Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Deal W. Hudson

5/1/2014 (10 months 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 (10 months 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'


Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for March 2015
Universal:
Scientists: That those involved in scientific research may serve the well-being of the whole human person.
Evangelization: Contribution of women: That the unique contribution of women to the life of the Church may be recognized always.



Comments


More U.S.

The top 5 things you need to know about the United States' quickly changing religious landscape Watch

Image of

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

For many years, Protestants made up the majority of the United States' population. A recent report from America Values Atlas tells us that, as the United States demographically shifts, this is no longer the case. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The United States as ... continue reading


EMPTY! Is there any gold in Fort Knox? Government's denial of audit raises serious concerns Watch

Image of While the U.S. government claims that about 3% of all minted gold sits in Fort Knox, recent and troubling rumors say that this is not true.

By Al Wooltin (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

About 3 percent of the gold ever refined in the entire history of mankind sits in the vaults of the United States Bullion Depository in Fort Knox, equaling about 5,000 metric tons of gold. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - At least this is what the government of ... continue reading


Billy the Kid's New Mexico hideout now up for sale Watch

Image of According to legend, Billy the Kid is said to have killed 21 men, but it is generally believed that he killed eight.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

It's a beautiful home in New Mexico, spacious, with breathtaking mountain views. It's hard to believe that it at one time sheltered Billy the Kid, also known as William Bonney, one of the American Wild West's most notorious outlaws. It is now on the market for ... continue reading


Obama spends an alarming $3 billion on Obamacare WITHOUT Congressional approval Watch

Image of President Obama's administration is being accused of illegally spending money on Obamacare without Congressional approval.

By Matt Waterson (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The U.S. Treasury Department may be moving forward with Obamacare regardless of Congressional concerns and a lack of funding, approving a $3 billion payment to health insurers despite the fact that Congress has not authorized any payments in annual ... continue reading


Obama Administration as Global Advocate for Radical LGBTI Agenda

Image of Randy Berry

By Keith A Fournier

Robert Reilly is right. The Obama administration is doing profound damage to the very understanding of human rights. We have fundamental human rights precisely because we are human persons. No-one should support the denial of truly fundamental human rights for ... continue reading


Climate change - WHERE IT HURTS: Scientists say warming will hit nation's agricultural heartland Watch

Image of The climate change panel's verdict came as a bit of a surprise: Greenhouse-gas emissions played a substantial role in Europe's misery, but not so much in California.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

There are very few positive things to result from climate change. Researchers now say that warmer temperatures will hit America where it counts: the nation's agricultural heartland. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Researchers presented their latest findings ... continue reading


WITCHES ARE BACK: Witchcraft reappears in today's popular mainstream culture in unexpected ways Watch

Image of Witches are seen in both religion and as a feminist symbol.

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The idea of the witch is making its rounds through history again. Females, both young and old, are embracing the power that comes with the feminist witch in today's society. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - In a recent twitter post, popular female rapper, Azealia ... continue reading


Alaska lights up as it become the third U.S. state to legalize marijuana Watch

Image of Twenty-three states still prohibit cannabis outright. The other U.S. states have either legalized medical marijuana or decriminalized marijuana possession.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The state of Alaska is lighting up in celebration... following Colorado's lead, Alaska has become the third U.S. state to legalize recreational marijuana use. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Voters passed the Alaska Marijuana Legalization ballot measure last ... continue reading


The Air Force pulls a B-52 from the 'Boneyard,' and you won't believe what they did with it next Watch

Image of A B-52, one of the largest and most effective bombers in the world.

By Matt Waterson (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

For the first time in aircraft's history, the U.S. Air Force has brought a B-52 bomber back to life from the Boneyard of the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base near Tucson, Arizona. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Nicknamed "Ghost Rider," this 53-year-old bomber had ... continue reading


Fr. Peter M. J. Stravinskas on the Chair of St. Peter and the Role of the Pope

Image of

By Fr. Peter M. J. Stravinskas, Ph.D., S.T.D.

The doctrine of infallibility, then, is derived from the principle of apostolic succession and from the fact that Jesus Christ promised His presence to His apostles when He sent them forth to teach all the nations (cf. Mt 28:20).  The Pope and the bishops in ... continue reading


All U.S. News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

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

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Isaiah 1:10, 16-20
10 Hear what Yahweh says, you rulers of Sodom; listen ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 50:8-9, 16-17, 21, 23
8 'It is not with your sacrifices that I find fault, ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 23:1-12
1 Then addressing the crowds and his disciples Jesus ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for March 3rd, 2015 Image

St. Katharine Drexel
March 3: Saint Katharine Drexel, Religious (Feast Day-March 3) Born in ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter