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John Paul on the patient as person

[While John Paul II was in the hopital recovering from the attempt on his life, he explained to his doctors] how the patient, in danger of losing his subjectivity, had to fight constantly to regain it and once more become "the subject of his illness" instead of simply remaining "the object of treatment." He pointed out that the doctors are certainly not responsible for this state of affairs... but that they ought to be aware of the danger and of the efforts which the patient is obliged to make to regain control of himself. This problem of the transformation of the individual into a thing occurs everywhere in the realm of social relations. According to John Paul II it is one of the biggest problems of philosophy – and one of the most serious problems in the modern world.

Andre Frossard

Be Not Afraid

Katie van Schaijik

Von Hildebrand’s vision in a word: Reverence

Jan. 6, 2012, at 11:28am

In preparing for tonight's First Friday Reading Circle gathering, I came across a passage in Liturgy and Personality that strikes me as especially von Hildebrandian--that seems almost to capture the essence of his sense of human life: its "metaphysical situation", its vocation, its fulness.  It is a passage about reverence:

Reverence is the mother of all virtues, of all religion.  It is the foundation and the beginning because it enables our spirit to possess real knowledge, and primarily the knowledge of values.  It is that fundamental attitude toward being in which on gives all being the opportunity to unfold itself in its specific nature, in which on eneither behaves as its master, nor

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Jules van Schaijik

Bonhoeffer II: on the objectivity of marriage

Jan. 5, 2012, at 1:09pm

A few weeks ago, before the Christmas break, Katie put up a post about the personalist emphases in Dietrich Bonhoeffer's famous wedding sermon. Now that the break is over and some peace has returned to our home, I would like to draw attention to another great thought in that sermon, which has to do with the liberating and strengthening objectivity of marriage.

Nowadays marriage is frequently thought of simply as a mutual promise between two persons, a promise made in public (often before God) and confirmed in law. As such it is the outgrowth and natural fulfillment of a deep I-Thou relation between a man and a woman. It is the deliberate ratification, one might say, of that relation. And

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John Crosby

Human Freedom

Jan. 4, 2012, at 7:00am


Editor’s note: What follows is the fifth of a 10 part series on the personalist philosophy of Pope John Paul II written some years ago for Lay Witness Magazine. We asked and received permission to re-publish the series here, to give fresh occasion for discussion of timeless truths.


Any philosopher who takes man seriously as person is sure to affirm the freedom of persons. There are, of course, no lack of philosophers who deny freedom, but none of them ever makes a point of saying that human beings are persons. Personhood and freedom are inseparable. In his personalism, Pope John Paul II has much to say about freedom, just as we would expect.

Acting Through Oneself
The first affirmation

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Katie van Schaijik

A personalist President?

Jan. 2, 2012, at 8:11am

In an op-ed at NRO today, Rick Santorum lays out his basic philosophy, not just of governing, but of "life and reality."  

I have become a radical believer in every person’s human dignity. It is the driver of my worldview, and therefore in conclusion I believe:

Every person, whether the baby in utero, my little girl Bella with her challenges, or the AIDS orphan in the inner city, has inherent dignity, and we must do all we can to preserve and respect that dignity.

Government has to be strong enough to protect human life, but limited enough to never exploit it.

As our founders recognized religion as an “indispensable support” to the health of society and necessary for the understanding of human life, government should never inhibit or discourage its role in the public square.

It's worth reading in full.


Michael Healy

Genuine Religion and Conventional Religion in the Current Season

Dec. 30, 2011, at 11:56am

Besides the distinction Mircea Eliade makes between the religious and the secular man (see earlier post, Dec. 26), one can further distinguish between the genuinely religious man and the conventionally religious man.  The latter follows religion more out of social habit or expectation rather than authentic faith and devotion. 

            John Henry Cardinal Newman calls this a distinction between vital religion and nominal religion.  Soren Kierkegaard conveys the same idea with his distinction between a Christianity which is socially acceptable compared to Christianity as a “scandal,” as described in the Acts of the Apostles.  We could perhaps capture the difference here in five points.

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Michael Healy

Christmas, Defiance, and Despair

Dec. 28, 2011, at 5:01pm


In his great work Homo Viator, Gabriel Marcel reflects on the problem of despair, the threat of meaninglessness and absurdity, and the stance of defiance against reality as we find it (and whomever is responsible for it).  He discusses the philosophy of the atheistic absurdist Albert Camus in a chapter entitled “The Refusal of Salvation and the Exaltation of the Man of Absurdity.”

            Marcel regards this kind of absurdist approach not so much as a real philosophy, or a solid position that can actually be defended, but rather as a “contagion” and an “infiltration by which evil can reach our very foundations.”  But, if there are no rational foundations to such an attitude, how does

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John Crosby

Persons Are Unrepeatable

Dec. 28, 2011, at 7:00am


Editor’s note: What follows is the fourth of a 10 part series on the personalist philosophy of Pope John Paul II written some years ago for Lay Witness Magazine. We asked and received permission to re-publish the series here, to give fresh occasion for discussion of timeless truths.


We know how dangerous it is to think of human beings in terms of general types or patterns. We think of someone as a typical Serb, a typical woman, a typical adolescent. If we think that this is all there is to them, that there is nothing else of significance about them besides being a typical this or that, then we lose sight of them as persons. We have only to consider the point of view of people who are

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Katie van Schaijik

Fr. Ker on Chesterton

Dec. 27, 2011, at 9:47am

Fr. Ian Ker, author of the definitive biography of Cardinal Newman, is out with one of G.K. Chesterton.  John J. Miller has an audio interview with Fr. Ker at the Corner today.  It's difficult to hear, but worthwhile if you turn the volume all the way up and concentrate.


Michael Healy

Celebration for the Religious and the Secular Man

Dec. 26, 2011, at 12:04pm

The experience of life, of death, of time, of celebration—e.g., Christmas—is decidedly different for the religious man compared to the secular man.  Mircea Eliade, in his book The Sacred and the Profane, offers four points of difference here (pp. 202-206).

            The religious man believes that there is an absolute reality, the sacred, transcending but manifesting itself in this world and making it real.  Second, he not only believes that life has a sacred origin but also that persons can only be fulfilled to the extent that they are genuinely religious, i.e., in contact with the sacred.  Third, he believes that the history of this world and of his own life involves the history of

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Katie van Schaijik

Urbi et Orbi

Dec. 26, 2011, at 7:33am

The Pope's Christmas message is a gift for the Church and the world.  As we sense evil and disaster impending, he reminds us that "God's arm is not too short to save," and that it was in order to do just that that He came into the world.

Veni ad salvandum nos! Come to save us! This is the cry raised by men and women in every age, who sense that by themselves they cannot prevail over difficulties and dangers. They need to put their hands in a greater and stronger hand, a hand which reaches out to them from on high. Dear brothers and sisters, this hand is Christ, born in Bethlehem of the Virgin Mary. He is the hand that God extends to humanity, to draw us out of the mire of sin and to set

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Katie van Schaijik

Unto us a child is given

Dec. 25, 2011, at 8:45pm

The following is taken from the Magnificat meditation for Christmas Eve.  It was written by Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis, now Brother Simeon, a Cistercian monk in Spencer, MA.  It fits in with Dr. Healy's post below.

The eternal Gob becomes what he most loves on earth—a child.  But this is no mere sweet sentimentality on God's part: If he loves the childlike it is because they are empty enough to receive what he wants to give, a mystery Guerric of Igny expounds:

"If in the depths of your soul you were to keep a quiet silence, the all-powerful Word would flow from the Father's throne secretly into you.  Happy then is the person who has so fled the world's tumult, who has so withdrawn into the

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Katie van Schaijik

Christmas links

Dec. 23, 2011, at 8:15pm

Several days ago I began compiling a list of links for Christmas.  I wasn't able to finish it.  But, with a few days left to contemplate and celebrate, here are a few items I'd gathered so far:

Newman sermon, Religious Joy.

Roger Kaplan on The Weapons of the Spirit, at the American Spectator.

T.S. Eliot reading The Long Journey of the Magi (hat tip, Kris McLaughlin)

The Alistair Sim version of the classic Dickens tale, A Christmas Carol.

It's a Wonderful Life.  I highly recommend reading this article before watching it again.  It throws new light on the film's message, which is not what it's often taken for. It's not romantic optimism: life is wonderful, no matter what happens to you.

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Michael Healy

Silence, Recollection, and the Season of Hectic Activity

Dec. 21, 2011, at 1:12pm


Be still, and know that I am God.--Ps. 46:10

But Yahweh is in His holy temple, let the whole earth be silent before Him. –Hab. 2:2

The Lamb then broke the seventh seal, and there was silence in heaven. –Apoc. 8:1

Silence before the Lord Yahweh! –Zeph. 1:7

When peaceful silence lay over all, and night had run the half of her swift course, down from the heavens from the royal throne, leaped your all-powerful Word. –Wis. 18:14-15

            We are often reminded during the holiday season to keep Christ in Christmas.  This, of course, is a noble aim.  However, it can never be achieved via billboards, advertisements, and public announcements, which themselves just contribute to the clutter

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John Crosby

Interiority of Human Persons

Dec. 21, 2011, at 7:00am


Editor’s note: What follows is the third of a 10 part series on the personalist philosophy of Pope John Paul II written some years ago for Lay Witness Magazine. We asked and received permission to re-publish the series here, to give fresh occasion for discussion of timeless truths.


St. Augustine is famous for warning us not to lose ourselves in the world outside and for admonishing us to turn within, to enter into the "inner man." He explores the interiority of man like no one before him did. Now Pope John Paul II is likewise fascinated with the interiority of persons. He announces one of the great themes of his personalist philosophy when he writes: "We can say that the person as a

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John Henry Crosby

Christmas music

Dec. 20, 2011, at 10:01am

I have been asked to offer some thoughts on Christmas music, while not failing to bring in the distinctive perspective of personalism. This is a joyful task for me, since there is hardly anything I love more than to speak about music, which has accompanied me through life, giving me both expressible nourishment and solace. Truly, one can speak of the "consolation of music."

The relation between composer & performer

I imagine that for many readers, this post would have greatest value if any of the recommendations I make can still be acquired before Christmas, or at least during the season of the Christmas. This will stretch me, since many particularly precious works, and performances

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Jules van Schaijik

Vaclav Havel dies at 75

Dec. 18, 2011, at 10:02am

The world has lost one of its great moral heroes and deep thinkers. May he rest in peace, and find in eternity what he most sought on earth: Life in the Truth.

It will be easy to find news stories about Havel's remarkable legacy in the coming days. Here I just want to draw attention to the following passage from his essay, "Politics and Conscience." It is a good one to have in mind during the year ahead.

It is becoming evident...that a single, seemingly powerless person who dares to cry out the word of truth and to stand behind it with all his person and all his life, ready to pay a high price, has...greater power...than do thousands of anonymous voters... It is becoming evident that

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Katie van Schaijik

Bonhoeffer stresses the role of human will in conjugal love

Dec. 17, 2011, at 4:04pm

Jules is currently reading a magisterial biography of the great German Lutheran pastor, theologian and martyr, Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  Knowing that I'm ever on the lookout for illuminating quotations about love and marriage, this morning he sent me a link to Bonhoeffer's Wedding Sermon, written for a young couple from a prison cell in 1943.

Its personalist emphases are striking and powerful. Note how the following passage identifies freedom, responsibility and self-determination (lived out in a dynamic moral sphere of possibilities and risks) as hallmarks of human dignity:

With the ‘Yes’ that they have said to each other, they have by their free choice given a new direction to their lives;

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Katie van Schaijik

Peter Hitchens’ eulogy for his brother

Dec. 17, 2011, at 8:17am

A friend at Ricochet shared a link to Peter Hitchens' public response to the death of his famous, militant atheist brother, Christopher, yesterday. It's a beautiful and moving tribute from someone with a philosophical habit of mind.

Much of civilisation rests on the proper response to death, simple unalloyed kindness, the desire to show sympathy for irrecoverable loss, the understanding that a unique and irreplaceable something has been lost to us. If we ceased to care, we wouldn’t be properly human.

The relationship between the two was notoriously fraught with tension.  But Peter's admiration for his brother and his grief over the loss is real and palpable. 

Here’s a thing I will say

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Katie van Schaijik

Medieval woman philosopher to be named Doctor of the Church

Dec. 16, 2011, at 10:43am

Great good news: Today the Vatican announced that Hildegard of Bingen will be canonized and named Doctor of the Church!  Hear more here.  I look forward to getting to know her better.

If anyone knows of a Hildegard scholar whom we might invite to teach us all more, do let us know.

Hat tip: Barbara Nicolosi.


John Crosby

Worthy of Respect: The Personalist Norm

Dec. 14, 2011, at 6:59am


Editor’s note: What follows is the second of a 10 part series on the personalist philosophy of Pope John Paul II written some years ago for Lay Witness Magazine. We asked and received permission to re-publish the series here, to give fresh occasion for discussion of timeless truths.


Back when he was still Archbishop of Cracow, Pope John Paul II once wrote to his friend, the great theologian Henri de Lubac: "I devote my very rare free moments to a work that is close to my heart and is devoted to the metaphysical sense and mystery of the person. The evil of our times consists in the first place in a kind of degradation, indeed in a pulverization, of the fundamental uniqueness of each human

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