‘We need you,’ cardinal tells Catholic studies program

| November 7, 2013 | 0 Comments
Cardinal Timothy Dolan

Cardinal Timothy Dolan

The Catholic Spirit interviewed Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, when he visited the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul Oct. 26 to help the Catholic studies program celebrate it’s 20th anniversary. The following is an edited version of the interview.

Q. How important of a role do Catholic studies programs like this play in the new evangelization and in a Church that’s facing many challenges in today’s culture?

A. An incredibly important role. Just earlier this week I was at First Things’ Erasmus Lecture with Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. He quoted Benedict XVI on the whole notion of a creative minority.

He was a little pessimistic. He said, “Look, we’ve probably lost out to aggressive secularism in Europe.” And he said we have a battle raging in the United States. The only way that the Church can regain the compelling, driving nature of the passion that Jesus Christ has given us is by becoming a creative minority. He said we’re a creative minority who win people over by our conviction to truth, by our sense of joy and by our love and faith.

I think that’s a pretty good mission statement for Catholic studies programs. That’s what they do on campus. That’s what they do in the intellectual climate of the United States. They are an extraordinarily prophetic voice saying — in some settings where the beauty and truth of Catholic life may have lost some of its luster — we will work hard to regain it. Is that not what the new evangelization is all about, to try to recover the whole pizazz of the faith?

And Catholic studies does it amazingly. Part of what the new evangelization is all about is helping people of deep faith realize they’re not by themselves, that we are not alone. Catholic studies programs do that. When you go to campuses where they flourish — and, of course, we’re at the granddaddy of them all here at the University of St. Thomas — what you have are amazingly committed young people who are tempted to believe that they might be the only ones who read the Bible, love their Catholic faith, want to learn more about it, pray, go to Sunday Mass.

They get to a Catholic studies program and they learn that not only are they not by themselves right now — that there are dozens, if not hundreds, of people who share their enthusiasm for the faith — but they learn they’re part of a family that goes back 2,000 years.

And, they begin to delve into the intellectual tradition. They begin to recover in a way what we’ve long called the Catholic culture. And a Catholic culture is a good thing. In other words, it’s to surround yourself with the learning, with the habits and with the people who will bolster you in your faith. Catholic studies programs do that magnificently.

Q. What is the key message you want to convey here today?

A. I want to say “thank you.” The Catholic studies program at the University of St. Thomas was the first one. And, they started something big.

My second message is, “We need you now more than ever.” This is not some seasonal thing that happened to have perhaps been at the service of the Church in the couple of years after “Ex Corde Ecclesiae” [an apostolic constitution issued in 1990 by Blessed John Paul II] when we were trying to renew Catholic identity on campuses. This was not some utilitarian device for a couple of decades until we got our house in order. No, this is an incredibly important program now more than ever. And, we need it now more than ever.”

Q. You radiate joy — specifically joy about the faith. How do you keep such a positive attitude?

A. You’re kind to think I’m always that way. It’s just who I am. I grew up in a loving, happy, laughing family. So that sure helps.

But, secondly, joy is a gift from God. So, every morning I ask for it. St. Thomas Aquinas is the patron saint of this university. What did he say? Where does a sense of humor come from? Where does joy come from? It comes from the virtue of hope.

If we believe in a God who keeps his promises, if we believe as St. Paul said that “everything works together for those who believe,” what are you going to crab about? You might have some down times, but you’re going to have some up decades because you believe that He’s in charge.

So, really, why would you let anything ultimately get to you? Does that not give you the ability to smile? And, does that not give you the ability to say, “You know, I believe in a savior, and I’m not the savior, and it doesn’t all depend on me, so heck, I might as well have a good time.” Beer and pasta helps, too.

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Category: Colleges and Careers