ChantWorks presents Fear Not. Host Linda Hoffman speaks with Father Anthony Giampietro, president of the St. Anselm’s Abbey School.
Transcript: FEAR NOT interview. Linda Hoffman with Father Anthony Giampietro, recorded August 3, 2021
Linda Hoffman: Hello brave warriors. Welcome to the first episode of Fear Not. Here we gaze at the world through the lens of Catholic reason and thought. We talk with some of the best and brightest on the battlefield of culture and faith. We seek knowledge and strength. I’m your host, Linda Hoffman.
Today we have the pleasure of speaking with a dear friend and true giant of Catholic thought and reason. But first, my opener.
It is now that we find ourselves in the classic fight for truth. It’s not like we were specially chosen. The world has been in this battle for all of time. It just feels more important, more perilous, more consuming—because it’s us. We’re breathing it. It’s now our battle and it will be our legacy.
We’re not fighting it on horses or with swords as did Constantine. Yet, it’s the timeless battle for truth.
We believe that the Catholic Church is the repository of truth, that the survival of the church is essential for the transmission of the truth.
They say that people have a natural desire to believe in something greater than themselves. Today, traditional Christian faith is under assault from new secular religions. These may be based on environmentalism, social justice, the self or science with a capital S. Their hijack of the faithful is apparent in the declining attendance at Mass on Sunday.
Bringing people back to traditional faith is the essence of the ChantWorks mission.
America was not only created upon, but continues to enjoy, the heritage of a civilization formed by centuries of Judeo-Christian thought. Our culture’s cohesion and prosperity stand apart through history. This is intentional and bound by the common thread of the Word, of which the Catholic Church remains the oldest and most vigilant purveyor.
We seek to hold fast to the traditional Mass as a fortification for God’s people.
We seek others who understand this inherent truth. If you’d like to support our work, please consider donating under the give section of our website. Large or small, we commit to providing the highest value for every dollar. We create learning videos and podcasts focused on protecting the truth and beauty of the Catholic Church. Now on to our guest.
This is such an honor and privilege. Let me begin by saying that Father Anthony Giampietro is the dearest of friends. But he’s so much more than a pretty face. A high-level strategist, brilliant communicator, a man for all seasons. He holds several graduate degrees, including a PhD in philosophy—and education is just one dimension of this powerhouse.
Product of a Catholic education, one of eleven kids, career in banking management, an educator himself at the university level. He has held leadership positions at the University of St. Thomas in Houston and Archdiocese of San Francisco. He also sits on many boards. I have left out much, but there is only so much time. Father Anthony is a Basilian priest, an order committed to liberal arts education.
I’ve only scratched the surface of a life of so much accomplishment, but I can wait no longer. Father Anthony, welcome to the show.
Father Anthony Giampietro: Thank you so much, Linda. It’s a real pleasure to be with you. I’m very grateful for this invitation.
Linda Hoffman: Father Anthony, let’s start mile-high. Give us your take on the culture, how we got here and where we’re heading as a nation and as a faith.
Father Anthony Giampietro: Yes, it is certainly is high level. I think in your introduction you mentioned that some things never change and that what’s different about now is the fact that it’s now, So, certainly there has been evil in the past. There’s been good in the past. There have been barbaric actions and heroic. There’s been deeply significant places and times and people throughout history. So, I find it helpful to take a look at what we have so valued about this country and to consider what we lost or what we’re missing. I think about the United States as a place of opportunity.
Today happens to be the 93rd anniversary of my father’s arrival in this country by boat with his parents and his two sisters in 1928. He was 15 years old. This is a land of opportunity. A place where families came so that their children’s lives could be better. A place of refuge.
I think of the goodness of our country, what we did after World War II, for example, rebuilding Germany, rebuilding Japan. And I don’t know any Americans that say, well, we really should’ve taken them—taken over Japan or taken over Germany. As a country we’ve somehow gotten in our very DNA that we want others to flourish. We want them to be free, to freely choose how they’re going to be governed. And the care for the individual. Also, in your introduction, we can talk about the Christian dimension of the dignity of that individual.
The challenge I think is how best to speak about and to live the Christian way of life in such a way that people have the possibility of seeing it as the pearl of great price. And then that they would say, yes, I will follow Christ. I will live this life, no matter where it takes me.
I think for many people, the fact that they haven’t had mass in person, now they can watch it on Zoom, they don’t feel a need, they don’t see the beauty. They don’t see why someone would do this, right. They don’t see why. And when you get back in history, and current history, too, but in the past, why would somebody stand up against Henry VIII and be beheaded. People don’t understand why you would choose a way of life that leads there. So, we need more and more examples of laypeople, and obviously priests and religious, living this life in a joyful way. Not without suffering, not without rejection in times and places—but with a deep inner peace and conviction about what’s really true and what it’s really worth, what’s really worth living for.
So, there is pressure—pressure in society, in our society, in American society, and in the Church. These, I think we have to see these as opportunities. We don’t know whether our next step is to be martyred, actually physically martyred. We know will be martyred in various ways, distinct from physical martyrdom. But we have to dig deep, both politically, economically and ecclesial within the church to the deepest principles today. As I’ve called it, the engine room of principles to retrieve, retrieve, and re-found this way of life.
Linda Hoffman: Through the ages the Catholic Church has been a beacon of innovation and purveyor of truth, beauty and goodness… a dominant pioneer in advancements in science, philosophy and thought. Where are we now?
Father Anthony Giampietro: The short answer is, we’re still at the forefront. It’s a little glib, but it is notable that five or six of the Supreme Court justices are Catholic. Now, they may not be all working from the same principles, I think, that Catholics ought to be working from, that allow for the proper unfolding of the individuality and the social dimension of the human being. But they’re there and they’re recognized as intellectually strong.
And so throughout our society there are, there remain, very many solid Catholic scholars in universities, independent thinkers, and other places. The short answer is they’re still there and the history, the deep history that we have is still there. There’s a physicist, also PhD in philosophy, who was president of Gonzaga University, Father Robert Spitzer—a great Jesuit who has a tremendous intellect. And the more people who know him, or know about him, they realize there’s a big treasure here. That somebody can be this this sharp about the physics of the beginning of the universe, and be a faithful believer.
They see in this human being—these things that we thought were contradictory—come together. So, there’s a great many scholars out there. The difficulty is that students and others are less and less likely to encounter them even at our Catholic Universities. So, I would say many Catholic, non-Catholic, atheists, students could benefit greatly from encountering human beings, scholars, other individuals, who have this deep awareness of the Catholic intellectual tradition, and the deep awareness of broad scope of thought that we have.
In many cases they’re not encountering it. But there are places where good, deep thinking is going on, that is also compassionate and focused on what is true. And that’s the Christian, the Catholic demeanor.
Think of Christ with the woman at the well. He knows her more than she knows herself. He knows she’s been seeking love and fulfillment. She’s been married five times and the man she’s with now is not her husband. He knows her. As St. Augustine says, He thirsts for her salvation.
The voices of wisdom, the voices of significant advancement within thinking science, philosophy, science, theology—there they are. They need to be better known.
Linda Hoffman: I think the struggle in both the nation and the church is far more intertwined than folks want to admit. In fact, our nation battle for culture seems to reflect a struggle within the church. The greatest tension is from inside. The German bishops are flirting with a schism. The Pope is suppressing the Latin Mass. What’s next?
Father Anthony Giampietro: First, I’d say what’s is what has always been next. Which is pray, do good and avoid evil. In my own experience, things look very different when the day starts with even just 15 minutes of prayer. Evil passes through the heart of every human being. Second thing I would say is that Catholic communities are critically important. Rod Dreher, I don’t know if you’re familiar with the writer Rod Dreher, had been Catholic for a time, he was a convert to Catholicism and then left—really in light of the scandals, and frankly, the handling of scandals. He’s a prolific writer. He writes more in one day than many people write in a lifetime.
In his recent book, Live not by lies, he writes movingly about how families survived with their faith intact under the Soviet Union: Good literature, good movies. One of the movies they watched is—this family that he spoke of from the former Soviet Union, was High Noon.
I don’t know if you’re familiar with High Noon with Gary Cooper, who does the right thing, even though the whole town wants him to desert and run away with his new wife. In the end, of course, she helps him, as well. So, there we are in the Soviet Union with these families watching High Noon, right? Because it taught them about what’s important, and how important it is to do the right thing, whatever else happens.
So, good literature, good movies, gatherings of family and friends on Sunday and other special days. Third, we probably need groups of friends to hold one another accountable regarding how we use our smart phone and social media. These are powerful forces. I don’t know if you have a phone that tells you how many hours you’re using the phone every day. It’s pretty sobering when that number comes up. It doesn’t even matter if you’re watching good things, or reading good things. It’s an immense waste of time people are living with. They’re wasting a lot of time, shall we say.
If you do the math, and I like to do math from time to time, if you were on your phone, social media, again even if it’s good things, or thought-provoking things, for two hours a day—which is low for many people—that is 730 hours a year, which is a little more than twenty 35-hour work weeks. Twenty 35-hour work weeks of time. Right? And I think a lot of people are well over that amount. What do most of us have to show for it?
Now, I’m guilty. I think, perhaps, most people watching are guilty, guilty. Right? Time. I don’t change—easily—but maybe I need to get a group of friends and we all agree, you know, if we use more than X number of hours a week, then, we’re all going to (I’ve heard this idea about other things) we’ll all fast for Friday dinner. We won’t have dinner at all. But if we all meet the goal, we’ll go out to dinner together. Something where we hold one another accountable, if we all agree.
Because I think that the one of the challenges, I think, that a lot of families encounter is the isolating role of the phone. All the children want the phone, but when they have the phone, the family life is diminished. Or can be unless they are very clear, have a clear idea of what they’re doing.
So, in answer to your question, at least so far, I’ve really given more personal responses. Because I think that’s where it has to start. It has to start with, what am I doing today? Most of us don’t have care of a city, or care of a town, or care of… we’re not senators, mostly and even there, it’s not obvious how they should proceed. Except that they should do these things, for sure. Right? To pray, do good, and avoid evil.
And, so, they, too, need to do these, quote, simple things. And in many cases, they’re not so simple. Many people, when they try to pray 15 minutes a day, suddenly 15 minutes becomes eternal. They have a hard time, looking at their watch. So, there’s a bit of discipline that have to develop.
Now once we save all this time, say from social media, and by the way I’m not saying that social media, is in itself bad. I think many good things can happen. I learn various things from posts on social media, certainly. But, I think a lot of our time can be saved from that. A lot of it can be—there’s a lot of waste there. But what are we to do with that time?
Once people have free time, or time is freed up—well, let’s talk about what we’re going to do. Maybe some ideas. Read to the blind. Go to adoration. Tutor a child. Go shopping for those who are homebound. Many who are watching or listening are probably in positions to help coordinate these alternate activities, right? To do other things. To be leaven in the bread, leaven in the community. To raise up different ways of being and acting within the culture. So, the answer to what to do next, again. Most of us are not theologians, in such a way, that we can write long treatises in response to the German bishops or to Pope Francis’s Motu proprio. We’re just not in that position. But, there’s lots we can do. There’s a lot we can do.
We can improve our own stance as Catholics. People used to say, some people use to say, the job of the laity is to pray, pay and obey. And, perhaps some people felt that’s all they had to do, right? If I do that, then I’ll go to heaven because I’ll just do what they tell me to do, and I’m good to go, right? So, the laity should trust that the Holy Spirit is working. And I don’t mean just the laity, me too. Trust that the Holy Spirit is working. We should not doubt this.
The recent Motu proprio of Pope Francis regarding the Latin Mass has a lot of the laity really engaged. Just Google it, right? Really engaged. I think that’s great. And frankly, and if we take Pope Francis at his word, he should think so, too. Now why is it great? Well, they’re thinking deeply about liturgy. They’re thinking deeply about how they can remain in the Church. Some of them, unfortunately, are thinking about, maybe, leaving the Church. But, for the most part, they’re engaged because they want to be clear about how to worship God. Great.
Having the laity be engaged, and not having them be passive, and simply running off to the beach—I love the beach—but not simply running away and saying, I’m done with this. That’s a positive thing. So, be engaged.
Linda Hoffman: Father Anthony, you really focus on the localized message and beginning with yourself, which is message I got through Catholic school, as well. Change the world, and we asked as kids, how do you change the world? Well, you just start with one person That’s the world. That’s that person’s world. So, the localized piece—as a priest, you carry the Mass with you. Many fellow Catholics and myself are tortured by what I call the breakdown of the franchise. Now I know my life in marketing is showing through here, but franchises go to great lengths to hold to the core elements of their brand. I’ve attended Mass literally around the world, and there are places in the U.S. where I can’t even recognize the form of the Mass, it’s so altered. Are priests taking it upon themselves to abbreviate the Mass, or are they following defined options in leaving certain prayers out?
Father Anthony Giampietro: Interestingly, you are, in a sense, perhaps, much more of an expert in this than I only because when I’m out and about celebrating Mass, I’m the celebrant. My sense, though, is that fewer priests are taking liberties with the Mass. Fewer priests are inserting their own prayers. That’s my sense, I could be wrong about that.
In part, we do have a bit of the messy beauty of the Church. In the same church we have Dorothy Day and Father Neuhaus—very different people, very different personalities. We have Jesuits and Missionaries of Charity, and we have Dominicans and Franciscans—very different personalities. And similarly, we have many different types of parish priests and different preachers, different homilists. So, when we think about, quote, the franchise—and some have said the franchise is: here comes everybody, right? So, there the probably are legitimate, or shall we say, recognized rights within the church that would drive me crazy, right?
I won’t name anything about that. Some of things ways that I would legitimately celebrate Mass might drive somebody else crazy, right? So, it’s tricky, right? It’s tricky to be certain how to put us all in the right place, as it were. I agree that there have been abuses. And I, in many cases, wish that there was an easy way for that to be stopped.
I have noted in different cities that, depending on which parish you go to, you can have completely different sense of the Church. In one church, one parish, you might think the church is dying. It’s all older people and it’s very few, and they mumble. At another church, you could have, you could be filled with young children and you could say, my goodness, this is a different world.
I think one of the advantages on the internet, and other sources of information, is that people are coming to know more about what’s available in a given city. I won’t say that I think the Church is wrong to want you to go to where you live—go to the parish where you live. But I recognize that some people have had difficulty worshiping in some parishes. And, it’s difficult for me to say don’t go somewhere else if you’re unable to change. So the short answer is I think there’s less experimentation going on, less, fewer priests, at least those coming up now—they’re less likely to play around and think they know better when it comes to a prayer. But, clearly, there are still places that are challenging, shall we say?
But do I say again that some of the challenging can be even in situations that are perfectly, legitimately, Catholic rights.
There are some great Catholic leaders on the internet. You can get stuff on YouTube, talks, really great stuff. Maybe some people don’t know where to look, but have them write to me and I’ll tell them where to look. People can learn a lot from them. But that’s still the internet. It’s still not the here and now. I realize we’re speaking through the internet. But at the moment, we are here and now, so that’s good. At least we’re now. We may not be here in the same location.
So, we’re not going to be able to avoid being aware of what’s happening nationally and globally. I think even people that don’t have smart phones—the information is soaking into them about, for example, the gymnast, the various things about the gymnist in the Olympics, right? Or the soccer team at the Olympics, or various things. They’re going to seep into our mind. And many people that never knew there was a traditional Latin Mass now know more about it because its seeped into our Catholic mentality.
But we need to spend time developing habits of family life, habits of local community, meals, prayers, outings, time with our spouse, time with each child. I know some families that—even if they have four or five children—they make sure that each parent has some alone time with each child, right? Where they’ll take them somewhere, and do something with them.
So, time. What the internet has done is helped us to see that we’re not alone in this need. Like we’re much more aware of challenges, even during COVID. Much more aware of challenges people are going through precisely because of the internet, right? We see that, you know, there’s a lot we can learn, even through the internet, about how families are handling it. But it’s the here and now, it’s with this child, with these people, with these neighbors, that I prepare with them, and maybe for them, for full life, which I’m convinced and you’re convinced, is within the Catholic faith. And all of the things that people see from the outside that are challenges, we need to be examples and beacons of hope. It doesn’t mean we won’t be martyred. And as I said, it doesn’t mean we won’t be deserted.
And we have a great leader in this regard, right, in Christ watching Judas take off. Watching Judas turn him in. It didn’t change Christ, Christ didn’t say, well I can’t have him leave, I have to change the way I think, or the way I’m talking. No. It didn’t mean he was less, quote, happy. That’s a tricky thing, isn’t it? What’s happiness?
He had to live that way and if we’re going to be fully Catholic, we have to live a certain way, whatever comes. And, so, my, perhaps, final exhortation is to do what it takes to be joyful as you live this faith more fully. To be joyful. That doesn’t mean you’re always laughing and telling jokes. I don’t mean that. But people should see within you, whether you’re in the hospital with a broken leg, or whether your friend just died in a car accident—they need to see a deep inner peace.
Linda Hoffman: You’ve got me to thinking, I often wonder if the screen time isn’t a simple filler so that you’re not left to your own thoughts and left with the thoughts of your own mortality, which we also seem to have a problem with in today’s culture and society.
Father Anthony Giampietro: I think you’re right. It’s like television before. You have this illusion that you’re with other people and often you’re not.
Linda Hoffman: We need more conversations like this. We’re often caught off guard when backed into a corner by broken logic. Father Anthony, you are clearly the smartest kid in class and we need to remember that you are one of many. Thanks for joining us and helping us launch our show.
Father Anthony Giampietro: Thank you very much, Linda. I look forward to meeting in person at some point in the near future.
Linda Hoffman: Sometime soon, I promise.
Father Anthony Giampietro: My best to you and Michael. It’s great work you’re doing there.
Linda Hoffman: We’re as good as there.
Father Anthony Giampietro: Super.
Linda Hoffman: There is good reason for concern. The steady and sharp decline in church membership over the last two decades paints neither a strong church, nor prosperous country in the decades ahead. The secular-based faiths, like social justice, have historically resulted in totalitarianism, not freedom. Religion and its moral virtue are rarely taught anymore. It’s time to turn the tide. Everything is at stake.
Thanks for joining us. I hope you enjoyed our show. I’m Linda Hoffman. See you on our next exciting episode of Fear Not.
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