Persons philosophers by nature

The word of God is addressed to all people, in every age and in every part of the world; and the human being is by nature a philosopher..

John Paul II

Fides et Ratio

Katie van Schaijik

The empty chair

Feb. 28, 2013, at 9:48am

I always find Holy Saturday an especially imposing day, spiritually.  It's the thought of the empty Tabernacles all over the world.  The absent Presence.

I'm feeling something similar as I contemplate the sede vacante.  How different an empty chair is from other kinds of emptiness!  A chair is meant to hold a person.  And this is not just any chair, but a very paticular chair—a chair that represents a sacred office, and an unbroken line.

It's emptiness is awesome, in the truest sense of that word, which includes an element of "fear-inducing."

I'm glad it will be filled soon.  I'm also grateful for the way its period of emptiness fills out our sense of its fullness of meaning.

Devra Torres

Self-Esteem Without Selfishness: Increasing Your Capacity for Love

Feb. 26, 2013, at 11:05pm

The book on self-esteem I translated last summer (and wrote about here) is out!  At least, it's available for pre-ordering from Scepter Publishers.  Here's my synopsis as it appears in the catalog:

We’ve all been exhorted to cultivate self-esteem and nurture a positive self-image. That sounds appealing. But we also know that God calls us to humility. And many well-intentioned Christians have it in the back of their minds that being humble means living their lives in a haze of discouragement, anxiety, and preoccupation with their own sinfulness.

After all, the only alternative our culture seems to offer is a vacuous “I’m OK, you’re OK” relativism: the false peace that this world gives. We

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Katie van Schaijik

New translations deepen the personal dimension of the Mass

Feb. 26, 2013, at 10:00am

The changes to the English translation of the Mass were designed to bring it closer to the Latin original.  Hence, they draw attention to certain deficits in the former translation.

In his great classic Liturgy and Personality,* Dietrich von Hildebrand wrote of the perfect, divinely-designed adequacy of the Catholic Liturgy to the human personality, so that the more fully we enter into it, the more it shapes us rightly, as persons.

It follows—doesn't it?— that mis-translations pose a serious problem for our spiritual lives, and likewise that better translations serve to help us interiorize and appropriate without deficits the sacred truths at hand.

Having all that in mind, I love to

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Devra Torres

The Glorious Conformity of the Children of God?

Feb. 22, 2013, at 11:43pm

Mama, if God knew Adam and Eve were gonna sin, how come he tested them?

"Jopa" (Johanna Paulina, named after Guess Who) is my seventh child, age seven, heading into the age of reason right on schedule.  This was hardly the first time a kid had posed this question to me.  I dusted off my usual talking points:

  • “Well, it wasn’t that kind of a test—like the one your teacher gives you to find out something she didn’t know before, since God knows everything…” 

        “Yeah, but—“

  • “…He wanted to give us a chance to obey Him freely, out of love…”

        “Yeah, but—“

  • “…because He wanted us to be free persons, not just little robots who automatically did whatever He wanted.  If we weren’t
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Katie van Schaijik

Sperm banks and father deprivation

Feb. 22, 2013, at 11:21am

This film approaches the problems surrounding the substitution of sperm donors for fathers from the point of view of the children who were conceived that way.

It looks powerful.

Jules van Schaijik

Leg logos (aka legos)

Feb. 22, 2013, at 10:34am

Shirt logos are so commonplace nowadays that I rarely think about them. But sometimes, when I go shopping with my boys for instance, they still bother me. Why is it that we all accept this form of advertising? Why do we allow ourselves to be used in this way? Why, in fact, do we often have to (or want to) pay extra for the ads?

It is not just boys or sports clothing either. Even dressier shirts usually have logos on them, small but instantly recognizable. 

I know, I know. It is not a big deal. It may be a subtle form of objectifying ourselves, of allowing ourselves to be used as billboards, but I agree that it is too insignificant to make an issue out of.

But what are we to think about

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Jules van Schaijik

The Christian Personalism of J.H. Newman

Feb. 20, 2013, at 6:51pm

February 21 is a great day for us at the Personalist Project. It is the birthday of John Henry Newman, of whom it has rightly been said that he “stands at the threshold of the new age as a Christian Socrates, the pioneer of a new philosophy of the Individual Person and of Personal Life.”

I can't think of a better way to celebrate than by listening to these lectures by John Crosby, on the Christian Personalism of Newman. (My thanks to Franciscan University for making them available on youtube. Members only: to listen offline you can download audio versions here.)

Lecture 1: The Personalist Spirit of Newman's Thought

Lecture 2: The Human Person as a World of his Own

Lecture 3: Newman on Personal Influence

Lecture 4: Newman on the Personal Exercise of Reason

Lecture 5: Newman's Personalist Way to God through Conscience

Katie van Schaijik

God’s will and ours: how they meet

Feb. 17, 2013, at 1:58pm

Further to the discussion with Fr. Landry and others below, about Christian discernment, let me offer the cases of two men I know. True stories.

The first was a student at FUS when I was there. Let's name him Sam. My friends and I used to call him "Sam the praying man," because he was always in the Eucharistic chapel. We thought for sure he would be a priest.

There was a lovely, pious young woman on campus, studying graduate theology. I'll call her Donna. One day, close to graduation, Donna went up to Sam and said, "This is going to sound really strange, but God told me in prayer that we're supposed to get married." Sam replied, "I have no doubt that you're right." And they got engaged

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Katie van Schaijik

A conversation at the gym about obedience vs. creativity

Feb. 15, 2013, at 4:58pm

This is not the longer post—which is beginning to approach booklength— I'm working on about the relation between God's will and ours.  But it's related.

I went to a cardio/dance class at the gym today.  I've been to several now of this kind.  Some I love and some I can't stand.  The ones I love are the ones that play oldies and get us dancing simple, coreographed routines:

"Up four, back four, grapevine, now turn!  Feel that beat!  Cha-cha-cha now!  And back, cha-cha-cha!"

They're like Zumba, but with friendlier music and less suggestive movements. I like learning the steps.  I like the way getting the steps right makes me feel like I'm really dancing and forget I'm working out.


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Devra Torres

Eternal Security and Personhood

Feb. 15, 2013, at 9:20am

As an Evangelical teenager, I once asked my Sunday school teacher:

So, if I’m saved no matter what I do, does that mean I can commit all the sins I want from now on?

There was a pause, and then she replied:

Well...if you were really saved, you wouldn’t want to.

But even she didn’t sound convinced.

This is one of many subjects addressed in this fascinating book by Fr. John R. Weiss and James G. McCarthy.

It's a great read for an Evangelical-to-Catholic convert like me, or for anybody with an interest in life-or-death spiritual questions.  The format lets each co-author speak for himself.  Neither was persuaded to convert by the time it was published, so it’s completely “objective.”


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Katie van Schaijik

The evangelical power of beauty

Feb. 14, 2013, at 10:35am

This morning at Mass, our good priest gave an impassioned homily about the momentousness of what we as a Church are experiencing this Lent.  It seemed to me he had been reading George Weigel on the subject.  

He said that the Church is in a period of transition.  Under the leadership of this Pope and his predecessor, we are moving away from being "a maintenance Church" to being "an evangelical Church."  

Yes!  I agree!  I see it too!

But then he added a point that sent up a little red flag for me—not because it's wrong, but because it can be taken wrongly.  

He said, in so many words, "We're not about maintaining buildings; we're about winning souls for Christ."  

The words jumped out at

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Katie van Schaijik

Our decisions belong to us; we are responsible for them

Feb. 12, 2013, at 12:26pm

During my undergrad years at Franciscan University in the 80's, the problem of "overspiritualization"—the tendency of hyper-pious young people to live in an unnaturally religious way—was a theme.  At times it seemed that every conversation had to refer to God.  Every decision had to be prayed about. 

It's a mostly harmless tendency, as tendencies go.  But still.  It's a case of immaturity at best.  If we don't grow out of it, it can become a serious psychological and moral disorder.

The most characteristic feature of adulthood in comparison with childhood is personal responsibility.  Adults are in charge of themselves—responsible for themselves, answerable for their judgments, acts and

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Katie van Schaijik

Person, office, freedom, duty

Feb. 11, 2013, at 12:13pm

Scott Hahn's Facebook post about the Pope's resignation is worth pondering in depth.  I hope he won't mind that I'm pasting it in full here.

Back on April 29, 2009, Pope Benedict XVI did something rather striking, but which went largely unnoticed. 

He stopped off in Aquila, Italy, and visited the tomb of an obscure medieval Pope named St. Celestine V (1215-1296). After a brief prayer, he left his pallium, the symbol of his own episcopal authority as Bishop of Rome, on top of Celestine's tomb! 

Fifteen months later, on July 4, 2010, Benedict went out of his way again, this time to visit and pray in the cathedral of Sulmona, near Rome, before the relics of this same saint, Celestine V. 


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Katie van Schaijik

Mental injustices an obstacle to communion

Feb. 9, 2013, at 1:51pm

Something like this happens in me a lot: I can't find my keys and I start mentally berating my children for getting into my stuff.  Then I remember where I left the keys. 

Once, Jules' very expensive watch went missing from his drawer.  For months, I was pretty sure the painter had stolen it.  My "evidence" was that he had been in the house since the last time we'd seen the watch, and I could picture him taking it.  Then one day we pulled our bed out from the wall, and there was the watch.  Did I feel the need to go to that painter and confess I had suspected him of stealing?  No.  But I did feel the need to make an inward act of contrition—a conscious act of realizing to myself, in front

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Devra Torres

“Catholic Witness in a Nation Divided” CDs Available

Feb. 8, 2013, at 1:10pm

Recordings of the excellent conference that I wrote about here, here, and here are available for purchase from Ave Maria Radio here.


Devra Torres

Dictatorship of Realism?

Feb. 7, 2013, at 8:23pm

It’s hard to write dispassionately about Michael Voris, but I’ll try.

In fact, it’s not about him, but about something he says in this clip on the trouble with democracy.  He believes that only ”virtuous people” (which equals “faithful Catholics”) should be allowed to vote, but that a “benevolent dictatorship” would be an improvement on any kind of democracy.   (If you suspect I’m misquoting or taking him out of context, watch the clip and I think you’ll agree I’m not.)

It doesn’t take much imagination to foresee the verification and enforcement glitches that might crop up in establishing who’s virtuous and who’s not, whose faithfulness was acceptable last election year but seems to be

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Katie van Schaijik

On the drastic need to recover a sense of what it means to be a lady

Feb. 5, 2013, at 10:15am

I love Peggy Noonan's recent column, called "Embarrassing the Angels", on the loss of the cultural sense of personal dignity.

She starts with a bold assertion:

America has become creepy for women who think of themselves as ladies. It has in fact become assaultive.

Then she describes her experience of being searched by airport security personel.

I was directed, shoeless, into the little pen with the black plastic swinging door. A stranger approached, a tall woman with burnt-orange hair. She looked in her 40s. She was muscular, her biceps straining against a tight Transportation Security Administration T-shirt. She carried her wand like a billy club. She began her instructions: Face your

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Jules van Schaijik

The abyss of leisure

Feb. 3, 2013, at 1:58pm

Having learned from Josef Pieper that the heart of true leisure lies in a joyful and effortless affirmation of reality, I paused, the other day, when I read Glenn Tinder's description of it as "an opportunity for the cultivation of personal excellence." Doesn't that formulation turn leisure into a mere self-help tool, something we pursue for the sake of self-improvement? And isn't that almost the exact opposite of what Pieper means by it? Just take this passage from Leisure, the Basis of Culture

Above all, one cannot simply "make" it happen for some ulterior purpose. There are certain things which one cannot do "in order to…" do something else. One either does not do them at all or one

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Devra Torres

Seven Quick Takes: Immigration

Feb. 2, 2013, at 11:56am

The recent “Catholic Witness in a Nation Divided” conference began with Ave Maria Radio’s Al Kresta urging us laypeople to dig in and relish our vocation to “intentional discipleship.” It also included William B. May’s refreshing, child-centric approach to the marriage wars.  And it took up immigration.  Which brings us (one day late) to…


One of These Things is Not Like the Others?

I was initially startled to see immigration included in a conference whose other themes were marriage, life, and religious freedom.  It’s a hot-button political topic—but what does it have to do with Catholic witness?  It’s not about life, or family, or

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Jules van Schaijik

Who decides?

Jan. 26, 2013, at 12:56pm

Inevitably, at some point during my Ethics courses, a student will raise the question, "So, who decides what is right and what is wrong?" Having grown up in the modern world, they're all-too aware that there are many different and opposing views about every ethical issue under sun. They also know that philosophers throughout history have disagreed. So when they hear me defend the objectivity of moral truth, they naturally wonder "Whose truth? Who gets to decide what is objectively true?"

A first answer

My first answer to this question is generally to point out that it is badly formulated. It is a loaded question, because it assumes the point at issue. It takes for granted that moral norms

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