A Civilization of Love

A Civilization of Love: What Every Catholic Can Do To Transform the World

by Carl Anderson
New York: HarperCollins 2008

Reviewed by Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur

Is it possible for our Catholic faith to transform our increasingly secular culture? Carl Anderson answers that question with a resounding “Yes!” in his new book A Civilization of Love: What Every Catholic Can Do to Transform the World. Anderson is the leader of the Knights of Columbus, the world's largest Catholic fraternal group. He has worked closely with both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI and has served on several Vatican committees. In “A Civilization of Love,” he relies heavily on the teachings of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, especially the theology of the body and Pope Benedict's recent encyclical Deus Caritas Est (God is Love).

Anderson begins with St. Paul's visit to Athens between 50 – 58 AD to illustrate how one person could begin to change a culture. The Greeks believed in many gods, but they had a shrine to an “unknown god.” While this was primarily to make sure that they were not angering any gods that they might have forgotten, St. Paul used this as a jumping off point to begin to introduce them to the Judeo-Christian God. Anderson argues that “the responsibility of Christians in our own time remains as it was in Paul's – to radically transform culture, not by imposing values from above, but through a subtler yet more powerful process – living a vocation of love in the day-to-day reality of our lives.”

Our world has become increasingly secular. A faith in God has been replaced by a faith in progress. The belief in a creator who has endowed us all with certain unalienable rights is falling by the wayside. “Human life is reduced to a meaning and purpose only in reference to this world, which is asking of this world something that it does not have the power to give.” In contrast, Jesus' great commandment was to love God and one another. “It is the vocation to love that not only makes each person, but makes each person human.”

“A Civilization to Love” focuses on Catholic social values, what it means to love our neighbor. Especially as lay persons, we are called to work in the world. We are called to change society by the way we raise our families and conduct our business affairs. We are called to witness to what it means to be a people rooted in faith. Everything we possess has been given by God. “Every talent is given as a gift. Every moment is a chance and an opportunity for conveying love. . . Fundamentally, one of the only ways in which we can show our love for God physically is through service to him through people.”

Anderson focuses on the ways we can serve in our families, our workplaces, and in the global economy. He discusses many of the social ills that face Catholics and the world today such as the breakdown of the family, the reality of abortion, the increase in working hours, the loss of the Sabbath rest, the need for more ethical behavior in the workplace and government, and adjusting to a changing Church. He offers concrete ways Catholics can make a difference.

Catholics do have the power to transform the world. “They will do so by their actions, by their attitudes, and by their influence. But above all, they will do so by their love. This love is a matter not of mere high-minded sentimentality but of genuine compassion tempered with a well-grounded realism. It is a love that offers hope not only for eternity but for a better way of life on this earth.” “A Civilization of Love” invites us all to be part of that transformation. It is up to us to answer the call.

Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur is editor of "The Spiritual Woman Newsletter" and author of "Letters to Mary from a Young Mother" (iUniverse, 2004). She has a Master of Arts Degree in Applied Theology from Elms College. Visit her blog at http://spiritualwomanthoughts.blogspot.com