An Interview with Aaron Canty, Phd.

Updated: Feb 3

by Eileen Quinn Knight, Ph.D. Profiles in Catholicism


Dr. Knight: Would you please share with us your early Catholic formation.


Dr. Canty: I was raised Lutheran and actually had a lot of misconceptions about Catholicism until I learned more about the Catholic faith in college.


Dr. Knight: Please tell us the significance of your high school years in formation.


Dr. Canty: I was confirmed as a Lutheran and participated in our church’s Sunday School programs and other youth ministries – somewhat reluctantly, sometimes!


Dr. Knight: You went to college and decided on University work. How did you make that decision?


Dr. Canty: I really loved history and music, so I hoped I could pursue both of those subjects in college. Once I realized, however, how much work was necessary to be proficient at both, I knew I could major in only one or the other. Since history allowed me to pursue the many philosophical and theological questions I had at the time, I chose to major in history, while still taking keyboard lessons (harpsichord and organ) and occasional tutorials on such topics as keyboard temperaments.


Dr. Knight: You were called by God to a family and teaching. What is the significance of your call to be a follower of Christ?


Dr. Canty: The faith response of the Church to God’s revelation in Jesus Christ is very beautiful, but sometimes our sins obscure the beauty of that revelation and of that faith response in such a way that we lose sight of Christ’s simple offer of grace and forgiveness. The family on the one hand and the classroom on the other are both places where we learn from each other and grow in virtue, knowledge, and holiness.


Dr. Knight: You spent formation in the University to find out your abilities and gifts through discernment. How did your discernment lead to your devotion to specific areas of study?


Dr. Canty: While studying for an M.A. in history, I became less interested in the historical contextualization of the philosophy and theology I was studying and more interested in philosophy and theology themselves. That development eventually led to a Ph.D. in Theology at Notre Dame, where I had outstanding mentors who helped me in many ways, both academically and personally.


Dr. Knight: Do you think/feel that your life is somewhat a mosaic of your different gifts?


Dr. Canty: God has ordered my life so that I have the opportunity to pursue a wide variety of callings and interests, from raising a family with my wife to catechesis and teaching, so there is a mosaic-like feel to my life – and I’m grateful to God for that.


Dr. Knight: What do you want the readers to understand after reading this interview about being a University professor/follower of Christ? How are they compatible?


Dr. Canty: University professors have a deep love of some academic subject and usually of several subjects. The lifelong pursuit of knowledge is a great gift and makes the world a better place in so many ways. Directing that knowledge, however, towards the goal of building Christ’s kingdom elevates that gift so that, in Christ, it has eternal consequences.


Dr. Knight: What are some of the challenges of the future Church?


Dr. Canty: The challenges will be what they always have been: proposing the Gospel while realizing that our sinfulness obscures the beauty of Christ’s offer of love and forgiveness, inculturating that message in rapidly changing languages and cultures, and finding ways of reaching out to those around us who have no voice or no one to advocate for them.


Dr. Knight: What are some of the joys you’ve experienced as a University professor and a Catholic family man?


Dr. Canty: As a professor, I enjoy most engaging students in their search for God. They often bring not only great questions to class, but also wonderful insights about God and the world. I also like reading theological works from a variety of periods; I just find it fascinating how God has inspired people from so many cultures, past and present, to reflect with gratitude on His gifts. As a husband and father, I love watching my children develop their talents and abilities and, with my wife, helping them with their own search for God.


Dr. Knight: Thank you so much for this interview.

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