A Catholic Presence

Duke's Wallace Fowlie


For Catholics of any generation, the question of how to remain loyal to the age-old traditions of our faith while also engaging new ideas poses plenty of challenges. For college students squeezed between modernity and Catholicism, the struggle for answers is particularly intense and given to extremes. Some students choose to remain loyal to their faith and shelter themselves from campus activities that threaten their beliefs. Many others can hardly wait to toss their religious upbringing aside entirely-and if that’s what you wanted, Duke University was a thrilling destination in the early 1990s. Being an English major in the department ruled by controversial literary critic Stanley Fish was even better. Longstanding assumptions about the meaning of literature, even about the act of reading itself, were under assault, gaining Duke national notoriety. For many of Fish’s faculty colleagues, truth in literature and the larger world was relative, the notion of God passé. Though Duke had been founded by Methodists, it was by now a playground for postmodernists who had steamrolled much of the university’s spiritual heritage. All of that was fine with me. I felt a lingering attachment to the impressive faith of my mother and her large Italian-Catholic family. But could a church that had relied on twelve years of mediocre CCD classes to win my heart and mind really be onto something? I was caught in a tug of war between...

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About the Author

Stephen Martin is a communications manager and freelance writer in Greensboro, North Carolina.