Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Deal W. Hudson

5/1/2014 (5 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 (5 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'


2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for October 2014
Peace:
That the Lord may grant peace to those parts of the world most battered by war and violence.
World Mission Day: That World Mission Day may rekindle in every believer zeal for carrying the Gospel into all the world.



Comments


More U.S.

Same-sex couples line up to be wed in Wyoming Watch

Image of After the state formally dropped its defense of a law defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman, Jennifer Mumaugh says that attitudes across the state have shifted in recent years to be more open to gay couples.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Same-sex couples began lining up around the block in Wyoming for marriage licenses this week. U.S. District Judge Scott W. Skavdahl, appointed by President Barack Obama struck down the state's gay marriage ban last week. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - ... continue reading


Will they riot after this? Autopsy, analysis shows officer Wilson was telling the truth Watch

Image of New analysis and witness reports suggest that officer Darren Wilson was being attacked by Michael Brown and shot him in self defense.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

New evidence from Ferguson Missouri seems to vindicate the testimony of officer Darren Wilson, showing that the fatal shooting of Michael Brown may not be as cut and dry as many of the protestors in the area believe. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - According to ... continue reading


Is this a sign of things to come? 2014 midterm most expensive on record Watch

Image of Early voting has already started in several states including Kansas and Illinois.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Well underway, the 2014 midterms are set to be the most expensive midterms ever, according to projections that the Center for Responsive Politics released on October 22. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - While heavily overshadowed by global affairs like the ... continue reading


ACTIVE SHOOTER - Kids, teachers, community terrorized by admin, police at Thompson Jr. HS in Bakersfield in the name of safety? Watch

Image of Terrorization in the name of safety is still terror.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The latest school shooting did not make the national news yesterday because allegedly it was an act of domestic terrorism perpetrated against kids and a working-class community in the name of safety. For about 30 minutes on Tuesday, students, faculty, and their parents ... continue reading


Guns Do Not Have Rights, People Do. Legitimate Self Defense is One of Them

Image of Guns have no rights, only people do.Yes, one of them is the Right to Self Defense - and the Right to defend your neighbor. You may ask,

By Keith A. Fournier

We live in a precarious time in the United States of America. Many of us are deeply concerned about the effort to infringe upon the fundamental rights which were delineated in the Bill of Rights to the United States Constitution. I have written extensively about ... continue reading


Catholic school forbids Hollywood lesbian drama from shooting on location Watch

Image of In the scene to be filmed at the school, Moore's character, a New Jersey police detective with terminal cancer, applies for a domestic partnership with her partner, played by Page in order to pass on her pension legally after her death.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

While actresses Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are big names in filmland, their largesse didn't get them past the authorities at Salesian High School in New Rochelle, New York. The catholic school has declined their request to use their location for a ... continue reading


On the Feast of St. John Paul II, His Prophetic Warning to the U.S. Requires a Response Watch

Image of Deacon Keith Fournier standing under the beautiful bronze statue of John Paul II in Denver, Colorado.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

In an address given during that 1976 Eucharistic Congress in Philadelphia for the bicentennial celebration of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Cardinal Karol Wojtyla spoke some words which I believe were prophetic. - We are now standing in the face ... continue reading


Guest Commentary by Ken Blackwell: Houston's Mayor is Endangering Civil Rights

Image of Ken Blackwell

By Ken Blackwell

In Houston, Texas, we have seen a bizarre twist on traditional Civil Rights play out. The Mayor of Houston, Annise Parker, has been waging an uncivil war on people who oppose the far-reaching homosexual rights ordinance she powered through the City Council. That ... continue reading


Suspected Indiana serial killer foiled by text messages Watch

Image of Darren Deon Vann is suspected in the death of a woman in Hammond - and possibly six more in neighboring Gary, possibly even more.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Darren Deon Vann told Indiana Police he "messed up" and expressed surprise that he was found so quickly, in the biggest understatement in recent memory. Vann is suspected in the death of a woman in Hammond - and possibly six more in neighboring Gary, possibly ... continue reading


United States developing quick-strike team to deal with Ebola Watch

Image of The U.S. Ebola strike team will include five doctors, 20 nurses and five trainers, Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said in a statement.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

In response to the crisis in Dallas, the United States is developing a 30-person "quick-strike team" in order to attend to the needs of Ebola patients within the U.S. The team will be under orders to deploy within 72 hours at any time over the next month. The ... 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, Ephesians 4:1-6
1 I, the prisoner in the Lord, urge you therefore to ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 24:1-2, 3-4, 5-6
1 [Psalm Of David] To Yahweh belong the earth and all ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 12:54-59
54 He said again to the crowds, 'When you see a cloud ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for October 24th, 2014 Image

St. Anthony Mary Claret
October 24: Claretian archbishop and founder. Anthony was born in Salient 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