Saintly actions: admirable, but not imitableWe utter something deeper than we realize when we say of such acts that they are admirable, but not imitable. They are not generalizable, universalizable. They are good; indeed, they are the best of all moral acts. But they are good only for him who does them. We are here very far from the Kantian universal with its morality defined as the possibility of making the maxim of an act into a law for all men.
Existence and the Existent
Jul. 2, 2012, at 11:18am
My kids were shocked one day to find me listening to National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered.” (My father, who has a penchant for accuracy, calls it “Some Things Considered from a Certain Point of View.”) The children realize that I’m prone to fits of boredom brought on by onion-chopping and cheese-sauce stirring, but they’re used to seeing me cook supper while soaking in the wisdom of Kresta in the Afternoon
or at least getting my info-tainment from someone who’s generally on the pro-life side of the political divide.
They never thought I’d sink so low.
I explained to them that it’s important to keep tabs on what the bad guys are up to.
And that’s true, but it’s …continue reading
Jun. 29, 2012, at 9:41pm
I conceive of the role of the teacher as a helper to the student so that the latter can see some real truth(s) on his own. The classical root of this conception, of course, is Socrates describing himself as a midwife, helping the other to bring to birth in his own mind a genuine understanding of reality. This involves a process of discovery requiring a broad openness to questions, challenges, readiness to make modifications, etc. It requires humility, i.e., an attitude fundamentally acknowledging that reality is transcendent to the mind and that, as Augustine says, the mind is below truth, not above it.
Nevertheless, it is sometimes the case that anyone who claims to know …continue reading
Jun. 27, 2012, at 7:58pm
An article in Crisis magazine, “What’s Behind the Mandate?” by Gerard Bradley unmasks the Obama Administration’s fundamental empiricism on two fronts—the ontological and the existential.
Ontologically Bradley notes that Obama’s asserts that those who want to place limitations on the availability of contraception, abortion and same sex marriage, base their opinion on religious convictions which, as such, are subjective and cannot be validated by objective measures and so consequently are not to be protected by law.
Existentially the Administration asserts that the value of such institutions as Catholic Charities and Hospitals solely in terms of the material benefits they afford for the …continue reading
Jun. 27, 2012, at 12:24pm
An ongoing topic of background meditation for me is the problem of forgiveness, and the way it is badly misunderstood, mis-preached, and mis-applied in Christian circles. So, I perked up over an item in the Corner today, making a point I have often tried to make myself, though less successfully. John O'Sullivan quotes a column by Kevin Myers in the Irish Independent, speaking of the bloody "Troubles" in Northern Ireland.
Now contrary to what those creepy moral apologists for the IRA insist, Christian teaching does not demand that one forgives one’s uncontrite assailant as one forgives the repentant ones. The entire sacrament of absolution depends on unconditional repentance and a “firm …
Jun. 27, 2012, at 9:09am
The United States bishops have asked for our participation in a "Fortnight for Freedom." Here's the announcement at the USCCB:
The fourteen days from June 21—the vigil of the Feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More—to July 4, Independence Day, are dedicated to this “fortnight for freedom”—a great hymn of prayer for our country. Our liturgical calendar celebrates a series of great martyrs who remained faithful in the face of persecution by political power—St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More, St. John the Baptist, SS. Peter and Paul, and the First Martyrs of the Church of Rome. Culminating on Independence Day, this special period of prayer, study, catechesis, and public action will …
Jun. 24, 2012, at 9:51am
My teaching style is somewhat old school. I lecture. I do this on the theory that I know more than my students and they come to me in order to learn. (Indeed, that’s what they pay for.) And by learn, I do not just mean about “process” and "how" to communicate. I mean learning about reality, about what to communicate: content, substance. I believe that I was exceedingly fortunate (blessed) as both an undergraduate and a graduate student to have a number of wonderful and wise professors who introduced me to the great tradition (Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, Bonaventure, Pascal, etc.) as well as to certain modern thinkers—and critics of modernity—who showed how that great …continue reading
Jun. 23, 2012, at 4:59pm
David Blankenhorn has been among our nation's staunchest and most prominent marriage boosters for years. Now, just days after a major new study is released confirming that tradtional marriage is better for children, he's changed his mind. His reasoning reinforces my growing impression that defenders of marriage will have to shift gears if we hope to succeed in persuading a majority to oppose the legalization of SSM. It won't be enough to prove that traditional marriage is better for kids. If it were, then Blankenhorn would still be on our side. He articulates the gist of that argument as well as anyone.
Marriage is the planet’s only institution whose core purpose is to unite the …
Jun. 20, 2012, at 2:29pm
Dr. Josef Seifert (himself an Austrian) once told us this joke:
In the heat of battle, an Austrian and a German are reporting back to their respective generals.
“Sir,” the German says, “The situation is serious, but not hopeless.”
“Sir,” the Austrian says, “The situation is hopeless, but not serious.”
I thought of that at Planned Parenthood the other day, where (being something of a second-rate prayer warrior, just subbing for a friend) I found myself without a single sign to wave or leaflet to hand out.
Well, no problem: the idea was to be a prayerful presence, not a one-woman demonstration. But during my weekly Forty Days for Life Hour, I’d been kept supplied, and kept company, by more …continue reading
Jun. 19, 2012, at 4:58pm
Again, as indicated in the previous post Population Problems (even in the Islamic World), sometimes I come away from reading “the news” with the vague impression that the western world is overwhelmed with problems relating to drugs, sex, a pleasure-centered lifestyle, and a loss of religious faith while the Islamic world is filled with individuals ready to sacrifice their lives for the cause of Allah and to rid the world of these profligate western excesses. However, as in the previous discussion, such impressions do not tell the underlying story.
David Goldman, in his recent book How Civilizations Die (and Why Islam is Dying Too), offers disturbing evidence that “[t]he underside of …continue reading
Jun. 18, 2012, at 11:20am
A former atheist describes her conversion.
It happened through a conversation with a friend; through a recognition that the moral truths she acknowledged had the attriutes of a Person, and then, through the Liturgy.
(Hat tip Barbara Nicolosi.)
I believed that the Moral Law wasn’t just a Platonic truth, abstract and distant. It turns out I actually believed it was some kind of Person, as well as Truth. And there was one religion that seemed like the most promising way to reach back to that living Truth. I asked my friend what he suggest we do now, and we prayed the night office of the Liturgy of the Hours together (I’ve kept up with that since).
Jun. 17, 2012, at 11:50pm
I often read of population problems in the western world of formerly Christian democracies (not to mention Japan, China’s one-child policy, sex-selection abortions in India, etc.). I don’t quite as often read of fundamental and growing problems in this regard in the Islamic world. Sometimes therefore I have a vague impression of western Europe on the decline in any number of ways and of the Islamic world growing in influence, money, people, religious fervor, and power. It was with interest then that I recently read a book by David Goldman entitled How Civilizations Die (and Why Islam is Dying Too).
His basic premise is that civilizations die when they lose the will to live—and this …continue reading
Jun. 16, 2012, at 9:06pm
Earlier today a member texted to ask whether I knew of answers to Walter Kaufmann's The Faith of the Heretic. He said it had caused him to reexamine his own faith. I had never heard of Kaufmann, so I googled, and read a few paragraphs. Then I put it down, comme d'habitude, as they say in France.
Later, thinking of something else entirely, I was recalling a moment years back. We were living in Steubenville. It was some anniversary of Newman's. We invited John Crosby to come over and speak to a small circle about his life and legacy. Someone asked him to describe Newman's essential greatness in brief. John said that the more he read and "walked with" Newman, the more he was …continue reading
Jun. 14, 2012, at 3:49pm
Last week, I reflected on the startling lack of satisfaction the vast array of affordable material goods seems to produce in the American consumer. What, I wondered, could possibly illustrate Kierkegaard’s “possibility unchecked by necessity” better than your local Walmart Supercenter?
But then I thought of something.
There you have it: endless possibility, held in check only by the finite stamina of the mouse-clicking finger.
Now, I’m really not a luddite.
Or I try not to be. I aspire to be a Pauline kind of person--and mother-- one who “tests all things and holds fast to what is good” rather than preemptively forbidding all things in case they turn out to be not so …continue reading
Jun. 12, 2012, at 4:24pm
Amor y Autoestima, the book that inspired this post on how to reconcile rightly ordered self-love with Reality-respecting humility, will soon be available in English. I'll be translating it from the Spanish this summer, and it will be available from Scepter sometime thereafter.
As I was flipping through it before my first reading, I couldn't help noticing the footnotes. Listen to this: C.S. Lewis, Edith Stein, Dietrich von Hildebrand, Leo Tolstoy, Bl. John Paul II, Gabriel Marcel, St. Josemaria Escriva, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Paul Vitz, Sigrid Undset, John of the Cross, and Victor Frankl.
I hope that whets your personalist appetite as much as it did mine!
Jun. 12, 2012, at 10:01am
From a 1961 journal entry.
Hoffer had been musing on the man he had worked with that day on the docks:
As I said, the man looked extremely delicate—almost ethereal. He was late for work because he got the order wrong. I am working with him tomorrow and shall try to find out something about him.
And then this:
During the day it occurred to me that if it were true that all my life I have had but a single train of thought then it must be the problem of the uniqueness of man.
Jun. 8, 2012, at 11:21am
My internet habit seems to have decimated my ability (never very marked) to finish books. I begin them; put them down; pick them up; read a few pages; put them down...
Among the many lying half-read around the house is Tom Bethell's biography of Eric Hoffer, The Longshoreman Philosopher. Hoffer is a mysterious character who emerged from complete obscurity to become a major intellectual influence in Cold War America, beginning with his 1951 best-selling book on the nature of mass movements, The True Believer.
I picked it up again (I mean the biography) this morning while I drank my coffee. These lines so arrested my attention that I put the book down again—to think, and write a post …continue reading
Jun. 7, 2012, at 11:55pm
I've never lived in the Third World, unless you count that one-year stint in Jerusalem when I was three (a subject for another day).
I have very little first-hand experience of real poverty.
I did live in and around Barcelona for ten years—not conditions of misery by a long shot. Coming from America, though, I imagined I was enduring hardship. Only a few stores had fresh milk. My American pizza pan wouldn’t fit inside my little Spanish oven. Apartments were tiny, by my standards, and so were refrigerators, washing machines and cars (not to mention people, and families). Life was lived on a small (if much more elegant) scale.
I got used to that.
But what really struck me, every …continue reading
Jun. 3, 2012, at 7:44pm
I do think we have to address core issues of human experience, human psychology, and human intimacy when discussing the ethics of homosexual attraction and SSM. It is not enough to leave it at the level of politics and the legitimate interests of the state in giving special status to heterosexual marriage and family, though this latter approach is certainly valuable and important.
Now the difficulty with this approach based in human experience is that we will have to acknowledge homosexual experience from within (without accepting it as normative), not only judge it from without. If we just say that “homosexual acts are not and cannot be acts of love and union—they are acts of use and …continue reading
Jun. 3, 2012, at 5:47pm
I'm sure it wasn't only because the Personalist Project is based here. :) Even so, it was great to hear that the 2015 World Meeting of Families will take place in the City of Brotherly Love. I can see this becoming ground zero in the battle to preserve traditional marriage in America, especially in the face of growing pressure from the SSM lobby.
The Pope also stressed the importance of family life built upon a man and woman who are married to each other. This is because God “created us male and female, equal in dignity, but also with respective and complementary characteristics, so that the two might be a gift for each other, might value each other and might bring into being a community …
Jun. 1, 2012, at 10:19am
A Victor Davis Hansen post at NRO about Massachusetts Senatorial Candidate Elizabeth Warren and her risible claim of minority status as a Cherokee Indian neatly captures the truth-denial at the heart of post-modernism.
Warren’s statement is simply untenable and will have to be withdrawn, because if it is not, then we are essentially saying facts are what we choose to say facts are, and we can write or say anything we want and claim it as truth by reason of rumor, or serial insistence, or good intentions. Warren says all this is a distraction from her otherwise sterling academic record, but an academic career is nothing without allegiance to facts and honest scholarship; in fact this weird …