As baptized members of the Catholic Church we have all the answers, according to Professor Douglas Bushman of the Augustine Institute. But how do we get people to ask the right questions?
Bushman addressed this topic during an April 8 lecture, “’Gaudium et Spes’ (‘Joy and Hope’) and the Apologetics of Meaning: Christ is the Answer to All of Man’s Questions.” This—the final installment of the Archbishop’s Lecture Series for the season, covering the four apostolic constitutions of Vatican II—was delivered in Bonfils Hall on the campus of the John Paul II Center for the New Evangelization in south Denver.
“Gaudium et Spes,” promulgated in 1965, focused on the role of the Church and her members in the modern world, and ultimately points to finding authentic meaning in Christ, stating: “It is only in the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of man truly becomes clear” (n. 22).
The document was widely quoted by Pope John Paul II during his pontificate, more than any other text to come out of the council. While Pope Francis doesn’t feel the need to “quote Vatican II three times in every sentence” like John Paul II, according to Bushman, it is “exciting to see how seriously our pope is taking Vatican II.”
“What is the meaning of life after all?’” Bushman said in opening comments. “(People) are asking that question.”
The Church must understand people’s joys, hopes, fears and their fundamental categories of thinking, he said, to carry on a dialogue.
“She should be able to answer the ever-recurring questions that men ask about the meaning of this present life, and of the life to come, and how one is related to the other.”
While Christ provides the answer, secularism aims to exclude God, he said.
“People are made for God and they’re trying to live without him,” Bushman said, comparing one’s need for oxygen for physical existence to the need for God’s love for spiritual existence.
He encouraged the faithful to prioritize quiet time for their spiritual lives, versus being preoccupied with worldly tasks.
“The devil has home-field advantage when we’re outside ourselves all day, every day—balancing our checkbook, getting to the second job, taking care of all of the material things that we have,” he said. “God has home-field advantage when we’re men and women of the heart. When we … open ourselves up to the unique words that only God can speak.”
God’s word reaches people in “oases of silence,” he said.
Bushman encouraged Catholics to read “Gaudium et Spes.” He highlighted how the text is influencing the ministry of Pope Francis and the priority to serve the poor, in quoting the first line of the document: “The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ.”
“Does that sound like Pope Francis to you?” he asked. “For all I know he’s got that laminated on his desk, and he’s already found 150 ways to say the same thing over and over again.”
In closing, Bushman mentioned the extraordinary synod on family and evangelization to be held Oct. 5-19 at the Vatican. That assembly of bishops, as well as the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia Sept. 27-27, 2015, will inspire the next series of talks in the Archbishop’s Lecture Series, to be scheduled for next fall.