...conformism consists primarily in an attitude of compliance or resignation, in a specific form of passivity that makes the man-person to be but the subject of what happens instead of being the actor or agent responsible for building his own attitudes and his own commitment in the community. Man then fails to accept his share in constructing the community and allows himself to be carries with and by the anonymous majority.

Karol Wojtyla

The Acting Person

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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Devra Torres

Evangelii Gaudium: The Rest of the Story

May. 19 at 9:46pm

In the grip of blogger’s block this week, I've decided to let Pope Francis do most of the talking.  Here, then, are some eye-catching thoughts from Evangelii gaudium, which I've been reading lately

EG isn't trending anymore. (IFunny to think that an apostolic exhortation ever was!) Still, tt's worth revisiting. When it first came out, many were disproportionately preoccupied with the translation of however you say "trickle-down economics" in Italian,

and we missed some memorable thoughts on other subjects.  Here are a few phrases that caught my eye:

“Aggressive tenderness”

Christian triumph is always a cross, yet a cross which is at the same time a victorious banner borne with

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Devra Torres

Beyond “Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin”

May. 11 at 11:14pm

I want to continue the conversation inspired by the video The Third Way: Homosexuality and the Catholic Church.  (It's mostly been transpiring on Facebook, but feel free to leave comments here, too.)

Joseph Prever in The Third Way

When he heard my title for this post, my husband asked jokingly if I thought it was time to start hating the sinner and loving the sin.

Well, no.  That’s not how I mean “beyond”: dumping a traditional idea and embracing its opposite.  Nor do I mean getting “beyond” the categories themselves, the concepts of “sin” and “sinner.”  

Friedrich Nietzsche  People have been laboring to get “beyond” good and evil, truth and falsehood, and male and female for a long time now. It’s getting clearer and clearer how very

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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.

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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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
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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

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