A Christian Socrates[John Henry Newman] stands at the threshold of the new age as a Christian Socrates, the pioneer of a new philosophy of the individual person and personal life.
The Philosophical Notebook of John Henry Newman
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 …
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.
In the service of truth (not of scholarship, a university, or a thesis), Montgomery takes his readers “considerably beyond the usual limits of literary …
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 …continue reading
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 (http://www.crisismagazine.com/2014/chiara-corbella-a-witness-to-joy). Like St Gianna Berretta Molla she decided not to undergo any treatment that might harm …continue reading
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 …continue reading
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 …continue reading
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 …
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 …
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. …continue reading
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 …
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 …
Mar. 10 at 9:10pm
I have a confession to make. I'm a Star Trek fan.
Not the movie versions. I tried to watch one of them once, but it was too much like being imprisoned in an unpleasantly frenzied video game.
Not even The Next Generation, or whatever the remake is called.
I mean the old, old, OLD Star Trek, the version that was already a rerun during my annual childhood visit to my grandparents’ house. (Every year my sister Abby and I spent one week at Nana and Lenny's house, busily making up for the other 51, which were TV-less. This involved a lot of Star Trek.) Now my husband and I watch DVDs of the reruns with my own kids.
So there we were, last night, all cozy in the basement, watching Captain …continue reading
Mar. 10 at 4:32am
When I was a teenager, Ann Kiemel was one of my heroes. I read all her books. I wanted to be like her. I wanted to "change the world for Jesus." It was especially her simplicity of faith and personal warmth that drew me in. I was used to a cold, prohibitive religious and moral environment—one where being Catholic was mainly about knowing the teachings and following rules rather than love and mercy. Evangelicals—Ann Kiemel first among them—showed me something different. Christianity is first and foremost a personal relationship of love with Jesus.
Later, I found her work too superficial to satisfy. It didn't feel fully real. It sounded forced and fake. It sounded like it was more about Ann …continue reading
Feb. 27 at 10:21pm
Last Tuesday, I brought my eight-year-old in for a checkup, sensing that something wasn’t right.
My mother’s intuition only took me so far, though: I assumed that, whatever it was, a week of amoxicillin would probably take care of it.
But it turned out to be juvenile diabetes.
Her prognosis looks very good, but treatment is time-consuming, especially for us beginners! So it’s a fine day for 7 Quick Takes. (Thanks to Jen at Conversion Diary for hosting.) Here are seven things that have been on my mind:
A heartening bit of personalism has found its way into the Pink Panther book, a highly acclaimed guide routinely given to parents of kids with this diagnosis.
" Think …
Feb. 20 at 5:03am
I'm reading a book about a young woman's escape from the Jehovah's Witnesses when she was 18. Her mother had been a fanatical devotee for ten years, blighting her youth with excessive control. It's not a very good book; I don't recommend it. But it has its insights. I'm thinking about this one today:
My parents had failed to follow through on the most important obligation they had as parents. They had failed to create autonomy in me by letting me experience life— good and bad— providing guidance and emotional support when I needed it.
I think there's a lot to this, though, speaking as a parent (soon to be grandparent!), living in a society aggressively hostile to the values I most …continue reading
Feb. 17 at 1:35pm
I’m not speaking here of a boxing-match or of bullies who like beating up others. What I’m referring to is the widespread human temptation to put others into “boxes”. What makes this so terrible, and yet so tremendously tempting?
It can seem an innocent enough pastime. What I tell my spouse or mother, or what I talk about in the inner recesses of the family, won’t hurt anybody, right? I can trust my mother or spouse sufficiently that he or she won’t be going round, spreading the bad news about Aunt Emma’s character faults. Perhaps I can trust them, and neither of us will share this with other members of the family or let alone, God forbid, with Aunt Emma herself (nothing worse than having …continue reading
Feb. 17 at 10:46am
A friend of mine shared a link to my post "Love is unconditional; relationships have terms" on Facebook, adding a question: "Should we put conditions on relationships?" This gives me an opportunity to expand and clarify my thoughts. (Thanks, friend!)
The kind of terms I had in mind aren't the kind we "put"; they're the kind we receive. They come with the relationship.
Some relationships involve arbitrary (in the sense of at-will) terms. If I hire someone to clean my house, I might stipulate that she has to come on time and she can't smoke. Those are my conditions for hiring. She might have conditions of her own: She wants $20 per hour and she will only work with non-toxic cleaning …continue reading
Feb. 16 at 5:51pm
“Apologetics is a hobby of mine.”
As soon as I'd said it, something didn’t sound right.
My friend was looking into becoming Catholic, and I was offering to answer any questions she might have. I’m a convert and a bookworm, and over the years, I’ve studied a lot of theology. Just the hours I’ve logged listening to Catholic Answers radio while chopping onions for supper are probably the equivalent of a degree or two. Add 25 years of retreats, study courses, days of recollection, reading and writing…
But, a hobby?continue reading
Feb. 12 at 2:29am
Following the death-by-overdoes of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman last week, a Ricochet contributor raised the question of the use of psychedelic drugs in treating heroin addiction. She thought it scandalous that more isn't being done to research and employ the method, when studies show it to have been effective in some cases.
I commented that I have doubts about the approach. Among other misgivings, I worry that it can become a way of avoiding the prime thing at issue in addiction, which is moral and spiritual, not biochemical. (Our society and culture are so vested in denying or downplaying the spiritual and moral dimensions of human life.) I have similar worries about using ritalin to …continue reading
Feb. 10 at 10:35pm
When I was seven, my parents, my little sister, and I joined a cult which later made headlines for all kinds of bizzare and criminal conduct.
We only lasted two days. There were red flags, but my parents, brand-new Christians, mistook some of them for radical, early-Church-style discipleship. (Also, the classic signs of cults were not so well publicized then as they are now.)
Still, there was one thing they couldn’t swallow: the part about sending my little sister and me away to be “educated” in another city. So after two days, we were done.
You can read the whole story of our family’s conversion in my mother’s hilarious chapter of this book.
Getting ahold of the children as early as …continue reading