Modeling Marshall McLuhan in the Year of Faith [Marshall McLuhan Monday]

The Year of Faith

Have you heard? Pope Benedict XVI has called Catholics to celebrate a “Year of Faith” which began October 11, 2012 and will conclude November 24, 2013. The year marks the twentieth anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the fiftieth anniversary of the Second Vatican Council. In celebrating these events, the Holy Father says, “This will be a good opportunity to usher the whole Church into a time of particular reflection and rediscovery of the faith” (Porta Fidei, 4).

McLuhan’s Relationship with the Church

So, on this first Marshall McLuhan Monday of the Year of Faith, I thought we ought to look at McLuhan’s relationship with the Church. What was his “reflection and rediscovery”?

Rather, we should say his discovery, since McLuhan was a convert to the Faith. His parents were Protestants: Methodist father and Baptist mother. As a child in industrial Winnipeg, he came to loathe that environment. In a letter written later, we can see the young man McLuhan treading the path away from Protestantism:

Catholic culture produced Don Quixote and St. Francis and Rabelais . . . Everything that is especially hateful and devilish and inhuman about the conditions and strains of modern industrial society is not only Protestant in origin, but it is their boast (!) to have originated it.

Father Patrick Peyton interviews Marshall McLuhan (1971)

McLuhan cites his two main influences into Catholicism as G.K. Chesterton and St. Thomas Aquinas. His conversion story is, as one might expect, quite a long one, but suffice to say that when McLuhan was asked, “Why aren’t you a Catholic?” he had no good response. He immediately began the necessary process of coming into full communion with the Catholic Church.

Eric McLuhan spoke in 2011 about his father’s religious habits for a McLuhan Legacy Network celebration. Among them: daily reading the New Testament, daily Mass and Communion, keeping abreast of papal encyclicals, and leading the family in an evening Rosary. From that summary, we can see why Eric’s father told Father Patrick Peyton:

[The Catholic Church] has been to me a steady source of nutrition; a steady source of strength; a steady and unremitting source of simple, fundamental nourishment. I think of the Church as an all-nourishing Mother. You don’t need any one kind of nourishment; you need many kinds.

And so my own relation to the Church has been a very steady matter of constant appeal for daily nourishment. This is where, to me, the Church is the obvious and irreplaceable fact. I’ve never had a great deal of concern about the dogmatic problems or about the theological problems. These seem to be taken care of, quite naturally, by the steady flow of nourishment.

Modeling McLuhan in the Year of Faith

To my fellow Catholic communicators, I suggest we adopt Marshall McLuhan as a model for living this Year of Faith. Why? Because the Holy Father exhorts Catholics during this Year to profess, celebrate, and witness to our Faith. We need to look to the saints and, in this rapidly-changing world, to contemporary Catholics, who can teach us necessary and relevant lessons in walking with Christ.

Join me this Year of Faith here on the blog, discovering the remarkable and inspiring example we have in Marshall McLuhan, especially in these three areas of profession, celebration, and witness. More next Monday!

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