Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Deal W. Hudson

5/1/2014 (2 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

As I watched his slow decline towards death - there was never a moment of fear, doubt, or anger in his face - Dr. Evans evinced only a cheerful resignation to the unavoidable outcome of his illness. Here was the man who had opened my eyes to the inherent spirituality of every person's journey towards God, and I was witness to the approaching end of his.

After I became a Catholic in the early 80s, while teaching philosophy at a Southern Baptist college in Atlanta, my attitude towards defending the faith slowly, and unconsciously, changed.  When I started using the word spirituality in my writing and teaching, a smile would come to my lips as I remembered that day in Dr. Evan's garden.  What had happened to me? What had changed in my mind and heart allowing me to talk about spirituality without cringing?  Quite a bit, as it turns out, and that period of change has not yet ended as I look towards my 65th birthday and over 30 years as a Catholic. The change can be described simply, though its ramifications cannot, as a disposition to recognize similarity where I once noticed only difference. Where I had once praised what was specifically and recognizably Christian, I became eager to notice any place, and in any person, evidence of spiritual expression of our common journey.

As a Catholic, I have come to appreciate all spiritual journeys, whether they are marked with the Christian label or not. My role as defender of the faith is no longer to mark the differences but to affirm the similarities

As a Catholic, I have come to appreciate all spiritual journeys, whether they are marked with the Christian label or not. My role as defender of the faith is no longer to mark the differences but to affirm the similarities

Highlights

By Deal W. Hudson

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

5/1/2014 (2 years ago)

Published in U.S.

Keywords: spirituality, faith, living faith, friendship, truth, contemplation, meditation, simplicity, Professor Arthur Evans, Deal W. Hudson


WASHINGTON,DC (Catholic Online) - I was newly graduated from Princeton Theological Seminary, a licensed Southern Baptist minister, now at Emory University studying for a Ph.D in theology and literature.  Professor Arthur Evans, one of my teachers, an expert at French and all European literature, had invited me to take tea with him in the back yard of his beautiful Druid Hills home in Atlanta, Georgia. 

Arthur Evans was a very special man, one whom I have thought of many times in the nearly 40 years since I sat there with him, trying to remember the tea manners taught to me by my Great Aunt Lucile when I was an undergraduate in Austin, Texas.  Catholic, deeply cultured, humble, soft-spoken, with iridescent blue eyes, Dr. Evans began to ask me about the literature I loved and about my nascent interest in the Catholic faith.

Were we discussing the poet Arthur Rimbaud, the Australian novelist Patrick White, or the French writer Julian Green?  I can't remember now.  But at some point in the conversation, he referred to the "spirituality" of a specific piece of literature. Inwardly I glowered but hoped it didn't show on my face. Spirituality to me, at the time, was one of those words people used to talk about the Christian faith without committing to orthodoxy. Spirituality was a loosey-goosey term that could not be challenged because of its vagueness.

Yet, hearing it from a man whom I trusted and respected deeply, whose own Catholic faith could not be doubted, whose love of tradition in all things was reflected in his manner, his words, his teaching, his marriage, his fatherhood, and his home confounded me. If there was ever a Renaissance Man in the deepest sense it was Professor Arthur Evans. Hearing the term "spirituality" from his lips puzzled me for a very long time, because if he was using it then I must be missing something, something important.

During seminary I had more or less defined myself as an Evangelical who defended Christian orthodoxy against the Vietnam era liberals and radicals who were common on campuses in those days, in part because they were avoiding military service. This was the era of Rudolf Bultmann  whose program of "demythologizing" had placed all the historicity of Scripture under a looming question mark. Thus, words like spirituality and hermeneutics had become objects of suspicion in my self-appointed role as "defender of the faith."

In the 70s and 80s, defending the faith to me meant underscoring differences, highlighting what was not Christian, in reaction to what I perceived as the refraction of Christianity through the lens of modernism. My movement away from this attitudinal posture happened slowly, there was no lightning flash of insight to correspond to that moment in Dr. Evan's garden when I suddenly questioned a deeply held truism. 

After I became a Catholic in the early 80s, while teaching philosophy at a Southern Baptist college in Atlanta, my attitude towards defending the faith slowly, and unconsciously, changed.  When I started using the word spirituality in my writing and teaching, a smile would come to my lips as I remembered that day in Dr. Evan's garden.  What had happened to me? What had changed in my mind and heart allowing me to talk about spirituality without cringing?  Quite a bit, as it turns out, and that period of change has not yet ended as I look towards my 65th birthday and over 30 years as a Catholic. 

The change can be described simply, though its ramifications cannot, as a disposition to recognize similarity where I once noticed only difference. Where I had once praised what was specifically and recognizably Christian, I became eager to notice any place, and in any person, evidence of spiritual expression of our common journey. It no longer mattered to me, as least not as much, whether that journey was expressed in specifically Christian terms. What did matter was that the dimension of ourselves always looking for God, through our pursuit of happiness, was being expressed and explored. 

Spirituality itself, as a concept, has many meanings, but all of them are drawn from the reality of our immaterial powers of loving and knowing, our imago dei. In others words, the human person is gifted with the ability, unique among all creatures, of bringing into our minds, as objects of our will's love, complete abstractions, such as beauty, truth, and goodness. But if we look long enough - as seen in Plato's Symposium, Aristotle's Metaphysics, Augustine's Confessions, Boethius' Consolation of Philosophy, Bonaventure's The Mind's Road to God, to name a few - the natural desire to know ultimate causes will lead us to God, who is no abstraction but the measure of all abstractions.

Thus, as a Catholic, I have come to appreciate all spiritual journeys, whether they are marked with the Christian label or not. My role as defender of the faith is no longer to mark the differences but to affirm the similarities, as did C.S. Lewis in his classic, The Abolition of Man.  Affirm the similarities as a way of encouraging the journey in others, of finding a common reference point for discussion, for evangelization, but also for mutual guidance. 

It was very painful to watch Dr. Evans slowly die of Parkinson's Disease, but even those visits to his bedroom were as luminous as that day in his garden. I recall him once gesturing to me to play a CD of the Bach cello sonatas so we could listen together, or the day he excitedly held up a copy of Sigrid Undset's Kristin Lavransdatter to signify he had finally read it after years of my hounding him to. His way of telling me that he was glad to have read it was in his smile and his handling of the book as he showed it to me, as if the book itself had become an object of love. 

As I watched his slow decline towards death - there was never a moment of fear, doubt, or anger in his face - Dr. Evans evinced only a cheerful resignation to the unavoidable outcome of his illness. Here was the man who had opened my eyes to the inherent spirituality of every person's journey towards God, and I was witness to the approaching end of his. And through this, Dr. Evans taught me even more about spirituality by the perseverance of his joy in all things beautiful and true, but most of all, by the steadfastness of his friendship.

© Deal W. Hudson, Ph.D

-----
Deal W. Hudson is president of the Morley Institute of Church and Culture, Senior Editor and Movie Critic at Catholic Online, and former publisher and editor of Crisis Magazine.This column and subsequent contributions are an excerpt from a forthcoming book. Dr. Hudson's new radio show, Church and Culture, is heard on the Ave Maria Radio Network.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


Copyright 2016 - Distributed by THE CALIFORNIA NETWORK

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for June 2016
Universal:
Human Solidarity: That the aged, marginalized, and those who have no one may findeven within the huge cities of the worldopportunities for encounter and solidarity.
Evangelization: Seminarians and Novices: That seminarians and men and women entering religious life may have mentors who live the joy of the Gospel and prepare them wisely for their mission.



Comments


More U.S.

The Vindication of Governor Bob McDonnell, Persevering Faith and the Friends of Job Watch

Image of Former Governor of Virginia Bob McDonnell emerges victorious at the US Supreme Court

By Deacon Keith Fournier

In 2014, the former Governor of Virginia, a genuine Catholic Christian named Robert "Bob" McDonnell, was wrongfully convicted of committing a federal offense while in office. Both as his friend and as a constitutional lawyer, I paid very close attention to the ... continue reading


BREAKING: Supreme Court rules AGAINST women, still okay to kill girls, mothers in abortion mills Watch

Image of A abortion kills children. Why don't people understand this?

By Marshall Connolly (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

The Supreme Court has ruled against the state of Texas, and women, deciding that abortionists do not need to follow common sense safety measures before killing babies, and sometimes their mothers. LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) - A liberal, 5-3 vote by the ... continue reading


No more white majority? US will soon see no majority race Watch

Image of The United States will soon be a country without racial majority within the next few decades (Alamy).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Adorable little babies born in the United States have no idea they are reshaping the nation. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - According to new population estimates from the Census Bureau, racial and ethnic minorities made up 50.2 percent of babies under 1-year-old ... continue reading


'Protests are a vital part of democracy': Freddie Gray case continues as another officer is found innocent Watch

Image of Freddie Gray was killed by police after they attempted to drag him into a police van (Gray family).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

When 25-year-old Freddie Gray's spine was nearly severed as he was dragged into a police van last April, the city of Baltimore erupted - and it might just flare up again. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - On April 12, 2015, Gray ran from officers when they attempted ... continue reading


Gallup survey finds less than 4 percent identify as LGBT Watch

Image of Less than 4 percent of the population is LGBT, but they command substantial political clout.

By David Drudge (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Less than four percent of U.S. adults consider themselves lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT), a Gallup survey finds. LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) - According to a survey by Gallup, 3.9 percent of U.S. adults consider themselves LGBT. The number of ... continue reading


Supreme Court issues four rulings, do they affect you or someone you know? Watch

Image of The Supreme Court has issued rulings in four cases today.

By David Drudge (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

The Supreme Court has issued rulings on four cases today. Those cases involve affirmative action, immigration, drunk driving laws, and repeat offender laws. LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) - The Supreme Court has issued rulings in four cases. Here are their ... continue reading


Faith and the Future: Build on the Rock of Jesus and Become the Church Militant Watch

Image of The Church is the rock of refuge and a safe harbor in an age which is being shaken.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

The use of the expression Church Militant as a description of the mission of the Church on earth used to be very common. However, for lots of reasons, including a possible misunderstanding of the term in this increasingly violent age, it has fallen out of use. It ... continue reading


Family feud results in one dead teen, violent altercation and a wild police chase Watch

Image of The car lost control, ending the 14-year-old girl's life (WJHL).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Three Washington County teens in Tennessee led police on a 15-mile police chase before a 15-year-old boy lost control of the vehicle, which then rolled and launched a 14-year-old girl through the windshield. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The unbelievable chase ... continue reading


'Keep your mouth shut': U.S. school union covers up child abuse Watch

Image of Three union representatives in New York state were recorded covering up child abuse (gracepapers).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

An undercover reporter used a hidden camera to record three New York state teacher union representatives defend everything from teachers using cocaine to child abuse. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Project Veritas has released three undercover union videos, each ... continue reading


'Call 911 immediately': Mysterious men in black sighted along desolate roadsides Watch

Image of Strange figures dressed in black have been appearing in several states (Meridith may/Prezi).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Frightening "men in black" sightings have gone from sinister pranks to terrifying threats to public safety. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Muscatine County Sheriff's Department in Iowa has been plagued by 911 calls reporting several sightings of mysterious men ... continue reading


All U.S. News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

the FEED
by Catholic Online

  • Prayer to Our Lady, Health of the Sick HD Video
  • St. Irenaeus: Saint of the Day for Tuesday, June 28, 2016
  • 'Woman's thought is important': Pope Francis on women deacons
  • Daily Readings for Tuesday, June 28, 2016
  • Prayer in Time of Bereavement HD Video
  • The Vindication of Governor Bob McDonnell, Persevering Faith and the ...
  • ISIS spy finds Jesus

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Amos 3:1-8; 4:11-12
1 Listen, Israelites, to this prophecy which Yahweh pronounces against ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 5:4-6, 6-7, 8
4 You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil, no sinner can be your ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 8:23-27
23 Then he got into the boat followed by his disciples.24 ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for June 28th, 2016 Image

St. Irenaeus
June 28: The writings of St. Irenaeus entitle him to a ... Read More