Centrality of sex

Sex occupies a central position in the personality. It represents a factor in human nature which essentially seeks to play decisive part in a man’s life. Sex can indeed keep silence, but when it speaks it is no mere obiter dictum, but a voice from the depths, the utterance of something central and of the utmost significance. In and with sex, man, in a special sense, gives himself.

Dietrich von Hildebrand

In Defense of Purity

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  Happy then is the person who has so fled the world's tumult, who has so withdrawn into the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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Katie van Schaijik

Alice von Hildebrand on boredom

Dec. 12, 2011, at 9:30pm

The other day we visited Alice von Hildebrand at her apartment in New Rochelle, NY, where she has lived for more than 40 years.  Below is an audio clip of her speaking of an article she's been writing on the problem of boredom in modern society. "Gogi" is a nickname for her husband, Dietrich von Hildebrand. (The photo doesn't do her justice, but I wanted you to be able to picture her as you listen to her voice.)

Alice von Hildebrand boredom: click here to listen

We'll post more soon at the member feed. (Hope you'll join us there!)

Jules van Schaijik

The creed as a devotional act

Dec. 12, 2011, at 10:09am

Over the weekend I expressed to a friend how much I love the re-introduction of "consubstantial" in the creed. Not that I had any difficulties with the previous translation. "One in being with" seems to me about as clear and direct as can be. Still, I like the change, and I think my liking has a lot to do with some passages from Newman's Grammar of Assent that I read and pondered many times while writing my master's thesis.

In the first of these, Newman deals with the charge, also heard today, that the term "consubstantial" is needlessly abstruse and likely to result only in unending, fruitless controversy. Newman shows how this objection has a long history in the Church and also how it

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Katie van Schaijik

Individualism not quite the answer

Dec. 9, 2011, at 8:41am

An article by Jeffrey Lord in the American Spectator on the demonizing of conservatives reminds us of these lines from William F. Buckley's movement-launching book, God and Man at Yale, written when he was only 25 years old.

I believe that the duel between Christianity and atheism is the most important in the world. I further believe that the struggle between individualism and collectivism is the same struggle reproduced on another level.

He is right, with one important caveat.  The answer to collectivism isn't really individualism, but rather personalism.  Why?  Alice von Hildebrand frequently reminds us of a saying of her husband's: "The truth doesn't lie between two errors, but above

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John Crosby

Flying with Both Wings: Why Christians Need Philosophy

Dec. 7, 2011, at 11:10am

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

We don't have to listen to Pope John Paul II for long before noticing his fascination with the human person. We are struck by how often and how passionately he speaks about the dignity of the person. He has become a kind of prophet of personal dignity, witnessing to it before the conscience of mankind like no other world leader, indeed, like no previous pope. In fact, this

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Katie van Schaijik

“Passive” virtues eminently social

Dec. 6, 2011, at 7:11pm

Searching for personalist gems to add to our quotation rotation, I've been looking through my copy of Raissa Maritain's Journal. This entry (written in 1918) struck a chord, particularly in terms of the person's essential orientation toward others:

21st April, — To Jacques: "Yesterday I had a good morning.  Once again when I recollect myself, I again find the same simple demands of God: gentleness, humility, charity, interior simplicity; nothing else is asked of me.  And suddenly I saw clearly why these virtues are demanded, because through them the soul becomes habitable for God and for one's neighbour in an intimate and permanent way.  They make a pleasant cell of it.  Hardness and pride repel, complexity disquiets.  But humility and gentleness welcome, and simplicity reassures.  These 'passive' virtues have an eminently social character."

Katie van Schaijik

What about God offends?

Dec. 6, 2011, at 2:33pm

Over at the Corner today, Shannen Coffin has a post about the Tim Tebow phenomenon: about what it is that so aggravates liberals about this openly, ardently Christian athlete.

Tebow’s open display of faith offends many on the left because, unlike so many athletes who start press conferences with “First, I just want to thank God” for whatever it is that they have just accomplished, Tebow actually means it. And it drives many on the left — especially the sports media, which is rife with liberals — batty.

The media’s view of the acceptable role of religion was best summed up by David Gregory recently, when, in an interview with Michele Bachmann, he drew a distinction between “God as a sense

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Jules van Schaijik

The philosophy and politics of isolation

Dec. 1, 2011, at 10:04pm

The last chapter of the text for tomorrow's reading circle gathering is about the spirit of communion in the Liturgy. In it, von Hildebrand explains how all genuine values have a twofold unifying power: they unify the individual person from within (interior recollection) and they unify a collection of persons into a genuine communion.

It so happens that Anthony Esolen just published a piece in which this theme of the relation between objective values and interpersonal communion is also central. Like von Hildebrand, Esolen contrasts genuine communion sustained by value with its counterfeit rooted in mere pleasure:

Here we need not consider the sadness at the heart of pleasure seeking—the

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Katie van Schaijik

Self-preoccupation not necessarily selfish

Dec. 1, 2011, at 9:27am

Over at Ricochet this morning, Claire Berlinski links to a letter to the editor to the New York Review of Books that has an interesting paragraph from a personalist point of view. [My bold.]

Didion complains that Woody Allen is stuck in the “fairly recent” notion of finding or making or inhabiting the self, as a central obsession. She’s right that it’s recent: those who trace it back to Augustine are exaggerating, a little. But surely the literature of “recent” centuries is richer for the works of people who’ve made this same faux pasIt’s what modern narrative art is mostly about, and Didion is sophomoric (“adolescent?”) in complaining that Woody Allen hasn’t managed to rehabilitate

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Katie van Schaijik

Want personality?  Live the Liturgy.

Nov. 30, 2011, at 11:10am

This Friday evening we will host the first of our First Friday Reading Circle for Personalist Project members.  We'll be discussing the first four chapters of Dietrich von Hildebrand's classic, Liturgy and Peronality.  Those who live in the area are welcome to join us at our home.  Those who can't make it in person can listen to the podcast of Jules' introductory remarks, which we'll post at the member center over the weekend.  There, too, you can comment or raise questions on what you read and hear.

If you'd like to take part, please do become a member!  It's free while we're in our start-up phase.  All we ask is members have a love of truth, a sincere interest in Christian personalism

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Katie van Schaijik

Ego-centrism the root of moral indifference

Nov. 28, 2011, at 9:55am

When Joe Paterno was fired and the streets of the school's town erupted in outrage, my immediate reaction was: "What is the matter with those students?!" 

Mary Graw Leary offers some answers over at the Witherspoon Institute's Public Discourse

She thinks the main reason is the widespread sexualization of children in our culture.  I think that's the main reason the abuse of children is so wretchedly commonplace.  But the main reason the Penn Students responded as they did, is, I suspect, something different.  I suspect it has to do with basic moral immaturity and ego-centrism (likewise lamentably widespread in our culture).  They view Paterno according to what he means to them. They like

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