Weigel gives talk on Evangelical Catholicism in Higher Education

George Weigel
George Weigel
Photo by James Kuepper
George Weigel delivering his talk on John Paul II in the gallery this Tuesday.


George Weigel, a leading theologian, said that it is the Church’s urgent mission to include evangelical Catholicism in higher education on Tuesday night at Franciscan University.

“The Catholic institution of higher learning exists to equip disciples for mission. It exists to build witnesses to Jesus Christ,” Weigel said.

The Gentile Gallery was packed with students, faculty and visitors to campus who came to hear Weigel speak.

He opened by talking about how the Second Vatican Council really changed the way that the Church thought and believed in profound ways and how it is ultimately responsible for Pope Saint John Paul II’s New Evangelization.

As part of creating Vatican II’s focus, Pope John XXIII asked all the bishops of the Church to send letters about what they would like to discuss.

Weigel said that one of the most profound of these letters came from an obscure bishop from Poland named Karol Wojtyla. His letter was not a laundry list of doctrinal changes that should be made in the Church. Instead, his letter was more like an essay, an essay asking “what happened?”

Wojtyla asked the question: What happened to the great project of humanism that resulted in all of the awfulness that the first half of the century endured? Society had endured two world wars, three totalitarian dictators and rivers of blood.

Weigel said that Wojtyla believed that the answer lied in the evil that existed in the human soul and the great need for the redeeming power of Christ in a deep way.

Weigel said he believes the struggles the Church has faced since Vatican II have stemmed from a rejection of our roots as Christians that we have received from Jerusalem, Athens and Rome.

In Jerusalem, we were given our Savior, who is the Way, Truth and Life. In Athens, faith and reason met and formed an alliance that Christians are called to espouse. Lastly, in Rome, the Church was born. God used “day laborers from east of nowhere” to build his Church. How did this happen? “Encounters with Jesus Christ will compel us (as it did the apostles) to change the world,” said Weigel.

Weigel also said that Vatican II gave way to Wojtyla’s, now Pope St. John Paul II’s, “New Evangelization.”

Weigel stressed that Catholic institutions of higher education “must be deeply steeped in the Bible. In the Church of the New Evangelization, religion class is never over.”

He ended his talk by stating that Catholics of Vatican II and now the New Evangelization will need to be counter cultural.

“This is a counter culture of reform,” Weigel said. “It is a counter culture whose purpose is to invite Western Culture back to the moral truths on which the West was founded. …What you do and how well you do it are matters of urgency. Be the missionary disciples you were baptized to be.”

Many students were really touched by the urgency of the mission that Weigel gave to them that evening.

“This talk inspired me to never be afraid to share God’s love in every circumstance that I find myself in …each of us are called to share God’s love and the fruits of the Holy Spirit,” said sophomore Eliott Yozwiak.

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