mad in pursuit notebook


Review: "Letters To A Young Catholic"

Ellen lent me "Letters To A Young Catholic" by theologian George Weigel (NY: Basic Books, 2004). His goal was to answer the question "What does it mean to be a Catholic today?" He takes the reader on a grand tour of famous Catholic sites, art, and authors. He offers depth, struggle, and beauty. And he's also snarky about the alternatives.

His argument to young people is that they need to stay in the walled garden of Catholicism because obedience to its orthodoxy will open you up to Truth. Outside the wall lies a mishmash of opinion and error that will leave you empty and despondent.

I suppose if I had a teenage child enchanted with fast boys, shopping, celebutards and mistaking crystals for religion, I'd be handing her this book. I do believe children need a clear moral compass and a "map" for how the universe works. I do believe in the power of myth, ritual, symbols, and metaphors to help bring us in accord with our communities and with the mysteries beyond words.

But I think that Truth is in the seeker, not the dogma. To me the villains are not the heretical gnostics or the atheist scientists or the secular humanist novelists or the artists who find divinity in the paintbrush. To me the real villains are the cynics who twist facts, manipulate information, and abuse trust for their own greedy, lustful (name your deadly sin) purposes. It is they who make a mockery of Truth.

Weigel might agree if we talked over dinner. Still he's the Apple salesman, while I'm the geek building my own PC, trying to figure out the Linux operating system. He's selling me Catholicism as a Mac: "Look! It just works! It's tried and tested over centuries. No matter what scares you or troubles you, our saints and artists and theologians have already grappled with it and their struggles are yours to discover. Thinking you can build your own computer from a bunch of mail-order parts is not only stupid but dangerous. One wrong connection and you could electrocute yourself or burn down the house. Just buy a Mac. The software will show you the way every time."


Weigel wants commitment and obedience to Catholic orthodoxy to liberate us for a good, moral, deeply lived life. I'm sticking with self-discipline and the seeker's path to direct experience of the mystery of God. The road less traveled... my choice.


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