|St Augustine of Hippo
Too often, evangelization either is too banal, that is, watered down to the lowest common denominator; or it is an attempt to bring people out of serious sin by attacking the sins; or it is the speaking of Jesus as Saviour again outside of context of the larger perspective of what is means to be human and what it means to know a particular God.
I have been thinking about St. Augustine and his importance to our Catholic world today. He wrote in a similar time-the great destruction of a civilization which had endured for hundreds of years. He also bought a philosophical approach to all that chaos.
The Hebrews experienced much the same situation over and over and over. Either they were destroying old civilizations, or their own was being destroyed by whatever conqueror was the most powerful.
The reason for my ruminations is that we need, desperately, Catholic minds which can stop addressing the moral questions, stop addressing the ethical questions, and go back further to the basic questions of the existence of God and the nature of what it is to be human.
|St Thomas Aquinas
There are few great Catholic minds which can address the basic questions youth ask today. Here are a few of those questions.
Is there a God?
What would be the meaning of being human?
What is the relationship between men and God?
Why are we here?
Do you ever doubt?
Why do you want to be a Catholic?
Augustine wrote his City of God in direct response to pagans, agnostics, and even atheists who were blaming Catholics for the fall of Rome. Hey, folks, this will happen again and I do not see the bright spark, a new Augustine, who can address the entire question of the nature of man, the City of God and the secular city in terms of basic principles. Phenomenology is too personalistic for this discussion. We need to revisit the Greeks, the Romans, all part of our heritage. We need to go back to the basics, or we shall continue to lose yet another generation.
Apologetics has been so slanted towards ethics, towards morality, that it has set aside the first principles. As humans and as Catholics, we must be able to discuss metaphysics at this level. Aristotle, Aquinas, the neo-Thomists, even educators, such as Montessori, all of whom are part of my mindset, my history, used the scientific method of rational discourse.
This is no longer accepted by many, and we cannot meet physicists, politicians, academics of any kind with language they no longer accept.
We must go back further. And, I do not mean Duns Scotus, who was more popular than Aquinas for a very long time. Nominalism is limited as well. We must go back and ask the basic questions of believing, of the supernatural, of God Himself. We must evangelize at this level, and not merely the moral or ethical one.
Those Millennials who ask the basic questions have no framework for morality because they have no philosophical framework. Benedict, the Pope Emeritus, was the man of the time, reminding us that Augustine was not only a theologian, but a philosopher. We need to look at him again in that light, and at those Doctors of the Church who helped the Church develop doctrine from the basic principles.
The reason we must think in different terms is that we are witnessing the chaos of the death of Western Civilization and to speak in any terms purely from moral or ethical viewpoints will not speak to the hearts of those completely at a loss, at sea in chaos.
That is what the Moslems do - speak only in ideological, so-called moral terms. This type of approach does not speak to the very essence of who a person is and who God is. Imposing law without the reasons for such begs the question of religion.
I read and hear too many high-ranking priests, bishops, theologians, especially moral theologians, who do not have the proper perspective of the problem of basic principles, because their own training was so limited. Try and find excellent philosophers in seminaries who are orthodox and can engage at this level of thinking.
When one answers the questions of who man is and Who God is, then the moral and ethical questions fall into place.
I hope God raises up some great metaphysical minds in this era. I hope and pray that both clergy and laity can learn to evangelize from basic principles.