Ever-Present Yes: An Interview with Fr. Robert Barron on "Catholicism; A Journey to the Heart of the Faith"
You are right about the book. It is not extraneous, but with the study program is integral to the experience of the Catholicism series. As far as seeing everything, I realized at the beginning of this project that showing and explaining everything about the Catholic Faith would not be possible. However, what I could do is show something and more than this, show what is essential and important.
The book presents, like the series, a personal view, an approach that has its strengths and limitations. It might be best to think of Catholicism as a route of access into the Catholic Faith, rather than an exhaustive survey of everything. I am opening the door, letting folks in, and helping them to navigate the vast Catholic space that they have entered. There will always be more to the Church than can ever be told in one documentary, book, or study program, and because of this breadth of content, the Catholic Faith just holds our attention and will not let go.
You say in the book that you are seeking to give us Catholicism from the mystagogue's perspective; how could you trust the reader to be able to follow and engage on the mystic's level?
Anyone who has ever wondered at the mystery of their existence, which is most everyone, has the potential to be a mystic, so I wouldn't mistrust the capacity of the reader of the book to appreciate the mystical potential of the Catholic experience. However, in accord with the wisdom of Catholic spirituality, all who aspire to comprehend the mystical content of the Faith must be grounded by a trustworthy spiritual director, a guide who knows the Tradition and can help to discern between what is genuine and what is merely a flight of fancy; so when I refer to my role as that of a mystagogue, I am offering myself as a kind of spiritual director for the reader. I am also making a point that one can study the Catholic Faith as one studies literature or sociology, and in this study one can attain profound insights. But if this is the sole approach one takes in a study of the Catholic Faith, the end result will be limited to say the least. In identifying my role as that of a mystogogue, I am insisting that the way to understand Catholicism is not as simply a dispassionate observer but as a fully engaged participant in the great mysteries of the Faith.
Early in the book you make a claim that some might find startling: ". . .we are destined for divinization [and this is why] Christianity is the greatest humanism that has ever appeared, indeed that ever could appear." How does this relate to our modern humanist concepts of self-actualization? Does it answer those concepts, or transcend them?
Divinization is participation in the life of God. Christians believe that the condition for the possibility of this participation is the Incarnation of God in Christ. God makes this possible for us by accepting for himself a human nature and living a real human life. God's condescension to accept a human nature elevates humanity in a way that would never be possible even if it were through the purest of motives or the most excellent of our efforts.
I call this divinization through Christ the greatest humanism because no ideology or philosophy gives human nature this kind of ontological heft. Human persons have dignity, not just because we are uniquely capable of rational thought or possess intellectual prowess that exceeds all other creatures, but because God united his divine nature to our human nature in Christ.