Personalism in architecture

What is it in the architectural styles of our old Dutch cities that so charms the visiting stranger? What else but the infinite variety in width or narrowness, the looseness of twists and curves, the pointed and obtuse angles of even our most elegant canals that tell you that they were not made but grew. It is as if a mysterious history speaks to you from every curve and narrows. You can immediately tell that no shoddy, money-hungry developer threw up that line of houses but that every dwelling is the fulfillment of a personal dream, the precious product of quiet thrift, based on a personal plan and built slowly from the ground up. Those tufted, tiered, triangular and shuttered gables ere not symmetrically measured with a level but reflected, every one of them, the thinking of a human being, the whimsicality of a somewhat overconfident human heart. The motley collection of houses bespeak a city full of architects, and precisely in that teeming variety you sense the vigor of folk life as in earlier centuries it throbbed only in the heart of Holland’s free citizens.

Abraham Kuyper

Uniformity: The Curse of Modern Life

Devra Torres

“The Third Way: Homosexuality and the Catholic Church”

May. 1 at 12:14am

Long before the phrase “marriage equality” was on the lips of every other politician and every other schoolchild (that is, a few years ago), a priest friend of ours, Fr. Paul, used to ask his students: “What would you say to someone who wanted to marry his boyfriend?”

On cue, without fail, his teenage audience would grimace and intone in unison, “Eeeeww!”

“No,” he’d explain patiently. “That’s not an argument.”

                                               *     *     *     *     *

Times have changed, and he wouldn’t likely get that kind of response now, especially among teenagers. Many see it as a no-brainer: equality and justice on the one hand, cruelty and irrationality on the other.

continue reading

Katie van Schaijik

Two personalist popes canonized

Apr. 25 at 1:39pm

I'm rushing out the door to France, but I can't go without saying something about the double canonization tomorrow—the canonization of two personalist popes.  An NRO interview with George Weigel is very good. I especially appreciate this part of his analysis [my bold]:

I think Pope Francis’s decision to waive the normal requirement for a second, post-beatification miracle for John XXIII and to celebrate his canonization together with that of John Paul II (after a post-beatification miracle due to his intercession had been confirmed) was inspired and bold. What Pope Francis may be saying is that here are the two bookends of the Second Vatican Council: the pope who had the courage and

continue reading

Katie van Schaijik

Montgomery on modernity

Apr. 25 at 11:41am

Early into this review of Marion Montgomery's Trilogy, The Prophetic Poet and the Spirit of the Age, I thought, "Hey! A kindred spirit!"

I mean, take this:

Gerhart Niemeyer (in Center Journal, Spring 1985) calls the trilogy “a meditation, a sensitive man’s experiential journey,” noting that Montgomery’s examination of literacy and political ideologies and false consciousness, with the main focus on American aberrations, fills a gap left vacant in studies by Hans Urs von Balthasar, Hans Jonas, Henri de Lubac, and Eric Voegelin.

And this:

In the service of truth (not of scholarship, a university, or a thesis), Montgomery takes his readers “considerably beyond the usual limits of literary

continue reading

Devra Torres

Who Are We to Judge?

Apr. 24 at 7:19pm

Things are not always what they seem.  And the actions of human persons, perceived from the outside, can be farthest of all from appearances.

One day long ago I was reading from the Book of Genesis to my four-year-old, who occasionally had trouble getting along with her little brother.  When we got to the part where “Cain rose up and slew his brother Abel,” I stopped and elaborated.  “He killed his own brother!”  I explained, suspecting that “slew” might be pushing the limits of her vocabulary.

My daughter looked properly shocked.  “I would never kill my brother,” she declared (to my secret relief).  But then she continued: “…because I don’t know how to kill people!”

They get along fine

continue reading

Marie Meaney

The Gift of Joy

Apr. 22 at 1:28pm

How can one experience joy in the midst of great suffering? I mean true and genuine joy, which comes from the heart, not stoically putting on a brave face, hiding one’s inner Golgatha behind a fake smile; or narcissistically gazing at one’s own courage in the face of great adversity while masochistically enjoying one’s suffering. This question came to my mind recently, when writing an article for Crisis-Magazine on Chiara Corbella, a young Italian woman who gave her life for the sake of her child and died in June 2012 at the age of 28 ( Like St Gianna Berretta Molla she decided not to undergo any treatment that might harm

continue reading

Devra Torres

Protagoras and Me

Apr. 15 at 11:14pm

I thought I believed in objective truth.  Then my eight-year-old got diabetes, and I realized I had just been pretending.  It turned out that, practically speaking, I was a relativist.

What's a practical relativist?  Well, did you ever hear of “practical atheism”?  Atheists who know they’re atheists believe there is no God, and they can tell you the reasons why.  These may be carefully considered, coherent reasons, or they may not, but at least these people know what they believe.

A “practical atheist” says he believes in God, but his actions are indistinguishable from an unbeliever's.  This “belief” makes no practical difference in his life. It’s not just that he doesn’t feel God's

continue reading

Kate Whittaker Cousino

“A Tower that will Pierce the Clouds”

Apr. 10 at 9:45am

A couple of weeks ago, I picked up a book called An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth, by Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield. I'm not sure what kind of advice I expected to read from this former commander of the International Space Station, someone who did countless interviews from space (including being interviewed by William Shatner) and whose space-earth duets and extraterrestrial performance of David Bowie's "Space Oddity" received millions of views on YouTube. There are traits you expect in ambitious men, assumptions you make of the kind of guy who grew up to fly fighter jets and become a test pilot; someone who, as a small town Canadian boy, set his sights on becoming an astronaut

continue reading

Devra Torres

Everybody’s a Critic

Apr. 5 at 5:41pm

I haven’t seen God Is Not Dead, The Son of God, or even Frozen.  I did just see Noah, but don’t worry, I’m not going to talk about it--or, if I find I can’t help myself, I will try very, very hard to say something new.

I cringe as heartily as anybody at the spectacle of Christians trying too hard to like cheesy movies because they’re wholesome, or to dislike wholesome movies because they’re cheesy.  I hate to see us laboring to unearth a godless message where there isn’t one, or to explain away a godless message where there is.

I’m entirely sympathetic to Flannery O’Connor’s point about religious art:

The sorry religious novel comes about when the writer supposes that because of his

continue reading

Kate Whittaker Cousino

Marriage and Freedom

Mar. 22 at 10:28pm

A few days ago, a young engaged woman, Emma Smith wrote a piece on Catholic exchange called Marriage is Work. The take-away, as it came across to me and, apparently, others, was that failed marriages indicate a failure of the spouses to work, and that the primary advantage of a Catholic marriage is that Catholics do a lot of marriage prep, and that the sacramental nature of marriage gives you a sort of supernatural guarantee that, as long as you work on it, you'll have the kind of loving, faithful, happy marriage that we all want. 

I read it. I shrugged my shoulders and kept going. How could I say anything without sounding like sour grapes trying to pop the bubble of a sweet and joyful

continue reading

Katie van Schaijik

A memoir of spiritual abuse and recovery

Mar. 20 at 4:22am

I don't recall how it is that I started reading Elizabeth Esther's blog, but I know it was in connection with the problem of spiritual abuse, which we could define as systematic violation of the central features of personhood, i.e. suppression of a person's freedom, autonomy, and conscience.

It's what happens in cults and cult-like groups and families. 

Elizabeth Esther grew up in one of those. Her grandfather founded a fundamentalist Christian cult, called the Assemby, in which her father and uncle were fulltime leaders. She left with her husband and small children when she was 25 and has been recovering in the ten or so years since. Blogging about her experience is part of her healing.

continue reading

Katie van Schaijik

The potent places of salvation history

Mar. 19 at 6:26am

One strong impression from our visit to Israel earlier this month is of the geographical concentration of ground zero of salvation history. The place is small, and the spiritual imagery that pervades it incredibly dense. Today's readings (for the Feast of St. Joseph) bring the point home again.

The LORD spoke to Nathan and said:
“Go, tell my servant David,
‘When your time comes and you rest with your ancestors,
I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins,
and I will make his kingdom firm.
It is he who shall build a house for my name.
And I will make his royal throne firm forever.
I will be a father to him,
and he shall be a son to me.
Your house and your kingdom shall endure
continue reading

Katie van Schaijik

Teaching kids about sex

Mar. 12 at 4:16am

Jules just came home from dropping our son Benedict off at school here in Holland. He told me the teacher had a approached him to say that they would be doing sex education over the next three weeks. She mentioned it because "I know you're religious." (How did she know that?!) She thought we might have concerns. She said he could possibly join the 4th graders, where they cover only the biological aspect of human reproduction. In fifth grade, they get rather heavy. (We're talking about 10, 11 and 12 year olds.)

Jules asked if it's normal for kids to be pulled out. She said, somewhat apologetically, "Really, there aren't so many religious people around here."
There's an information meeting

continue reading

Devra Torres

The Neomalthusianism of Captain Kirk

Mar. 10 at 9:10pm

I have a confession to make. I'm a Star Trek fan. 

Not the movie versions. I tried to watch one of them once, but it was too much like being imprisoned in an unpleasantly frenzied video game.

Not even The Next Generation, or whatever the remake is called.

I mean the old, old, OLD Star Trek, the version that was already a rerun during my annual childhood visit to my grandparents’ house.  (Every year my sister Abby and I spent one week at Nana and Lenny's house, busily making up for the other 51, which were TV-less.  This involved a lot of Star Trek.) Now my husband and I watch DVDs of the reruns with my own kids. 

So there we were, last night, all cozy in the basement, watching Captain

continue reading

Katie van Schaijik

RIP Ann Kiemel

Mar. 10 at 4:32am

When I was a teenager, Ann Kiemel was one of my heroes. I read all her books. I wanted to be like her. I wanted to "change the world for Jesus." It was especially her simplicity of faith and personal warmth that drew me in.  I was used to a cold, prohibitive religious and moral environment—one where being Catholic was mainly about knowing the teachings and following rules rather than love and mercy. Evangelicals—Ann Kiemel first among them—showed me something different. Christianity is first and foremost a personal relationship of love with Jesus.

Later, I found her work too superficial to satisfy. It didn't feel fully real. It sounded forced and fake. It sounded like it was more about Ann

continue reading

Devra Torres

Surprise Diagnosis

Feb. 27 at 10:21pm

Last Tuesday, I brought my eight-year-old in for a checkup, sensing that something wasn’t right.

Johanna Paulina ("Jopa")

My mother’s intuition only took me so far, though:  I assumed that, whatever it was, a week of amoxicillin would probably take care of it. 

But it turned out to be juvenile diabetes.

Her prognosis looks very good, but treatment is time-consuming, especially for us beginners!  So it’s a fine day for 7 Quick Takes.  (Thanks to Jen at Conversion Diary for hosting.)  Here are seven things that have been on my mind:


A heartening bit of personalism has found its way into the Pink Panther book, a highly acclaimed guide routinely given to parents of kids with this diagnosis.

         " Think

continue reading

Katie van Schaijik

Over-protection cripples children

Feb. 20 at 5:03am

I'm reading a book about a young woman's escape from the Jehovah's Witnesses when she was 18. Her mother had been a fanatical devotee for ten years, blighting her youth with excessive control. It's not a very good book; I don't recommend it. But it has its insights. I'm thinking about this one today:

My parents had failed to follow through on the most important obligation they had as parents. They had failed to create autonomy in me by letting me experience life— good and bad— providing guidance and emotional support when I needed it.

I think there's a lot to this, though, speaking as a parent (soon to be grandparent!), living in a society aggressively hostile to the values I most

continue reading

Marie Meaney

“Boxing” Others

Feb. 17 at 1:35pm

I’m not speaking here of a boxing-match or of bullies who like beating up others. What I’m referring to is the widespread human temptation to put others into “boxes”. What makes this so terrible, and yet so tremendously tempting?

It can seem an innocent enough pastime. What I tell my spouse or mother, or what I talk about in the inner recesses of the family, won’t hurt anybody, right? I can trust my mother or spouse sufficiently that he or she won’t be going round, spreading the bad news about Aunt Emma’s character faults. Perhaps I can trust them, and neither of us will share this with other members of the family or let alone, God forbid, with Aunt Emma herself (nothing worse than having

continue reading

Katie van Schaijik

Some relationships come with terms built-in

Feb. 17 at 10:46am

A friend of mine shared a link to my post "Love is unconditional; relationships have terms" on Facebook, adding a question: "Should we put conditions on relationships?" This gives me an opportunity to expand and clarify my thoughts. (Thanks, friend!)

The kind of terms I had in mind aren't the kind we "put"; they're the kind we receive. They come with the relationship.

Some relationships involve arbitrary (in the sense of at-will) terms. If I hire someone to clean my house, I might stipulate that she has to come on time and she can't smoke. Those are my conditions for hiring. She might have conditions of her own: She wants $20 per hour and she will only work with non-toxic cleaning

continue reading

Devra Torres

The Worst Kind of Hobby

Feb. 16 at 5:51pm

“Apologetics is a hobby of mine.”

As soon as I'd said it, something didn’t sound right.

My friend was looking into becoming Catholic, and I was offering to answer any questions she might have.  I’m a convert and a bookworm, and over the years, I’ve studied a lot of theology.  Just the hours I’ve logged listening to Catholic Answers radio while chopping onions for supper are probably the equivalent of a degree or two.  Add 25 years of retreats, study courses, days of recollection, reading and writing…

But, a hobby?

As it turned out, Amy didn’t need my expertise. Another friend had already arranged for her to meet with Al Kresta of Ave Maria Radio, so I wasn’t worried. I don't imagine there

continue reading

Katie van Schaijik

No way out but through

Feb. 12 at 2:29am

Following the death-by-overdoes of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman last week, a Ricochet contributor raised the question of the use of psychedelic drugs in treating heroin addiction. She thought it scandalous that more isn't being done to research and employ the method, when studies show it to have been effective in some cases.

I commented that I have doubts about the approach. Among other misgivings, I worry that it can become a way of avoiding the prime thing at issue in addiction, which is moral and spiritual, not biochemical. (Our society and culture are so vested in denying or downplaying the spiritual and moral dimensions of human life.) I have similar worries about using ritalin to

continue reading

Stay informed

Latest comments

  • Re: "Soft Addictions"
  • By: Katie van Schaijik
  • Re: Truth and mercy in human experience
  • By: Marie Meaney
  • Re: Becoming Who You Are, Even If You're Not Sure Who That Is
  • By: Devra Torres
  • Re: What Midlife Crisis is Really About
  • By: Katie van Schaijik
  • Re: What Midlife Crisis is Really About
  • By: Marie Meaney
  • Re: What Midlife Crisis is Really About
  • By: Katie van Schaijik
  • Re: What Midlife Crisis is Really About
  • By: Katie van Schaijik
  • Re: What Midlife Crisis is Really About
  • By: Kate Whittaker Cousino
  • Re: Pitfalls of Asserting Gender Roles
  • By: Ian Skemp
  • Re: Pitfalls of Asserting Gender Roles
  • By: Ian Skemp

Latest active posts

Reading circles