Matt C. Abbott
May 25, 2015
Gay marriage and 'Three Irish Saints'
By Matt C. Abbott

Below is an interview with Kevin Vost, Psy.D., who, in his own words, is "by training, vocation and avocation a psychologist, disability adjudication administrator, former college professor, American Mensa Research Review Committee member, weightlifting instructor, competitive powerlifter, Highland Games Heavy Events competitor, church lector, fast food fries and drinks man (a few decades back), who was raised Catholic, turned atheist for a brief spell of almost two-and-a-half decades, who returned to Christ and His Church and now writes for four Catholic publishers, and who does a lot of radio and live speaking engagements to spread the good news of the gospels and the Catholic Church, in particular, how it embodies the fullness of truth, synthesizing and perfecting along the way the graces of reason and faith, the Greco-Roman and Judeo-Christian heritages, and who, when unrestrained by a professional editor, loves to write exceedingly long sentences. Not always though. (Todd, Bert, George, and Cheryl forgive me.)"

Click here to visit Dr. Vost's website.



I see you wrote a book titled Three Irish Saints. What are your thoughts about once-Catholic Ireland legalizing gay "marriage" by popular mandate? What will it take to eradicate the culture of death worldwide?

Dr. Vost: The three Irish saints of Three Irish Saints are Kevin of Glendalough, Patrick, and Brigid of Kildare, who lived in the 5th and 6th centuries. I used them as examples of "thinkers," "doers," and "lovers" for Christ, building upon the ancient distinction of the contemplative and active religious lives. I further divided the active life into doers who act on a grand scale, and lovers who are best known for their one-on-one actions of tender, loving kindness. Kevin, a hermit turned writer and abbot, was my model contemplative thinker, Patrick, a mover and shaker of the grandest scale, converting virtually the whole of Ireland, was my model apostolic doer, and Brigid, the picture of tender care, hospitality, and generosity, (for which the Irish are so well known) was the model lover. I'll use them as inspiration as I try to answer this question.

As for my thoughts on the legalization gay marriage in Ireland, with St. Kevin in mind, I'll frame them within the traditional Catholic perspective of intellectual virtues, virtues of the mind which are science (or knowledge, from scire, to know), understanding, and wisdom. These kinds of virtues help us get at objective truths, and in our times we have come to see relativism run rampant with truths decided by political votes, as was the case when the professions of psychiatry and psychology removed homosexuality from their lists of mental diagnoses in the 1970s, to the last few days, when we saw the first country in the world (so far) redefine what the institution of marriage means by way of a popular vote.

I personally think it shows a profound lack of wisdom and of understanding of human nature, of natural law, and of human history across the globe and across cultures. The results of such misunderstanding and of thinking that the true nature of things is determined by a show of hands or of votes will play out in the future through increased suffering of individuals and of those deprived of traditional families. (To honor one's father and mother [Exod. 20:12] requires one of each, as does being born, come to think of it.) Some believe this vote will pave the way for abortion as well. If divorce, biologically infertile "marriages," and abortion prevail in Ireland, one can only wonder to what extent the Irish will not only suffer, but begin to disappear like the "little people" of old.

I think it is ironic, too, that Ireland, the veritable edge of the earth in St. Patrick's time, a land never subdued by the legions of Rome that went on to preserve so much that was good in Western civilization through the tireless work of its scribe monks, is now the first country on earth to willfully reject one of its most fundamental institutions (and a holy sacrament). I think it remains to be seen as well, how those who defend traditional marriage in good conscience may come to be labeled, persecuted, and coerced by unintended or intended consequences of such laws, as we have seen it here already in the United States.

So what will it take to eradicate the culture of death worldwide? What then should we do? Well, we need people today with the passion of a St. Patrick. Patrick was enslaved by the Irish for more than six years in his teens and early twenties, and he so came to love the Irish people during that time that after his escape to his home in Britain his driving passion was to go back and share Christ with them, which he went on to do for the rest of his life. So, like St. Patrick and St. Brigid as well, one thing we need to do is to continue to love those who promote the homosexual lifestyle and gay marriage, remembering that though we hate sinful acts and will not be coerced to promote them, we do not hate the sinners themselves. They, like us, are made in the image and likeness of God, and they, like us, need to strive to abide by God's will, not our own. Those who support life can hope to set positive examples by living up to our own moral standards, which, of course, has been problematic within a segment of the clergy in Ireland, much to the determinant of the majority who truly do strive to walk their talk and practice what they preach (though I must wonder just what some of them have been preaching, as I'll note below).

I believe that young people were preponderant among the 62 percent or so of Irish voters who decided to redefine marriage. Having only visited the gorgeous land and gregarious people of Ireland, but not having lived there, I must wonder how the young have been catechized. What do they know of the facts and the reasons of the truths of the Catholic faith, let alone of their own unique heritage in Ireland, once the "Isle of the Saints" that produced and exported countless thousands carrying forth the message, blessings, and charitable works of the Church?

When St. Brigid and each of seven of religious sisters accompanying her were asked by St. Maccaille to choose one beatitude from Christ's Sermon on the Mount for their own, the loving Brigid did not hesitate one second, choosing the beatitude of mercy: 'Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy' (Matt. 5:7). In the Catholic tradition, we know that the love that is charity acts through mercy, and if we are to counter the culture of death, we must bear our defeats while trusting in God, recalling the spiritual acts of mercy that include comforting the sorrowful, bearing wrongs patiently, forgiving injuries, and praying for the living and the dead, but we must also stand up, speak out, and give witness, for we are called as well to educate the ignorant, counsel the doubtful, and reprove the sinner to check or reverse the tide as sin is transformed into false virtue.

In his Letter to Coroticus, St. Patrick spoke out publicly and forcefully to a secular power outside of his own Episcopal jurisdiction, one Coroticus, a British chieftain and self-described Christian, who had murdered a group of men and enslaved a group of women that Patrick had recently baptized. Patrick strongly denounced Coroticus' actions and demanded that he make amends, and yet he held out hope that Coroticus would repent and turn back to the ways of God, since God can forgive even the most heinous of crimes. When it comes to defeating the culture of death, we need to heed St. Patrick's example and refuse to allow ourselves to be silenced in our message of the truths of the culture of life and forgiveness for those who have been misled by the lies of the culture of death.

You're the author of several books. I know this question is a tad unfair, but humor me: Which is your favorite and why?

Dr. Vost
: In some ways this is a very hard question, but in another way, very easy! I'm inclined to say my favorite book is always the one that is hottest off the presses (which would be The Seven Deadly Sins, Sophia Institute Press, at the moment), but I'm going to go with my first book, Memorize the Faith! (And Most Anything Else) Using the Methods of the Great Catholic Medieval Memory Masters (Sophia, 2006) – and not just because it has the longest and most alliterative title. When researching my fifth book, St. Albert the Great: Champion of Faith and Reason (TAN, 2011), I came across a line that declared that all of a writer's books area contained in kernel within his first book, and by gum, I believe that rings true for me and mine. Memorize the Faith! is also my favorite because so many people over the years have told me how they and their children have been helped by the memory methods, not only to grow in their faith, but to grow in their mastery of Latin, Spanish, the bar exam, and even trumpet playing!

In describing how to master the ancient memory methods passed down from the ancient Greeks and Romans and through Sts. Albert and Thomas Aquinas, I compared mastery of the method to developing one's muscles through strength training. It so happens that my editor next requested a book on spiritual and physical fitness, and in a year or so, there was Fit for Eternal Life (Sophia, 2008). (That book has my favorite unusual cover. It's not every day you see a photo of massive biceps with a fist clutching a rosary on a book cover.)

In Memorize the Faith! I showed how to memorize the cardinal and theological virtues, and in Unearthing Your Ten Talents (Sophia, 2010) I detailed what St. Thomas had to say about those virtues (and the intellectual virtues too.)

Since St. Thomas played such a role in my reversion to Christ and the Church after 25 years in the atheistic wilderness, he was featured in a chapter of my memoire, From Atheism to Catholicism (Our Sunday Visitor, 2010).

There had not been a popular English biography of St. Thomas's great teacher, St. Albert the Great, in about 60 years, until TAN put out my St. Albert the Great in 2011 (the book with my favorite beautiful yet rugged cover, featuring a photo of a no-nonsense statue of the great saint.). I structured Albert's book in parts describing him as thinker, doer, and lover, the theme I next developed in Three Irish Saints (TAN, 2012).

In between those two books, I was asked to participate in a book called Tending the Temple: 365 Days of Spiritual Devotions (Bezalel Books, 2011). That book built upon the themes of Fit for Eternal Life and is unique in that it the only one where I had the pleasure to work with co-authors, my friends Peggy Bowes and Shane Kapler, along with a few other guest authors.

The next book was clearly in kernel in the first book. In Memorize the Faith! I mentioned that my barber suggested that the memory methods would work well for apologetics, that is, in defending the faith. In Memorize the Reasons! (Catholic Answers, 2013), the method is used just for that purpose, to help memorize the reasons (including the sources in Scripture and Tradition) of Catholic beliefs in the papacy and Church authority, the Marian dogmas, and the role of Scripture and Tradition.

Next came the book that has sold the most quickly of all so far, the perhaps aptly named The One-Minute Aquinas, a 300 page summary of the 3,000 plus page Summa Theologica (and the book that through a previous interview with you that first brought RenewAmerica to my attention.) In Memorize the Faith! I showed how to memorize the names of St. Thomas's five proofs of the existence of God. In The One-Minute Aquinas I described them in some depth, along with dozens of additional topics.

Out right now is The Seven Deadly Sins (Sophia, 2015) and it has the most fun cover – St. Thomas as a Hercules, or St. George perhaps, confronting with shield and sword, a seven-headed dragon. In Memorize the Faith! I showed how to memorize the names of the seven deadly sins. In The Seven Deadly Sins I provide their history and saintly suggestions on how to defeat them.

Next up is The Porch and the Cross: Ancient Stoic Wisdom for Modern Christian Living (Angelico Press, 2015). I had written a chapter on the Stoics in From Atheism to Catholicism and this is a full book-length treatment. I suspect that readers will be surprised at just how well the Stoics' reason-based positions on pro-life issues of human sexuality, marriage between one man and one woman, the evils of abortion and even contraception, and the glory of large families, mesh with the teachings of the Catholic Church, a lesson I pray that both Americans and the Irish will learn. (This book will also have a complementary companion volume from Angelico, Hebrews and the Seven Core Beliefs of Catholics by my friend, the author Shane Kapler. While my book will highlight the heights of natural reason and our debt to the Greeks and Romans, Shane's will highlight the bedrock of our faith and our debt to God's chosen people, the Jews.)

In the works right now is The Hounds of the Lord: Great Dominican Saints and Blesseds Every Catholic Should Know and Love (Sophia, 2015 or 2016). The 800th Jubilee Year of the Dominican Order of Preachers is in 2016 and Sts. Albert and Thomas are, of course, among the saints I feature.

The most recent book contract returns to the first book again. A U.S. Air Force jet pilot recently brought to my attention through an email the story of Vietnam POW Admiral Jeremiah Denton, who survived his tortuous ordeal in part because he had memorized the Mass and mentally repeated it often while in captivity. Years back I had written an article on memorizing the mass. Next year it will be a whole book – Memorize the Mass! to be exact (En Route Press, 2016).

The good Lord willing, the books will keep coming, with all of them sprouting, in one way or another, from Memorize the Faith!

© Matt C. Abbott

 

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Matt C. Abbott

Matt C. Abbott is a Catholic commentator with a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication, media and theatre from Northeastern Illinois University. He's been interviewed on MSNBC, NPR, WLS-TV (ABC) in Chicago, WMTV (NBC) in Madison, Wis., and has been quoted in The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune. He can be reached at mattcabbott@gmail.com.


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