Not meant to be mere instrumentsWhat does God, above all, demand of us? Our love. What is the question Our Lord puts thrice, emphatically to Peter in that great hour when He entrusts him with the care of His flock? It is the question as to his love. “Simon, son of John, lovest thou me?.” Those men err who believe it to be our supreme goal that we become pure instruments of God. … So long as we are a mere channel for the flow of God’s will, so long as we are nothing but an impersonal tool in the hands of God, as we have no desire other than to discharge a certain function in the universe according to the plan of God, we cannot be transformed in Christ. The attainment of our proper supernatural aim supposes an entrirely different attitude on our part. It requires that we surrender ourselves to Christ by an act of love which is nothing if not eminently personal.
Dietrich von Hildebrand
Transformation in Christ
Aug. 6, 2012, at 11:29am
For our June Reading Circle, we read a couple of articles on the problem of virtual relationships. One was by the great British philosopher, Roger Scruton. He develops the theme further today in a sobering article about the future of western civilization at American Spectator about the consequences of the trend toward virtuality.
Virtual space is Mercurial, demonic, a space of transformations that we cannot control. Living with your eyes fixed to that space, you acquire a mentality that has no real precedent in the annals of mankind. Young people therefore find it hard to envisage the future as something for which they are accountable, and which requires them to make sacrifices on its …
Aug. 4, 2012, at 4:20pm
I dislike being misunderstood and misjudged. I hate it when people project into me thoughts and motives and feelings that aren't mine—that don't do justice to my real thoughts and motives and feelings. Especially people who should know me better.
I also hate being praised and complimented when I don't deserve it—as if my fragile ego needs special boosting.
I wish others would interact honestly with the actual me, rather than gingerly with an image or projection of their own creation.
More and more I'm struck by the dearth of truth in human relations. I understand why unbelievers think it's kinder to deal in illusions. I don't understand how Christians can.
Aug. 1, 2012, at 5:48pm
This is a spinoff.
This is only a spinoff.
In other words, I have no intention of addressing the 144,000 points or so made about forgiveness (legitimate, premature, unprincipled, or dysfunctional, with or without justice and reconciliation) in recent posts and comments. (I strongly recommend reading through them, though, if you haven’t yet—much food for thought).
What I would like to do is allow C. S. Lewis to weigh in on the subject. Forgiveness is right up there with humility as a contender for Most Misunderstood Christian Virtue. And it’s painfully relevant: it comes up all the time in the life of anyone tempted to think of himself, as we probably all do sometimes, as Surrounded By …continue reading
Aug. 1, 2012, at 2:47am
Other than regular Sunday readings and occasional rumblings heard as an altar boy, I first began to read the Scriptures at age 12 in the spring of 1963. It was Lent. Our teacher, a formidable Dominican nun in full white regalia, laid it down as a project for 7th grade religion that all students should memorize St. Matthew’s Passion! Every day we practiced with the student sitting next to us, going over the latest new paragraph and then trying to string it all together from the beginning—the chain getting longer and longer. In the end, during Holy Week, each student had to get up in front of the whole class and attempt to recite it. Only two of us made it—myself and one pretty girl, …continue reading
Jul. 31, 2012, at 12:35pm
One of the first and most fundamental lessons I learned in my undergraduate philosophy classes (thank you, Dr. Healy and Dr. Harold!) is that there is a radical difference between things that are intrinsically good and things that are merely agreeable.
When I call vanilla pudding "good", I mean little more than that I happen to like it. I know perfectly well that someone else might not like it at all. That person may with equal justification call the pudding "so-so" or even "disgusting." De gustibus non est disputandum. But when I say that Jane Eyre is a good novel, I mean not only that I like it, but that it is really, objectively good. It ought to be appreciated as such. If someone were …continue reading
Jul. 31, 2012, at 11:08am
Among the evils of the kind of clericalism that used to be an even more dominant feature of Catholic culture than it is today, is that crimes and injustice are covered up in the name of "not giving scandal."
Here is a horrible story developing in Australia. It appears that a bishop there assured a serial abuser of young girls that he (the bishop) would make sure that "the good name" (of the abuser!) would be protected. The state is considering criminal proceedings against the bishop.
I hope all Catholic leaders, lay and religious alike, are learning at least this lesson from the terrible clerical scandals of recent years: You do not serve the Church by covering up evil. All you serve is evil.
Jul. 26, 2012, at 5:48pm
My parents met at Brooklyn College one day when they were both skipping class.
Once I was old enough to know what “skipping class” meant, yet young enough to be still firmly ensconced in literal-mindedness, this began to worry me. I knew it wasn’t God’s will for people to skip class. (My parents themselves had made that much clear.) Therefore, I reasoned, my conception was a consequence of their stepping outside His will. Therefore—I was never meant to be! My very existence was, from God’s point of view, a mistake!
How to make sense of it all?
I think similar literal-mindedness lurks in the back of many minds—especially when we’re contemplating large, life-altering decisions. We …continue reading
Jul. 24, 2012, at 3:24pm
I gather that Cath2u's question (in a comment under Janet Smith's latest post), "What's my forgiveness got to do with the other person's contrition?" is meant to be rhetorical, (the answer, of course, being "nothing at all.") But I propose to take it seriously as a question, because it touches on an issue central to the topic of repentance and forgiveness (and to personalism generally), namely, our profound dependence on one another.
To give a good idea of what I mean by this dependence, and to indicate how deep it goes, let me quote from John Crosby's great book The Selfhood of the Human Person:
The unconditional acceptance of me by another person, or by the entire social milieu in which …
Jul. 23, 2012, at 1:22pm
Mike Healy jumped back into the discussion of "unprincipled forgiveness" because, as he put it (in comment #67 under Janet Smith's post) "I must at least defend myself from the charge (now repeated) of attributing horrible attitudes to [Katie]."
Suppose I were to say in reply: "You should model yourself on the example of Jesus, who didn't defend himself against much worse false charges made against him."
Wouldn't he want to say—wouldn't he be right to say—"Mind your own beewax. There is nothing wrong with a person defending himself against false charges! Kindly answer my point."
If I were like the practioners of "unprincipled forgiveness," I would say in answer: "Humanly speaking, …continue reading
Jul. 22, 2012, at 10:14pm
Katie van Shaijik understands us to have very different positions on the relationship between forgiveness and justice. I am still not clear what the nature of those differences are (and hope the discussion below will smoke those out).
Katie also thinks that I have shifted the focus from what she wanted to focus on. I think it fair to say that what she wants to focus on is the incompatibility of “unprincipled forgiveness” with Christianity. She says I have shifted the conversation to “the subjectivity of the offended party and the need for her to forgive, or "stay in friendly relations", etc.” Katie, of course, is not saying that such is not an important topic but for her …continue reading
Jul. 20, 2012, at 4:57pm
The other evening Jules and I found ourselves with some unexpected free time. We asked Alice von Hildebrand if she could tell us about her beloved Plato, so we could record it for members. We gave her 20 minutes to prepare. Making his view of education her theme, she was on such a great roll that I ran for my cell phone to capture at least a few minutes on video. The audio of the rest of part 1 is available to members. Part 2 coming someday soon!
The blue volume beside her is a book of Péguy's poetry. She's also re-reading Newman's Oxford University Sermons.
Jul. 18, 2012, at 7:30am
I think this CNA story offers an opportunity to think about how to apply the principles Katie is articulating.
Arturo Martinez-Sanchez says he had no choice but to forgive the man suspected of sexually assaulting and killing his wife and young daughter in an April 2012 attack that also left him seriously wounded.
“I have to forgive him, to go the way of life,” the Las Vegas resident told CNA in a July 17 interview. “It's in the Bible … I forgive him because I believe in God.”
“The Bible says: You forgive this gentleman, and you are forgiven yourself. That's the way it is,” said Martinez-Sanchez, a lifelong Catholic who said his upbringing and education in the Church impressed on him the …
Jul. 17, 2012, at 2:52pm
The discussion of the problem of "unprincipled forgiveness" being on my mind, everything I read seems to refer back to it, and highlight new aspects of it. Yesterday's Mass readings are an example.
In the First Reading, from Isaiah: "Make justice your aim."
And from the Gospel according to St. Matthew, a passage that member Joan referenced the other day, in response to my post on forgiveness and dysfunction:
Jesus said to his Apostles: "Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother...
It reminds me of another passage, from Jeremiah:
They dress the …
Jul. 15, 2012, at 1:06am
When I was very, very little, my beloved grandparents, Nana and Uncle Lenny (his real name was Louis, and he did eventually resign himself to being “old enough to be a grandpa”) gave me and my sister Abby a delightful present, which I am about to criticize.
Now, to say I have nothing against Dr. Seuss would be an understatement. He was so central a part of the family Weltanschauung that when my sister Sarah’s teacher once instructed her to design a family crest, he was included. (So were Groucho Marx and a bagel, but my other sister, Simcha Fisher, tells it better here.)
We loved My Book About Me, which was designed as a kind of treasury of memories by, for, and about the child. We …continue reading
Jul. 14, 2012, at 2:29pm
Between intensive training for a bike challenge, traveling to and from France, and transitioning to New Hampshire, I'm afraid last month's Reading Circle fell by the wayside.
Yesterday I belatedly posted the recording of my introduction to the two articles on the theme of "Persons, Friendship & Technology."
One thought, central to both pieces, is that unlike real friendships, virtual friendships are risk-free. They enable us to connect with others while hiding ourselves and keeping others at a safe, managable distance. We are not exposed and …continue reading
Jul. 14, 2012, at 10:38am
The other day, in response to my post on St. Benedict and phenomenology, member Kevin asked whether what he had heard was true: viz, that von Hildebrand had been a third order Franciscan. I thought it wasn't true, but just to be sure, I asked his widow. She said Kevin was right. Listen to her elaborate in her own words and voice.
NB: "Gogo" or "Gogi" was von Hildebrand's nickname from childhood. It's what all his friends called him.
Jul. 12, 2012, at 10:47am
According to my habit of mind, the discussion about unprincipled forgiveness has given rise to several spin-off trails of thought. I have been busy mentally composing several further posts on the theme, or related themes.
One has to do with the often unrecognized gap between what we profess with our minds and how we live in practice.
The fact that we see an error on the theoretical level is no proof that we're not guilty of it in fact, though we often imagine it is.
So, for instance, I know men who grant that women are equal in dignity, but behave or speak in a way that plainly reveals chauvanistic tendencies. If I were to say of a particular instance of it, "That's male-chauvanism", …continue reading
Jul. 11, 2012, at 11:29am
The key to the kind of phenomenology Jules and I studied, which is sometimes called "realist phenomenology" or "von Hildebrandian phenomenology" is a reverent, attentive listening to the voice of Reality, to "things in themselves." It sees "the art of living" as a matter of "receiving" what we find in reality, and responding to it faithfully. It stands in contrast to a way of philosophizing that is more concerned with constructing conceptual systems, or with studying texts.
One of the key features and contributions of von Hildeband's thought, in particular, is a rehabilitation of the role of the heart, not only in human relations, but in our apprehension of Reality. The heart is not just …continue reading
Jul. 9, 2012, at 2:28am
A couple months ago, I posted on God’s fondness for diversity. How else to explain His making us male and female (“as different as possible without being separate species”), different colors, shapes, and sizes, with different temperaments, talents, and senses of humor?
It would be surprising, then, if His dealings with us had a generic, one-size-fits-all kind of tone. Yet that is what we can fall into imagining.
In the back of our minds, even if we know better, may lurk the sense that what God really wants is for us to familiarize ourselves with His objective rules and regulations, calculate how they apply to our case, and conform our wills and behavior to them until we die. Then …continue reading
Jul. 8, 2012, at 8:04pm
I figured there was no way this response would fit in the 200 word Comment section, so I may as well just do a new post.
(That does not mean I intend to be extra wordy. Tomorrow I start three intensive summer courses, so I’ll actually have to cut back on my PP responses. Hopefully, a few will miss me; others no doubt will rejoice! C’est la vie!)
First, of course, Katie elaborates on many “good” examples of dysfunctional “forgiveness”—the Penn State mess, the priestly abuse scandals, some approaches of Covenant Communities in the past, the priest’s book (which has been mentioned before), and Nora in A Doll’s House. I too in both my comments and my posts have agreed with her examples …continue reading