If there is a thread running through these diverse personalities, it may be this: that men and women of intellect, culture, and accomplishment have found in Catholicism what Blessed John Paul II called the “symphony of truth.” That rich and complex symphony, and the harmonies it offers, is an attractive, compelling, and persuasive alternative to the fragmentation of modern and post-modern intellectual and cultural life, where little fits together and much is cacophony. Catholicism, however, is not an accidental assembly of random truth-claims; the Creed is not an arbitrary catalogue of propositions and neither is the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It all fits together, and in proposing that symphonic harmony, Catholicism helps fit all the aspects of our lives together, as it orders our loves and loyalties in the right direction.
You don’t have to be an intellectual to appreciate this “symphony of truth,” however. For Catholicism is, first of all, an encounter with a person, Jesus Christ, who is “the way, the truth, and the life” [John 14.6]. And to meet that person is to meet the truth that makes all the other truths of our lives make sense. Indeed, the embrace of Catholic truth in full, as lives like John Henry Newman’s demonstrate, opens one up to the broadest possible range of intellectual encounters.
Viewed from outside, Catholicism can seem closed and unwelcoming. As Evelyn Waugh noted, though, it all seems so much more spacious and open from the inside. The Gothic, with its soaring vaults and buttresses and its luminous stained glass, is not a classic Catholic architectural form by accident. The full beauty of the light, however, washes over you when you come in.
Here's to more of that coming in... and coming home.