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The necessity of suffering

Do you not see how necessary a World of Pains and troubles is to school an Intelligence and make it a Soul?

John Keats

Keat's letters

Michael Healy

Misery and Escapism

Apr. 29, 2012, at 4:18pm

One technique for handling life’s pains and miseries is simply to run from them, to try to distract oneself from the dark side of life and thus not really face the problem. This is, admittedly, not really even an attempt at a “solution” or an answer, but it can allow the individual to go on functioning day-to-day in practical terms.

This can be done with drugs or alcohol, trying to blot out the pain or threat and blissfully overcome it with the aid of artificial stimulants. Another version of this would be trying to “drown one’s sorrows” in the face a particular source of unhappiness or a general weariness or disgust with life. This is often the theme of country songs, e.g. Hank William’s

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Devra Torres

In Defense of Unimpressive Persons

Apr. 26, 2012, at 9:25am

Why eight children?

Because we're personalists.

Let me explain.

After all, with Earth Day just past, our family might strike even sympathetic people as too much of a good thing (and less sympathetic ones as sheer insanity).

But to us, as personalists, the main thing about our eighth child, Gabe,

is not: "Oh, no!  Eight!  Too high a number!"

Likewise, we utterly miss the point about little Danica Camacho (whose name means "morning star")

if we say "Oh, no!  Seven billion!  WAY too high a number!" 

(Danica's mother clearly knows better: you can see it in her eyes.)

Since persons are not things, you can count them, but you can't quantify them.  Since they are not products, you are deeply

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Michael Healy

The Transcendent and the Practical Perspectives on LIfe—II

Apr. 25, 2012, at 3:55pm

Continuing our thoughts on how to experientially grasp or get a hold of this distinction between the transcendent and the practical in life, we will look at Josef Pieper’s next three examples of a transcendent perspective: love, death, and beauty.  As mentioned, this is from his book Leisure, the Basis of Culture. 

(4)  Love is certainly an experience that breaks through and revises our carefully laid out plans for ourselves.  It gives us new priorities and opens up new levels of our own life and being.  To quote a beautiful section from Von Hildebrand’s The Nature of Love

In every intense and complete love a person undergoes a certain awakening. I begin to live more authentically; a

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Father Forlano

Some thoughts in defense of Cardinal Schönborn

Apr. 25, 2012, at 11:00am

Editors note: The following remarks originally appeared as several separate comments under Dr. Seifert's post below.  We asked for and receive Fr. Forlano's permission to collect and post them here.

As a priest working in the hispanic community, I am in the position where a majority of my parishioners are living in ways objectively contrary to Church teaching on the dignity of marriage.  (Most couples are married civilly, if they are married at all).  These people love the Church, are faithful to Mass, and participate in many aspects of parish life.  While I would not allow anyone in an irregular marriage to be a lector at Mass or an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, I don't have

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Josef Seifert

Should A Cardinal Confirm A Practicing Homosexual Parish Council Member? Some Critical Reflections

Apr. 23, 2012, at 10:20pm

The following reflections are not exclusively from the viewpoint of personalist philosophy. But they do contain philosophical distinctions whose fruitfulness for concrete decisions in Church administration and Church politics will, I hope, become clear as they are made. The following reflections are those of an Austrian Catholic who laments a decision of a Cardinal of his distant home-country, for whom he feels much respect and the affection of an old friendship.

The facts are well known: Christoph Cardinal von Schönborn, Archbishop of Vienna, Austria, and President of the Austrian Bishops Conference, has recently overruled the decision of a Polish pastor in a small village in Lower

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Katie van Schaijik

What The Hunger Games miss

Apr. 20, 2012, at 10:17am

Having forcefully expressed my strong opinions about The Hunger Games in a lively facebook exhange with friend and film critic, Babara Nicolosi, it seemed like maybe a good idea to actually see the movie.  So, I went last week with son, Max, and cousin's son, John Paul.  Both boys had read and loved the books.  

My bottom-line take-away is two-fold: The movie far surpassed my worst anticipatory criticisms.  I don't think Catholic parents need worry about their teens seeing it. On the contrary, it's got lots of stuff for important conversations.  Still, fundamentally, I come down with Mark Steyn's assessment

It seems to me there is something empty about the Hunger Games. In the end the

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Devra Torres

Diversity: Reclaiming a Buzzword

Apr. 19, 2012, at 1:29pm

God is clearly fond of diversity.

Last week, I posted about the striking variety in personality, temperament, talents and style among Catholic priests.  Several readers noted the same individuality among the saints. 

But is it just the Church?  Reader (and friend) Jessica Essolen pointed to a Baptist minister and a Jewish philosopher who display plenty of flourishing individuality.  And what about those Catholic "reductionists" we all know who misguidedly promote particular devotions or styles or images as the only authentic piety?  (Steven Greydanus has some worthwhile thoughts on the subject.)

So, it's true: on the one hand, some Catholics do act as if they had very little use for

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Katie van Schaijik

Von Hildebrand’s view of love

Apr. 19, 2012, at 10:52am

One of the students in my courtship class has just brought to my attention a great primer on von Hildebrand's philosophy of love, happiness and sexuality, by his long-time student, colleague, and friend, William Marra, who died in 1998.

Dr. Marra, who taught philosophy at Fordham University for more than 40 years, had a winning warmth and down-to-earth simplicity and humor that are lamentably rare in philosophy professors.

Here are three paragraphs from the article, to give a taste.  But do read the whole thing, which convey the von HIldebrandian essence in an especially lively and accessible way.

Scattered throughout von Hildebrands works are many references to the great errors that

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Jules van Schaijik

Silence

Apr. 17, 2012, at 4:45pm

Today, on Facebook, Mark Griswold quotes Archbishop Chaput on the importance of silence:

We need silence, more than anything… If people can create some time every day — even just an hour — when they eliminate all the distracting noise of American life, their spirit will naturally begin to grow. Daily life in the United States is so filled with appetites and tensions stimulated by the mass media that turning the media off almost automatically results in deeper and clearer thinking. And that interior quiet can very easily lead us to God. (As far as I can Google, this interview from 2007, about how to live Lent well, is the source.)

This brings to mind a thought from Max Picard, whose book

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Devra Torres

Catholicism and Personalism: Not Such Strange Bedfellows

Apr. 11, 2012, at 7:18pm

Something in Catholicism seems to foster a flourishing personality. This was my family's distinct impression upon converting from evangelicalism. (That conversion was a major subplot of our altogether uninventable family microcosm of salvation history, recounted by my mother, Marilyn Prever, in Honey from the Rock. But that's a story for another day.)

How is it, though, that a church that proclaims that truth is fixed and unchangeable, and that some actions are just plain intrinsically wrong—indeed, a church that claims for itself a certain immunity to error (under carefully defined conditions)—turns out to be so congenial to the flourishing of each person's inner freedom? You might not

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Katie van Schaijik

Alice von Hildebrand comparing compassion, pity and mercy

Apr. 5, 2012, at 9:47am

Jules recorded these very personal and moving remarks on a recent visit.  Good food for Holy Week reflection.


Katie van Schaijik

The interior sufferings of Our Lord

Apr. 5, 2012, at 8:54am

The hallmark of personalism is its focus on interiority.  This may explain why I have never yet been able to bring myself to watch Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ.  I've tried more than once, since so many of my friends recommend it.  But I've found the depiction of the brutality of Jesus' physical sufferings not just disturbing, but somehow distracting. They yank me away from sorrowful reflection on the inward drama taking place.

Nothing helps me enter the mystery of the Passion like Newman's sermon on "The Mental Sufferings of our Lord in His Passion." He reminds me that the interior agony in the garden was the "first act" of His oblation, "the seat of the suffering" Jesus

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Jules van Schaijik

Kierkegaard in search of solitary individuals

Apr. 2, 2012, at 9:07am

Our next two reading circles, on April 21 & May 19, are on Kierkegaard's Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing. It is a great book, worth reading slowly and reflectively. As Kierkegaard says in the preface:

It is in search of that solitary "individual," to whom it wholly abandons itself, by whom it wishes to be received as if it had arisen within his own heart; that solitary "individual" whom with joy and gratitude I call my reader; that solitary "individual" who reads willingly and slowly, who reads over and over again, and who reads aloud — for his own sake.

This kind of reading is not easy for contemporary men and women. All the more reason to make the effort. And, hopefully, doing it

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Michael Healy

The Transcendent and the Practical Perspectives on Life—I

Mar. 29, 2012, at 12:29am

We are all immersed in the practical, “workaday” world since we all have pressing temporal needs each day—even the most contemplative monks!  Most of us, of course, are much more inundated by daily practical cares than are members of the contemplative orders, who arrange their lives specifically in such a way as to remind themselves regularly of the transcendent.  We have to attempt to do this too in a way compatible with our lay vocation in the world; but, we do have to try to transcend just everyday practical cares and worries—which threaten to sweep us along each day in only one perspective.  How can we do this and what is the nature of this transcendence? 

Spiritual considerations,

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Jules van Schaijik

Fr. Barron’s take on “The Hunger Games”

Mar. 28, 2012, at 6:46am

This morning, at national review online, I found this interesting article by Fr. Robert Barron on The Hunger Games. Using insights about the human tendency towards scapegoating, from Rene Girard, and about Christianity's role in eliminating it from western civilization, he suggests that the books/movie might be prophetic. In a post-Christian society, in which Christ can no longer take our sins upon his shoulders, who can?

The video below, nicely put together, covers the same ground as the article:


Michael Healy

ND prof says, “The immorality of birth control is no longer a teaching of the Catholic Church.”

Mar. 26, 2012, at 8:39pm

The philosopher Gary Cutting, possessor of an endowed Chair at Notre Dame, recently published in the New York Times a defense of Obama’s birth control mandate and an attack on the authority of the Catholic bishops. He argues the tired old case (as if its new—I’ve been hearing it for over 40 years) that because the majority of Catholics reject Humanae Vitae (forbidding artificial birth control, which as we know is often also abortifacient) therefore the bishops do not represent the Church and their “teaching” has no force. He says flat out, “The immorality of birth control is no longer a teaching of the Catholic Church.”

I was wondering how all this might look if transposed back about 2000

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Michael Healy

The World of Work and the World of Leisure

Mar. 26, 2012, at 7:29pm

“We work in order to have leisure,” says Aristotle.  By this statement, he does not wish to undermine the importance of the workplace and of accomplishing great things there.  All the practical necessities of our lives depend upon responsible people working hard to satisfy the basic needs of society: food, shelter, clothing, etc.  Christianity confirms the moral relevance of such concerns by labeling them the corporal works of mercy and says that to help the widow, feed the orphan, etc., is Christianity pure and undefiled. 

However, what Aristotle is insisting on—and it is good to be aware of it in today’s world with its tendency to view all things, even people, in a merely utilitarian

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Jules van Schaijik

The Selfhood of Mary

Mar. 26, 2012, at 12:06pm

Today's meditation in Magnificat is a good example of the sort of piety that may have been perfectly fitting for the Middle Ages, but that, in my view at least, is no longer quite right for now. Today we celebrate the solemnity of the Annunciation and so the meditation is about Mary, and about why she was so well suited to become the Mother of God:

Mary was rapt into God ... she was all moved and guided by him, being absorbed in his blessed will, intensely devoted to his honor—moved and guided by him as a tool in the hand of a workman. ... She was self-annihilated, will-less, passive, and without any longing except for God. And it was by reason of this state of her soul that God found an

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Katie van Schaijik

What’s wrong with opining

Mar. 21, 2012, at 10:02pm

The other night, watching an episode of Downton Abbey with Jules, I was struck by something the housekeeper, Mrs. Hughes, said.  Someone she'd been helping had come to a hard decision about her future and was seeking reassurance from Mrs. Hughes that she was doing right. "It's not for me to have an opinion about that," said Mrs. Hughes. 

It wasn't indifference; it wasn't false humility.  It was, rather, conscientious self-restraint, and it cost her some effort to exercise it.  It was an expression of a value that I think has been almost completely lost in our culture—the idea that I ought to try not to form, nevermind express, opinions about matters that are—objectively—none of my concern.

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Jules van Schaijik

Phenomenology and the art of persuasion

Mar. 20, 2012, at 9:39pm

Karol Wojtyla's most important philosophical work, The Acting Person, is not easy to read. So when I picked it up again recently, I decided to use a book by Rocco Buttiglione, a former professor of ours and a close friend and collaborator of Wojtyla, as a guide to better understand it. That was a good decision. (Though sometimes I feel the need for a third book to help me understand Buttiglione!)

So far I am re-learning some things about the way in which Wojtyla approaches his topic (the human person). This approach is so fruitful and so central to the mission of the Personalist Project, that I thought I should highlight at least 3 characteristic features of it.

1. Learning from the

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