Our need for affirmationMan wishes to be confirmed in his being by man, and wishes to have a presence in the being of the other. The human person needs confirmation because man as man needs it. An animal does not need to be confirmed, for it is what it is unquestionably. It is different with man: sent forth from the natural domain of species into the hazard of the solitary category, surrounded by the air of a chaos which came into being with him, secretly and basfully he watches for a Yes which allows him to be and which can come to him only from one human person tp another. It is from one man to another that the heavenly bread of self-being is passed.
The Knowledge of Man
Apr. 24, 2012, at 6:23am
Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) was born in Copenhagen, Denmark and rarely left his native land (four trips to Berlin, one to Sweden). He wittily described himself as the greatest philosopher in Denmark. He was a critic of idealistic philosophy, especially that of Hegel, as well as of the state of Christianity in his time. He is considered to be the father of the existentialist movement in philosophy. Existentialism stresses the importance of the decision of each person in his freedom and power.
After exposure to Hegel's philosophy early in his career, Kierkegaard reacted strongly against it, influencing the bent of his thought for the rest of his life. He regularly …continue reading
Apr. 24, 2012, at 6:22am
Dietrich von Hildebrand was born in Florence in 1889, the son of the German sculptor, Adolf von Hildebrand. He was educated by tutors at home until he began his university studies in Munich in 1906. Between 1909 and 1911 he spent several semesters studying in Goettingen with the great Edmund Husserl, the father of phenomenological philosophy, and in 1912 he completed his doctorate. In Goettingen he also studied with Adolf Reinach, whom he always venerated as his real teacher in philosophy. But he also received tremendously much from Max Scheler, with whom he had a very close friendship for 15 years. It was Scheler who awakened von Hildebrand’s interest in …continue reading
Apr. 24, 2012, at 6:21am
John Henry Newman (1801-1890) was educated at Oxford and was ordained a priest in the Church of England in 1822. In 1833 there arose in the Church of England a reform movement known to history as the Oxford Movement. From the beginning Newman was the guiding spirit of the movement, which sought to recover the apostolic and patristic roots of the Church of England. For the 12 years of the Oxford Movement Newman was prodigiously productive as an author, writing tracts, treatises, letters, essays, sermons, and poems of great power and originality. After some years of struggling to renew the Church of England the conviction grew on Newman that he was in fact in a …continue reading
Apr. 24, 2012, at 6:19am
Karol Wojtyla was born in Poland near Cracow in 1920. When he entered the Jagellonian University in Cracow in 1938 he studied Polish literature with a special emphasis on Polish drama. The university was closed the following year by the occupying Germans. Wojtyla soon discerned a call to the priesthood and began his studies in an underground seminary. It was here that he encountered philosophy for the first time-in the manuals of Scholastic philosophy that were part of the seminary curriculum. After completing his doctorate in theology at the Angelicum in Rome in 1948 he returned to Poland for work on his Habilitation at the Jagellonian University in …continue reading
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 …continue reading
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 …
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 …continue reading
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 …
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 …continue reading
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 …continue reading
Apr. 5, 2012, at 9:47am
Jules recorded these very personal and moving remarks on a recent visit. Good food for Holy Week reflection.
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 …continue reading
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 …continue reading
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, …continue reading
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:
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 …continue reading
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 …continue reading
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 …
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. …continue reading
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 …continue reading