Father Matthew L. Lamb presented the sixth annual Blessed John Paul II Lecture on the “Millennial Challenges Facing Catholic Intellectual Life” to an eager crowd of over 100 University of Dallas students and faculty. The lecture focused on the teachings of John Paul II that address the struggle of modern-day Catholics to remain faithful and to cultivate a strong intellectual life in a rapidly changing culture.
Lamb, a distinguished professor of theology at Ave Maria University, was gracious as he took the stage in Lynch Auditorium Thursday evening. He began by giving a clear outline of the four major difficulties that, he said, face contemporary Catholics: a changing demographic, cultural problems, political problems and ethical challenges.
Lamb then explained these changes and how the accumulation of them is making it increasingly difficult to maintain a faithful intellectual life.
Lamb claimed that modern education has unfortunately “abandoned a unified core for a hodgepodge of programs and degrees,” and that the political world too is becoming more challenging for dedicated Catholics.
“We are not recognizing any power above the state, and legality is substituted for morality,” Lamb said.
Pope John Paul II addressed all of these problems, Lamb continued, citing several of JPII’s encyclicals, particularly Fides et Ratio.
“There was an irony about John Paul II’s Fides et Ratio,” Lamb said. “He was a Catholic pope defending the truth and importance of reason in the face of skepticism.”
Lamb then turned to John Paul II’s stress on the importance of Catholic universities’ huge intellectual lives and their responsibility to defend the truth at the dawn of the third millennium. John Paul II, Lamb said, understood that “all human beings, wherever they may be, experience in their consciousness patterns of acts and objects.” Memory is crucial to the renewal of Catholic intellectual life. The Catholic intellectual life, he added, was not to “get lost in schools,” but to search for truth by truly knowing a being and its causes.
Lamb said that John Paul II therefore emphasized that people have a “program that does not change with the changing ships of culture … The life of the mind must be cultivated through institutions of reason … The intellectual life has to be formed through prayer and sacramental worship towards wisdom.”
Father Lamb’s lecture on Catholic intellectual identity was particularly relevant to UD students and faculty, and his presentation was well received by the crowd. Attendees asked several questions after his lecture, and many continued their discussions the following morning at an on-campus seminar.