Lights in the East
This week tens of thousands of young people will gather in Lisbon on the Western edge of Europe for World Youth Day (WYD). Despite the controversies over whether this WYD is intended to evangelize or to be a merely neutral, synodal-like “walking together,” it’s a safe bet that the result will be, as in the past, a significant encounter with Jesus and his Church.
Also this week, about two dozen Christian faculty and students – drawn from Europe, the UK, North and South America – are meeting on the Eastern edge of Europe, in fact on the border with war-torn Ukraine, for the twenty-first annual Summer Seminar on the Free Society (FSS) in the Slovak Republic.
The scheduling conflict was not intentional, and isn‘t meant to undercut the better angels of WYD. But we’re meeting, as we have for over two decades, to dive deep into Catholic social doctrine and to consider how its principles, with their long roots in the best secular and religious thought and experience, might enable us to live a more authentically human — which is to say a fully Christian – life, in spite of looming obstacles and threats.
The FSS was the brainchild of Michael Novak, the great Slovak-American social thinker (and one of the founders of The Catholic Thing). When we started, the goal was to help peoples like the Slovaks and others who had been subjugated, and had their Christian values distorted, by communism. We now have around 500 alumni of the program spread all over Europe, the Americas, and as far away as the Philippines who are working in government (even the EU!), education, media, business, and other sectors – patiently planting seeds of a different and better future.