In my continuing effort to keep the plate spinning on this particular stick even while I'm shuffling from city to city, here is another outtake from the January session.
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This from an article “How Catholic is France?” by Steven Englund, a professor of History at the American University in Paris, which appeared in the November 7, 2008 edition of Commonweal:
What France’s Catholic renewal makes clear is that Christianity’s offer of meaning consists … [of] … a personal and existential choice: the choice to live the old faith. . . .Hope for a cheerful outcome in Europe is a bruised reed one doesn’t want to break and a smoldering wick one is loathed to quench, but among Christianity’s European competitors Englund mentions only Communists and Greens. But there are others. Communists and Greens may be feeding on every piece of ideological flotsam and jetsam they can choke down, but radical European Islam is today feeding on a very staple diet, prepared strictly according to the Quranic recipe: Namely conversion by the violence and intimidation.
If Christianity appears to be exhausted . . . , its rivals and critics are in far worse shape. The great difference is this: Unlike, say, the Communists or the Greens, Catholicism is not desperately looking for renewal from without; instead it is finding it within – not effortlessly and not always serenely, but surely and confidently. [French] Catholics here have no doubt that ressourcement is always at hand, as near as the parish church and the Sunday Mass, and so they aren’t blindly feeding like mako sharks on every idea that floats by, as others do.
Compared with this challenge, communism and eco-spirituality are little more than Christian heresies enjoying their 15 minutes of fame and leaving their disciples in a spiritual wasteland. But what Belloc saw in a glass darkly early in the 20th century was the looming potential of a "great heresy." In a book entitled, The Great Heresies, he wrote that even though Islam “happens to have fallen back in material applications; there is no reason whatever why it should not learn its new lesson and become our equal in all those temporal things which now alone give us our superiority over it – whereas in Faith we have fallen inferior to it.”
I don’t concur in this assessment, but it contains enough truth to be worth quoting, which is why I just did. For the emergence of degenerate and secular facsimiles and fragments of Christianity like communism and the eco-religiosity is evidence to which a Belloc could point in confirmation of his assessment of the West’s religious emaciation.
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If you would like to listen in on any of the E. R. I. sessions -- including the January one -- on our website we have CDs and free downloadable mp3 files and (within a few days) we will also have a streaming audio version of the January session.