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Man and social institutions

Every sort of moral, every sort of civil, every sort of politic[al] institution, aiding the rational and natural ties that connect the human understanding and affections to the divine, are…necessary, in order to build up that wonderful structure, Man.

Edmund Burke

Reflections on the revolution in France

John Crosby

Self-Donation

Jan. 18, 2012, at 7:00am


Editor’s note: What follows is the seventh 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.


Personalist philosophy can go astray in different ways; in the contemporary world it commonly goes astray by becoming too individualistic. This happens when I think of persons too much in terms of the rights with which each person is armed, and when I think of others mainly as potential intruders into my sphere of rights, so that I approach them with suspicion and mistrust. As an individualist of this kind,

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Michael Healy

I Actually Remember Rosa Parks

Jan. 16, 2012, at 7:07am

One day this past week, after morning Mass, a friend and fellow professor from Franciscan University of Steubenville casually remarked that this year (2012) marked the 50th anniversary of the opening of Vatican Council II.  I responded, “That’s horrible!  Don’t tell me that!”  He was a bit shocked until I told him it wasn’t Vatican II that was horrible, but the fact that I can remember it—first hand!  I’ll turn 62 later this year.  I didn’t want to be old enough to remember the 50th anniversary of anything!

I immediately had two other thoughts.  First, in 2 more years we’ll be subjected worldwide to the 50th anniversary of Beatlemania.  I still recall vividly my sister and me sitting

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Katie van Schaijik

Two new personalist profiles

Jan. 14, 2012, at 12:15pm

We've added two more personalist profiles to the collection at the "about" pages: Soren Kierkegaard and Gabriel Marcel.  


John Crosby

On a certain self-love

Jan. 14, 2012, at 10:54am

According to the conventional wisdom, it is easy to love oneself and hard to love others, and it is easy to hate others but impossible to hate oneself. But I have in mind a certain self-hatred that afflicts almost everyone, and a certain self-love that is every bit as difficult as the most generous love of others. Pope Benedict was pointing to this natural self-hatred and this difficult self-love when he wrote: “Is it good that I exist? Is it good that anything at all exists? Is the world good? How many persons today would dare to affirm this question from the heart–to believe it is good that they exist? That is the source of the anxiety and despair that incessantly affect

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Michael Healy

Patience is a Virtue

Jan. 13, 2012, at 10:24pm

Further Reflections after 35th Wedding Anniversary.  When I first read Von Hildebrand’s Transformation in Christ at age 21, I was immediately struck by the title of Chapter 12: “Holy Patience.”  The beauty and appropriateness of the conjunction of those two words have stayed with me ever since.  Von Hildebrand unfolds in the chapter that impatience is a form of self-indulgence and is rooted in an illegitimate claim to sovereignty of the self.  Patience, on the other hand, is opposed to all petulance and quarrelsomeness; it is also opposed to fickleness and inconstancy—e.g., if a task or goal seems to require commitment over a long period of time.  True patience recognizes the sovereignty

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Katie van Schaijik

Interfaith statement on marriage issued

Jan. 12, 2012, at 12:02pm

Thanks to a Maggie Gallagher post at the Corner, I learn that the USCCB has issued an inter-faith letter calling for the promotion and protection of marriage.  It's an important document.  Here's the beginning.

The promotion and protection of marriage—the union of one man and one woman as husband and wife—is a matter of the common good and serves the wellbeing of the couple, of children, of civil society and all people. The meaning and value of marriage precedes and transcends any particular society, government, or religious community. It is a universal good and the foundational institution of all societies. It is bound up with the nature of the human person as male and female, and with

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John Crosby

Freedom and Truth

Jan. 11, 2012, at 7:00am


Editor’s note: What follows is the sixth 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 live as persons by acting through ourselves in freedom: This is the aspect of Pope John Paul II's personalism that we examined in the last installment. John Paul also teaches that there is a law of freedom, which he calls the "truth about good." Though people are afraid that this law will interfere with their freedom, it is in fact the basis for living in freedom, as we shall try to show in the present

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Katie van Schaijik

A thought about sanctimony

Jan. 10, 2012, at 10:22am

Lately I've seen a lot of the term sanctimony.  Over at Ricochet, a site dedicated to "center/right" conversation, I've been involved in a number of knock-down, drag-out debates about same sex marriage, wherein I am routinely dubbed "sanctimonious" for defending the permanent, pro-creative bond of a man and woman in marriage as indispensable to the common good.

The other day a facebook friend (Colin, how could you?) called Rick Santorum "a sanctimonious toad."  I can't understand that.  Is he deemed sanctimonious for defending life and marriage?  I don't see him preening.  To me his attitude toward his own family life is one of manifest gratitude, not smugness. 

Is defending the

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Katie van Schaijik

Memory and identity

Jan. 10, 2012, at 8:26am

Facebook friend, Patrick, links today a beautiful and moving reflection about growing older, by Fr. Patrick Hannon.  It's funny and thoughtful and deeply human.  Also personalistic.  He writes about his fear of losing his memory, which he supposes would be like losing his self.

Memories allow me to believe — humbly, fervently — that I am in no small way important, that my little life has meaning, that I am part of a grand story, that I am an actor — leading, supporting or otherwise — on an impressive stage. Memories, these enduring imprints of faces and places and fragrances and melodies and textures and tastes, stand prepared to remind us that we are human persons, each of us with a

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Michael Healy

After 35th Wedding Anniversary: Reflections on Fidelity

Jan. 8, 2012, at 6:13pm

Fidelity, faithfulness, constancy—these words imply an entire worldview or personal orientation toward reality.  In classical times, such words also implied strength and virtue, something to be celebrated.  In modern times, unfortunately, fidelity is sometimes ridiculed, as if fruitlessly binding me to a reality which is no more, e.g., in Engelbert Humperdinck’s ‘60’s pop hit Release Me, wherein the crooner, pining for a divorce, sings “to waste our lives would be a sin, so release me and let me love again.”

However, Gabriel Marcel, in his chapter on “Obedience and Fidelity” in Homo Viator, as well is in a separate article on “Creative Fidelity” from the book of the same name, points out

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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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