There was no coherent presentation of orthodox Catholic thinking in Beckwith’s middle school or high school; catechesis was in a state of disarray. Yearning for objective truth, but discouraged by what he saw, Francis began to look elsewhere for spiritual nourishment. He began attending Catholic charismatic groups, and then Protestant revivals, and Bible studies. Out of respect and tradition, he continued to attend Mass, but felt alienated from the increasingly strange liturgy he encountered, and the insipid sermons preached. Much like the post-Conciliar Church, Beckwith’s emotions became a swirling mess. Recalling his confusion at the time, he says today: "Back then, I didn’t know who I was."Read more
It’s the lament of a generation, something that could be said by thousands upon thousands of similiarly confused Catholics, caught up in the spiritual maelstrom following Vatican II. They were searching for guidance, and the Church seemed unable to provide them. Although the post-Conciliar era has been mercilessly lampooned, sometimes unfairly, few would deny that the Church, at that time, suffered grieviously, taking many souls with it. It was a time when feelings trumped everything, vocations plummeted and the study of Augustine and Aquinas gave way to readings of Jonathan Livingston Seagull. It was an age when liturgical enthusiasts exchanged the Mass of the Ages for ballerinas and clowns, and the Ave Maria was dropped for out-of-tune guitars, tambourines and harmonicas.
Needless to say, the battered post-Conciliar Church was in no position to help Beckwith clarify his faith. It was the burgeoning Evangelical movement which rescued him. Roaming the streets of Las Vegas one day, Beckwith came upon several Christian bookstores -- yes, they exist there -- and was introduced to the writings of leading Evangelical writers: Norman L. Geisler, John Warwick Montgomery, Francis Schaeffer and R. C. Sproul, among others. They, unlike the Catholic teachers he was familiar with, had no doubts about the "Great Tradition" of Christianity, nor were they afraid to vigorously defend it. True, they drew their theology from the Protestant Reformation-and thus often assailed particular Catholic doctrines and practices, which Francis had become accustomed to -- but at least they made elementary sense.
Partly because he was unaware of the rich heritage of Catholic apologetics, and partly because the Evangelical authors he studied really did express many basic Christian truths -- often brilliantly --Beckwith came under their sway. In fact he became an active Evangelical, and remained one for more than 30 years.
Considering the alternatives, that wasn’t a bad thing. Beckwith could easily have abandoned Christianity altogether, or even fallen into a life of disrepute. That he did not is a credit to the Evangelical community, which, whatever its shortcomings, instilled in Beckwith a thorough knowledge of the Gospel, a commitment to Christian ethics, and a sheer love for Jesus Christ. To this day, he cherishes what he learned from his Evangelical friends and mentors.
Unlike others who’ve left the faith, Beckwith never developed anything approaching hostility toward the Church. "I’ve known too many serious Catholics -- not least my parents and siblings -- who love Jesus to the depths of their soul, to believe they were ‘lost.’ I always felt, even when I was a rigorous Evangelical, that you could be a practicing Catholic and a true Christian at the same time."
Beckwith’s openness toward Catholicism made it much easier to accept his mother’s advice, after he earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from the University of Nevada at Las Vegas: she urged him to get his PhD under the Jesuits at Fordham, in the Bronx -- "one of the best pieces of advice I ever got."
Tuesday, January 08, 2008
Dr. Francis Beckwith profile in Inside Vatican
~an excerpt from Inside Vatican of Dr. Francis Beckwith, former Evangelical who returned to the Catholic Church last year and set off a firestorm in evangelical circles. Please read the whole thing.