Thomas Griffin (8/31/20)
Many Catholic books concerning theology and practice fill the shelves of our books stores, and the databases of Amazon. However, Steadfast in Faith: Catholicism and the Challenges of Secularism by David Bonagura stands out as a tremendous witness to the beautiful corpus of history, doctrine, and impact the Catholic Church has had and continues to have on our world. In a world where countless books, magazines, and articles are published to only appeal to a narrow audience, Steadfast serves as a reminder to the world that life is empty without humanity’s search for and seeking out of the face of Christ.
“When the Son of Man comes will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8) This is the question posed on the back cover of this work, and it is the question spoken from the lips of Christ when he finishes his parable about the persistent widow. The reason why she received what she asked for was simple: she never stopped asking. She was steadfast in her pursuit of what she needed. Ultimately, what we all need is God. Jesus’ question echoes down the centuries as humanity continues to drift farther away from its core identity as created in the image and likeness of God.
Secularism seeks to not only strip away the Christian identity this country was born with, but to vehemently attack and judge Christian morals as unwarranted and illogical. When we forget where and who we come from, we cannot begin to be steadfast in seeking it out. Our current times need a revitalized revelation of who our origin and purpose in life is directed towards. We need faith, we need that relationship with Christ that drives out the darkness and destroys death and sin. This relationship, this friendship changes everything about our existence when it is entered into.
This reality is reflected in Bonagura’s key section on living the faith. He quotes Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI who says, “God wants your friendship. And once you enter into friendship with God, everything in your life begins to change. As you know him better, you find you want to reflect something of his infinite goodness in your own life.”
Friendship with God, with the God who breaks down every veil and barrier in his way to find us; friendship with the God who comes to us in a tremendous and unrepeatable manner in the Sacraments of the Catholic Church and in the Word of God in Sacred Scripture. This God wants and craves for us to meet him more dramatically each day. This utterly beautiful fact of our existence is the tipping point for Catholics to remain steadfast in following Christ, and it is part of the overall recipe that will root out secularisms hold on society.
Woven throughout Steadfast is the understanding that truth is not necessarily always accepted, but it does still shine. The Church as instituted by Christ, and guided by the Holy Spirit, contains an unbroken chain of teachings with divine guidance that is begging to be torn into by today’s society. This is the fact that has been forgotten and abused by modern culture. Bonagura’s most poignant refrain in the book is his concentration on the utter fact that the world has accepted mediocrity as its guide-post. People are willing to settle for their life to be “fine” and “mediocre” when Christ is inviting and begging us to allow him to transform and shatter our worldview that stops at a “normal life” when it should be tearing into the divine life.
The intellectual beauty of this work is that it directly confronts the crux of the situation in evangelizing and keeping the faith inside our modern culture: most of us act as if God did not exist. Bonagura attempts to dissect and pronounce the Catholic faith by beginning from the roots and working his way to the branches. This enables the reader to come to a greater understanding of where we have come from as Church, and where we are traveling together; along with a recipe for not only surviving but thriving. We must never be content with mediocrity.
Most people, faithful Catholics or not, consider their lives to be “good enough” without God. In reality, the further we are from that friendship with Christ, the less happy and fulfilled we truly are. Once we name and surpass the challenges of secularism we will begin to live in the light of the truth. Our world will shine as we become lamps that bring forth the light of the world to those who desperately desire to see it.
Steadfast in Faith offers wonderful insights into the entirety of our faith that simply could not be touched upon in its completeness in such a small article. Find it online or in your local bookstore and tear through the pages that will undoubtedly shine a light for your path, and will continue the slow, but steady, process of humanity’s ability to provide a positive answer to Christ’s question regarding faith on earth.
Thomas Griffin teaches Apologetics in the religion department at a Catholic high school on Long Island and lives with his wife. He received a master’s degree in theology and is currently a master’s candidate in philosophy. He writes for several Catholic media outlets.
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