It was the spring semester of 2009, and I was in graduate school at Franciscan University of Steubenville, enrolled in Theological Foundations with Dr. Scott Hahn. One of the texts for the course we were required to read was The Spirit of Catholicism by Karl Adam. I remember how I could never put the text down and always had a smile on my face when reading it. There were countless times I would pump my fist into the air (like when your favorite team scores a run, goal, or touchdown) at something I read in the book. As a Catholic who has always been Catholic (a “cradle Catholic”), this book fueled my excitement for Catholicism. I told everyone I knew about it and still do today. I know at least six Catholic converts that have come into full communion with the Catholic Church because of this book. I would imagine there are countless others.
The Spirit of Catholicism is a must-read for every Catholic Christian! If you were baptized Catholic as a child and received the other two sacraments of initiation, you need to read it. If you have converted to Catholicism, you need to read it. If you know someone thinking about converting or has questions about the Catholic Faith, they should read it. I cannot say enough how engaging and impacting this book is and how it will help you understand the Catholic Church more. I have no doubt that Karl Adam read Cardinal John Henry Newman, since this text has the aroma of Newman’s writings on the faith.
I am going to share seven excerpts that impacted me in 2009. When I pick up the book now, these excerpts still impact my heart and mind. They increase my love for Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church. The seven excerpts are not the only words in this text, there are many profound ones, but then this article would be very long and you may not read it.
Catholicism is the positive religion par excellence
“And Catholicism calls for the whole personality, not merely pious feeling, but also cool, but also cool reason, and not reason only, but also the practical will, and not only the inner man of the intelligence, but also the outer man of sensibility. Catholicism is according to its whole being the full and strong affirmation of the whole man, in the complete sum of all his life relations. Catholicism is the positive religion par excellence, essentially affirmation without subtraction, and in the full sense essentially thesis.”
A Sacred Triad
“The structure of the Catholic Faith may be summarized in a single sentence: I find God, through Christ, in His Church. I experience the living God through Christ realizing himself in His Church. So we see that the certitude of Catholic Faith rests on the sacred triad: God, Christ, Church.”
Peter is the Rock
“In fact, St. Peter counts not merely as one stone in the newly-founded Church, nor merely as the first stone, but as the rock, the foundation stone which supports the whole Church. He is therefore intimately connected with the whole being of the Church, not only with its teaching activity and its faith, but also with the fullness of that life which springs from this faith, with its discipline, its worship and its ordinances. The whole Church rests on Peter, and not merely its scriptural knowledge and its doctrine.”
No rock, no Church, no Christ
“Where there is no Peter, where men have broken faith with him, there the fellowship of the faith perishes and along with it belief in Jesus Christ. Where there is no rock, there there is no Church, there there is no Christ…we realize that without the Church of Peter there will be no inward dynamic unity, no further ‘history’ for the West, but only a succession of experiences without goal or purpose, the convulsive movements of a body that has lost its soul. We need the Church that we may live.”
The Incarnate God is not a god of solitary
“The Catholic cannot think without thinking at the same time of the Word made flesh, and of all his members who are united to him by faith and love in a real unity. The God of Catholicism is the Incarnate God and therefore no solitary God, but the God of angels and saints, the God of fruitfulness and abundance, the God who with a veritable divine folly takes up into himself the whole creation that culminates in human nature, and in a new, unheard-of supernatural manner, ‘lives in it,’ ‘moves’ in it, and in it ‘is’.”
Behold the handmaid of the Lord
“But all the sublimity of Mary’s moral personality, all the depth of her virginal devotion, and all the strength of her faith culminate in the word which she spoke to the angel: ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord, may it be done unto me according to thy word’.”
The whole of the Holy Scripture
“Unlike all non-catholic communities, the Church affirms, completely and entirely, the whole of Sacred Scripture, both the Old Testament and the New. She affirms therefore not only the theology of St. Paul, but also the mysticism of St. John, not only St. Matthew’s teaching concerning the Church and doctrinal authority, but also the faith and works of St. James and St. Peter. There is no through in holy Scripture which is for her antiquated or unseasonable. Nor does she allow one truth to be obscured or garbled for the benefit of another. And by the side of holy Scripture stand extra-scriptural Tradition.”
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