On not finding God in the worldStarting then with the being of a God, (which, as I have said, is as certain to me as the certainty of my own existence, though when I try to put the grounds of that certainty into logical shape I find a difficulty in doing so in mood and figure to my satisfaction,) I look out of myself into the world of men, and there I see a sight which fills me with unspeakable distress. The world seems simply to give the lie to that great truth, of which my whole being is so full; and the effect upon me is, in consequence, as a matter of necessity, as confusing as if it denied that I am in existence myself. If I looked into a mirror, and did not see my face, I should have the sort of feeling which actually comes upon me, when I look into this living busy world, and see no reflexion of its Creator. This is, to me, one of those great difficulties of this absolute primary truth, to which I referred just now. Were it not for this voice, speaking so clearly in my conscience and my heart, I should be an atheist, or a pantheist, or a polytheist when I looked into the world. I am speaking for myself only; and I am far from denying the real force of the arguments in proof of a God, drawn from the general facts of human society and the course of history, but these do not warm me or enlighten me; they do not take away the winter of my desolation, or make the buds unfold and the leaves grow within me, and my moral being rejoice. The sight of the world is nothing else than the prophet’s scroll, full of “lamentations, and mourning, and woe.”
John Henry Newman
Apologia Pro Vita Sua
Mar. 13, 2013, at 11:36am
I posted this at the Ricochet member feed today:
One among many stunning features of the papal conclave I can't help noting with awe and gratitude is the harmonious marriage of antiquity and modernity it represents. I mean, you've got people all over the world watching for smoke signals from the Cistine Chapel on their TVs and laptops and iPhones. Think about that.
You have the sacred oath of secrecy and you have the electronic sweeps to make sure there are no hidden listening devices. You have remarkable, highly-educated and accomplished men of our own day and age, from all races and cultures and continents, appearing in those black robes with red sashes and gold crosses that have been …
Mar. 11, 2013, at 10:06pm
The Chief Rabbi of France has written an original and perceptive essay called “Homosexual Marriage, Parenting, and Adoption.” Last week, I made an ambitious attempt to compress his main points into this post, and this week (undaunted, for some reason) I propose to address the way he delves into our experience of sexual complementarity, drawing out what it reveals about (no kidding!) our limitedness, transcendence, interpersonal communion, the bonds between man, woman and child, self-discovery through knowledge of the other, and the spuriousness of self-sufficiency.
I’ll do my best. But the wise reader will go straight to the original article, and he won’t be sorry, either.
* …continue reading
Mar. 11, 2013, at 5:21pm
Today Alice von Hildebrand, widow of Dietrich von Hildebrand and philosopher in her own right, turns 90 years old. In honor of the occasion, we asked her permission to republish an article of hers that we first came across about 25 years ago. It's influenced our thinking ever since.
ON THE PSEUDO-OBVIOUS
— by Alice von Hildebrand
It is no rare occurrence in the history of philosophy that a thesis which is neither proven nor evident has nevertheless been accepted by many, without further examination, simply because of its persuasive ring. And this has taken place in spite of the fact that these assertions were false, sometimes evidently false, and even …continue reading
Mar. 7, 2013, at 11:48am
Two small incidents yesterday brought starkly home the society-wide moral inversion that seems to have happened in the blink of an eye, though, in truth, it's the outcome of a decades-long, aggressive propaganda campaign.
Our littlest was home from public school (for a teachers-in-service day, whatever that is), so Jules took him and a couple of friends bowling and then to lunch at Chik-fil-A. One of the friends, a sweet boy from a lovely, dedicated family, was especially excited to be going to Chik-fil-A for the first time in ages. His family never goes there anymore, he said, "because they're anti-gay." It's a matter of principle.
I have cousin born just nine days before me. We …continue reading
Mar. 4, 2013, at 10:34am
Editor's note: This post was moved, with Samewise's permission, from the Member Feed.
A few notes on the book entitled The Pope and I, by Jerzy Kluger:
Before WWII, in Wadowice, Poland, two men grew up in a Catholic/Jewish neighborhood. The most famous of these men is Karol Wojtyla, but the second is his lifelong Jewish friend, Jerzy Kluger. Together, they spent their elementary and highschool years in Wadowice, only to meet again after the War in Rome and in very different states of life.
A widower, Captain Wojtyla (Karol's father), led the Wojtyla family's life in Wadowice. A tailor by trade, Captain Wojtyla later served as a Polish (then Prussian) officer in WWI. …continue reading
Mar. 3, 2013, at 9:23am
A facebook friend pasted a John Allen interview with Cardinal George of Rome. I can't find it elsewhere online. Among lots of good things, I was especially taken by this part: [Italics are John Allen speaking; bold is my emphasis]
Primarily what Benedict wanted to do was to see to it that the teaching of the Second Vatican Council was recast in ways that would make it vital, but would also be faithful to the whole tradition, which he possessed so magnificently, and which he could synthesize around the concept of love. For instance, charity and love … it used to be said that there was some kind of distinction between the two, as if charity were somehow second best, lady bountiful helping …
Mar. 1, 2013, at 5:15pm
The Chief Rabbi of France, Gilles Bernheim, has some memorable reflections on marriage and its counterfeits in this month’s First Things. It's a mixture of strikingly expressed common sense and rare personalist insight.
In fact, I hope to whet your appetite sufficiently so you’ll read the whole thing (which is admittedly pretty lengthy). A few rabbis like this and a few more bishops like, say, Dolan,
and things might start looking very different in the West.
I’m going to give away the punch line right away. Here’s his summary of the harm inflicted by declaring same-sex unions to be marriage:
It would mean, he claims, “the irreversible scrambling of three things”:
Feb. 28, 2013, at 10:48am
I always find Holy Saturday an especially imposing day, spiritually. It's the thought of the empty Tabernacles all over the world. The absent Presence.
I'm feeling something similar as I contemplate the sede vacante. How different an empty chair is from other kinds of emptiness! A chair is meant to hold a person. And this is not just any chair, but a very paticular chair—a chair that represents a sacred office, and an unbroken line.
It's emptiness is awesome, in the truest sense of that word, which includes an element of "fear-inducing."
I'm glad it will be filled soon. I'm also grateful for the way its period of emptiness fills out our sense of its fullness of meaning.
Feb. 27, 2013, at 12:05am
We’ve all been exhorted to cultivate self-esteem and nurture a positive self-image. That sounds appealing. But we also know that God calls us to humility. And many well-intentioned Christians have it in the back of their minds that being humble means living their lives in a haze of discouragement, anxiety, and preoccupation with their own sinfulness.
After all, the only alternative our culture seems to offer is a vacuous “I’m OK, you’re OK” relativism: the false peace that this world gives. We …
Feb. 26, 2013, at 11:00am
The changes to the English translation of the Mass were designed to bring it closer to the Latin original. Hence, they draw attention to certain deficits in the former translation.
In his great classic Liturgy and Personality,* Dietrich von Hildebrand wrote of the perfect, divinely-designed adequacy of the Catholic Liturgy to the human personality, so that the more fully we enter into it, the more it shapes us rightly, as persons.
It follows—doesn't it?— that mis-translations pose a serious problem for our spiritual lives, and likewise that better translations serve to help us interiorize and appropriate without deficits the sacred truths at hand.
Having all that in mind, I love to …continue reading
Feb. 23, 2013, at 12:43am
Mama, if God knew Adam and Eve were gonna sin, how come he tested them?
"Jopa" (Johanna Paulina, named after Guess Who) is my seventh child, age seven, heading into the age of reason right on schedule. This was hardly the first time a kid had posed this question to me. I dusted off my usual talking points:
Feb. 22, 2013, at 11:34am
Shirt logos are so commonplace nowadays that I rarely think about them. But sometimes, when I go shopping with my boys for instance, they still bother me. Why is it that we all accept this form of advertising? Why do we allow ourselves to be used in this way? Why, in fact, do we often have to (or want to) pay extra for the ads?
It is not just boys or sports clothing either. Even dressier shirts usually have logos on them, small but instantly recognizable.
I know, I know. It is not a big deal. It may be a subtle form of objectifying ourselves, of allowing ourselves to be used as billboards, but I agree that it is too insignificant to make an issue out of.
But what are we to think about …continue reading
Feb. 20, 2013, at 7:51pm
February 21 is a great day for us at the Personalist Project. It is the birthday of John Henry Newman, of whom it has rightly been said that he “stands at the threshold of the new age as a Christian Socrates, the pioneer of a new philosophy of the Individual Person and of Personal Life.”
I can't think of a better way to celebrate than by listening to these lectures by John Crosby, on the Christian Personalism of Newman. (My thanks to Franciscan University for making them available on youtube. Members only: to listen offline you can download audio versions here.)
Lecture 1: The Personalist Spirit of Newman's Thought
Lecture 2: The Human Person as a World of his Own
Lecture 3: Newman …continue reading
Feb. 17, 2013, at 2:58pm
Further to the discussion with Fr. Landry and others below, about Christian discernment, let me offer the cases of two men I know. True stories.
The first was a student at FUS when I was there. Let's name him Sam. My friends and I used to call him "Sam the praying man," because he was always in the Eucharistic chapel. We thought for sure he would be a priest.
There was a lovely, pious young woman on campus, studying graduate theology. I'll call her Donna. One day, close to graduation, Donna went up to Sam and said, "This is going to sound really strange, but God told me in prayer that we're supposed to get married." Sam replied, "I have no doubt that you're right." And they got engaged …continue reading
Feb. 15, 2013, at 5:58pm
This is not the longer post—which is beginning to approach booklength— I'm working on about the relation between God's will and ours. But it's related.
I went to a cardio/dance class at the gym today. I've been to several now of this kind. Some I love and some I can't stand. The ones I love are the ones that play oldies and get us dancing simple, coreographed routines:
"Up four, back four, grapevine, now turn! Feel that beat! Cha-cha-cha now! And back, cha-cha-cha!"
They're like Zumba, but with friendlier music and less suggestive movements. I like learning the steps. I like the way getting the steps right makes me feel like I'm really dancing and forget I'm working out.
The …continue reading
Feb. 15, 2013, at 10:20am
As an Evangelical teenager, I once asked my Sunday school teacher:
So, if I’m saved no matter what I do, does that mean I can commit all the sins I want from now on?
There was a pause, and then she replied:
Well...if you were really saved, you wouldn’t want to.
But even she didn’t sound convinced.
This is one of many subjects addressed in this fascinating book by Fr. John R. Weiss and James G. McCarthy.
It's a great read for an Evangelical-to-Catholic convert like me, or for anybody with an interest in life-or-death spiritual questions. The format lets each co-author speak for himself. Neither was persuaded to convert by the time it was published, so it’s completely “objective.”
It …continue reading
Feb. 14, 2013, at 11:35am
This morning at Mass, our good priest gave an impassioned homily about the momentousness of what we as a Church are experiencing this Lent. It seemed to me he had been reading George Weigel on the subject.
He said that the Church is in a period of transition. Under the leadership of this Pope and his predecessor, we are moving away from being "a maintenance Church" to being "an evangelical Church."
Yes! I agree! I see it too!
But then he added a point that sent up a little red flag for me—not because it's wrong, but because it can be taken wrongly.
He said, in so many words, "We're not about maintaining buildings; we're about winning souls for Christ."
The words jumped out at …continue reading
Feb. 12, 2013, at 1:26pm
During my undergrad years at Franciscan University in the 80's, the problem of "overspiritualization"—the tendency of hyper-pious young people to live in an unnaturally religious way—was a theme. At times it seemed that every conversation had to refer to God. Every decision had to be prayed about.
It's a mostly harmless tendency, as tendencies go. But still. It's a case of immaturity at best. If we don't grow out of it, it can become a serious psychological and moral disorder.
The most characteristic feature of adulthood in comparison with childhood is personal responsibility. Adults are in charge of themselves—responsible for themselves, answerable for their judgments, acts and …continue reading
Feb. 11, 2013, at 1:13pm
Scott Hahn's Facebook post about the Pope's resignation is worth pondering in depth. I hope he won't mind that I'm pasting it in full here.
Back on April 29, 2009, Pope Benedict XVI did something rather striking, but which went largely unnoticed.
He stopped off in Aquila, Italy, and visited the tomb of an obscure medieval Pope named St. Celestine V (1215-1296). After a brief prayer, he left his pallium, the symbol of his own episcopal authority as Bishop of Rome, on top of Celestine's tomb!
Fifteen months later, on July 4, 2010, Benedict went out of his way again, this time to visit and pray in the cathedral of Sulmona, near Rome, before the relics of this same saint, Celestine V.