Jonathan Doyle has an undergraduate degree in Secondary Education, a Master's Degree in Leadership and Management in Education and is currently completing a Master of Theology (Marriage and Family Studies) at the John Paul II Institute. He is married to Karen Doyle with whom he founded choicez.com.au - an organisation that delivers training and seminars across several disciplines including Leadership, Management and Abstinence and Sexuality. He can be contacted by email at jd(choicez.com.au
Recently, I had the pleasure of watching the latest film version of Dickens' magnificent Nicholas Nickleby. In an era where much media more or less aggressively attacks pre-existent cultural, social and moral norms it was wonderful to enjoy a film that accentuates themes such as personal dignity, family, honour, justice and romance.
Even more valuable to me than the compelling portrayal of these sorely missed ideals was my discovery of what I have come to call the Nickelby Moment. At one stage in the film, Nicholas' fortunes and prospects have come to a bleak blind alley. His remaining family members are faced with poverty and he has little idea of what to do as he stands outside a Dickensian version of Centrelink.
At this precise moment of apparent defeat he encounters, by chance, a beautiful young lady and a munificent employer. His destiny is magnificently altered and new vistas open. The Nickleby Moment therefore comes to describe those moments, of apparent stagnation, when providence sweeps us away to new places and stages of life.
My most recent Nickleby Moment swept my wife and I from Catholic youth work amid the humid tropical downpours of Cairns to the four-seasons-in-a-day of Melbourne. The Nickleby Moment began when visiting a friend in Canberra I noticed a handbook for the new John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family Studies.
We were settled in Cairns but the handbook spoke to my wife and I about new possibilities and a deeper formation of our love of the Church, marriage, family and young people.
Within months our lives had totally changed. We found ourselves surrounded by a large group of young Catholic men and women, professionals, teachers, doctors, a cross-section of cultures and stages of life, but all desiring to deepen their intellectual and spiritual contribution to a culture still negotiating the changes and challenges of post-modernity.
The Institute is one of many, established around the world by the Holy Father, to ensure a new generation of Catholics is formally prepared to involve themselves in articulating and defending the Catholic vision of marriage and family life and its central role in culture.
Dr Nicholas Tonti-Filippini, in a recent article articulating the endemic ambushing of Christian perspectives on major issues by the secular media, suggests that the time has come for Christians, especially those with intellectual formation in areas such as bioethics, family law, culture and politics, to inject themselves vigorously in the war of ideas.
In a course titled "The New Evangelisation in Post-Modern Culture" we examined the movement of culture from a Christian ideal to the hedonism, consumerism and individualism of the late 20th century and, crucially, John Paul II's corrective call for a New Evangelisation.
This evangelisation, as articulated by the Institute's Charter and also by Cardinal George Pell in his recent speech to the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty clearly targets culture as the necessary focus of Catholic endeavour. He states: "It is a work of persuasion and evangelisation. Its priority is culture rather than politics, and the transformation of politics through revivifying culture."
This is the great adventure of study at the Institute. The possibility of re-communicating a Catholic view of culture based on the transcendentals of truth, beauty and goodness. It is an attempt to grasp the horns of the ethical and moral challenges to a Catholic world view by more deeply understanding the fundamental errors of anthropology, epistemology and theology on which they are erroneously constructed.
Hidden deep beneath the cultural darkness that afflicts Western culture is an irrepressible hunger for good news about human beings, their relationships, communities and potentialities. It is this pervasive darkness that the Institute seeks to enlighten.
In practical terms, the Institute has been a key factor in our resigning from work to establish our own organisation, working with young people in the area of sexuality and abstinence. The Institute's promulgation of John Paul II's Theology of the Body has been a revelation of seismic proportions in our seminars and public lectures.
We now work full-time across the nation in our own attempt to "revivify culture" by communicating to a generation of young Catholics their extraordinary dignity amidst a culture ruthlessly exhorting them to abandon purity - a lie as old as the fall.
A new generation of passionate young Catholics is emerging from the malaise bequeathed it by a culture that forgot the very religious traditions that created it.
They are hungry to be fed, hungry for food to sustain them as they seek to remind the culture of its origin and destiny. Amid a global backdrop of "wars and rumours of wars", the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family Studies is quietly and hopefully preparing many Catholics in the discipline of hope and the language of the Church's coming "springtime."