“Having started with John Henry Newman, We’ve read authors of wit and acumen. A theme running through Their writings — so true: Being Catholic will make you more human.”
So ran a limerick I composed for one of the first courses I took in pursuit of a master’s in Catholic studies. “Being Catholic will make you more human” sums up one of the most intriguing truths I have learned in this program.
One of the authors we studied in that first course, English Catholics Confronting Modernity, was Father Robert Hugh Benson. In his book Confessions of a Convert, he makes the claim that “unless the Catholic Religion is intended for the whole world, it is false.” This struck me as rather presumptuous — could it actually be true that everyone ought to be Catholic or the faith is not fit for anyone? The question had my full attention.
Catholic anthropology was not a subject I had heard much about prior to beginning this degree. In subsequent classes, however, I learned more about the Catholic view of human nature.
My parents had taught us that we should use our wills to do what we ought, not what we simply feel like doing. But how this was a participation in the dignity of being human was further clarified for me in Thomistic Moral Theology. Here, I learned that because passions are something we share with the animals, we cannot rely on them to help us live authentic human lives; rather, we must use our intellects and wills to lead a truly human life.
In Catholic Thought and Culture I and II, I saw another way in which the Church aids us in living authentically human lives. A theme of both courses was the incarnational element of the faith. Jesus’ Incarnation makes possible our entire sacramental system, allowing the human desire for transcendence to be realized in time and space. I realized how important imagination and symbolism are to the human capacity for having “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things unseen.”
As the priest teaching that first course summarized it, the Catholic faith, because it originates with the One who created us, corresponds to the truth of who we are. It’s true: Being Catholic will make you more human!