A Pastoral Society

The Renewal of Catholic Culture and the Flourishing of Human Society


In the Catholic intellectual community, there is a growing call for the renewal of Christian culture as a solution to the impoverishment of 21st century society. This intellectual movement has two momentums: on the one hand, there is an aggressive, necessarily confrontational rhetoric that speaks boldly in the public square. This part of the movement is calling for a more compassionate form of politics based on the dignity of the human person, the common good, and objective morality. Its greatest demand is for repeal, or prevention, of laws that allow violence to humanity, such as abortion and euthanasia. A more Christian humanist polity would also include proper immigration laws, legislation that reflects and protects the eternal institutions of marriage and Church, as well as religious freedom in its proper definition as a U.S. Constitutional right and an inalienable right of all mankind.

In addition to this aggressive momentum, there is a more passive momentum, wherein there is a call for an improvement in Christian values in Catholic and secular universities by reestablishing Humanities and Liberal Arts curricula. Knowing that virtually all cultural paradigm shifts in the history of ideas begin in academia, in written papers, classrooms, conference halls, and seminar galleries of higher education, this aspect of the renewal of Christian culture is rightly focusing on education as a starting point. In parallel to this refurbishing of higher education, there is a corresponding need for unity in family and community; a return to the classical family unit, one that eats together, shares their daily lives and experiences, and plays together. Catholic scholars, as well as the universal Church, are calling for the family to reform, so that, as the core unit of human society, it can be the nucleus of value and virtue. This, in turn, would produce communities such as neighborhoods and parishes, bound together by friendship and common interest and benefit. Each concentric circle of human association infuses the broader spectrum of human culture. Both the aggressive and the passive momentum are necessary and must bear fruit, each in its own way.

The Shape of the Movement—the Passive Momentum

Regarding the passive momentum, the renewal of Christian culture is at the heart of the New Evangelization in the Church. Building upon the apostolic exhortation, Evangelii nuntiandi, in which Pope Paul VI called for “confirming” and “encouraging the brethren in their mission as evangelizers” (EN 1,) St. John Paul II gave it a more specific identity, using the phrase “new evangelization” 16 times in his encyclical, Redemptoris missio. The New Evangelization entered the 21st century as a formal initiative with Pope Benedict’s announcement of a Year of Faith (October 2012-November 2013), intended to begin the actual work of New Evangelization at parish and diocesan levels. This pastoral work has been taken up in many forms, but what all the initiatives have in common, which must take precedence, is that each must begin, then, go forth from a renewal of faith within the Church. Ultimately, evangelization, by definition, is an outward movement. However, we cannot “go out” unless we are “carrying the seeds” of faith. We cannot expect to “return carrying our sheaves”1 unless we were able to plant good seed in the mission field. After the first phase of renewal within the Church, the passive momentum must then become a renewal of human culture based on Christian values—not necessarily as a conversion campaign, but as a diffusion of goodness.

Lest this movement, these two columns of momentum, draw away as activism or merely another form of outreach ministry, there must be a constant sense of the source and power of the movement, which is Jesus Christ. There has to be an ever present renewal of self and mission, and it has to come from prayer, participation in the Mass, the Eucharist, and the sacrament of reconciliation. The renewal of Christian Culture and the New Evangelization must be fed by the grace of Christ, attained in prayer and sacrament. We cannot merely “go out,” but must continually return to the source and purpose, source and summit, of our mission. Without the font of the Eucharist, there cannot be a diffusion of goodness into the world. It is a Eucharistic mission. Although, in this writing, I would like to focus on the passive momentum—the overarching movement—both the passive and aggressive momentum must be rooted in the spiritual and supernatural heart of the Church, a branch on the vine which is Christ.

An Early Call for Renewal

Just as Magisterial documents follow and build upon their predecessors, the contemporary intellectual voices leading the movement follow a rich tradition. Jacques Maritain, in the latter part of his career as a Christian philosopher, having participated in the Second Vatican Council, came to realize that Catholic participation in the world is not only an “either-or” proposition, but a proposition that the intrinsic middle must participate in. It is not either participation in social activism or participation in the sacred vocational/devotional life, but participation in Catholic life, in Catholic culture itself, Maritain suggests, that can be an important influence on society. Although Maritain acknowledges that these two (the active and the pious) are still viable apostolate categories, he sees a need for the average Catholic to participate in the world with an awareness of his or her Christianity, and an intent to “impregnate social structures with its spirit.” “The spiritual and the temporal,” Maritain goes on to say, “are perfectly distinct, but they can, and should, cooperate in mutual freedom.”2 This is in the context of Maritain’s broader narrative on the temporal mission of the Christian:

Christianity, then, can no longer count on the aid and protection of social structures. On the contrary, it is up to (Christianity) to aid and protect those structures by striving to impregnate them with its spirit.

The Christian has a temporal mission with respect to the world and human progress … When St. John commands us not to love the world or the things of the world (cf. 1 John 2:15-17), he has no intention of forbidding us to love everything good and worthy of love in the world; it is the friendship with the world, insofar as it is the enemy of the Gospel and of Jesus, that he has in view. . . (T)he entire world, with its vast non-Christian cultural areas, requires, within the temporal domain and on behalf of the progress of temporal civilization, the stimulus and elevation which Christianity naturally brings to the activities of nature in their own space.

This means that the age we are entering obliges the Christian to become aware of the temporal mission which he has, with respect to the world, and which is like an expansion of his spiritual vocation in the kingdom of God, and with respect to it. The fact remains that this temporal mission requires him to enter as deeply as possible into the agonies, the conflicts, and the earthly problems, social and political, of his age, and not hesitate to “get his feet wet.”3 (Italics are mine.)

Here, Maritain gives us insight into both momentums of the movement of renewal today. On the one hand, he speaks of active involvement in “earthly problems, social and political,” and on the other hand, he speaks of a more passive “stimulus and elevation which Christianity naturally brings to the activities of nature in their own space.” This “stimulus and elevation” can be understood as what the Second Vatican Council meant by defining the Church’s relationship to the world as sacrament in the world, “simultaneously manifesting and exercising the mystery of God’s love.”4 has established His Body which is the Church as the universal sacrament of salvation (LG 48.”) Then again, (1) “The promotion of unity belongs to the innermost nature of the Church, for she is, ‘thanks to her relationship with Christ, a sacramental sign and an instrument of intimate union with God, and of the unity of the whole human race’ (GS 42.”) and (2) “. . . the Church is ‘the universal sacrament of salvation’, simultaneously manifesting and a rising the mystery of God’s love (GS 45.”) ] As sacrament in the world, the Church manifests “the mystery of God’s love” in two ways, first as the voice of objective morality (stimulus), and also as a sanctifying force (elevation), both guiding human culture in its actions and sanctifying it (“impregnating it with its Spirit.”)

Focusing on the passive momentum, there are many intellectual voices taking up this call. The New Evangelization as renewal of Christian culture has, as its intent and objective, that of renewing human culture as a pastoral society. Long have the vocational and devotional apostolates been active with this intent in the spiritual realm. Now, in this modern age, new initiatives in the temporal realm must rise up to supplement their spiritual power. There is, indeed, a need for an increase in spiritual work to be done, and the focus on renewal of culture cannot exclude, or ignore, that spiritual need. On the contrary, the temporal and the spiritual realms have to feed and nourish each other, and, in fact, one of the fruits of the temporal renewal will be an increase in vocations to the religious life and the priesthood. Religious vocations are a natural fruit of a healthy Christian culture.

While apostolates of social activism have specific agendas, and the momentum of aggressive confrontation of faith and secular agendas in the public arena make progress on their particular fronts, the passive momentum of Christian culture, both spiritual and temporal, is being energized through the New Evangelization. The New Evangelization is meant to raise the awareness of Catholics so that they can be more fully Catholic, both in the Church and in the world. Awareness is necessary for intent, and intent is necessary for success. Christian culture is, by nature, a pastoral culture, and a society that is rooted in goodness. Any culture that has the common good and human dignity as its intent becomes a pastoral society. This progression, from a New Evangelization within the Church, to civilization as a pastoral society, influenced by a renewed Christian culture, is, in fact, the Gospel message and the Church’s mission. Being disciples of Christ, “salt of the earth” and “light of the world,” we are called to a mission that moves from the supernatural into the natural, with a trajectory for humanity that goes beyond the temporal horizon towards eternity, and a return to the supernatural (exitusreditus). Christianity is a movement, following Christ, leading the way for the salvation of souls. For the Christian community, it is a participation in God’s Providence in the world.


While education is essential to the renewal effort, there is a danger of dwelling too much on the problem. Often we spend a lot of words, time, and effort on presenting the problem, and even more energy on explaining how it happened, without proposing concrete solutions. This is noticeable (to a certain extent) in the current rhetoric on renewal of higher education. There is obvious value in identifying the cause, as the cause can provide some clues to a solution. Simply being the harbinger, however, is not enough. The good news is that many academics are taking up the challenge of being light bearers and showing the way; at least pointing in a hopeful direction, if not providing a complete map.

Those who are proposing to light the way do, in fact, present some viable ideas. Although they paint with broad strokes, it is with colors that can be used in the fine detail of implementation. At the risk of becoming a victim of my own criticism, I must, at this point, state the problem. With less emphasis on cause, the inherent problems present themselves for fitting solutions. In fact, the rhetoric on the solution side is already alive and vibrant. The problem, briefly stated, is that higher education has evolved into career-oriented curriculum systems at the expense of the humanities and liberal arts. This might sound less like a problem and more like a solution, if you are inclined to agree that the purpose of higher education should be practical. We certainly all agree, that because students are incurring exorbitant debt for their education, there must be a return on investment. None of the solutions call for liberal arts degrees replacing law, engineering, medicine, or any other career-oriented degrees. The basis of serious solutions is an intertwining of liberal arts with these career disciplines.

The isolation of these career-oriented curricula has resulted in what Blessed John Henry Newman called “fragmentation.”5 A sort of knee-jerk reaction or seemingly obvious solution to fragmentation has been to incorporate curriculum programs referred to as interdisciplinary. This, however, results in a diluted program, or simply a new (although multifaceted) discipline that career-minded students would not have interest in, and, in turn, would not offer a genuine exposure to humanities and arts. Douglas Farrow, in his essay, The (Lost) Idea of the University, gives us an example of what can happen with such projects.

The search for the universitas is not quite dead in today’s multiversity, even where theology evinces few signs of revival. It shows up, for example, in the creation of interdisciplinary programs that attempt, as it were, to do theology’s work. This was brought home to me in a recent committee meeting at my own university, during which a new inter-faculty major in “Sustainability, Science, and Society” came up for consideration. At first glance, the proposal seemed almost Newmanesque in its commitment to combine science and technology with economics and governance, and both with ethics and justice, creating a partnership that spanned the sciences and the humanities in its pursuit of “a transition to sustainability.” … But what really gave me pause for thought were its apocalyptic premises and soteriological aspirations––both articulated with a confidence few theological programs would dare to emulate. “At the dawn of a new millennium, we stand at a critical juncture in human history,” began the rationale. “In the face of multiple threats,” it asserted, “the grand challenge of the twenty-first century is “Sustainable Well-Being.” … Indeed, its supporters spoke quite happily about wanting to “save the world.”

… I found myself having to object to their appeal to apocalyptic worries and millenarian dreams, since these are not appropriate foundations for an academic program, and having to point out that some of the offerings were not based in recognizable disciplines, particularly where the important “justice, equity, and ethics” pillar was concerned. Moreover, I had to point out that the program was likely to encourage intellectual dilettantism among crusading students and instructors––in short, that it appeared to be an example, not so much of genuine interdisciplinarity, as of that disciplinary inflation against which Newman had warned.6

From this quote, we can see the danger of diluting curriculum programs with programs of mere social activism. Instead of forming students into social activists, the better solution is to form them to be good gatekeepers within their chosen disciplines. Furthermore, to be good gatekeepers, students must come to understand the human person and the person’s relation to community. This can only be done through humanities and liberal arts offerings within the curriculum of career-oriented programs as viable electives, but also as required courses.

The following excerpt shows an alternative approach in “the search for the universitas.” This example, I might point out, is already in place at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, one of the most highly esteemed, career-oriented universities in the world. Deborah K. Fitzgerald, dean of the MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, in a recent article in the Boston Globe, makes very clear the importance of humanities and arts to the career-oriented university and its students:

The role of the humanities in American education has been the subject of much recent debate amid concerns that the STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, and math) are eclipsing the humanities fields in relevance and career prospects.

So some may be surprised, and, I hope, reassured, to learn that here at MIT—a bastion of STEM education—we view the humanities, arts, and social sciences as essential, both for educating great engineers and scientists, and for sustaining our capacity for innovation.

Why? Because the Institute’s mission is to advance knowledge and educate students who are prepared to help solve the world’s most challenging problems—in energy, health care, transportation, and many other fields. To do this, our graduates naturally need advanced technical knowledge and skills—the deep, original thinking about the physical universe that is the genius of the science and engineering fields.

But the world’s problems are never tidily confined to the laboratory or spreadsheet. From climate change to poverty to disease, the challenges of our age are unwaveringly human in nature and scale, and engineering and science issues are always embedded in broader human realities, from deeply felt cultural traditions to building codes to political tensions. So our students also need an in-depth understanding of human complexities—the political, cultural, and economic realities that shape our existence—as well as fluency in the powerful forms of thinking and creativity cultivated by the humanities, arts, and social sciences.

Some of the best testimony about the value of such an education comes from our science and engineering alumni. One recent graduate, who went on to medical school, wrote about how her practice as a physician requires not only medical knowledge, but also the ability to interpret her patients’ accounts and stories—a skill she gained reading literature, studying the various forms of narrative, the many ways humans share vital information. “MIT biology prepared me for medicine,” she says. “Literature prepared me to be a doctor.”

Entrepreneurs also find a diverse skill set very valuable. One distinguished MIT engineering graduate and entrepreneur notes, “The introduction to philosophy and the history of ideas turned out to be the most enduring value and benefit from my education at MIT.” Another engineering graduate who has transformed the electronics field says, “A broader education for a young person is more important than a specialty. When you learn about several disciplines, then you can start to connect them. I found my economics and history classes particularly useful.”

A prominent MIT materials scientist graduate, who cites her MIT literature and art history classes as key to expanding her worldview, is now the dean of a college of engineering, with a frontline perspective on what engineers need to succeed in today’s marketplace. She says, “Employers want students who can lead, work in teams, work across cultures, and especially communicate—and much of that ability comes from studies in literature, the arts, the social sciences. The world needs creative problem-solvers who can take into account the human perspective.”

As educators, we know we cannot anticipate all the forms our students’ future challenges will take, but we can provide them with some fundamentals that will be guides for the ongoing process of exploration and discovery. We can help shape their resilience, and prepare them to analyze and problem-solve in both familiar and unfamiliar situations. Calling on both STEM and humanities disciplines—as mutually informing modes of knowledge—we aim to give students a toolbox brimming over with tools to support them throughout their careers and lives.7

Two phrases used here may, at first, seem synonymous with the term interdisciplinary, but, in fact, have a subtle, yet important, difference of expression. Both “to learn about several disciplines” and to receive “a broader education” express the idea that interdisciplinary wants to express, which is, that once in the world, the graduate should be prepared to “work across cultures.” Yet the two former expressions are more salient to the intent. To “learn about several disciplines” and to have “a broader education” are not the same as implementing interdisciplinary curriculum programs as exemplified in the excerpt from Douglas Farrow. Curricula that offer exposure to several disciplines provide a broad education. This means that the student learns about various disciplines (particularly an admix of primary disciplines with liberal arts) and learns within the context of the supplementing discipline itself—as opposed to a hybrid program, dilute in both primary and cultural dimensions.

What is being called for is an infusion of the diverse disciplines with an understanding of the human condition. This can be condensed into the idea of the pursuit of the good, which is rooted in (classical) philosophy and theology, but comes to life in literature, art, and history. In short, it can only be found in the narrative of human existence.

Family, Community, and Culture

Eric Voegelin has been quoted as saying “a man is not obliged to participate in the crisis of his times.”8 This surprising, yet obvious, statement of truth is very applicable to any movement of renewal. The nature of renewal is to regain the stability lost during, or due to, crisis. This is no truer than in today’s crisis of human culture. From the postmodern deconstruction of everything from family to truth itself, stability has been replaced with an “anything-goes” philosophy of life that accepts (is “tolerant of”) anything, except stability and tradition. In this discourse on renewal of Catholic culture within secular society, it can be said that it is a movement toward stability by reestablishing tradition.

In the science of Sociology, the gathering of data provides the basis of knowing what works and what doesn’t work. It may be the case that not all sociologists agree on solutions, but it is the case that their data agree that there are identifiable factors that contribute to the breakdown of culture, community, and family. Furthermore, the data show that it begins in the smallest of these three human groupings, the family. For simplicity of argument, allow me to generalize two important factors in this phenomenon. First, a male child raised without a father figure will most likely mature to be a rebellious adult, rejecting authority, and has a statistical inclination toward crime, and, in the very least, isolation and antisocial behavior. Second, families that do not participate in a home life are statistically inclined to lose control of adolescent children who become more connected and loyal to peers and unseen friends on social media. These two statistically sound influences result in family crises such as teen pregnancy, suicide, and gang-related activity, none of which contribute positively to the flourishing of human culture. This is putting it mildly. A more realistic statement would be that all of the above contribute to the breakdown of family values and the detriment of human culture. Whatever the solutions might be, and it seems obvious that solutions are simply the reverse of the contributing factors, the starting point is in the family.

In the 2013 Erasmus Address, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks spoke of what it means to be “Creative Minorities”9 in the world. Rabbi Sacks’ primary reference is Jeremiah (29), who writes words of encouragement to the exile community of Israel and prophetically speaks to us today. As a secondary reference, he cites Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s lecture on Christian roots (May 13, 2004). Then, in contrast to these two wise men, Rabbi Sacks cites the 20th-century historian, Arnold Toynbee, who in his voluminous work, A Study of History, also speaks of “creative minorities.” The contrast brings to light Jeremiah and Ratzinger’s authentic concept of being a minority “in a system that is not your own” (Sacks) and a minority that “helps” and “serves” the system they find themselves in (cf. Ratzinger). For Toynbee, on the other hand, the objective of the creative minorities would be to rise to power, and from the height of power, implement their own cultural elements. The following quotes express a quite different notion of cultural influence. First, Jeremiah writes:

Build houses to dwell in; plant gardens, and eat their fruits. Take wives and beget sons and daughters; find wives for your sons, and give your daughters husbands, so that they may bear sons and daughters. There, you must increase in number, not decrease. Promote the welfare of the city to which I have exiled you; pray for it to the LORD, for upon its welfare depends your own. (NAB Jer 29:5-7)

Ratzinger concurs:

Christian believers should look upon themselves as just such a creative minority, and help Europe to reclaim what is best in its heritage, and, to, therefore, place itself at the service of all humankind.10

Rabbi Sacks concludes that, as people of faith, the Judeo-Christian culture “… can be a minority, living in a country whose religion, culture, and legal system are not their own, and yet sustain their identity, live their faith, and contribute to the common good, exactly as Jeremiah said. It isn’t easy. It demands a complex finessing of identities. It involves a willingness to live in a state of cognitive dissonance. It isn’t for the fainthearted. But it is creative.”

This form of cultural creativity is exactly what the current Catholic renewal movement is calling for, and needs. While the more aggressive, political momentum of the renewal movement, spoken of at the outset, moves against unjust laws and the suppression of religious freedom, the passive cultural momentum must actively and creatively “increase in number,” “promote the welfare of the city” where we find ourselves, and “pray for it, for its welfare depends on your own,” and by doing so, place ourselves at the service of mankind. Just as we have pointed out that education must shift toward a pursuit of the good, so also, must human culture, which has shifted away from the good, toward a pursuit of individual self-gratification. Who better to lead this recovery of the good, as Sacks has pointed out, than a people of faith rooted in the truth of divine revelation and classical, rational thought? Who better to lead the way, than those who understand the objectivity of the true, the good, and the beautiful?

This call for the pursuit of the good can be summed up in the virtue of magnanimity. R.J. Snell reminds us of our calling to magnanimity by quoting Josef Pieper who, in turn, is quoting St. Thomas Aquinas and Aristotle:

A person is magnanimous if he has the courage to seek what is great and becomes worthy of it. … Thus magnanimity incorporates into itself the aspiration of natural hope and stamps it according to the truth of man’s own nature. Magnanimity, as both Thomas and Aristotle tell us, is “the jewel of all the virtues,” since it always—and particularly in ethical matters—decides in favor of what is, at any given moment, the greater possibility of the human potentiality for being.11

Snell’s point is that we as Catholics, knowing the value of human dignity and common good, are called to magnanimity by our faith and our theology. To do great things, to be great, and rise above nature; this is what it means to be human, created in the image and likeness of God. We cannot settle for mediocrity, and we certainly cannot settle for chaos—not for ourselves nor for human culture. We are called to greatness and to be “in the world, but not of the world” (cf. John 17:14-15.) Furthermore, as a Eucharistic people, we are to be the conduit for Christ who gives his “flesh for the life of the world” (Jn 6:51).


What can we do at the parochial level? As pastors, priests, deacons, and lay leaders, how can we contribute to the renewal of culture through Catholic values? It is, first and foremost, a calling to participate. This is the vocation of the New Evangelization. So, yes, we ask what and how, but these questions assume that we should. Regarding education, there is not much we can do to affect the institutions of higher education directly, but many of our parishes have parochial schools, and even at the earliest level, we can retain or implement humanities and liberal arts curricula. In addition, we can give counsel to parents and students planning for college, that they should consider the universities that best provide these essential learning experiences. Yes, Catholic universities should be at the top of their list, but we all know that not all “catholic” universities are Catholic. The more important consideration is to attain a well-rounded education that includes the humanities. The importance of career-oriented education has to give the ROI (return on investment) that makes the family investment worthwhile, but at the same time, we need our children to graduate as good gatekeepers in the careers that our and their “blood, sweat, and tears” paid for.

Closer to the parochial level, on the other hand, the family/community environment needs to become fertile ground for society in general. In this respect, we, as a parish, are perfectly suited for influencing community development. As a microcosm of community within community, we are literally and spiritually the “light of the world” and “salt of the earth.” We have contact with the world through outreach ministry and other civil programs, through broader community activities, and involvement in public citizenship and in the workplace. For example, in situations where our children are part of the public school system, our involvement in parent/teacher organizations provide important opportunities to influence the secular community. This is not about religious conversion; it is about cultural renewal through the pursuit of the good. We can encourage decision making that benefits the common good, rather than the latest trends.

The family unit is the critical cell of community. In another way, again in counsel, we, as parochial leaders, can encourage family unity by encouraging shared activities, chores, as well as vacations. In assigning chores, for example, make certain chores are father/daughter, mother/son chores; washing the dishes or taking out the trash can be a parent/child chore. Family vacations, large and small, can be very unifying. Sunday afternoon badminton in the backyard can be as important as a trip to Disney World. These things may be difficult once the family has fragmented into social media and outside loyalties, but that does not make them impossible. A little gentle discipline and balance can show the kids both respect for their own time and their responsibility to the family. For now, the starting points are awareness and intent: awareness being necessary for intent, and intent being necessary for success.

The bottom line as to what we can do at the parochial level is to allow and encourage our parishes to become communities in the literal sense of the word. Our parishes should become the gathering space for people, for families, in order to encourage it, even at a local level, to become a community—a place that is more than just a place for Sunday worship. Whatever happened to the spaghetti dinner, or parish picnic, or, dare I say, Bingo? These were gatherings of social value, gatherings of like-minded people. Our parishes should become villages. In an allegorical sense, more than a mere metaphor, the Catholic parish should resemble the villages of medieval Europe. In these villages of Christendom, people celebrated life together, worked together in guilds (mirrored by ministries today), and worshiped together; and each village had a village square with a fountain or well that was the source of life. How can this not be what our Catholic parishes should strive for today, with the Church as the village square, and the Tabernacle holding the Eucharist—the fount of life? We can do our part in restoring Catholic culture by influencing society, in general, to become a pastoral society. And we can begin by restoring community culture in our parishes.


In First Book of Kings, after a long drought imposed on Israel by God to remind them that he is God, Elijah, sensing a response from the LORD, sends King Ahab off to “eat and drink.” Then, with his servant, Elijah climbs to the top of Mount Carmel and directs the servant to “look out to sea.” The servant repeatedly returns to report, “there is nothing,” and Elijah sends him back each time. The seventh time, the servant reports, “There is a cloud as small as a man’s hand rising from the sea.” Elijah replies, “Go and tell Ahab, ‘harness up and leave the mountain before the rain stops you.’” (cf. 1 Kgs 18:41-46)

In this cultural drought we find ourselves in, our first duty is to heed the words of Jesus, “watch and pray” (cf. Mt 26:41; Mk 14:38). We must be cognizant, we must be watchful with intent, and prayerful for ways and means to be a “creative minority” of faith in a secular society. And what we are seeing on our watch is “a cloud as small as a man’s hand rising from the sea.” This small cloud on the horizon is the growing cloud of Catholic Culture.

  1. Cf. Psalm 126:6. 
  2. Jacques Maritain, The Peasant of the Garonne, (New York, Chicago, San Francisco: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc., 1968.), 42. 
  3. Ibid. p. 42-43. 
  4. The phrase “sacrament in the world,” is a condensation of two broader quotes first from Lumen gentium, then referenced in Gaudium et spes: (1) “Since the Church is in Christ like a sacrament or as a sign and instrument both of a very closely knit union with God and of the unity of the whole human race (LG 1.”) (2) “[Christ
  5. John Henry Newman, Discourses on the Scope and Nature of University Education, 1852. General reference. 
  6. Douglas Farrow, The (Lost) Idea of the University, Nova et Vetera, vol. 9, No. 4, Fall 2011, 939-40. 
  7. Deborah K. Fitzgerald, At MIT, the humanities are just as important as STEM, Boston Globe, The Podium, April 30, 2014. 
  8. James V. Schall, The Graciousness of Being, ch. 4 in The Mind That is Catholic: Philosophical & Political Essays, Washington DC, Catholic University of America Press, 2008, 53-54.

    Also lsu.edu/artsci/groups/voegelin/society/2004%20Papers/Jamieson2004.shtml

  9. Jonathan Sacks, On Creative Minorities, The 2013 Erasmus Lecture, First Things Magazine, January 2014, firstthings.com/article/2014/01/on-creative-minorities 
  10. Ibid.
  11. R. J. Snell, How Catholics Can Still Achieve Great Things, crisismagazine.com/2013/how-catholics-can-still-achieve-great-things. Cf. Josef Pieper, Faith Hope Love, San Francisco, Ignatius Press, 1997, 2012, 101. 
Deacon Peter Trahan, MATh About Deacon Peter Trahan, MATh

Ordained in 2008 to the Archdiocese of Miami; MA Theology from The Augustine Institute, Denver, CO; Master Catechist with the Archdiocese and Coordinator of Adult Faith Formation at St. Bonaventure Parish. Member of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars.


  1. Avatar Martin B. Drew says:

    Deacon Trahan, your paper on education and catholic culture was marvelous and transcendant to read.. I have a licentiate in Scripture and Systematic and moral theology from the University of Dallas and St. Mary’s seminary, Mo. With the above we studied Metaphysics, Logic, Natural philosophy, all of the liberal arts, music performance. Academic students studying specialties as you wrote need a complete academic education . Using passages from the Hebrew scriptures, Pope Beenedict ZVI, Pope ST John Paul II and Jacque Maritain enhanced and beautified your paper.


  1. […]   The Renewal of Catholic Culture and […]

  2. […] The Renewal of Catholic Cultureand the Flourishing of Human SocietyIn the Catholic intellectual community, there is a growing call for the renewal of Christian culture as a solution to the impoverishment of 21st century society. This intellectual movement has two momentums: on the one hand, there is an aggressive, necessarily confrontational rhetoric that speaks boldly in the public square. This part of the movement is calling for a more compassionate form of politics based on the dignity of the human person, the common good, and objective morality. Its greatest demand is for repeal, or prevention, of laws that allow violence to humanity, such as abortion and euthanasia.…more […]