The May Carolina Catholic show features interviews of two speakers at the 2009 Ignited By Truth conference: Joseph Pearce and Brad Watkins. This is the last show emanating from Ignited By Truth.
Joseph Pearce is an English-born writer, Writer in Residence and Professor of Literature at Ave Maria University in Naples, FL; previously he had a comparable position, from 2001, at Ave Maria College in Ypsilanti, MI. Twenty years ago he was a radical activist, a skinhead, and the editor of two hate-filled, extremist magazines. Today, Joseph Pearce is the author of several critically acclaimed, best-selling biographies of great nineteenth- and twentieth-century Christian authors. He became a convert in 1989. He is co-editor of The Saint Austin Review (StAR). StAR features authors such as Fr. Aidan Nichols, Fr. James Schall, Fr. Benedict Groeschel, and Dr. Janet Smith. Dedicated to "reclaiming culture," each issue focuses on a specific theme; past topics include "Hollywood and the Culture War," "The Lord of the Rings," "Return to Aquinas," and "Decadence and Conversion." Pearce hopes that StAR can be a part of a Catholic literary and cultural revival similar to the "golden age" of Catholic literature that began with John Henry Newman in the 1840s and lasted until the 1960s.
The journey from angry agnosticism to joyful Catholicism was long and often harrowing. Pearce was raised in a staunchly anti-Catholic, nominally Protestant home in East London. By the time he was a young teen in the 1970s, he was an agnostic neo-fascist. Bitter about the economic inequality around him, Pearce rebelled against globalism and neo-Marxism and devoted himself to the ideology of neo-fascism. By the time he reached his early twenties, Pearce had been imprisoned twice for editing magazines of the radical right wing group National Front. His love of reading was a light during this dark and turbulent time, a light that eventually led him out of the "Faustian pact" he had made with extremist politics. Convinced there existed an alternative to both capitalism and Marxism, Pearce stumbled across a book titled The Well and the Shallows, written by the renowned English journalist and Catholic apologist G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936).
At the time, Pearce (still a non-believer) was a member of a Protestant secret society opposed to "papism." Despite his hatred of the Catholic Church, Pearce was fascinated by the economic system of distributism outlined by Chesterton in his essay "Reflections on a Rotten Apple." Distributism advocates private ownership, small communities, agrarianism, smaller government, and the equitable distribution of goods and services within a society. Two of its most famous proponents were Chesterton and his close friend Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953). Pearce was soon fascinated by Chesterton’s arguments and couldn’t find fault in his logic.
Initially interested only in Chesterton’s views on politics and economics, Pearce eventually found himself reading Chesterton’s arguments on behalf of the Catholic Church and his defense of orthodox Christianity. The 1980s were "an arm wrestle" between Pearce’s political beliefs and his growing attraction to the Catholic Church. Catholicism would finally get the "upper hand" in the mid-80s. The turning point came in 1985 during his second incarceration. "I was teetering on the brink," Pearce explains. "When I was asked by the authorities what my religion was, I told them I was Roman Catholic—even though I wasn’t. It was there in prison that I began to attend Mass for the first time in my life." Pearce’s only prior experience with Mass was attending a Catholic wedding as a nine-year-old. But the Catholic church he visited as a young boy was "different—there was something there. It was the Real Presence of the Eucharist working on me, even without my knowledge of it." The road to the Savior and His Church was filled with numerous obstacles, but Pearce came home safely. In 1989 he entered the Catholic Church of Our Lady, Mother of God, in Norfolk, north of London.
Suggested Reading: Literary Giants, Literary Catholics, C.S. Lewis and the Catholic Church, The Quest for Shakespeare: The Bard of Avon and the Church of Rome
Brad Watkins is currently the Administrative Secretary to the Bishop and the Assistant Director of Vocations for the Diocese of Raleigh. He has undergraduate degrees in Graphic Design and Art + Design from the College of Design at North Carolina State University. He also has a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Prior to his current positions with the Diocese of Raleigh he was an art teacher at Cardinal Gibbons High School in Raleigh. While at CGHS, he began the Frassati Society, a youth group with Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati as its patron and model.
Happily married for 16 years, Brad and his wife Chantal have four children and one on the way. Their marriage and family are a beautiful testament to the sacrament and vocation of Holy Matrimony, as well as JPII’s civilization of love. This foundation led Brad to discern and ultimately enter formation for the Permanent Diaconate. God willing, he will be ordained as a Permanent Deacon, with 14 other men from the Diocese of Raleigh, in June of 2010. His talk will focus on his experience that true peace and happiness are found by discerning and following the path Christ has laid out for your life.