RICHLAND — Through his many books, Word on Fire blog, and popular YouTube channel, Father Robert Barron has engaged the masses with his commentary on today’s culture as seen through the lens of Christianity.
Whether speaking on the monster mentor figure in the recent Oscar-winning movie “Whiplash,” or writing on “The Gospel of the Hobbit,” he has become one of today’s most well-known and acclaimed Catholic evangelists.
On April 28, the school community at St. Augustine Preparatory School eagerly heard the words of Father Barron, as he visited the school and, in the Rodio Gym, elaborated on the life and teachings of their mentor, St. Augustine.
The visit by the author, speaker and rector/president of the University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary represented the conclusion of the school’s year-long theme of “Evangelization: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow.” In preparation for his visit, students and faculty have read his book, “Catholicism: Journey to the Heart of the Faith.”
Calling St. Augustine of Hippo “one of the most important figures in Western Civilization,” Father Barron carefully noted that the fourth and fifth century theologian and philosopher had to navigate a difficult path to earn that distinction.
In St. Augustine’s early years, he was “consumed by the desire for love, relationship, knowledge and a career,” Father Barron said. Still being “left hungry” for happiness, St. Augustine soon realized there was only one cure for his “restless” heart: God.
“Our hearts are restless, until they rest in you,” Father Barron said, echoing the saint’s words in his spiritual classic, “Confessions.”
Father Barron identified the secular world’s four substitutes for God: wealth, power, pleasure and honor.
“We spend our lives addicted, hopping to these ‘altars,’” he said.
“Secularism says that we can be satisfied by the goods of this world,” but the four substitutes are dangerous, he said. “They will turn on you and destroy you.”
The only path to fulfillment, he argued, is God
“We are wired for God; your heart is meant for God. Don’t be satisfied with second rate truth, goodness and beauty, but seek God.”
True happiness can’t take place “unless you love God first, and then love everything else, for the sake of God. Be rooted in love, and devoted to him heart, mind and soul.”
St. Augustine believed that a “Civitas Dei,” a “City of God,” could only be created if society and its citizens organized itself “based on love, forgiveness, compassion and nonviolence,” Father Barron said.
In an increasingly secular society, Father Barron urged the young students to forgo the four secular substitutes, seek God, and “flood the world, and bring the City of God into the earthly city. Be agents of the City of God, in a world that desperately needs it.”
During the question and answer session after his presentation, Father Barron revealed his favorite books for young students to begin to understand the faith: the aforementioned “Confessions,” G.K. Chesterton’s “Orthodoxy” and Dante’s “Divine Comedy.”
“Get educated in your own faith,” he stressed. “Learn with your heart and mind of the great Catholic traditions, and bring them forward into the world.”
Brendan Towell, a teacher of Sacred Scripture, Morality, and Sacramental Theology at St. Augustine Prep, was instrumental in Father Barron’s visit to the school.
Having read his books and seen his YouTube videos, he thought, “Who better than Father Barron to speak on the New Evangelization, and on how students can take what they’ve learned and usher it into the next generation?”
The conversation didn’t end with his visit, either. From now on, “Catholicism” will be mandatory reading in the school’s Theology Department.