An Interview with Fr. Thomas Joseph White, O.P., on His New Book The Light of Christ: An Introduction to Catholicism
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Fr. Thomas Joseph White, O.P., a fellow Dominican (I was recently received into the Lay Fraternities of Saint Dominic – Immaculate Conception Chapter at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, DC). Fr. Thomas Joseph told me about his new book The Light of Christ: An Introduction to Catholicism (Catholic University of America Press, 2017). To learn more about the impetus behind The Light of Christ beforehand, you can see this recent televised conversation between Fr. Thomas Joseph and First Things editor R.R. Reno, along with recent Catholic World Report piece “The Light of Christ is far more than an ‘Introduction’” by Jesuit Fr. James Schall, S.J. The following transcript of my interview with Fr. Thomas Joseph should indicate why this book should appeal to Catholics of various walks of life, and why what the book calls for is needed now more than ever.
How did The Light of Christ come about?
I minister in DC, and I often help young adults who are considering becoming Catholic. Many of them are from a Protestant background, or even from a non-Christian background. Sometimes, they are lapsed Catholics who are considering coming back to the faith. I interact with young adults who are interested in knowing more about what the Catholic faith teaches, especially for those who are trying to understand their faith better as adults. It is, in a way, an introduction to Catholicism, and it is meant for a wide audience.
What have you found in your experience of the faith of young adults?
Many have a lack of a grounding in any religious tradition. Very frequently, they do not have a deep reference to a tradition. Consequently, they are looking for principles, for a certain groundedness – what is intellectually sensible and realistic. They are looking for practices to find a path to God. There is much an individualism of our age, but many are trying to find God with others in a collective form.
What are their questions?
Is Christianity compatible with the truths of modern science? Is what the Church teaches about Jesus Christ compatible with modern historical study of Jesus and the New Testament? Are the Church’s moral teachings unnecessarily harsh, or are they realistic and liberating in a helpful way, to help live a life of charity? Is faith reasonable – is it reasonable to have faith in what a religious authority teaches?
What are some positive outcomes that you have had in dialoguing with the youth about matters of faith?
I direct the Thomistic Institute, which puts on events about the Catholic faith on secular college campuses. These are places that are typically where the Catholic faith is not well represented intellectually. In general, there is a sense of spiritual restlessness that is present among many – maybe not the majority, but definitely a prominent minority. The book does two things: it gives a basic representation of the faith, and aims to answer the many questions that people might ask. As you strive to answer those questions, you can make great inroads with people in the secular culture, because you present them with a plausible understanding of the faith.
What are your hopes for readers of The Light of Christ?
I hope that it is a book for fundamental Catholic formation. Perhaps people can share it with their non-Catholic friends, or with fallen away Catholics, as a means to invite others to explore the Catholic faith. It is written for seekers, for those who are curious about Catholicism.
Do you have any parting words for your readers?
In the Church today, there is a great dilemma of doctrinal amnesia. Learning about our faith, for study and reflection, is key to the New Evangelization.