When thinking about catechesis, theology and life in general I often reflect upon how truth impacts daily life. I think most people, when thinking about these subjects want to know how the truth is useful and how it can really apply to the daily struggles we face. We may hear from a Catholic co-worker, “I know that we must sanctify our work and that our decisions must be faithful to a life in Christ, but I will loose my job if I don’t nail this account, which happens to be a very unethical situation and is not good for the customer.” I have also heard it said by a parish staff employee a few years back while discussing the Carthusian monks and their liturgical prayer life and the silence they hold in the monastery, “So, all they do is pray. I guess that’s fine, but what do they actually do to help people?”

It is very common for people in today’s culture to misunderstand truth do to an inaccurate philosophical worldview. I once had a conversation with another parish staff member who could not see any need for philosophy because it is pagan and either pre-Christian or opposed to Christ. He could not be more wrong in his analysis of philosophy. Yes, much of modern and contemporary philosophy is opposed to Christ and yes, many good philosophers were not only pre-Christian, but also not Jewish. But, the good philosophers were faithful to the truth.

We can teach theology and we can catechize; and we can even talk about life and our daily struggles, but we have to be attentive to our audience’s worldview. What drives them in their daily life? What are their guiding lights throughout each week? Upon what are their goals based?

Pope Leo XIII, over 100 years ago in his encyclical on the restoration of Christian philosophy, Aeterni Patris, writes, “philosophy, if rightly made use of by the wise, in a certain way tends to smooth and fortify the road to true faith, and to prepare the souls of its disciples for the fit reception of revelation…” (AP page 5)

Grace builds upon nature. Faith builds upon the intellect. Everyone has an intellect and everyone thinks and reasons; and man can reason a great many truths without the assistance of Divine Revelation being known. As we all know man can certainly err without knowing Divine Revelation all the more! Yet, by reason alone we can conclude that we must not be greedy nor too liberal with out spending, should not seek mere comfort and pleasure, but to seek what is good for us, or that there is a God and that contemplation of the Divine brings man the most happiness. Aristotle came to these conclusions several generations before Christ. The many truths that Aristotle came to understand were used greatly be St. Thomas Aquinas to explain the truth of Christ. Even the Early Church Fathers made use of philosophy to defend and clarify the faith. Pope Leo XIII states that Ireneaus used philosophy when, “forcibly refuting the perverse opinions of the Orientals, the work of the Gnostics, scattered broadcast over the territories of the Roman Empire, he explained the origin of each heresy and in what philosophic source it took its rise.” (page 11)

When people err in theological errors, there is usually an error in the person’s philosophy. St. Paul warns his audience, “the minds of Christ’s faithful are apt to be deceived and the integrity of the faith to be corrupted among men by philosophy and vain deceit.” (AP page 3, Col 2:8) And Pope Leo XIII again adds, “if the intellect sins at all his will soon follows.” (AP page 5)

To catechize faithfully is one thing. To catechize faithfully while making use of philosophy to break down intellectual sins and better prepare out audience to see truth in its proper light is another thing, a better thing. This by no means implies that philosophy is better that theology, rather philosophy serves theology and also makes the most sense when studied by the light of true Christian faith.

Some of the modern day heresies include: modernism, pragmatism, efficiency, rationalism, mere success, fundamentalism, Jansenism, Presumption, Marcionism, and Ariansim. This list could easily go on, but I hope you can see the point here. Example: When our lives are lived in a strict pragmatic nature, then the Carthusians have to place in society; and neither would Adoration or any silent prayer. This person will skip Mass to feed to poor. Yes, feed the poor! But, serve God first!

To quote Leo XIII one more time, “Morever, the Church herself not only urges, but even commands, Christian teachers to seek help from philosophy.” (AP page 8 )

Study the Early Church Father, Aquinas, and even the good pagan philosophers to better understand how to defend the faith against modern heresies, which are really nothing more than old heresies visiting us once again.