Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Deal W. Hudson

5/1/2014 (2 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 (2 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.

ę 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'


ę 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for July 2014
Sports:
That sports may always be occasions of human fraternity and growth.
Lay Missionaries: That the Holy Spirit may support the work of the laity who proclaim the Gospel in the poorest countries.



Comments


More U.S.

'We are coming for you!' American Islamic jihadist suicide bomber gleefully shouts to Americans on chilling final video Watch

Image of American terrorist Moner Mohammed Abu-Salha smiled and talked about dying and going to paradise.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A new video shows an American smiling as he prepares to kill himself and dozens of others in a suicide bombing. In the video, made just before his death, Moner Mohammed Abu-Salha, 22, ripped, chewed, and burned his American passport before climbing into an ... continue reading


Malinformed much? Ninety percent of your information now comes from just 6 media sources Watch

Image of Small media outlets are consumed by the large, limiting the variety of expression.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Have you ever tried to describe something, but lacked the vocabulary to do it? This is the concept behind Newspeak, a fictional language in George Orwell's 1984. Orwell proposed that by limiting expression, thought itself could be limited. Today, as media companies ... continue reading


Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage struck down Watch

Image of The Virginia case, Bostic v. Rainey, was brought by two same-sex couples. Fourteen thousand gay couples also were certified as a class for the suit.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

In a dramatic reversal of a voter-based 2006 decision, U.S. appeals court this week struck down Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage as unconstitutional, the latest in a string of court rulings to back gay marriage. A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit ... continue reading


Archbishop Chaput Speaks at the Napa Institute Conference on Pope Francis and Economic Justice

Image of Archbishop Charles J. Chaput is one of the preeminent Churchmen of our age. He offers a prophetic voice for this important time. He not only grasps and articulates Catholic Social Doctrine well, he also understands the real treasure we have been given in this Pope who took the name Francis. I believe that his insights into Pope Francis need to be read by as many people as possible.

By Catholic Online

In matters of economic justice, Francis' concerns are the same as Benedict's and John Paul II's and Pius XI's and Leo XIII's. He understands economic matters through the lens of Church teaching in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. Like his ... continue reading


Thousands of Christians Flee Under Death Threat From Tyrannical Caliph and ISIS Jihadists Watch

Image of (Pictured: Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, or Caliph Ibrahim) At first, Christians were ordered to gather in a central place to receive the directive from the self appointed Caliph. Understandably, given the track record of this maniacal tyrant, few did. So, the text of the statement was issued as a formal declaration to all Christians - We offer them three choices: Islam; the dhimma contract - involving payment of Jizya; if they refuse this they will have nothing but the sword.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

By now, everyone who is in anyway concerned about what is happening to Christians in Iraq has heard the horrific news. The madman who claims to be a descendant of Mohammed, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi - who in his delusion and grandiosity has taken to calling himself ... continue reading


Bridget of Sweden, Marriage and Family, and the Need for Canonized Married Saints Watch

Image of St Bridget of Sweden, her husband Ulf, and all the modern Popes call Christian married couples to become the 'Sweet and Smiling Face of the Church' in this age. This is an age which is desperately in need of all kinds of saints. I suggest we particularly need examples of married, canonized Saints. That is precisely because this is an age where faithful marriage is now counter-cultural. We need examples of men and women who not only embraced it in Christ, but lived it as a but a path to heroic virtue.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

The clear teaching of the Bible, the Christian tradition and the re-emphasis of the last Council in the Catholic Church, the Second Vatican Council, make clear - we are ALL called to holiness in life. That  is what the Catholic Church regularly refers to as ... continue reading


Deacon Keith Fournier: The Courage of the Catholic Bishops, Religious Liberty, Hobby Lobby and ENDA Watch

Image of Deacon Keith Fournier is Founder and Chairman of Common Good Foundation and Common Good Alliance. A married Roman Catholic Deacon of the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia, he and his wife Laurine have five grown children and six grandchildren, He serves as the Director of Adult Faith Formation at St. Stephen, Martyr Parish in Chesapeake, VA. He is also a human rights lawyer and public policy advocate. Deacon Fournier is a graduate of the Franciscan University of Steubenville (Theology and Philosophy, BA), the John Paul II Institute of the Lateran University (Theology of Marriage and Family, MTS), and the University of Pittsburgh School of Law (JD). He has completed requirements for the PhD in Moral Theology at the Catholic University of America and is writing the PhD dissertation on the teaching of St. John Paul II.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

The Catholic Bishops are doing an excellent job standing up for Religious liberty as a fundamental human right. One of my growing concerns is that many Catholics do not even read what they are saying. Sadly, in a propagandized media where sound bites substitute ... continue reading


Obama demands that illegals be allowed to enter U.S. Watch

Image of Tens of thousands of illegal, unaccompanied minors have flooded into the United States since 2014 began, often escaping violence in war torn Central American countries.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

President Barack Obama's administration is considering whether or not it will allow hundreds of minors and young adults from Honduras and other war-torn Central American states to enter into the United States illegally and without crossing into the country ... continue reading


Are you ready for the next dust bowl? California is! Watch

Image of A new study suggests that the Colorado River Basin is rapidly running out of water, which may be disastrous for the seven states it supplies.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

According to a report published by the American space agency and the University of California, the water crisis that is punishing the southwestern United States is likely to worsen. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The report found that the prime source of water ... continue reading


PLAGUE OF BIBLICAL PROPORTIONS: Mayflies descend on Wisconsin Watch

Image of When summer arrives, Mayflies take flight and proceed to mate before immediately going back to the water to lay eggs and die.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

It's a plague of Biblical proportions. Ugly mayflies have descended on the state of Wisconsin, covering up exterior services like so much black, metallic dust. Photos coming out of Wisconsin is sure to send viewers itching - so beware of some of the sights 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, Jeremiah 18:1-6
1 The word that came to Jeremiah from Yahweh as ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 146:1-2, 2-4, 5-6
1 Alleluia! Praise Yahweh, my soul!2 I ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 13:47-53
47 'Again, the kingdom of Heaven is like a dragnet ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for July 31st, 2014 Image

St. Ignatius Loyola
July 31: St. Ignatius was born in the family castle in Guip˙zcoa, Spain, ... 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