Friday, October 19, 2012

Welcome to the Catholic Reading Project

Welcome to the Catholic Reading Project for the Year of Faith, a “virtual reading group” whose members are anyone who wants to join in. To learn about the Year of Faith and the inspiration for this project, click the tabs a the top of the page, “The Year of Faith” and “About the CatholicReading Project.”

I strongly encourage anyone reading these words to join this “virtual reading group.” Anyone of good will – Catholics, non-Catholic Christians, and others – can benefit from the Church’s guidance in striving to build a stronger, healthier modern society, based on charity and mutual respect. In the past couple of centuries, the world has undergone some radical changes, and the peoples of the world have not always coped well with these changes. While most people now live in much better material conditions than we would have a century or two ago, the very developments that have brought those material benefits have also caused great moral impoverishment. We need to find a way to live better, or else no amount of material comfort will be able to compensate for the social strife and spiritual misery that have too often accompanied the economic and technological benefits of modern life.

Silver coin struck by Vatican to commemorate 75th anniversary of Rerum Novarum.
The first document we’ll be reading is also the first papal encyclical promulgated which was of relevance to the world at large, because it addresses problems that were felt by many, irrespective of creed or country. Pope Leo XIII, in writing Rerum Novarum, was offering a direct response to the Marxist call for violent destruction of existing culture, warfare of workers against the owners of industry, which seemed to many the answer to the wretched working conditions under which many people labored in the industrialized world. Many ideas P. Leo enunciates in this encyclical have had enormous influence in the century or so since it was written; the world is a better place than it would have been without Rerum Novarum. Let’s read this important document together, and discuss it together. Just subscribe to this blog to stay up to date with all posts, and then post comments to join the discussion, add your insights, pose questions, or make whatever contributions you choose.

There are two different English translations of Rerum Novarum available on the Internet. One (which I think is the more readable of the two) may be found here on the New Advent web site; the second is more widely available and can be found in many places on the internet, including here on the Vatican web site. If you have an ereader, you can also download it in Epub (Nook, etc.) or Mobi (Kindle) format from Papal Encyclicals Online.