St. Athanasius lived in a world where the church was in turmoil, constantly under attack, and in great crisis. The Greco-Roman philosophy deemed the Christian faith and the Incarnation as completely offensive and absurd. To make matters even worse, many of those who called themselves Christians held heretical beliefs. The Arian heresy had spread so rampantly that the majority of Christians, and bishops, did not believe that Christ was indeed one with God the Father. To be Christian was to be Arian, or so it seemed in the 4th century.
St. Athanasius did not abide by what his world saw as true, but rather he fought this heresy with great bravery and spiritedness, risking his life to defend the greatest truth man has ever known, the mystery of the Incarnation. He preached and preached that Jesus was truly God and truly man and that God revealed Himself to humanity through the Son, who held equality with the Father. Christ came to correct the sin of Adam, restore Creation, and pave a path to salvation for all. This condescension of the Almighty God becoming a human who would die on the cross for mankind was the greatest act of love the world has ever seen. Arianism and Greco-Roman philosophy could not accept this, and this presented a great danger to St. Athanasius. Yet no threat on his life or any exile stopped him from preaching the truth to all. His fire established the Church’s teachings at the Council of Nicaea, which all Catholics hold as the heart of the Faith to this day.
All Christians owe a great deal to St. Athanasius in preserving the Truth of Christ. Thanks to him, we may live out a life of faith in clarity with Christ as the unquestioned starting point. St. Athanasius truly lived contra mundum, against the world, for the sake of Truth and for the salvation of souls. He unapologetically defended the nature of Christ no matter his surroundings. As Catholics, we may look back to St. Athanasius on how we ought to live in our own time, and Catholic Society this year desires to dive deeply into the mystery of the Incarnation in the context of the modern world.
What does it mean to live contra mundum? How can we be against the world, while at the same time living in it to restore Creation? What are the biggest threats to our faith in our time, and what can we do to combat them? What is the fitting, charitable response to crises in the world and in the Church? How far will we go to fight for Truth, and are we willing to suffer the repercussions for defending the Faith above all things?
These are just a few of the questions Catholic Society will explore this year, and St. Athanasius gives us a shining example of one who stood up to the world while loving it enough to push souls toward the Truth. His zeal for Truth is something we ought to imitate. His bravery and courage ought to inspire us to great deeds. His faith was one that truly moved mountains, and we must pray for this gift of faith. We pray that St. Athanasius’ intercession will enlighten our hearts in our journey forward. May we learn how to charitably stand up to this world full of attacks on the faith. Let us not disdain the world, but rather love it as Christ’s Creation and as something we wish to see restored. May our work this year bring us to a love of God’s Creation and help bring souls home to the Catholic Faith. Finally, we pray that one day we may be lifted into the Divine Light with the Communion of Saints and with all of our brothers and sisters we know on Earth.
St. Athanasius, we pray that you, as our guide, may teach us how to live in our world, help bring God’s goodness to all we encounter, and lead our souls to the Beatific Vision.
May God bless you, current students, alumni, and friends alike, and thank you for your willingness to say yes to Christ and live a life of faith. Your lives are an inspiration to us all, and Catholic Society is praying for you every day. As a Catholic community rooted in Hillsdale, so many of you are examples for us of what it means to live a Catholic life in the modern world, and we want to hear from you. You are all in our prayers and may we approach the Sacrifice of the Mass together, united in the Body of Christ. Never forget the divine love Christ has for you, revealed in the Incarnation, and I will see you all in this love in the Eucharist, with our dear patron, St. Athanasius.