ROME — Bishop Robert Barron said Thursday that rather than becoming hesitant in sharing the Gospel, the Catholic Church should proclaim the truth even more boldly “during these times of crisis.”
“Wounds have got to be addressed and healed. If we just turn the other way or cover that up, that is not going to help the project,” Bishop Barron told CNA March 7.
“It is a precarious time. It is a time when a lot of us feel threatened in a way. It has affected me … but my sense has always been, during these times of crisis, we bring the Gospel forward more boldly,” he said.
Bishop Barron, an auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles, is known for his Catholicism video series and online YouTube video apostolate, which he said began at a time when the American Church was beginning to grapple with clerical sex abuse. In response, his ministry, Word on Fire, leads with the beauty and the intellectual depth of the Catholic faith.
“This is the moment for novelty and creativity and simplicity, in the best sense, the return to the Gospel basics,” Bishop Barron said.
The American bishop was in Rome to receive an honorary doctorate from the Angelicum, the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, on the 745th anniversary of Aquinas’ death.
“Among the saints, [Aquinas] is the greatest and the most intimate of my spiritual friends, and he has followed me all of my life long,” Bishop Barron said in his homily at the Angelicum’s Church of St. Dominic and Sixtus.
The bishop reflected that St. Thomas Aquinas taught him that “the person of wisdom is one who sees the world from the standpoint of the highest cause.”
“What happens to all of us sinners is that we see the world from the standpoint of all kinds of proximate causes,” he explained.
“We start seeing our life in terms of power and honor and wealth, privilege and worldly success, and then we fret and we worry and we spend hours and hours of our lives preoccupied with secondary and relatively unimportant things.”
“But when we see our lives and our world from the standpoint of the highest cause, from God’s point of view, that same kind of peace and serenity ... invades our souls,” he said.
This high viewpoint, he added, is ultimately “the hilltop of Calvary,” from which we “see the whole world from the standpoint of self-emptying love.”
Bishop Barron’s lecture at the Angelicum offered a Thomistic response to a postmodern critique that a person’s gift-giving can never be completely altruistic.
“What makes all the difference in the particular Christian claim … is that divine manner can, through grace, become our being and action,” he explained. This occurs through the divine “indwelling of the One whose proper name is donum, gift,” he said, referring to the Holy Spirit.
Bishop Barron told CNA that this is just one of the ways Aquinas can help to bring truth and clarity to our culture permeated by postmodern ideas, like today’s “culture of self-invention.”
“Most young people in America would believe that that there’s your truth, my truth, but there is no real objective truth, and so I make it up. I think that is the form of postmodernism that is really dangerous,” he said.
“If there is no real truth, there is no real goodness, there is no objective value. … Aquinas would stand with the great classical tradition, the biblical tradition in affirming the objectivity of truth and value, and the idea is not to make it up on my own, but to learn to love it,” he continued.
“When you fall in love with objective value, that is when life gets very wonderful. You get outside of the narrow range of your own preoccupations and you fall in love with something that calls to you from beyond your ego.”