Involuntary expression of self…a man is never so much represented to the perspective of another as when he blushes or laughs. The expression on a face is largely determined by involuntary movements; and yet it is the living picture of the perspective that ‘peers’ from it, and hence the true and dominant image of the ‘self’. Its glances, smiles and blushes are the involuntary marks of a self-conscious perception. These reveal the other’s perspective partly because he does not fully control them, and we desire him through them precisely when their movements are most involuntary—as in the closing of the eyes and the opening of the mouth in the kiss of passion.
Jan. 10 at 2:16am
Now that various courts are beginning to weigh in on the HHS Mandate, it’s worth re-examining what the commotion is all about. Over at Bad Catholic, one article lays out convincingly why religious liberty is worth making a fuss over.
Here's another aspect: the reductionism of abandoning constitutional terminology and quietly replacing “freedom of religion” with “freedom of worship” as Barack Obama, Hilary Clinton, and some others have been doing for years now.
Maybe they thought no one would notice. Maybe they believed the core of a Catholic’s faith is a fondness for quaint liturgical customs and a sentimental sense of belonging.
Still, in his community-organizer days,and throughout …continue reading
Jan. 9 at 7:55pm
In her recent First Things article, What Are Children For?, Paige Hochschild criticizes Dietrich von Hildebrand for thinking of procreation as a merely extrinsic purpose of marriage, as something which is in no way constitutive of its essence. She quotes him as saying that marriage is a "closed union" in which "each of the two parties is turned exclusively upon the other." As a result, she goes on, von Hildebrand can't possibly do justice to the political and communitarian dimensions of marriage. He "excludes from marriage's integral ordering, both in end and in meaning, the raising of children for the society of the city of God."
All of this seriously mis-represents von Hildebrand's real …continue reading
Jan. 6 at 3:02pm
I came across this week (I can't remember where) someone making a point in passing—as if it were a matter of plain fact—that "passive aggression" is basically the same thing as "non-violent resistance."
It took me aback. I see these two things as radically opposed, with "passive aggression" being vicious, while non-violent resistance is virtuous.
I have the same experience when I hear people speaking as if lust is a synonym for conjugal desire. Conjugal desire and lust are both about sex, but that's where the similarity ends. Morally speaking, they are opposites. Conjugal love is a self-giving desire for union with another person; lust is a self-centered urge to use another. Conjugal love …continue reading
Jan. 2 at 6:03pm
“Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior?”
What’s a personalist to make of this question?
It’s a familiar one to evangelicals—so familiar that you can easily gloss over what exactly it might mean. It’s also a question to which, since becoming a Catholic, I’ve learned a couple of preliminary comebacks:
First, of course, nowhere in the Bible does Christ say “Go out to all the nations and instruct them to accept me as their personal Savior.” It’s a relatively recent phrase, and its centrality to salvation—especially the way it displaces baptism—
is a modern invention.
Secondly, yes: the personal assent of the will, the free receptivity to the proffered gift, is …continue reading
Jan. 1 at 4:17pm
Pope Benedict's New Year's message is, as so much of what he writes and says, eminently personalistic. Lamenting the way bad news and evil acts "make more noise" than love and truth and sacrifice, he calls on us to deepen our interior lives.
“We can’t just stop at the news if we want to understand the world and life, we have to be capable of standing in silence, in meditation, in calm and prolonged reflection, we have to know how to stop and think,” he said.
One of the mottoes of the Personalist Project is "bringing philosophy to life." We mean to capture two things with the phrase: that the focus of our interest is the mystery of life, and that we want to help bring the habit of …continue reading
Dec. 22, 2012, at 8:40pm
I really love good movies, and I hate bad ones. This, of course, creates a bit of a practical dilemma, since you can't really be sure ahead of time whether a movie will be good or bad.
Not long ago our family sat down sort of hopefully to Brave. After all, it was Pixar, and it had gotten pretty good reviews. Afterwards, we were appalled, including the nine year old—annoyed that we'd wasted an evening of family time; bitterly disappointed that Pixar could produce such inane, PC drivel; depressed about the state of our culture...
It's the sort of experience that puts you on guard. You think, "That's it. I am never watching a movie again unless the reviews from someone I trust are rock …continue reading
Dec. 22, 2012, at 10:11am
What is it about our understanding of matrimony that makes the arguments for "marriage equality" seem so plausible to so many?
If we, as a society, still believed marriage was essentially about lifelong fidelity and children, and somebody proposed that a same-sex relationship be regarded as one sort of marriage, it would seem implausible, even unthinkable. After all, such unions are inevitably infertile and notoriously impermanent and non-exclusive.
But we've already downgraded "traditional" marriage to a (usually) long-term relationship between two people who “have feelings for each other.”
Children are an optional accessory which may be acquired the old-fashioned way or by any number …continue reading
Dec. 20, 2012, at 2:26pm
A Ricochet member linked today a thought-provoking essay in the UK Guardian on the medicalization of evil. It's written by a medical historian observing the public commentary on the massacre of innocents in Connecticut last week.
Anyone who has been watching the news over the past few days will have heard the gunman, Adam Lanza, described as "sick," "disturbed" and "defective". The perpetrator may indeed have suffered from mental conditions that led to his homicidal attack, but even before anything was known about Lanza (including his name), many people in the media assumed a crime of this magnitude could only be committed by a mentally unstable individual. Very little discussion – if …
Dec. 19, 2012, at 2:36pm
For many months now, I have been steeping my psyche in the wisdom of Whittaker Chambers, as I fall asleep nightly listening to the audio version of Witness.
When awake, I mostly read other things, including, at the moment, Norman Podhoretz' highly engaging, Ex Friends. I would write a daily post about it, too, if time permitted.
What most compels my attention and admiration about Chambers' thought is his deep conviction that the battle of our time is not, finally, between two political philosophies, but between two faiths: a faith in God, who made us in his image, and the faith that opposes this faith, i.e., the denial of God and God's image in man.
(It's worth saying here …continue reading
Dec. 17, 2012, at 2:07pm
The introductory note to the Psalm for today in Magnificat is arresting.
The coastlands see, and fear, the ends of the earth tremble: these things are near, they come to pass. (Is 41:5)
The time grows short, the messenger's cry urgent: the Lord is very near! Those who hope to delay his coming until "later, when I have time to get ready" find this late Advent cry diconcerting. Those who look for him not only in hte past but in the present and the future rejoice at the news: God's promises are kept within the boundaries of time.
It's a phrase I think I've not heard before. "God's promises are kept within the bounds of time." There will come a day when this order of things passes away …continue reading
Dec. 16, 2012, at 10:12pm
Sometimes a piece of writing seems all set to go. You’ve wrestled it into shape: you’re not altogether satisfied, but it’s probably good enough, and anyway, the deadline is here.
But you keep sensing the very inconvenient need to file it away, start again from scratch, and address something else altogether.
That happened when our friend, Peter, died—I realized how pointless it was to try to write anything but a tribute to him. Something similar happened today.
Here it is, Gaudete Sunday. That means we’re commanded to rejoice. Not just encouraged, but commanded (gaudete: plural imperative).
That seems surprising, because sometimes the Good News is presented in a deformed state, and …continue reading
Dec. 12, 2012, at 9:11pm
I basically learned the faith from Sr. David Mary, a member of the Sisters of Loretto. I had her as my teacher in elementary school for nearly three years—I had to move away in the middle of my third year—and she drilled us in the Baltimore Catechism #2. She also taught us our prayers and we went through them daily at school. We opened the schoolday as a class with the Morning Offering, paused for a decade of the rosary at mid-morning (covering the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be, but also including the Hail Holy Queen), said grace before and after meals at lunch, said the Confiteor aloud together before we began the afternoon classes, and ended the day with the Act of Contrition.…continue reading
Dec. 11, 2012, at 4:51pm
Pop music in general often deals with superficial things, e.g., Jan and Dean’s hit song “Honolulu Lulu” about the courage of a curvy surfer girl to go out and face the big waves. (In its defense, it does have the one great line revealing the level of religious awareness in the surfing culture: “When the beach is quiet and you know you’re out of luck, we pray for surf while makin’ out in the truck.”)
Other songs, on a bit higher level, deal with intense emotions, though these powerful feelings are not always particularly well-ordered or understood. In Neil Diamond’s repertoire, such songs would include “Cracklin’ Rosie,” “Cherry, Cherry,” “Kentucky Woman,” “Thank the Lord for the Night …continue reading
Dec. 10, 2012, at 10:20pm
Today it was warm outside. April warm. But it was also overcast and drizzly, so that even at midday, we had to have lamps on all over the house. Ten more days of lengthening darkness.
It is so, so good to be able to light the Advent candles and read the hope-imparting, heart-exalting readings assigned to these weeks of the Liturgical year!
Otherwise, I fear I'd succumb to gloom.
What inscrutable mixtures of body, psyche and spirit we persons are! And how kind and merciful of God to answer all our wants as He constantly does!
Dec. 7, 2012, at 5:13pm
This morning I came across this story about an announcement by Bishop Cordileone of Oakland.
The bishops are calling on Catholics to do five specific things to advance this campaign for liberty, life and marriage. These include saying the rosary daily, attending a special Holy Hour on the last Sunday of each month, participating in a Fortnight of Freedom in the summer of 2013, including in every Mass prayers of the faithful for the causes of life, marriage and liberty, and fasting and abstaining from meat on Fridays.
I had the following reactions:
First: Wonderful! That’s what we need: bishops who will stand up for the truth!
Second: Oh…wait a minute…today’s Friday. That would mean…continue reading
Dec. 6, 2012, at 11:09pm
Earlier this month my wife Maria pointed out to me a very beautiful paragraph on forgiveness by Romano Guardini included in one of the daily readings (Meditation for Nov. 12) in the November issue of Magnificat. Remembering that I had the book (The Lord) in the basement, I searched it out to read further—from Chapter XIII.
After reviewing the relevant line of the text of the Our Father and some commentary on it in Matt. 6:14-15 (But if you do not forgive men, neither will your father forgive you your offenses), Matt. 18: 21-2 (Forgive 70 times 7 times) and Matt 18: 35 (the story of the king settling accounts with the heartless servant who was forgiven but would not forgive a lesser …continue reading
Dec. 4, 2012, at 10:26am
A friend linked a beautiful John Paul II quotation:
For a stalk to grow or a flower to open there must be time that cannot be forced; nine months must go by for the birth of a human child; to write a book or compose music often years must be dedicated to patient research ...To find the mystery there must be patience, interior purification, silence, waiting....
It reminds me of one of the pearls of wisdom Alice von Hildebrand gave me about courtship. "If you break open a bud in your impatience to see the flower, you ruin it." Love takes time to grow between persons. Don't force it.
It's striking how simple and true this is, and yet, how difficult to realize in our lives! Our culture …continue reading
Dec. 2, 2012, at 2:07pm
Ideally, Christians are always ready to give an answer for their hope and faith to anyone who asks. In practice, however, we usually don't have a convincing answer until someone asks for it. That's when we first begin to reflect on our own views.
This explains the situation many of us find ourselves in today, concerning our views on marriage. We firmly believe that it is a life-long commitment between a man and a woman. But when challenged, we can't think of any persuasive arguments, and our view appears to be no more than a blind, unjust prejudice.
For those, who, like me, want to better understand their own views on this all-important subject, and be able to give a reason for it, I …continue reading
Dec. 1, 2012, at 10:02pm
As I’ve mentioned, I used to have a peculiar understanding of spontaneity.
It was a Good Thing. Period.
I did allow that even someone as charmingly whimsical as myself needed to be predictable and systematic sometimes. Teeth had to be brushed. Sunday Mass couldn’t be neglected. I didn’t want to end up toothless or damned,
so I was willing to attend to a few select things on schedule whether the mood struck me or no.
But if I was sloppy and incompetent about the other 99% of life, well, that was a lot more appealing than becoming one of those intimidating people who march through life in a haze of grim perfectionism. (I thought of an acquaintance who was raising a well-mannered …continue reading
Dec. 1, 2012, at 4:49pm
Over my nearly 62 years on this earth, I’ve been able to read through the Bible several times, and the New Testament a couple of times more. Alleluia! What a gift! One of the things which has always struck me is the overwhelming, superabundant joy that flows through those who knew and walked with Christ—the Apostles and Evangelists, Peter, Paul, James, John, etc. I have been especially impressed with the joy and longing at the end of the entire revelation, in the Apocalypse (despite all the frightful dimensions of the book), as well as the superabounding joy that seems to break forth at the very beginning of the epistles of Paul, Peter, James, and John.
It occurred to me that this joy …continue reading