Amy Welborn’s “Jesus Livingston Seagull”

This Amy Welborn blog post was missed as we mark the 60th anniversary the Second Vatican Council’s failure. Amy Welborn, a well-known Catholic blogger and writer, was just a child at the time of the Council’s inception. It was because of the radicalism and speed of the changes it required (or were believed to require by the liberals who implemented them), that the Council failed. Amy shares a story about her Catholic high school religion class being assigned to read Jonathan Livingston Seagull, a 1970s proto-New Age bestseller. It seems that the idea was that the hippie seagull represented Christ. After decades of reading the book, she recently finished it again.

Over the years, I thought “Wow, that was my second religion text in a Catholic highschool, crazytimes right?” But last night, I realized: I CANNOT BELIEVE THIS AS A TEXT AT A CATHOLIC HIGH SCHOL. I CAN’T BELIEVE THIS WAS THE TEXT IN A CATHOLIC HIGH SCHOOL.

I can’t help but say that they were very nice and well-meaning people. They are the majority.

Let’s go back. This was 1975. This was 1975, ten years after the Council’s dissolution. High school students had gone from receiving a challenging, Catholic religious education to spending weeks comparing an anthropomorphized bird that wants to fly to Jesus of Nazareth in ten years.

(One of our major Senior projects was to compile an artwork and reflections folder comparing the Beatitudes with the lyrics of The Impossible Dream from Manof La Mancha.

You can’t say that it didn’t have an effect on our generation’s perception of the seriousness of this entire business. Narrator : Not very serious.

I can recall what my teacher wrote in my report for that year. Amy gets good grades, even though she is at the back of class reading novels.

Let’s just break those chains and learn to fly!


These are the same people who push the Catholic Church to change in the name “synodality”, “inclusivity,” and other newspeak buzzwords. They must believe that this time it will be different. Mustn’t they? Or are they thinking at all?

Telling the stories that inspire moral imaginations in young people is the way to go for the future. I converted to Catholicism as an adult in 1993, and spent only 13 years in the Catholic Church. I can remember grumbling one day in 2000 about how everything was falling apart around me and the bishops weren’t doing anything about it. Then, Amy, a slightly older conservative Catholic, said to me: “I grew-up Catholic in the Seventies and by the end the decade, we really believed we would be the ones to turn off the lights.” John Paul II was born.

Point taken. But what about today? But what about today? The issue has been and continues to be a problem in Catholicism in a few ways, but the question is relevant for all West-based churches. All the young Evangelicals who have been catechumenized by Youth Group Feels and know very little about the faith. I’ve heard many stories from Evangelicals about JLS-type stunts in youth groups. Because I haven’t been Orthodox for 16+ years, I don’t really know enough about the Orthodox to be able to give generalizations.

Is it possible that it is too late? Are the churches-as-societies in a decline that can’t be arrested? Philip Sherrard, an Orthodox Christian writer, wrote:

This is another way to say that such a decline can be irreversible when the thoughts and actions, and even the loyalty of members of a society, are not determined by the sacred traditions and their adherence to them. Society simply collapses when these norms cease being effective for the majority. This means that the integrity of a society is inseparable from the communal effectiveness and sacred tradition.

This is why? The preservation and transmission of a method for contemplation is the essence of sacred tradition. It is the method of contemplation that allows us to transcend our bodily and psychic lives, and to reach beyond our feelings, thoughts, and logic in order to gain intellectual vision and communion with God, the source of all. This corollary is that we can perceive physical things as symbols for what lies beyond them. It allows us to see the hidden workings and spiritual essences of reality that all things enshrine, and which are visible and tangible manifestations.

Moralism and didacticism are not going to help those young people who have been damaged. People who have lived on mush all their lives can’t eat hard food. What then? How can we do this? The first question I think is: How can we convince them that Christianity is more than emotionalism and moralism?

Three people said to me this week while I was in London: “Christianity must be strange again.” That’s exactly what I am working on for my forthcoming book. Tell me what you think. You can comment below but not here. Please email me rod –at — amconmag –dot — com and include FAITH in your subject line.

More Stories

Stay informed by joining TruthRow

24/7 coverage from 1000+ journalists. Subscriber-exclusive events. Unmatched political and international news.

You can cancel anytime