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  • Writer's pictureProfiles in Catholicism

An Interview with Father Enrique Gonzalez Fernandez

Gordon: Where did you attend seminary, what was your favorite course, and why was it you favorite?

Father Enrique: I must say that I was born in Madrid, Spain, in 1962. Since I was a child, I always wanted to be a priest. Before finishing high school, a priest (due to my family circumstances) advised me not to say anything at home and to study for a Civil Degree in Philosophy (from 1980 to 1985) so that, when I got it, I could tell my parents, brothers and sister that I wanted to enter the seminary, where I would study Theology. It was hard for me to study a career that I didn't like, even though I got good grades. When I finished studying Philosophy and got a degree, that priest advised me to enter the Toledo Seminary. That was another difficult decision for me to make, because I would have preferred to go to the Madrid Seminary to be closer to my parents and siblings (Toledo is a city 70 kilometers from Madrid).

I was at the Toledo Seminary for four years, from 1985 to 1989, the year I was ordained a priest. It was providential to be there because, as in the Minor Seminary they needed a civil licentiate to teach Spanish Literature, they made me a professor of that subject, thanks to which I was able to earn a monthly salary that, although very modest, allowed me to pay the expenses of the Major Seminary. It seems to me that I am the priest who, on the one hand, has been in a seminary for the fewest years and, on the other hand, I was a seminarian and professor at the same time. I loved my job as a teacher, and I felt loved by my students. My former students attended my first Mass, many of whom are now priests (by the way, they look older than me, because I always look younger). I liked the Church History courses because I have always been passionate about History.

Gordon: When did you attend Universidad Complutense de Madrid, what degree did you earn, and what is one of your favorite memories when you were there?

Father Enrique: As I just said, I attended the Complutense University of Madrid before entering the Seminary, from 1980 to 1985, and there I obtained the degree of Licentiate. Although I didn't like Philosophy, I tried my best. As I like History, the History of Philosophy subjects were my favorites.

My favorite memories when I was there was the friendship our classmates made, many of whom asked me for my class notes (they said they were very good, because I tried to write in good handwriting what each teacher taught in class). Sometimes colleagues came to my house to collect my class notes to photocopy them (sometimes they got lost and I had to study photocopies of my own classes notes, which I found very funny). It gave me great joy to be able to help other colleagues.

Gordon: When did you attend Pontificia Università San Tommaso d'Aquino. Rome, what degree did your earn, what was your favorite course, and why was it your favorite?

Father Enrique: After my ordination came another difficulty, because the archbishop asked me to go to Rome to obtain, first, another Licentiate in Philosophy (ecclesiastical), and then the Doctorate in Philosophy from the same Pontificia Università San Tommaso d'Aquino. I hoped not to study Philosophy again after entering the Seminary.

At first I had a hard time in those classes, especially in a seminar dedicated to the study of the work "De ente et essentia", which I found very boring. But, providentially, there I met an American priest, with whom I became very friendly, and who also did not like that seminar on "De ente et essentia". We laughed a lot. I must say the name of that great priest and great person: Father Richard P. Rohrer, who has recently died, which caused me great sadness. With him I spent very happy moments in Rome. I am very grateful to him. I was able to obtain my Licenciate degree in a few months: in May 1990. And I obtained my PhD in Philosophy in 1992.

My favorite course was entitled "De hominis dignitate", because I believe that Christianity should always recognize and promote that dignity that every man has. In addition, this course inspired me to choose the subject of my doctoral thesis, which deals with how the Spanish Crown, thanks to its political Philosophy, always defended the dignity of the Indians of the New World, against the supporters of the Aristotelian doctrine about natural slavery.

Thank God, despite not liking Philosophy, I got the highest grades in all subjects, and I got "Summa cum Laude" in both the Licenciate and the Doctorate.

Gordon: When did you serve in the Archdiocese of Toledo as a priest and what was your parish?

Father Enrique: When I returned to the Archdiocese of Toledo in 1992, I was appointed chaplain of the Carmelite Nuns of Charity and professor of Philosophy for the students of the Minor Seminary.

Gordon: At what parish in Archdiocese of Madrid are you serving as a priest, and share with our readers some information about your parish?

Father Enrique: After serving in the Archdiocese of Toledo, I came to the Archdiocese of Madrid, where I was appointed curate (parochial vicar) of the Parish of the Risen Christ ("Cristo Resucitado"), where I served for twelve years, from 1995 to 2007. I was then named curate (parochial vicar) of the Parish of San Andrés, where I am serving since 2007 until today: sixteen years. The Parish of San Andrés is in the center of Madrid: the patron saint of Madrid, San Isidro, was baptized there. Being in a parish for so many years means that I have baptized and married many people. The saddest thing is that many parishioners have been dying. For example, I don't want to visit Risen Christ Parish again because I would be moved there to remember so many dear parishioners who have died during my service at St. Andrew's Parish.

Gordon: When did you serve in the Archdiocese of Madrid as a Professor, at what University do you teach and what courses did you teach?

Father Enrique: The Parish of San Andrés where I serve is very close to the San Dámaso Ecclesiastical University, where the Faculty of Philosophy was created in 2008. Since they needed PhD professors, they asked me to be a professor there ever since. There I have taught and still teach the following subjects: Christian Humanism, Philosophy of culture, Social and political Philosophy, History of modern and contemporary Philosophy, Christianity and modern Philosophy, Introduction to Philosophy, Questions of Political Philosophy, Philosophy of History, Metaphysical Issues in Modern and Contemporary Philosophy, etc. It is a very big job to be both a teacher and parochial vicar, but God helps me.

Gordon: Please share with our readers and overview of the books you have written.

Father Enrique: I repeat that, although I did not like Philosophy, I began to like it a long time ago thanks to the best philosopher of our time: Julián Marías, a member of the Royal Spanish Academy, an exemplary Catholic who should be beatified.

His life in this world was heroic. I was a disciple and friend of his. Also, since he got sick in 2000, he dictated his writings to me. He was a great connoisseur and admirer of the United States, in many of whose universities he taught as a professor. He died in Madrid in 2005. He encouraged me to write some books.

One of them (published in 2002) is entitled “The Beauty of Christ. A philosophical understanding of the Gospel”. He made a beautiful prologue for that book. The book has been translated into English by the great American philosopher Harold C. Raley. As Julián Marías says in the prologue, "This book represents an innovative reading of the Gospels, the whole of the New Testament and portions of the Old as well, those which are of a deep religious, and not merely socio-historical, interest.

The starting point of the book is the reading of the New Testament in its original Greek, thus giving each sentence its full meaning and scope. One has the impression that almost all the usual readings are superficial, that they glide over the deepest content. It is surprising how uncommonly religious this book turns out to be. In it one plumbs the rigorously religious depths of Scripture, apart from the later historical accretions that are, I repeat, inevitable but separable. In this book, as the title indicates, beauty is the theme. The Greek adjective 'kalós' and its frequent use as a substantive can mean many things. At times it has been interpreted as goodness or kindness, which is permissible, but it is not the only nor even the primary meaning. 'Kalós' means, first of all, fair or beautiful.

This primary meaning must be restored to innumerable passages in the Gospel and throughout the New Testament. The revelation of the element of beauty that accompanies the figure of Christ and all that has to do with him is surprising and refreshing, from his physical beauty to the beauty of his word, his doctrine, his example and his surroundings where he lived, died and rose again. The chapter devoted to Mary, the Mother of God, 'Theotókos', is astonishing in its depth and richness. The figure of the Virgin Mary, which is fundamental to Christianity, and especially Catholicism, has always been the greatest glorification of woman and has illuminated that half of Humanity for centuries. This book definitively shows that this glorification comes from the reflection of this individual woman, this human and very real person, whose significance perhaps never before has been shown with such power and clarity".

My latest book is titled "Another Christian Philosophy" (Otra filosofía cristiana): Ortega and Marías invite us to elaborate a new Christian Philosophy, different from the old one, in which the conceptual legacy of Greek thought has weighed too heavily on Christianity. The ideas of substantialism, naturalism and the entification of reality are a hindrance to thought. An enormous effort is required to free oneself from images handed down for centuries, sometimes almost mechanically so, and mainly derived from non-Christian attitudes.

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