Noted Catholic theologian, author and social commentator George Weigel gave a guest presentation at the Fellowship of St. Paul prayer gathering at Sacred Heart Major Seminary on Friday evening, January 24. Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, an institute in Washington, D.C., “dedicated to applying the Judeo-Christian moral tradition to critical issues of public policy.” He is center’s William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies and author or editor of twenty books, including the highly-praised 1999 work on the life of Pope John Paul II,
The Fellowship of St. Paul gathering typically is held in one of the seminary’s parlors. The monthly praise-and-worship event is attended by seminarians, lay students, and outside community members and often includes a guest speaker. When news spread throughout the metro area about Weigel’s upcoming presentation, the organizing committee, anticipating an increase in attendance, shifted the event to the seminary auditorium. It was a fortunate move: about two hundred people attended the gathering, about three times more than usual.
Weigel’s presentation centered on the themes of his latest book, Evangelical Catholicism: Deep Reform for the 21st Century. He suggested that the reforms of the Church initiated by the Second Vatican Council—which continue on today through the “New Evangelization” begun by Pope John Paul II—extend back to Pope Leo XIII in the late-nineteenth century. The social reformer Pope Leo was an advocate of the rights of the everyday worker and called for the Church to break from its so-called fortress mentality and engage more effectively with an increasingly secularized society. Before all else, an “evangelical Catholic” must develop “a friendship with Christ,” meaning a full commitment of heart and mind to follow Christ and his teachings, Weigel explained. Such a Catholic must be “culture-forming and countercultural,” meaning a Catholic should build up the culture by advocating the beauty and truth of Catholic teaching, while at the same time resisting the “aggressive secularism” of our post-modern age.
Weigel recalled with warmness his first visit to Sacred Heart Major Seminary. Fourteen years earlier, he delivered the annual commencement address and received from the seminary his first honorary doctoral degree. After his hour-long talk, Weigel accepted questions from the audience and later signed copies of his books. His attendance at the Fellowship of St. Paul gathering continues the tradition of offering an invitation to a prominent speaker from the annual Life Is a Gift conference. Last year, renowned Catholic philosopher Peter Kreeft addressed the gathering—and even played Ping-Pong later that evening with the delighted Sacred Heart seminarians.
Audio recording from George Weigel's presentation: