John Paul on the patient as person[While John Paul II was in the hopital recovering from the attempt on his life, he explained to his doctors] how the patient, in danger of losing his subjectivity, had to fight constantly to regain it and once more become "the subject of his illness" instead of simply remaining "the object of treatment." He pointed out that the doctors are certainly not responsible for this state of affairs... but that they ought to be aware of the danger and of the efforts which the patient is obliged to make to regain control of himself. This problem of the transformation of the individual into a thing occurs everywhere in the realm of social relations. According to John Paul II it is one of the biggest problems of philosophy – and one of the most serious problems in the modern world.
Be Not Afraid
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?continue reading
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 …continue reading
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 …continue reading
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, …continue reading
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 …continue reading
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 …continue reading
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 …continue reading
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. …continue reading
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 …continue reading
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 …
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” …continue reading
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 …continue reading
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 …continue reading
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:
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 …continue reading
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 …continue reading
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 …continue reading
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:
Christian triumph is always a cross, yet a cross which is at the same time a victorious banner borne with …
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.)
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.”
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 …continue reading
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. …continue reading