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 August 2016
Universal:
Sports: That sports may be an opportunity for friendly encounters between peoples and may contribute to peace in the world.
Evangelization: Living the Gospel: That Christians may live the Gospel, giving witness to faith, honesty, and love of neighbor.



Comments


More U.S.

St Augustine on a Personal Relationship with Jesus Watch

Image of St Augustine

By Deacon Keith Fournier

But we too can encounter Christ in reading Sacred Scripture, in prayer, in the liturgical life of the Church. We can touch Christ's Heart and feel him touching ours. Only in this personal relationship with Christ, only in this encounter with the Risen One do we ... continue reading


Five-year-old invents 'Kindness Day' Watch

Image of Five-year-old boy treats officers to a lunch from Subway.

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Five-year-old William Evertz Jr. saved up his allowance for several months in hopes of purchasing a Power Wheels police car but realized his money would better benefit others. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - On Wednesday, the Winslow Police Department in ... continue reading


Two nuns found murdered in Mississippi home Watch

Image of Police have found two nuns slain in a Mississippi home.

By Marshall Connolly (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Two Catholic nuns have been found dead in their home after they didn't show up for their work. The pair worked as nurse practitioners out of state. Police are investigating the deaths of two Catholic nuns after they missed work. The pair were found together in a ... continue reading


1 city, 2 days, 52 OD's Watch

Image of Opioids in the United States have appeared in the form of elephant tranquilizers.

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Heroin laced with carfentanil, the most potent commercial opioid known to be 10,000 times stronger than morphine, is being dealt on streets across the United States. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - According to CNN, carfentanil significantly slows breathing and is ... continue reading


The shocking NEW reason why young people are leaving church Watch

Image of The youth are leaving the church, but why?

By Marshall Connolly (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

It's a surprising find, but it's also true. Americans are giving up on God. A Pew survey reveals that half of the people who have quit going to church no longer believe in God. LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) - Nearly a quarter of the nation no longer attends ... continue reading


Massachusetts nun loses rosary to lesbian couple Watch

Image of Lesbian muggers rob nun of her rosary beads.

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

A Sister at the Daughters of Mary of Nazareth convent was mugged by a lesbian couple, who left with the nun's rosary. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - According to the <a ... continue reading


'Right Before I Die': Photographer reveals heartbreaking truth on taboo topic Watch

Image of One photographer captured people's dreams as they drew closer to death (Shutterstock).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Photographer Andrew George decided to interview and photograph people close to death for a project titled "Right Before I Die." LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - George's project earned an exhibit at the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles and he explained the ... continue reading


Deacon Keith Fournier: Jesus Walks with Us on the Dusty Road of Life Watch

Image of

By Deacon Keith Fournier

We can learn a vital lesson from this account in the Gospel of Luke; one which can radically reorient our entire life. Jesus is always with us. He accompanies us on the Way of our daily life because He IS the Way. (John 14:6) But, we need our eyes to be opened. ... continue reading


Marian procession to commemorate birthday of Los Angeles Watch

Image of Los Angeles will hold a Marian procession and a votive Mass for the city's 235th anniversary.

By Marshall Connolly (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

The city of Los Angeles will get a Marian procession to mark its 235th anniversary on August 27. The city is named after Our Lady. LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) - The city of Los Angeles has a very long name. Officially, the city is known as, "The Town of Our ... continue reading


Government finally admits truth about Area 51 Watch

Image of A truck transports a mysterious, covered object to Area 51 under tight security.

By Marshall Connolly (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

The Daily Mail has posted pictures of the mysterious fleet of planes that flies workers into Area 51. Area 51 is the secret Air Force facility that is rumored to house alien technology. The existence of the base was only recently acknowledged. LOS ANGELES, CA ... 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

  • Daily Reading for Monday, August 29th, 2016 HD Video
  • You'll never believe what Obama did in Hawaii!
  • St Augustine on a Personal Relationship with Jesus
  • The economic problem that could destroy America TODAY HD Video
  • St. Monica: Mother of Augustine, Model of the Virtuous Mother
  • Daily Readings for Saturday, August 27, 2016
  • St. Monica: Saint of the Day for Saturday, August 27, 2016

Daily Readings

Reading 1, First Corinthians 1:26-31
26 Consider, brothers, how you were called; not many of you are wise by ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 33:12-13, 18-19, 20-21
12 How blessed the nation whose God is Yahweh, the people he has chosen ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 25:14-30
14 'It is like a man about to go abroad who summoned his servants and ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for August 27th, 2016 Image

St. Monica
August 27: Saint Monica, also known as Monica of Hippo, is ... Read More