From Harry Potter to Thomas Aquinas [VIDEO #3]
NOTE: This is Video #3 in my new 5-part series “Why It’s Time for a Catholic Dumbledore’s Army (and Why You Need to Join)”! Watch the video above or read the transcript below. And sign up to get the rest of the videos at CatholicHogwarts.com!
Welcome back to this free video series on “Why It’s Time for a Catholic Dumbledore’s Army (and Why You Need to Join)”!
Again, I’m Brandon Vogt, bestselling author of seven books, including Why I Am Catholic and RETURN. I also work for Bishop Robert Barron’s Word on Fire Catholic Ministries.
Let’s quickly recap what we learned in the first couple videos (and by the way, if you missed any previous videos, just click the videos on this page to go back and watch.)
In Video #1, we learned how Harry Potter saved Hogwarts and the entire wizarding world. Remember that? He created Dumbledore’s Army, this rag-tag group of students of taught themselves the practical skills they weren’t getting from their teachers.
Then in Video #2, the last video, we learned five reasons why we Catholics should imitate this plan, why we need a Catholic Dumbledore’s Army since we find ourselves in the same situation.
But here’s a question you’re probably wondering: what exactly are we supposed to do in this Catholic Dumbledore’s Army? What are we supposed to learn and practice?
Great questions! Now, Harry Potter and his friends spent most of their time learning spells and potions they used to fight Voldemort. But obviously, we’re not witches and wizards. We don’t need spells and potions. So what do we need to learn in order to face our big challenges, as Catholics?
Well, to answer that, let me take you back to my own conversion to Catholicism. Remember, I was in college when I became Catholic, and I was a new convert trying to figure things out.
Every new topic I discovered, from the Eucharist, to Mary, to the saints, to the priesthood was like opening a new door to a huge new room, lined with even more doors! There was just so much to explore.
But even after converting, there were still tons of questions and challenges I just wasn’t ready for. For example, my friends would confront me with something like, “You know the Catholic Church doesn’t like gay people, right?” or “You know Catholicism doesn’t respect women?” or “Why do you need God when science explains everything?”
To be honest, I just didn’t know what to say to most of those challenges. I was tongue-tied.
But I wanted to get better. So I started reading books. I read and read and read. In fact, I read at least 50 Catholic books around the time of my conversion. I read apologetics books by Scott Hahn and Peter Kreeft, I read spiritual books by the great saints, I read theology and philosophy books, I just absorbed as much I could.
On top of that, I spent hours and hours reading articles on Catholic websites and blogs and interacting in the comment boxes. I would ask questions, throw out objections, bounce ideas off other Catholics, and just read, read, read as much as possible.
But here’s the thing: I quickly became overwhelmed. I was taking in so much information, and I was hardly remembering any of it.
You know what that’s like, right? I’m sure you do. You read a good book and feel so strong and encouraged, but then a few days later, when you try to talk about the book out loud with someone, when you try to articulate what you read, you mumble out some confused words and realize hardly any of the ideas stuck in your mind! You know what that’s like?
Well, that’s exactly what happened to me. I was reading so much but very little of it was actually taking root. So I knew something had to change.
And that’s when I had my next big epiphany. It came while reading St. Thomas Aquinas.
Now, discovering Aquinas was a game-changer for me, in all sorts of ways. He just totally changed my life. I can’t remember how I first came across Aquinas. I think I kept seeing his name popping up in the books I was reading.
But in any case, I did what many people do when they first learn about Aquinas and want to study him: I found his most famous book, which is his Summa Theologiae.
Now it’s not an easy book to read. It’s very dense and heavy, especially if you come to it with no background in philosophy or theology, which I didn’t have. It’s also just a very long book: in the most popular edition, the Summa spans five books and over 3,000 pages
So when I first opened the Summa, I barely understood any of it. However, a huge light bulb still went off in my head. I wasn’t so much struck by what Aquinas was saying in the Summa—that came much later, once I began to actually understand it. My big epiphany had to do with his style—that’s what initially hit me.
The Summa is basically a collection of short articles—there’s around 3,000 articles—and each article wrestles with one difficult question. So it’s kind of like a massive Q&A with 3,000 questions, or if you’re a familiar with Reddit, a very long #AMA (Ask My Anything.) No question is off limits for St. Thomas.
Every article in the Summa follows the same format. Aquinas begins each article by posing a controversial question—such as “Does God exist?” or “Was the soul made before the body?”
Then, Thomas immediately lists out a few of the best objections to his own position. In fact, he usually phrases the objections so well, that he states them more forcefully than his opponents do. In other words, he understands the objections even better than the people who actually believe the objections!
Then, after listing the objections, he briefly explains and defends his own view, the Catholic view, which stands against all the objections.
Finally, he comes back to the objections themselves and carefully refutes them, one after another.
So that’s the rhythm. Thomas follows that style over and over, one question after another, for all 3,000 pages of the Summa—first the question, then the objections, then his view, then a response to the objections.
Now as I said, even before I understood much of the Summa, this format gave me an epiphany. I realized that in order to become a strong Catholic like Thomas Aquinas, or to switch back to our Harry Potter analogy, in order to become a strong member of Dumbledore’s Army, I just needed to follow that pattern.
In order to be confident and clear about the hardest questions, I really I didn’t need to read dozens and dozens of books or spend hundreds of hours reading articles and listening to podcasts.
All I really needed to know were those three things: First, the Catholic view of each topic. Second, the best objections to the Catholic view. And third, how to answer those top objections.
That’s it! That’s the secret. That’s what made Thomas Aquinas so effective and his Summa Theologiae one of the most powerful and enduring Catholic books in history.
Again, to be a strong and confident Catholic, someone who is no longer afraid to discuss your faith with friends and family, you only need to memorize three things: the Catholic view on each issue, the top objections to the Catholic view, and how to respond to those objections. That’s it! Those are the only three things.
Once you’re clear about those three things—what you believe, the best objections to those beliefs, and how to answer those objections—you’re equipped and confident. Then you’re ready for the battle.
Then you can walk into almost any situation, whether a conversation with your children, or a challenge from friends or co-workers, and know that you won’t be nervous, you won’t be afraid, and you won’t be tongue-tied. You’ll be confident, because you’re totally clear about what to say and how to act.
Again, this is the same pattern Harry Potter’s friends learned through Dumbledore’s Army. Harry helped his friends get confident by teaching them three things: first, the most important good spells; second, the most important bad spells, or curses, that the other side would try against them; and third, how to defeat or counter those curses. That’s it!
This is what gave Harry Potter and his friends so much confidence when they faced Voldemort and his dark wizards. The students had already practiced countering many of the dark spells in their Dumbledore’s Army sessions, so they knew what to expect when facing actual dark wizards.
So that’s the pattern. Learn those three things, and you’re ready for the battle. You’ll be confident and powerful.
Now, I know what you might be thinking: “OK, that’s great, but I’m just not smart enough to learn all that. I mean, I’m no Pope Benedict or Scott Hahn. I’m just a simple, faithful Catholic.” But here’s the thing: one of the biggest myths about becoming a confident Catholic is that it’s tied directly to your intelligence or IQ. But it’s not; that’s a lie.
In fact, some of the most effective Catholics I’ve ever met are just normal people. They don’t have advanced degrees. They haven’t read hundreds of books. They don’t have extraordinary IQs. But what they do have is mastery of a few simple principles, and they have clarity about those three things—what they believe, the best objections, and how to respond.
So don’t think you need to be a world-class genius. If you can memorize just a few key ideas and tactics, which virtually everyone can do, you can master this stuff.
Here’s another thing you might be thinking: “Hey, I like this Harry Potter/Thomas Aquinas strategy, but the problem is my memory is so bad. I forget most of what I read or learn.”
Now, I get that. It’s a common objection. But know this: the main reason we forget most of what we learn is that we take in too much information. It’s like drinking from a firehose. The information is just gushing into our heads and it’s tough to retain any of it.
But when you stop trying to remember 100 facts or insights or strategies, and instead break them down to the three most important things you need to remember, it suddenly becomes easy.
Think about Harry Potter again. The students in Dumbledore’s Army didn’t try to memorize every single spell in the entire Hogwarts library. They mastered a few key spells, a few key counters, and that’s all the needed.
Again, remember, to be a strong Catholic, there are only three things you need to memorize for each issue: what you believe, the best objections to those beliefs, and how to answer those objections.
Here’s one more question you might be wondering: “That sounds great, but won’t it take a long time to learn this stuff?”
I mean think about all the issues you wish you could master, as a Catholic: atheism, same-sex marriage, transgenderism, abortion, the Bible, the Eucharist, and more. Won’t it take a long time to learn all three things for each topic—what you believe, the best objections, and how to respond? Won’t it take hours and hours of study, memorization, and practice?
Well, I’m happy to tell you no, it won’t take that long. In fact, it’s possible to learn all this stuff in just 15 minutes per week. And that’s exactly what you’ll discover in the next video, Video #4. So stay tuned for that in a few days.
But in the meantime, before we go today, I want you to leave a comment right below this video and tell me this: How would your life be different if you were 100% confident about all these hot-button issues?
Picture it. Describe it for me. Tell me how you would interact with friends or family differently if you were 100% confident about those three things—your beliefs, the best objections, and how to respond to those objections.
Now again, I’m going to read every single comment here, and I’ll respond to as many as I can.
Also, please do me a favor: after you leave your comment, please share this link on Facebook, Twitter, or even by emailing this URL to your friends. Just click one of the share buttons below or copy-and-paste the URL up top.
Send this video to fellow parishioners, parents, your priest! I’m so excited about this Catholic Dumbledore’s Army movement, and I want to draw in as many Catholics as possible.
Finally, one more thing, be sure to click the big button on this page that says, “Send me Video #4” and pop in your name and email. That way, I’ll email you as soon as Video #4 is live in a couple days.
Again, thanks so much for watching this video series, and I’ll see you in a couple days in the next video, Video #4!