The beginning of wisdom is: get wisdom; at the cost of all you have, get understanding



Katie van Schaijik

Alice von Hildebrand on love and suffering

Jun. 17, 2013, at 1:43pm

Alice von HIldebrand began visiting and speaking at Franciscan University when I was a junior there, in 1986. Her wise and witty words, uttered in that inimitable voice, spoke to my spirit at an unfamiliar depth and with a soul-unifying power.  Up till then, my experience had been that intellectual things were sometimes  interesting, but they didn't touch my heart. They didn't really rouse me; they didn't reach my self.  And emotional things, while absorbing in their drama and immediacy, lacked substance; they seemed rather unreliable and immature—dead-endish. Looking back, I see I was sort of stuck.

By her witness, the dilemma was resolved. The kind of truth that came to me through her

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Katie van Schaijik

Tenderness watch

Jun. 14, 2013, at 10:30pm

John Podhoretz has written a moving tribute to his sister, Rachel Abrams, who died last week of cancer. I think the only thing of hers I ever read was a short story he re-published right after the news was made public. It made me want more. She seems to have been an extraordinary person. I read her mother's book, An Old Wife's Tale, years ago and found it full of warmth and wisdom.

I link it partly because of the way it ends. It's that word again: tenderness.

Speaking to her nearly every day, as I did, was like having my lungs filled with the purest oxygen. Hearing her laugh. God, did she love to laugh. Telling her about my kids, every detail of whose lives she vacuumed up hungrily and thoroughly, like a Dyson. And above all, throughout it all, her ineffable tenderness, her indescribable tenderness, her incandescent tenderness.

Katie van Schaijik

Belonging and identity

Jun. 14, 2013, at 9:24am

Being been embroiled in an online discussion elsewhere about the Pope's way of critiquing capitalism, I jumped ahead in the book of Cardinal Bergoglio's homilies and addresses (which Devra helped translate) to the section on Catholic Social Teaching.

I found this:

Hence, the origin of existential emptiness refers, as Durkheim himself has said, to a separation of the individual from the social environment— i.e., a lack of sense of belonging, which disfigures the identity. “To have an identity” involves primarily “belonging.” Therefore, to overcome this social debt it is necessary to rebuild the social fabric and social ties.

It reminds me of a segment of the Jean Vanier talk I linked a

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Devra Torres

The Least I Need to Do

Jun. 10, 2013, at 9:59pm

                  “What’s the least I need to do to keep you happy?”

That’s an apocryphal (I hope) quote from a new husband, addressed to his bride. 

You can predict what sort of marriage is likely to follow, and how long it’s likely to last. 

The question is, do we treat God like that?  We may feel sure we don’t, but it’s possible to do it inadvertently, even while being convinced we're exemplary Christians.

In one sense, of course, “What must I do to be saved?” (roughly equivalent to “What’s the least I need to do to keep you happy?”) is the most important question a person can ask.  If we fail to ask the question, or to live by the answer, we risk eternal misery. 

And it is easy these

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Katie van Schaijik

Two new items for my case against “unprincipled forgiveness”

Jun. 8, 2013, at 1:59pm

I've recently come across two fresh "exhibits" for the case I've been building against "unprincipled forgiveness"—a commonly preached and practiced, unavailing counterfeit of genuine forgiveness.

"Exhibit A" is the case of a person who ought to be busy repenting and making amends, who is instead laying claims to other people's forgiveness and more or less presenting himself as the victim of their lack of Christianity.  I refer to Cardinal O'Brien, the Scottish prelate who, when it came to light that several men, including priests and former priests had credibly accused him of sexual misconduct, was abruptly required to retire right before the papal conclave. The Cardinal flatly denied the

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Devra Torres

It’s Here!

Jun. 6, 2013, at 11:40am

Now available from Scepter--a wonderful collection of Pope Francis' homilies, letters, and addresses from before he was Pope Francis.  This is the one I was helping to edit and wrote about here and spoke about here. You can get it on Kindle, too.


Katie van Schaijik

Mercies hurt

Jun. 4, 2013, at 8:43am

Some months back, at the height of Presidential election season, I wrote a post castigating Mark Shea for sneering and caricaturing his opponents in debate. I find his habitual tone so off-putting that I practically never read his articles, even though they're often linked by mutual friends at facebook. I read a few lines of his critique of Lila Rose and then clicked away in annoyance. Impossible to engage someone simultaneously that obtuse and that self-satisfied.

Today, I have a very different impression of the man—one that endears him to me and makes me grateful that such as he lives and breaths in the Catholic blogosphere.

He has penned a penitent post of rare and precious humility. I

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Katie van Schaijik

Interview with Hannah Arendt

Jun. 1, 2013, at 6:53am

A facebook friend linked this engrossing hour-long interview with Hannah Arendt.

The whole thing is worth watching, but several moments in particular gave me a sense of spiritual and intellectual kinship with her.

1) Her response to the question about whether she sought influence when she pursued philosophical studies. This she said was "a masculine question." She was never interested in influence. It wasn't about making a career or cutting a figure in the academic world. She studied philosophy because she had an urgent interior need to understand things.

2) She wrote in order to articulate her ideas to herself. For her, thinking and writing were part of the same process of coming to

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Devra Torres

Why You Shouldn’t Worry About What Pope Francis Might Do Next

Jun. 1, 2013, at 2:40am

Does Pope Francis make you nervous?  Here are seven worries some people suffer from and why you shouldn't let them bother you:


 He keeps using expressions like “culture of the encounter,” which make some people skeptical.  Does it sound like the naïve chatter of someone who thinks all ideologies are morally equivalent?  Isn’t the Holy Father mistaking this historical moment for a (possibly imaginary) earlier one when a guy could still find an honest liberal and hammer out some common ground with him?

Well, here’s some counter-evidence, straight from the mouth of Cardinal Bergoglio:

I am convinced that it is not our job to separate

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Katie van Schaijik

The body matters

May. 26, 2013, at 2:22pm

A not-to-be-missed article by Mark Regnerus over at Public Discourse highlights how rapidly we are approaching the dystopian society envisioned by Alduous Huxley in A Brave New World

Sex would be seen as something distasteful—messy, primitive, unwholesome. Better by far for children to be manufactured in clinics.

It's happening. 

Yes, we are increasingly uncomfortable with where babies come from, no doubt about it.

The first effect of the widespread acceptance of contraception is that sex could be enjoyed without worrying about the natural consequence of pregnancy. Now we have reached the point where the creation of children is detached not just from marriage, but from sex. 


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Devra Torres

Beyond God as Errand Boy

May. 26, 2013, at 9:37am

I’m reading a new book by Fr. Michel Esparza (author of Self-Esteem without Selfishness).  The title translates as “In Tune with Christ.”  

(Unfortunately, it’s not in English yet, but once I’m done with my current editing projects maybe I can start scheming to translate Sintonia. In the meantime, keep an eye out for Encountering Christ

and Pope Francis: Keys to his Thought, both from Scepter.) 

Fr. Michel has a way of zeroing in on the commonest misconceptions with the most far-reaching implications, and then clearing them up—or at least throwing brand-new light on the things we say we believe.

He did it with self-esteem and self-love, and he does it here with certain habits

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Katie van Schaijik

What’ right with feminism

May. 23, 2013, at 6:36pm

I sometimes find myself in arguments with traditionalists or conservatives over feminism.  They'll rail against the damage it's done, and I will say, "I agree with you, but..."

I do agree. I fully feel the terrible spiritual losses incurred by the excesses of feminism and the sexual revolution.  Sometimes the thought of it all tempts me to despair. How will we ever recover from such a depth and extent of self-inflicted misery? What kind of world am I sending my children into?

The "but," though, has to do with a sense that the valid complaints and aspirations of feminism are too easily dismissed or overlooked. I don't like it when fellow-Catholics talk or write as if feminism is essentially

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Devra Torres

Social Media and the Crocodile in the Bedroom

May. 21, 2013, at 8:38am

One of my favorite books is Fables, by the delightful Arnold Lobel.  (If you have children, don’t miss his “Frog and Toad” series.)  One chapter is called “The Crocodile in the Bedroom.”

It goes like this (bear with me--the personalist angle will become evident shortly):

A Crocodile became increasingly fond of the wallpaper in his bedroom. He stared at it for hours and hours.

"Just look at all those neat and tidy rows of flowers and leaves, " said the Crocodile. "They are like soldiers. There is not a single one that is out of place."

"My dear," said the Crocodile's wife, "you are spending too much time in bed. Come out into my garden where the air is fresh and the sun is bright and

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Marie Meaney

Death and Providence

May. 20, 2013, at 3:14am

Over the last two months, eight friends and acquaintances of my family have died. Some deaths were expected, but many took us by surprise: two road-accidents, a sudden heart-attack occurring during sleep, a few cancer-deaths that suddenly took a turn for the worse etc. Some of the dead had been pious, some had distanced themselves from the Church, some hadn’t cared about religion at all. For the bystanders and mourners, death has a way of pulling them out of the hustle and bustle of the everyday; everything comes to a standstill, and what really matters is able to come to the forefront. The ultimate seriousness of it, the finality, the last judgment that everybody must expect shakes one

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Katie van Schaijik

A short thought about suffering

May. 18, 2013, at 10:45am

Lately I've been reading about co-dependency. I'm impressed by how "naturally personalistic" so much of the literature around addiction and recovery is.   It's put in plain terms, of course, but its practical wisdom very much embodies many of the deep philosophical principles formally worked out by great thinkers like John Paul II.

Here's one line (among dozens I might have chosen) from The New Co-Dependency, by Melody Beattie.  "Suffering is how we feel about how we feel." In other words, it involves the kind of reflection and response that is only possible in a free and responsible subject, a self.  Physical pain considered alone doesn't quite qualify.  

This is why suffering is so deep

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Devra Torres

My Personalist Mother

May. 12, 2013, at 6:41pm

Once in a while, my weekly deadline finds me floundering around, vainly trying to wrestle some complex metaphysical truth down to 800 words or so.  This time it was a centuries-old misunderstanding about the hypostatic union.  I was having about as much success as you might expect.

Well, the hypostatic union will have to wait.  Having remembered Mother’s Day, and what a personalist mother I have, I’ve decided to write about her instead (here she is in the green shirt, with my father and their eight children).

On the one hand, my mother is the kind of traditional, hardworking, devoted housewife who just about everybody agrees is good for children.  Even many who theoretically disapprove

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Katie van Schaijik

Heaven is a person

May. 9, 2013, at 12:04pm

Today's Magnificat includes a beautiful and highly personalist quotation from Pope Emeritus Benedict on the Ascension and its promise for humanity.

The meaning of Christ's Ascension," writes Pope Benedict XVI, "expresses our belief that in Christ the humanity that we all share has entered into the inner life of God in a new and hitherto unheard of way.  It means that man has found an everlasting place in God."  It would be a mistake to interpret the Ascension as "the temporary absence of Christ from the world." Rather, "we go to heaven to the extent that we go to Jesus Christ and enter into him." Heaven is a person. "Jesus himself is what we call 'heaven'."

Jules van Schaijik

Kierkegaard turns 200

May. 8, 2013, at 8:52pm

I was just reminded by an advertisement (a bookseller), that Søren Kierkegaard turned 200 last Sunday. That is something I don't want to let pass unnoticed. But I have only a few minutes at my disposal. So I will just leave you with soem passages from one of Kierkegaard's early journals. In these he expresses his longing, indeed, his need, "to find a truth which is truth for me, to find the idea for which I am willing to live and die."

The whole passage could be seen as an explanation of our motto, tua res agitur (the thing concerns you}.

Of what use would it be to me to discover a so-called objective truth, to work through the philosophical systems so that I could, if asked, make

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Katie van Schaijik

Tenderness and maturity

May. 7, 2013, at 3:11pm

The word tenderness seems to be in the air lately.  It's clearly a favorite of our new Pope's.  He used it in some of his earliest remarks as Pope. "Do not be afraid of tenderness." He mentioned it again several times today, in reflections on the First Letter of St. John and the sacrament of confession.

"The Lord is tender towards those who fear, to those who come to Him "and with tenderness," He always understands us”. He wants to gift us the peace that only He gives. " "This is what happens in the Sacrament of Reconciliation" even though "many times we think that going to confession is like going to the dry cleaner" to clean the dirt from our clothes...

It came up, too, in the last two

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Josef Seifert

What is the most fundamental human right? Part 3: Three contenders

May. 4, 2013, at 11:13am

We have said that in a certain sense the right to life is the most fundamental and basic natural human right. Now we have to clarify in which sense this is true and which are other points of view perceived from which it is not the most fundamental one, and whether these other points of view to determine the most basic human right are more foundational or fundamental ones. We will here omit the purely historical point of view, which basic human right was the first one to be included in a modern human rights catalogue because we do not deem this question to be relevant for our analysis. (From this point of view, at least if one prescinds from all ancient and early medieval human rights

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