Luther (especially Erasmus). I knew Erasmus was a big deal, but I didn’t realize he was quite the giant that he was until I started reading this series.


7 Responses to “Whatever it will take to share the Bread of Life”

  1. LC says:

    First time commenter! First and foremost, thank you for this post. I honestly believe that the education of our young people in the faith is the most critical issue we have to face today.

    I wonder what the actual percentage of time in Campus Ministry programs are devoted to interfaith dialogue, general catechesis, retreats and spiritual growth, weekly or daily mass and faithful discussions on current events? Is it possible to find out? I would like to know what the balance is and how that balance is justified. What can a parent do if the college is right, but the ministry program is unbalanced or non-existent.

    I don’t think that interfaith dialogue and a devotion to Truth are mutually exclusive and I feel that some of the related articles attached to post might have that as an underlying belief. True and faithful dialogue is not two people in a room acknowledging “my truth” and “your truth.” It is two people who are wholly committed to their faith and all that goes along with it, who believe critically different things, and who acknowledge that there is no comfortable answer therein.

  2. Jim says:

    Jim M. here: Ben, I cannot imagine being the parent of an 18 year old going off to college, who was not grounded in the faith with his parents’ help, and having graduated from a real “Catholic” high school. The Franciscan University of Steubenville would be my first choice. It was bad enough for me, having gone to St. John Fisher College back in the 70’s. Sure there were the usual temptations out there, but at least, there was a Catholic moral sense on campus, where the men and women had respect for each other. We were taught by priests, and there were Catholic professors and counselors, who listened to and responded to our needs. Today…ANYTHING GOES!! My heart goes out to the parents of students, who may have gone to a more secular college…maybe these students can find other like minded Catholics, with whom they can associate.

  3. brother of penance says:

    I only got as far as the 8-24-11 clip of Scott Hahn on CATHOLIC ANSWERS LIVE when my memory started giving me so much good official teaching to share with readers

    Scott Hahn’s answer to the questioner is right on. What he describes is what recent popes have called THE DIALOGUE OF SALVATION. While dialogue and proclamation can rightly be considered distinct, a necessary component of proclamation is dialogue. As such dialogue is a component of proclamation. Hence the Church enters into what she calls THE DIALOGUE OF SALVATION.

    Some very informative official teachings on this subject can be accessed on line at (see paragraphs 55-57 of The Mission of the Redeemer by Pope John Paul II and (see paragraph #38 of PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR INTER-RELIGIOUS DIALOGUE
    DIALOGUE AND PROCLAMATION Reflection And Orientations On Interreligious Dialogue
    And The Proclamation Of The Gospel Of Jesus Christ

  4. brother of penance says:

    The real problem is that the majority of Catholic Parish Catechists and Catholic High School Religion Teachers in the Diocese of Rochester are insufficiently aware of the official teachings quoted in my previous post. Or, even worse, the majority of those aware simply are not committed enough to these Church teachings to wholeheartedly evangelize and catechize their Catholic students.

    If one is not personally committed to the Savior Jesus and convinced that His Catholic Church is the ordinary means of salvation, that teacher or catechist will not be passionate nor interested in leading their students to convinced discipleship to Christ and His Church.

    A Catholic Youth Ministry committed to leading teens closer to Christ in His Church is LIFE TEEN. A Catholic College Ministry that does the same for Adult Students is FOCUS,Fellowship of Catholic University Students:

    It only follows that non-evangelized, non-catechized students exposed to Islam, Judaism or any other non-Christian religion will have no desire nor competence to enter into THE DIALOGUE OF SALVATION.

    Dialogue of salvation? Impossible. Their teachers in the Diocese of Rochester are teaching the young that Islam is for Muslims, Judaism is for Jews and Catholicism is for Christians. We all have Abraham as our Father of Faith, don’t we? No one quotes or uses “Nostra Aetate” as selectively and as politically correct as the Diocese of Rochester!

    As stated in other posts, the only hope for Rochester is that faithful, informed and inspired
    hearers of the Word of God begin to proclaim the Saving, Transforming Word of Christ to a people dying because of a famine of the Word.

    Thank you, Brother Ben, for a most interesting and inspiring post. I enthusiastically look forward to reading the rest of it.

  5. Nerina says:

    Or, even worse, the majority of those aware simply are not committed enough to these Church teachings to wholeheartedly evangelize and catechize their Catholic students.

    Brother, this is exactly right. I have even encountered priests who are uncomfortable with proclaiming the teachings of the Church you referenced for fear of seeming “triumphalistic.”

    I have no problem with genuine “dialogue” but when it threatens to syncretize our Faith, we get into trouble.

    If one is not personally committed to the Savior Jesus and convinced that His Catholic Church is the ordinary means of salvation, that teacher or catechist will not be passionate nor interested in leading their students to convinced discipleship to Christ and His Church.

    Another “spot on” observation, Brother. Again, I know people who certainly believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, but then go on to object to the notion that the Church He established is the ordinary means of salvation. Pope Benedict talks about the desire to separate Jesus from the Church in his book “The Apostles” basically saying “it can’t be done – the person of Jesus and the Church are inseparable.”

  6. brother of penance says:

    Thank you, Nerina, for your comments.

    I too have heard the objection to “triumphalism.” The most loving, compassionate service anyone can perform for another is as Scott Hahn has said on radio: “Whatever it will take to share the Bread of Life”.

    This discussion reminds me of Pope Paul VI’s Apostolic Exhortation EVANGELIZATION IN THE MODERN WORLD #80 which reads in part: “…..we should know how to put aside the excuses which would impede evangelization……The respectful presentation of Christ and His kingdom is more than the evangelizer’s right; it is his duty. It is likewise the right of his fellow men to receive from him the proclamation of the Good News of salvation….men can gain salvation also in other ways, by God’s mercy, even though we do not preach the Gospel to them; but as for us, can we gain salvation if through negligence or fear or shame- what St. Paul called “blushing for the Gospel” – or as a result of false ideas we fail to preach it?”

    Is the Diocese of Rochester listening? “can we gain salvation if through negligence or fear or shame, or as a result of false ideas we fail to preach it?”

    Lastly, Nerina, what a beautiful quote from our Holy Father’s book “The Apostles”. “the person of Jesus and the Church are inseparable.” Doesn’t that remind us of Saul (Paul) on the road to Damascus when the Lord Jesus said “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.” See Acts 9:1-6.

    What a gift to be a Catholic believer in Jesus Christ, the Only Savior Of The World.

    Thanks be to God.

  7. Richard Thomas says:

    It’s not only in the DOR but almost everywhere. How few the number of parents who effectively catechize their children.

    There was a survey that Catholic kids, upon leaving high school were pro life but by the time they graduated from college, they were pro choice, pro gay and proponents of the culture of death.

    Unfortunately our Catholic parishes and in particular the catechesis programs are the “farm system” for the culture of death.

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