The human significance of sufferingThe way in which a man accepts his fate and all the suffering it entails, the way in which he takes up his cross, gives him ample opportunity—even under the most difficult circumstances—to add a deeper meaning to his life. It may remain brave, dignified and unselfish. Or in the bitter fight for self-preservation he may forget his human dignity and become no more than an animal. Here lies the chance for a man either to make use of or to forgo the opportunities of attaining the moral values that a difficult situation may afford him. And this decides whether he is worthy of his sufferings or not.
Man's Search for Meaning
Nov. 30, 2012, at 1:07pm
"This is really neat!" wrote Michael Wallacavage, as he sent around a link to this fascinating clip of Eric Whitacre's virtual choirs. Watch it, and I think you'll agree.
The singing starts at 6:27 and then again at 12:12 on the timeline. But don't skip what comes before! Whitacre's introduction is very interesting and engaging. He not only talks about the project itself, how it came about and so on, but also explains how he got interested in classical music. As a youth, his dream was to be a pop star. (He wanted to be the fifth member of Depeche Mode. Remember them?). But when he got to college he joined a choir instead. Not for love of music, mind you, but because it included a free trip …continue reading
Nov. 28, 2012, at 11:47pm
In Love and Responsibility, John Paul II makes some interesting distinctions about human needs and the different levels on which they operate. He especially makes a point to distinguish between mere desire (based in need alone, i.e. in me) and love as desire (based in a value-responding affirmation of the other, in light of which I recognize my desire or need as centered in this specific person because of their irreplaceable beauty and value). He says the following in his section on “Love as Desire” under his treatment of “Metaphysical Analysis of Love:”
On the natural level, man and woman need one another to complete their own being. The sexual urge or sexual desire is an indication …
Nov. 26, 2012, at 12:49pm
Hospice voluteers in our area have inaugurated a book club, as a way of sharing our experiences and interests and getting to know each other better. The first book we're reading together is The End of Your Life Book Club. It's written by Will Schwalbe, who chronicles his mother's dying of pancreatic cancer. Both great readers, one of the ways they cope with the tedium of her chemo treatments is by reading and discussing books together. Mary Anne Schwalbe comes across as an extraordinary woman, who lived a life of dedication to good causes, especially the cause of refugees. She was a believing Christian and a life-long activist, convinced that the way not to be overwhelmed by the problems …continue reading
Nov. 24, 2012, at 10:41pm
In a sobering article over at Crisis, Fr. Rutler reminds us of Alexander Solzhenitzyn's prophetic address to the Harvard class of 1978:
...we have lost the concept of a Supreme Complete Entity which used to restrain our passions and our irresponsibility. We have placed too much hope in political and social reforms, only to find out that we were being deprived of our most precious possession: our spiritual life.
How can we expect to retain our right to religious liberty if we've rejected the notion of being "under God"?
Nov. 24, 2012, at 3:22pm
(Yes, it's Saturday. I lose track of time when long-lost adult children come to visit. But I wanted to get in on Jen Fulweiler's weekly blogger tradition. You can, too, if you like: see Jen's instructions at the very end of this post.)
* * * * *
As my philosophy professor, the late lamented Dr. William Marra, used to say,
“Money is happiness in the abstract.”
He was right: if we dedicate Black Friday to commerce,
it’s not so much because we want this particular HDTV or that particular vegan leather handbag: it’s because money seems to bestow the power to be happy in whatever way we might turn out to desire. It …continue reading
Nov. 18, 2012, at 5:38pm
“We are here to serve others,” the apocryphal mother explains.
“Well, then,” responds the little apocryphal boy, “What are the others here for?”
* * * *
No wonder he’s confused. Which are we supposed to be, self-centered or other-centered?
Well, you might say--both.
When you read the Bible, you keep running into principles like
“With what measure you measure, it will be measured to you”
and, of course,
There’s a common thread here: they keep on drawing you not simply towards others, but back and forth from your own desires, obligations and actions to everybody else’s. They keep reminding you to acknowledge the personhood, the interiority, the subjectivity, of both the …continue reading
Nov. 15, 2012, at 11:15am
Over at Public Discourse, Michael Hannon has a clarifying article on the debate over "same sex marriage". (Hat tip facebook friend Patrick Langrell.)
Hannon shows convincingly that the common case for SSM rests on some basic confusions—or obfuscations (my word, not his)—about the nature of marriage.
Olson and Boies [the super-lawyers making an apparently sincere case in favor of the legalization of SSM]—and the movement in general—claim that preserving marriage as a union of man and woman is unjust discrimination. For no good reason, they assert, the “right to marry” is being denied to same-sex couples, who are just as capable of loving and committing to each other as opposite-sex …
Nov. 13, 2012, at 10:17am
Cardinal Dolan yesterday offered a beautiful address to fellow bishops.
I am struck by his emphasis on prayer and interior conversion as the beginning of the New Evangelization. He quotes St. Bernard: "If you want to be a channel, you must first be a reservoir." What he says of bishops is true of laymen too:
I would suggest this morning that this reservoir of our lives and ministry, when it comes especially to the New Evangelization, must first be filled with the spirit of interior conversion born of our own renewal. That's the way we become channels of a truly effective transformation of the world, through our own witness of a penitential heart, and our own full embrace of the …
Nov. 10, 2012, at 9:47am
(in keeping with my role as Pollyanna in Chief)
First: It turns out it wasn’t just me! I woke up the morning of November 7th with a highly unusual urge to set things in order. I cleaned a closet and a bathroom before breakfast. No, really—you can look it up on Snopes. And it turned out this was no isolated phenomenon. My sister Abby described Wednesday morning at her house:
We cleaned everything. We soaked the stove knobs in ammonia. We cleaned the dried milk drops off the hutch. We cleaned UNDER the microwave and all the couches. We used up the ammonia and the bleach (but not at the same time). We cleared surfaces of objects that had been invisible before the election…
My other …continue reading
Nov. 7, 2012, at 8:57am
I spent a sleepless night of worry for our nation.
One of my best insomnia rememdies is to put on a favorite audio book, usually Wittaker Chambers' Witness. In most cases, the calm steady voice of the narrator takes my mind off whatever treadmill it happens to be on and lulls me to sleep. But sometimes, like last night, it's not enough.
The upside is that I heard anew the beautiful and deep wisdom of his story, including countless gems like this one:
When man tried to organize society without God, he ends up organizing it against man.
Nov. 5, 2012, at 10:17am
Without attempting any application to current politics (in contrast to my previous two posts on Martin Buber), I wish to draw out some of the further wisdom of this 20th-century personalist Jewish philosopher and author of Good and Evil concerning how to attain a deeper measure of wisdom through our experience, even when that experience is negative. He says:
For the most part we understand only gradually the decisive experiences which we have in our relation to the world. First we accept what they seem to offer us, we express it, we weave it into a ‘view,’ and then think we are aware of our world. But we come to see that what we look on in this view is only an appearance. Not that …
Nov. 2, 2012, at 2:01am
Last week, we considered the uses and abuses of spontaneity. But what about the opposite extreme?
According to legend, my grandfather was once discovered to have penned the reminder “Kiss Thelma” on his to-do list.
Thelma was his wife.
This is as good an illustration as any that Grandpa Lenny was not a spontaneous man.
Now, it’s true, as Jacques Philippe points out, that steady, proven faithfulness, year in and year out, is a far more convincing proof of love than sporadic bursts of passionate affection alternating with stretches of neglect. But what to make of such, well, extremely steady steadiness as my grandfather’s?
Did he love his wife? Yes, of course he did. They stayed …continue reading
Oct. 31, 2012, at 4:10pm
I write to encourage the traditional way of celebrating Halloween—for the sake of the children. I think we as Christians should not be narrow, rigoristic, abstact logicians about this “feast,” but rather look at the existential reality. Here’s how I remember it from my youth.
First, Halloween was the only other celebration besides Christmas that involved the whole neighborhood. Further, it involved some living notion of love of neighbor and love of strangers—key indicators of true Christian charity. The idea that complete strangers in the vicinity of my home would freely give me candy for the asking (candy being a high priority for an 8-10 year old) struck me as the very height of …continue reading
Oct. 31, 2012, at 1:16pm
Crisis Magazine's website today kindly published my remarks from the religious liberty panel discussion last week. The bottom line:
When the federal government uses the force of law to mandate that Catholic institutions and businesses provide birth control and sterilizations and abortifacient drugs to their employees, it is, in effect, seeking to conscript the Church into the service of the culture of death as a condition of our participation in society. It is no side issue. It is no glancing blow. It is a stake aimed at the very heart of Catholic life.
Oct. 29, 2012, at 5:20pm
Continuing our reflections on Buber’s Good and Evil in conjunction with the current elections, the Psalmist (Psalm 12) hears “the presumption whispering in their [i.e., the liars] secret hearts (“Our lips are our own, who is Lord over us.”), and at the same time he hears God’s response (“Now will I arise.”).
With the ‘now’ there breaks out in the midst of extreme trouble the manifestation of a salvation which is not just bound to come some time, but is always present and needs only to become effective.
This reminds me, if I were to transpose it into philosophy, of Plato’s description of truth as always present, never refutable, never erasable. Like being itself, the truth about being, is …continue reading
Oct. 28, 2012, at 9:41pm
“The lie is the specific evil which man has introduced into nature.” Thus begins Martin Buber’s (1878-1965) study Good and Evil, reflecting on Psalm 12. As a Jewish thinker who protested against and suffered under the Nazi’s in the 1930’s, he became fascinated by the problem, status, and motivations for evil. He writes:
…the lie is our very own invention, different in kind from every deceit that the animals can produce. A lie was possible only after a creature, man, was capable of conceiving the being of truth. It was possible only as directed against the conceived truth. In a lie the spirit practices treason against itself.
The psalmist no longer suffers merely from individual …continue reading
Oct. 26, 2012, at 11:29am
This documentary about Obamacare has some serious flaws. It traces the evil of the utilitarian view of the person embodied in Obamacare to Plato, (of all philosophers!), because Plato (like virtually all Ancient Greeks) saw persons as subordinate to the State. It fails utterly to do justice to Plato's general ethical philosophy, which was ordered toward the Good, the True and Beautiful. It draws a direct line from Plato to Nietzsche, without noting the arrival of Christianity on the scene of human history. And so on. But, swallowing hard and setting aside those aggravations, I endorse this good and important film. It's important because it exposes not just the misrepresentations and inefficiencies in Obamacare, but the de-personalizing and inhumane philosophy undergirding it.
Oct. 25, 2012, at 12:53am
For a long time, I labored under the illusion that spontaneity, especially as practiced by me, was a charming thing. This misconception has been slowly, and I do mean slowly, draining away over the past couple of decades.
One early intimation that something was amiss came when my husband and I were newlyweds moving to a different apartment. He seemed distinctly uncharmed by the large quantity of boxes I had packed up and helpfully labeled “MISCELLANEOUS.”
I was mystified. What did he want: a boring, regimental, conformist wife?
(Now that I have eight children who take after me, his perspective is much less baffling.)
I’ve been reading Time for God by Fr. Jacques Philippe again,
and …continue reading
Oct. 22, 2012, at 12:16pm
Saturday evening, our local parish hosted a panel discussion about religious liberty in the current crisis. Taking inspiration from Archbishop Chaput's book, Render Unto Caesar, three panelists addressed the question, then engaged the audience in a lively Q&A, which could have gone on much longer if time had allowed. Feel free to continue it in the comments below. It's hard to think of a more important and timely issue.
Click on the names below to listen to the audio.
Peter Colosi (left), Assistant Professor of Moral Theology at St. Charles Borromeo seminary
Mark Henrie (middle), Senior Vice President and Chief Academic Officer at Intercollegiate Studies Institute
Katie van Schaijik (right), Co-founder of the Personalist Project