Marks of personhood

each person is unrepeatably and incommunicably himself or herself…each is not only an objective but also a subjective being…each lives out of his or her interiority…each is a being of surpassing, indeed infinite worth and dignity…eachcan live and thrive only by existing with and for other persons.

John F. Crosby

Personalist Papers

Katie van Schaijik

DHLP Call for Papers on the Power of Beauty

Jul. 23 at 11:48am


Dietrich von Hildebrand Legacy Project

Call for Papers and Graduate Student Essay Contest

The Power of Beauty

A conference co-sponsored by: 

M.A. Philosophy Program at Franciscan University of Steubenville, and

The Dietrich von Hildebrand Legacy Project

October 24-25, 2014

Keynote Address
"Beauty and Desecration"
Roger Scruton

Helpful links:


Focus of the Conference

"Beauty will save the world," writes Dostoevsky, yet beauty is seen by many as a weak and expendable arrow in the metaphysical quiver that includes the more robust good and true. Many think of

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Katie van Schaijik

Tenderness and gallantry

Jul. 22 at 10:27am

Alice von Hildebrand is with us for the summer, as usual. She is busy putting the finishing touches on the story of her years of teaching at Hunter City College of New York, soon to be published under the title, Memoirs of a Happy Failure. The manuscript includes several photographs. One in particular stood out.

It's not just that I haven't seen many pictures of her and her husband together; it's that the gesture is so exceptionally eloquent and moving.

A few days after I noticed this, she fowarded to me a copy of the conversion story of one of her former students, Stephanie Block.* Here is part of it.

One semester turned into another and fascinated, I took every course Alice Jourdain

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Devra Torres

Immigration: Impediments to the Conversation

Jul. 20 at 3:21pm

Katie addressed immigration just the other day, and I wrote about it here last year.  There’s plenty more to say, though.  So much, in fact, that it’s worth mentioning some things I won’t be addressing here:

  • I won’t be proposing an immigration policy.
  • I won’t be evaluating the states of the souls of politicians who vote on immigration policy, parents who send unaccompanied minors across borders, adults who cross borders illegally, or US citizens who express ideas on the subject. 

At least I’ll try to avoid both.  I’m certainly not qualified to do either. What I would like is to identify a few avoidable impediments to the conversation.

Usually one side talks about illegal aliens (or, less

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Katie van Schaijik

Cardinal Dolan disappoints

Jul. 15 at 11:42am

A few months ago I read that the growing and intractable problem of an ancient culture of thievery among Roma immigrants had induced a French politician to call for their expulsion. The Catholic Church had condemned the call as racist and inhumane.

"Okay," I thought. "But what about the thievery?" It bothered me that the Church would condemn a politician's proposed solution without proposing a practical alternative. Are French citizens supposed to just roll over and let themselves be robbed?

I had a similar response this morning to a post of Cardinal Dolan's condemning the citizens of a California town who turned back busloads of illegal immigrants. He called their actions shameful:

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Devra Torres

Lois Lerner, Archie Bunker, and the Roving Liturgical Critic

Jul. 13 at 9:59pm

We were out of town this week, so we got to see how the other half lives—that is, people who aren't fortunate enough to belong to our home parish.

At first, we enjoyed the variety.  One priest preached about how great it is to be 70, because you can finally say whatever you like: what do you have to lose?  It was a solid homily, even if it did include more about Lois Lerner and the IRS than I was expecting. 


Then, the next day, there was the much more ancient priest, the one we’re always startled but happy to see still alive and kicking each year, who radiates a really glorious indifference to conventional wisdom.  Speaking about people who try to

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Katie van Schaijik

A Benedictine way of philosophy

Jul. 12 at 4:38pm

July 11 is the Feast of St. Benedict, whose deservedly famous Rule is the basis of virtually all rules in all monastic orders to this day. I first learned about it from Alice von Hildebrand, who drew my attention to the affinity between Benedictine spirituality and the phenomenological method of philosophy her husband had espoused. The prologue to the Rule begins like this:

Listen carefully, my child,
to your master's precepts,
and incline the ear of your heart (Prov. 4:20)

It's the emphasis on listening that stands out, and then, a listening of the heart. Philosophy is all too often a construction of the mind. Clever thinkers elaborate theories. The aim of phenomenolgy, as Husserl

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Katie van Schaijik

Conversational sins

Jul. 11 at 1:14pm

These days, for my insomnia, I'm listening to Walter Isaacson's Benjamin Franklin: An American Life. I've just come across Franklin's list of "conversational sins". It's good. (I'm afraid I've committed them all.)

1. Talking overmuch

2. Seeming uninterested

3. Speaking too much about your own life

4. Prying for personal secrets

5. Telling long and pointless stories

6. Contradicting or disputing someone directly

7. Ridiculing or railing against things, except in small, witty doses

8. Spreading scandal

Notice how beautifully the list coheres with personaliism. Genunine interpersonal communion, of which conversation is a major aspect, involves a transcendence of the ego, and an attention to,

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Katie van Schaijik

Modesty and misogyny

Jul. 7 at 8:49am

Yesterday I got an email from a new member who has been following our modesty discussions with great interest. He said he would like to host a conversation with local friends and colleagues on the subject and wanted to know whether I had readings to recommend.

I didn't, really. I mean, I've read countless articles of varying quality on the objectification of women and the value of modesty. Member Rhett pasted a passage from The Privilege of Being a Woman, a book far superior to most, in terms of linking modesty to the beauty, dignity and high spiritual calling of femininity. Years ago, I read with great admiration Wendy Shallit's book A Return to Modesty. If I remember rightly, she was a

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Devra Torres

Modesty and Other Skirmishes: Reassessing the Battle Lines

Jul. 3 at 11:59pm

Last week, we took a look at the modesty wars. We identified a false alternative: either you fall into indifferentism on the subject or you’re obliged to go around trying (vainly and illicitly) to probe the intentions of other people’s hearts. There's got to be a better way.

And there is. Katie and others have been urging that we take seriously the harm done by a fixation on externals, a tendency to see a woman as less a person than an occasion of sin. To rebel against this isn’t a flight into over-abstraction.  Nor is it tantamount to “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.”  How to strike the right balance in everyday decisions is still under discussion, especially among those of us raising

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Katie van Schaijik

What’s wrong with defining love as an act of will?

Jul. 1 at 11:52am

What does it mean to love?

Well-catechized Catholics are typically ready with an answer to this question. "To love means to will and do the good." Travel a mile in Catholic circles, and every two or three minutes you will come across an article or talk or homily passionately proclaiming that "love isn't a feeling, it's an action."

I suppose I'm revealing something intimate about myself when I say I hate this. I hate it so much that hearing it makes me break out in spiritual hives. To refrain from getting mad at the one saying it, I have to quick remind myself: "He doesn't know any better; this is what everyone is taught. And—remember!— there's an important sense in which it's perfectly

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Devra Torres

A New Wrinkle in the Modesty Debate

Jun. 26 at 1:48am

The modesty wars have been raging so long already that now we’re in the throes of a backlash against a backlash against a backlash (as Simcha Fisher put it the other day).

First came a tendency, more Puritan than Catholic, to devise dress codes that micromanaged every centimeter of flesh from collarbone and kneecap, at least. They focused everybody’s attention firmly on the outside of the cup, the whited part of the sepulchre.


This fomented phariseeism, some objected, and made womanhood itself seem suspect and dirty.

Then came the reaction: people got fed up with the holier-than-thou-ness of it all and refused to humor the micromanagers of appearance any longer. 

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Katie van Schaijik

The opposite of nostalgia

Jun. 24 at 10:55am

A few years ago I spent some Lenten days alone at our summer house, on retreat and cleaning out the attic. I found there boxes of letters and diaries from my youth. (I was a prolific letter-writer in those pre-email days.) Reading through them filled me with melancholy. I didn't really like the person I found there—so much self-absorption and sentimentality!—but I sympathized with her. She was sincere in her unreality, poor thing. I accepted that she was me, and that I'd had a lot to learn in the years since. I thanked God for all He has taught me, in His goodness and mercy. He had meted out reality in a measure I could manage, surrounding me all the while with love and friendship and

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Katie van Schaijik

Newman and Caesar

Jun. 24 at 10:43am

My search for a Newman quote this morning brought me to his Wikipedia page and this arresting description of him by James Froude (brother of Hurrell Froude, the close friend and companion of Newman's youth, who first opened Newman to Catholicism and helped him launch the Oxford Movement.)

Newman's face was "remarkably like that of Julius Caesar.... I have often thought of the resemblance, and believed that it extended to the temperament. In both there was an original force of character which refused to be moulded by circumstances, which was to make its own way, and become a power in the world; a clearness of intellectual perception, a disdain for conventionalities, a temper imperious and

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Devra Torres

“Dialogue” and “Encounter”: Archbishop Cordileone Reclaims a Couple of Buzzwords

Jun. 19 at 2:55pm

Very early in my writing career (that is, a couple years ago), I wrote a post called “Diversity: Reclaiming a Buzzword.”  The term had been hijacked: reduced to a code word for relativism and indifferentism, with anti-patriotic connotations thrown in for good measure.

And yet, it’s a perfectly good word.  It should never have been ceded to people with as little imagination as the bureaucrats and politicians who use it the most.


It occurred to me yesterday, reading Archbishop Cordileone's response  to Nancy Pelosi's warning to withdraw from today's March for Marriage, that a lot more words could use rehabilitating.  We might start with “dialogue”

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Devra Torres

Where Do I Apply for my Introvert’s Exemption?

Jun. 11 at 10:13pm

As I may have hinted (here and here and here and here), I’m partial to Pope Francis.  I defend him when he rubs my friends the wrong way.  Some people, it seems, get defensive precisely when we ought to sit up and pay attention. 

Some things he says do make me squirm, make me shrink into my seat and mutter “Busted!”  He has a disquieting way of suggesting that "weakness, self-absorption, complacency and selfishness" (Evangelii Gaudium, 263) can be just as poisonous as more barefaced sins of perversion or violence. 


So I like to think of myself as an objective observer, qualified to correct the misguided.

But now I have new empathy for

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Katie van Schaijik

Thoughts on modesty abroad, in three vignettes

Jun. 8 at 5:43pm

1. I am in the Old City of Jersalem, enjoying the sights and admiring the traditional styles of clothing. I am loving the way old men and boys alike proclaim their identity—their belonging to God—by wearing a yamulke. I am charmed by the way different sects are easily recognizable by their distinctive dress. I notice how feminine and dignified the long, dark skirts and headscarves look on women. I'm thinking I prefer the Jewish mode of scarves knotted at the neck to the Muslim mode of completely covered necks. But mainly I'm thinking about how much more attractive both styles are than the faded jeans I am wearing. 

A young couple walks toward us. I gather by his tall hat and payot that

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Devra Torres

The Power of Bad Example

May. 31 at 8:14pm

The things that have inspired me most are not what you might expect.

 Some of them are not very inspiring at all.  For example:

  • I once had a professor who went to daily Mass.  He’d sheepishly walk in late---sometimes extremely late—every single day, as far as I remember.  This didn’t make me want to emulate the lateness, but it impressed me no end: the humility to keep showing up, day after day, so imperfectly, so publicly.  (The chapel was too tiny for an inconspicuous entrance.)  Most people would have given up altogether.

  • Once, when I was a fairly new convert, I visited a friend who was a serious Catholic.  She had many small children (actually, two, but they seemed like seven). 
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Kate Whittaker Cousino

Telling the truth about ourselves

May. 29 at 4:02pm

I want to propose a definition for modesty that seems to me to fit all of the best, most common-sense ideas of dress and modesty, while avoiding the traps some fall into which make it such a difficult virtue to talk about.

First of all, I want to reject any definition that defines modesty strictly in terms of a negative: "Modesty is avoiding tempting others to lust. Modesty is avoiding drawing attention to your sexual attributes. Modesty is not standing out."

Modesty is passing the two-finger test.

While some of those things might be the effects of a modest wardrobe, a virtue should not be a negative. A virtue must be something that can be aspired to and embraced, not merely the

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Marie Meaney

Dwarfing the Other

May. 26 at 1:55pm

Sin attempts to dwarf the other, sizes him down to the level I want him to be. If I gossip, the other simply becomes something to be gloated over, belittled, and judged. In anger, I try to strike him down, so that he is nothing more than my perception of him; in my eyes he is nothing but the despicable act or vice to which I have reduced him. I will lash out at him again, if he tries to find excuses or claims to be other than my view of him; only if his anger matches mine, might I have to back down and get to taste my own medicine.

That this feature of dwarfing the other is present in many kinds of sin, is something I was struck by when discussing Katie van Schaijik’s blog-post on

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Devra Torres

Pity the Veterans?

May. 25 at 8:47pm

Yesterday my daughter, Esther Regina, pointed out an interesting article.  It’s called “Treat Veterans With Respect, Not Pity,” by Phil Klay, and it’s worth reading in full.

The author recounts a disquieting new tendency he’s noticed: when people hear he’s a veteran of the Marines: they express pity, try to soothe and comfort him, and assume he’s “broken” and “damaged.” (One older woman even "came up to me and, without asking, started rubbing my back…as if I was a startled horse in a thunderstorm.”)

These strangers are so confident of their assumptions that many proceed straight from acquaintance with his veteran status to full-blown diagnosis. They're undaunted by their own ignorance of

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