A common faith... and perhaps craziness in common

  • November 29, 2011

My fellow Catholic Register columnist Peter Stockland and I may just be crazy. After writing thousands of columns between us, we certainly know that some readers think so! But this craziness is somewhat different. We have decided to start a magazine.

It’s called Convivium (www.cardus.ca/convivium), and a special preview issue was launched in October. We start bimonthly publishing next February. Convivium literally means life together, though the word is often translated to mean banquet or festive meal; hence the “convivial” person is one who would enliven such an occasion. Our subject is just that — our common life together as Canadians. Specifically, we claim to be about faith in our common life.

You can judge for yourselves at www.cardus.ca/convivium. A glimpse into our preview issue is there, as well as an opportunity to join our new project. You will also see that Peter and I are working with Cardus, a Christian think tank devoted to the role of faith in strengthening our social architecture. Cardus is Protestant, while Peter and I are Catholics, so this project is ecumenical in nature. Indeed, it’s for all Canadians who take seriously the role of faith in our common life together. We know that Canadian common life — culture, economics, politics, sports, music, education, business, history — needs the contribution of religious faith, and of faithful Canadians. We think our new magazine is necessary too, as a service to that larger project. We intend that the magazine be the flagship of a larger Convivium project, a new intellectual venture in service of the evangelization of culture.

Launching a new magazine is almost by definition a crazy project, but then there are always a dozen reasons why it’s a bad idea to try anything new. God gives us evangelists and entrepreneurs to encourage us to try anyway. Every evangelist hopes to be a fool for Christ, and every entrepreneur thinks he is crazy like a fox. Readers will determine if we are either.

In our preview issue, I write about our launch in the year marking the centenary of Marshall McLuhan’s birth. He was both a great communications theorist and a devout Catholic. Early in the electronic age, McLuhan noticed that the human spirit is uneasy with ever more powerful communications that leave the desire for authentic communion unfulfilled.

All of which is rather sobering for those launching the venture of a new magazine, dedicated to and animated by faith in our common life. We have been asked frequently: Why bother printing a magazine? Why not just do the whole thing online? We’ll have a web presence to be sure, but we are convinced that magazines do something more than just convey information, which the Internet does much faster and for far less cost. Magazines retain something of that tangible contact between readers and writers. The magazine enters a home, office or classroom and remains, signifying a community to which the reader belongs, or at least takes an interest in. We are aiming here not just at conveying ideas, but building a community of those who take the role of faith seriously. Our common life can benefit from electronic communications, but cannot be conducted entirely through it. A magazine does not replace an actual conversation, but it encourages participation in it, and at its best, is a tangible meeting between persons. Hundreds of thousands of words can flitter across our laptops and smartphones in a day. Our hope is the words published in this new magazine might hang around a while. And for that, it is useful to employ a medium that might just do that, namely hang around your home or office, inviting you to join a conversation that may build up something of that communion that we all seek.

Marshall McLuhan died in his sleep. A beautiful documentary by Canadian filmmaker Deiran Masterson — McLuhan Way: In Search of Truth — reveals the details of the final hours. In the evening a priest offered Mass in his home. McLuhan received Holy Communion, and then enjoyed a glass of champagne and a cigar. All three were media with a message: God is here, present in the good things He gives us, the greatest of which is communion with God Himself in Jesus Christ. McLuhan died having participated in what St. Thomas Aquinas called the sacrum convivium — Holy Communion. His final evening was marked too by authentic human convivium, for which champagne and cigars are not necessary, but highly advantageous. We would like to think he would look kindly on a magazine dedicated to just that: Convivium.

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