Points of Light Print
By Robert Royal   
Monday, 04 April 2011

Yes, I know. It looks pretty bad. America has stumbled into its third “kinetic military action.” The dollar is starting to look like the once fabled Italian lira. Illegitimacy is up, family formation down. And public deliberation about these problems does little other than kicking the can further down the road, past the next election, or at least to where someone else will have to take real responsibility.

On top of everything, the Catholic Church seems to be passing through one of those phases best described by the great English historian and convert Christopher Dawson:

The Church as a divine society possesses an internal principle of life which is capable of assimilating the most diverse materials and imprinting her own image upon them. Inevitably in the course of history there are times when this spiritual energy is temporarily weakened or obscured, the Church tends to be judged as a human organization and identified with the faults and limitations of her members. But always the time comes when she renews her strength and once more puts forth her inherent divine energy in the conversion of new peoples and the transformation of old cultures.

At The Catholic Thing we’ve done our best on all fronts, especially on the question of a Catholic renaissance, which is also the best hope for everything truly good for persons and communities. In that vein, I’d like to bring to your attention two particular points of light in the hope that you, or someone you know, will get the word and be moved to participate.

The Faith & Reason Institute, the parent organization for TCT, runs several regular programs, perhaps none more important than the Fides et Ratio Seminars we sponsor in different places around the country every summer and the Seminar on the Free Society that takes place each year in the Slovak Republic.


   Contribute to the Faith & Reason Institute to support of its seminars in the Slovak Republic and in the U.S. 

The Fides et Ratio Seminars, as the name attests, take their inspiration from the late John Paul the Great, who will be beatified on May 1. These are our direct effort to renew the Catholic intellectual tradition at Catholic colleges, universities, and seminaries in the United States. The director of the seminars, Dr. Patrick Powers, brought the idea to me several years ago: a week of intensive reading of great Catholic books by faculty, staff, and administration of institutions of higher learning with the goal of producing hundreds of professors who had had a chance to reconnect with the tradition and with like-minded counterparts at other schools. We have daily Mass and meals together, sit in seminar discussion on the books (no lecturing!), and provide a serious stipend, room and board, and library of works to enable participants to spend time away from family and other duties.

The financial resources were generously provided by Michele and Donald D’Amour, the latter the highly successful CEO of Big-Y Foods – and not coincidentally, a former student of late TCT founder Ralph McInerny (Donald wrote his doctoral dissertation on Aristotle’s “great-souled man,” a concept he seems to have taken to heart). It started slow, but has taken off like the proverbial rocket. This year there will be six seminars in various parts of the country. And for the first time, in Denver under Archbishop Chaput, there will be one at the St. John Vianney Theological Seminary for workers in that archdiocese, giving them, too, a chance to immerse themselves in our Catholic tradition – which has become all too unfamiliar, even to Catholics.

There will also be intensive seminars at Thomas More College in New Hampshire, Wyoming Catholic College, and the St. Malo Retreat Center north of Denver. To date, we have attracted over 350 participants total who have gone back to over 75 institutions with the good news of Faith & Reason. Deo volente and human generosity continuing, we’ll stay at this for several years more and there will an even greater number of faithful, informed people in Catholic liberal arts energized to take on the Herculean task of forming a new generation of Catholics for roles in the Church and the world.

Which brings me to my second point of light: We’ve all complained about young Catholics and many of us are worried about the pernicious influence of anti-Christian and anti-American values in Europe. This summer will be the eleventh year that the Slovak Seminar on the Free Society will bring together young Americans, graduate students and young professionals, with young adults similarly situated from Central and Eastern Europe. Over the course of ten days, we study Catholic social thought, culture, economics, politics, democratic institutions, and the spiritual and intellectual foundations of true liberty. Click on the ad in the right hand column or here to see what it’s like.

One of our alums went on to do a doctorate with the natural law theorist John Finnis at Oxford and then returned to Bratislava to found a new residential college for Catholic university students. Slovakia is a good place for this work because Slovaks and others in the region are unashamed of being Catholic, indeed, think it quite natural. They also have a favorable opinion of America in general. And the interactions among Americans and Europeans – not least in visiting historical sites, hiking the High Tatras mountains, and the last night, even doing some Slavic dancing – give the spiritual and intellectual camaraderie a more earthly dimension.

As I started out by saying, things are quite bad and it will take a lot of work to bring about what Joseph Ratzinger once called the “convalescence of reason” in our day. But these are two demonstrably successful efforts, and we hope they will lead to many more. If you are interested, or know someone who would be, contact Dr. Powers, director of the Fides et Ratio Seminars or, for the Slovak Seminar, Liz McCoy. And if the Spirit moves, you can contribute to either program by clicking on the donation button above and specifying which one you want to support.


Robert Royal
is editor-in-chief of The Catholic Thing, and president of the Faith & Reason Institute in Washington, D.C. His most recent book is The God That Did Not Fail: How Religion Built and Sustains the West, now available in paperback from Encounter Books.

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