Christendom College hosted prominent theologians and historians for a one day conference titled “Encountering Christ: Apologetics and the New Evangelization” on its Front Royal, Va., campus on July 11. The one-day conference drew close to 450 attendees to hear from Francis Cardinal Arinze, Dr. Scott Hahn, Patrick Madrid, Marcus Grodi, Dr. Timothy O’Donnell, and Christendom faculty members Dr. R.J. Matava and Dr. Brendan McGuire.
Author, historian and theologian Dr. Timothy O’Donnell began the conference by presenting a talk titled “Apologetics and the New Evangelization,” explaining how all Christians are called to be actively engaged in the world, acting as missionaries to a society that has rejected the love of God. Criticizing today’s relative, information-driven society, O’Donnell offered ways to combat it in light of the New Evangelization.
“It is most important that we, as Catholics, approach our faith with great joy and celebration. When we reach out in compassion to help a brother or sister or a neighbor in need, we are bearing witness to the light of Christ — the light of Christ is shining through us. When we share our faith as bold disciples of Jesus, fruit will be reflected in our efforts,” said O’Donnell.
Dr. Scott Hahn, the author or editor of over forty books, including best-selling works The Lamb’s Supper, Reasons to Believe, and Answering the New Atheism, spoke on the need to renew a covenant with God through encountering Christ in the New Testament. Pointing out that a “massive amnesia has soaked into our age,” Hahn argued that all Christians must restore their “deep memory” again by truly doing all things in memory of Christ.
“The fact is, you can be a saint in the middle of the world, and through friendship you can share the joy of the Gospel — and that is what people are looking for, more than any argument, more than any proof-text. Joy is what people find irresistible,” said Hahn. “At the end of the day, the joy of the Gospel will be the indispensable means by which God the Father communicates the Holy Passion of the Eternal Son, which makes us one family that doesn’t just circle the globe but reaches the highest heavens.”
Francis Cardinal Arinze, who previously served as the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, offered Mass for the conference attendees and delivered a homily titled “Seeking God and Living for Him.” Cardinal Arinze, a frequent guest on Christendom’s campus, reflected on the life of St. Benedict, whose feast day was on July 11, and how every Christian can follow his example and live for Christ alone in their own lives.
“Christianity is a way of life. It is a formula for daily living. It is a spiritual road map…the religion established by Jesus Christ gives unity and a sense of direction to all the mosaics that make up our daily life. Life is not one senseless thing after another. It is not one meaningless drab routine after another…no. It is a meaningful pilgrimage…to follow the light that is Christ is to live Christendom in the best sense of the word,” said Cardinal Arinze.
Patrick Madrid, popular radio host and author of many books including Envoy for Christ, Does the Bible Really Say That?, and Search and Rescue, delivered a talk titled “Why be Catholic?” Looking at the experiences in his own life, Madrid explained that apologetics involves the content and the technique in which you present it, encouraging attendees to practice apologetics at every available opportunity.
“Catholic teaching has its own gravitational pull. It has its own beauty, but it’s our job to show forth that beauty by being willing to talk about these things and share our faith…it really does draw people,” said Madrid. “When you’re doing apologetics, you don’t have to be complicated…if you share from your heart, it’s incredible the miracles that can take place…we have a job to do, to be person specific and to help the people we can in the moment.”
Dr. R.J. Matava, who was previously a Liddon Fellow at Oxford’s Keble College, presented a talk titled “Conversion and Apologetics: Personal Vocation as a Key to the New Evangelization.” Positing that holiness of life is essential for apologetics, Matava treated the nature of apologetics through a theological and historical lens, looking at what it needs to be effective within the New Evangelization.
“While the original evangelization generally brought the Gospel to the pagan world, the ‘new evangelization’ must bring the Gospel to a world described by some as ‘post Christian,’ and not least to people who are baptized but lack faith,” said Matava. “What then is the most urgent task of a new apologetics for the new evangelization? I would suggest that it is to cultivate in others, so far as we are able, the necessary dispositions to earnestly consider the reasons for the faith.”
Popular lecturer and professor of history at Christendom College, Dr. Brendan McGuire delved into the historical scholarship in the thought of John Henry Newman, pointing to how Newman can serve as an example for Catholic historians as to how to speak of Christian history to a non-Christian world.
“There’s truth to be found in [Newman’s] historical scholarship that is especially important for us, in light of the fact that the very claims of our faith rest upon historical basis. Newman shines forth as a model for the role that the historian can play in service to the Church today. No one other than the trained historian is equipped for this kind of rigorous deep spadework that can shore up the solid foundation of the Church’s claims, and the need for historical scholarship and historical education should be clear to all of us,” said McGuire.
Closing the conference, popular EWTN host, author, and conference emcee Marcus Grodi gave practical advice to attendees on how to look at the science of conversion itself, and how to form a strategy of dialogue to help bring fallen away Catholics, and Protestants, to the beauty of the Catholic Church.
“In my own journey, as I was growing closer to the Catholic Church, I realized that there was more than just being in Jesus. Christ calls us to abide, and the necessity of abiding will continue for the rest of our lives — this isn’t a one time thing…if we’re not abiding, then we don’t produce the fruit. Intimacy with Jesus is more than just receiving Him in your heart — the way you abide in Christ is by receiving Him in the Eucharist….we have a real treasure to share,” said Grodi.
Audio and video of these lectures, as well as a “Q & A” session held at the close of the conference, are available for download at Christendom on iTunes U, christendom.edu/itunesu.