Marks of personhoodeach person is unrepeatably and incommunicably himself or herself…each is not only an objective but also a subjective being…each lives out of his or her interiority…each is a being of surpassing, indeed infinite worth and dignity…eachcan live and thrive only by existing with and for other persons.
John F. Crosby
Jan. 24 at 4:03pm
The other day on NPR I heard a really unusual story. I’ve grown used to expecting a heavily ideological message from them, but I was happily surprised this time. There wasn’t really a positive ideological message, either; the characters—an Iranian couple and their two American-born daughters—were just allowed to tell their stories.
The couple’s arranged marriage began promisingly enough. The two liked each other and were excited to begin their adult lives together. But the transition from girl who had never so much as held hands with a boy to wife was difficult. So was her husband’s explosive temper.
They moved to America, where, eventually she became so disgusted with her husband’s …continue reading
Jan. 23 at 11:40am
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Jan. 20 at 9:37am
Social sites this weekend were alive with links to a comment the Pope made in a recent interview.
“Some think, excuse me if I use the word, that in order to be good Catholics, we have to be like rabbits – but no,” he said, adding the Church promoted “responsible parenthood”.
Some took offense, but I don't see why they should. The thing about rabbits is not so much that they have a lot of offspring, as that they're animals, not persons. They reproduce instinctively, without the freedom and responsibility that should characterize human sexuality.
As I read him, the Pope was making mild fun of two things:
Jan. 19 at 9:13pm
To add my tribute to Katie's below, and because a Facebook friend reminded me of it, I just reread Martin Luther King’s great Letter from a Birmingham Jail. Unlike his Pilgrimage to Nonviolence, this is not an essay in which MLK sets forth his ideas. It is rather a direct and personal response to criticisms made by his “Fellow Clergymen.” It gives us a glimpse into the peculiar sufferings he endured at the hands of sincere, well meaning people that were, or should have been, on his side but who kept on urging more patience, caution, and delay in the fight for civil rights. In some ways, such people were a worse trial for him than the most outright enemies of his cause and person.
I must …
Jan. 19 at 10:36am
At least not pacifism as it is generally understood as opposition to violence of any kind, including self-defense, no matter what.
The theory of nonviolent resistance developed, preached and lived by Martin Luther King, Jr., is much greater and deeper than that.
Pacifism offers no answer to the problem of aggression; nonviolent resistance does. It is a practical program for the elimination of social evil. Pacifism stands down; nonviolent resistance stands up.
Pacifiism rejects all violence, without regard to the question of justice. Nonviolent resistance is a method for overcoming injustice for the sake of establishing a just order.
Here are some good links for more:
Vaclav Havel's The Power of the Powerless
Jan. 16 at 11:31pm
Abby Johnson, abortion clinic director turned prolife activist, has this to say about her former line of work:
There are a few pretty common questions that you get when you leave the abortion industry.
How did you not see that it was a baby? How did you not realize that you were killing babies? How did you see these babies in the POC lab and not leave? (The POC lab is where the fetal body parts are put back together after an abortion). How did you have a baby and not see the problem in what you were doing?
I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. Guys, I don’t know. It doesn’t make sense. I don’t understand it. I know I’m a smart person, …
Jan. 15 at 10:11am
Lately at weekly adoration I've been re-reading I Believe in Love: a personal retreat based on the teaching of St. Therese of Lisieux, by Fr. Jean d'Elbee. It's a great book. I endorse it whole-heartedly.
Yesterday, though, a section in the chapter on desire, humility and peace struck me as missing something. Fr. d'Elbée says, "Since the fall, we are all proud men."
Having become acutely conscious of the "slave side" of the master/slave dynamic of the fall, I balked a bit. Not everyone's prime temptation is to pride. Some of us—and women in a particular way—are rather more tempted to be slavish—to tolerate or even solicit domination, because it's easier than being responsible for …continue reading
Jan. 12 at 7:41pm
The issue of whether and when it is okay or even necessary to break of relationships has been raised here before—most often in the context of unrepented and therefore ongoing wrongdoing, where the victim decides that the only way to protect himself from further injury is to stop interacting with the offender. (Click here for Katie's latest post on the topic.)
But concrete wrong isn't the only cause of friendship dissolution. I've just finished reading a chapter on "The Parting of Ways" in von Hildebrand's just-published memoir, My Battle Against Hitler, which brings out a very different case. The breach in friendship is here not caused by one friend commiting a wrong against the other, but …continue reading
Jan. 12 at 11:49am
A friend, exasperated with the ambiguity of some of the Pope's public statements and with my saying that Catholics have a duty to interpret him according to a "hermeneutic of continuity," asks:
Why does everything require an "interpretation" from the faithful these days? Vatican II, 50 years later, still being argued over and "interpreted." The Theology of the Body - a vast arena for interpretation there too. The Pope and Bishops are to be teaching and confirming the faithful in the Faith.
I'm not sure whether he meant the question sincerely or was just blowing off steam, but I want to answer it sincerely regardless, because the answer is so interesting from a personalist point of …continue reading
Jan. 9 at 2:41pm
I am like the son in the gospel who told his father he would work in the vineyard but then didn't do it.
When I say I'll do something, I'm never consciously lying. I sincerely mean to do it. Then I don't. Sometimes I don't because I can't for one reason or another. But more often, I just don't. I do other, less challenging things instead.
Anyway. When I set out to offer a reflection a day for the 12 days of Christmas, I thought I was giving myself an entirely doable task. It was doable. Yet I didn't do it, most days.
I had plenty of themes to elaborate. Christmas is so rich with personalist themes. Besides the ones I developed below, I had lots to say about
1) Poetry, music and imagery. …continue reading
Jan. 6 at 5:05pm
Every Sunday at the Community Bible Chapel, my sister and I used to sing the hymns in Pig Latin. We’d also sneak under the pew in front of us and stealthily crawl forward, sometimes almost all the way up to the altar, under the legs of the congregation. (Badly behaved Protestant kids have this advantage over badly behaved Catholic ones: no kneelers to get in their way.)
In short, we were blatantly irreverent.
We were six and four at the time, so there was some excuse. But whether our behavior was reverent or not was no mystery.
With grownups, things get murkier. When we try to pinpoint what reverence and irreverence look like in different …continue reading
Jan. 6 at 3:31pm
Here are some of the themes I had meant to develop more completely over the course of Christmas, before time got away from me. Last ones later, or tomorrow.
For the 7th day: Fear
Fear is an inescapable element of human life, particularly the ethical life. Our will-to-good is constricted by fear. Our vocation to love is menaced by anxiety. We are afraid of the unknown, of our weaknesses, of sickness, poverty, violence, pain and death; of loneliness, failure and abandonment. We are afraid of being out of control, afraid of the past and the future, of danger natural and supernatural.
It has to do with the contingency and precariousness of our lives. No philosophy or religion can be adequate …continue reading
Dec. 30, 2014, at 7:24pm
Advent and Christmas liturgies and customs are replete with royal imagery. "Let him enter, the King of Glory." The one who is coming is the "King of Kings" whose reign will last forever. The gifts of the Magi are the homage proper to a king.
Not only is there something human about the longing for a just Ruler, but personhood, as such, indicates royalty. We are "a chosen race, a royal priesthood". This is a claim not just about the Jews, but about every person, created in the Image and Likeness of God.
We are made to have dominion.
"Human beings were not created for slavery, but to be the lords of creation."
Dec. 30, 2014, at 12:30pm
We might think that God wanted simply obedience to a set of rules, whereas He really wants people of a particular sort.
C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
It's New Year's resolution time. Time to identify that one structural adjustment of habits that will Change Everything. But where to begin?
What needs changing? Not many people are confused about which areas need improvement. These tend to be painfully obvious. The most popular resolutions revolve around achieving control over weight, health, money, relationships, and stuff. Around the bottom of the Top Ten list, you find things like "Help others" and "Live life to the fullest."
How exact should the resolution be? This is fairly obvious, …continue reading
Dec. 30, 2014, at 9:59am
The Christmas story speaks to every human heart—as human and as person. We recongize that all of us need a Savior; all are called to give and receive and respond to grace. We have a universal vocation to holiness. But we also have a particular vocation—a call addressed to each of us as a unique individual.
The history of the Jews includes the story of countless righteous men. But only Simeon had been intimately assured by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before meeting the Messiah. From among all the shepherds in the world, a particular few were chosen to witness the miracle of the heavenly host.
It's strange and wonderful to think how little we understand of our own vocation—our own …continue reading
Dec. 28, 2014, at 10:21am
The first Sunday after Christmas the Church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Family.
The family, as Pope Emeritus Benedict put it is "the natural cradle" of human life. Our identiy as persons unfolds in and through our relation to others. While each of us is a unique, self-determining individual, created for her own sake, none of us is complete-in-herself. New persons are generated in a self-giivng, other receiving, union-and-communion-of-persons. We live out our lives in and among others. We fulfill ourselves by "a sincere gift of self" to others.
In the story and image of the Holy Family, we grasp the centrality of the family in the conception and fulfillment of personal existence.
1. …continue reading
Dec. 27, 2014, at 9:53am
The perfection of personal existence is not found in abstractions, but in concreteness. Our value and dignity don't come from our being instantiations of a type (e.g. "human nature" or "rational animal"), but from our being unique, incommunicable individuals.
The Christmas story is not a charming tale woven to convey timeless ideals. It is an account of real events, involving particular personalities in a given time and place.
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.2 (This was the first census that took place while[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register.
4 So Joseph also went up …
Dec. 26, 2014, at 4:31pm
One of the most basic and most difficult-to-conceive realities of human life is that we are embodied persons. We are spiritual beings who live our lives in the flesh.
We don't just have bodies, but, as Wojtyla said, "in a certain sense, we are our bodies." He doesn't mean we are reducible to our bodies. He wouldn't deny that at death we are separated from our bodies. Rather, he means to draw our attention to the ineffable depth and pervasiveness of the union between body and soul that is the human person, so that what touches my body, touches me. What my body does is something I do.
John Paul II's Theology of the Body is essentially an extended reflection on this great mystery. Karol …continue reading
Dec. 25, 2014, at 2:22pm
On the first day of Christmas I offer the major theme of the season of Advent: Expectation.
Personal life is lived in the spiritual space between the Now and the Not Yet. We are constantly challenged both to "be in the moment" and to look forward to a coming fulfillment.
The partiality of personal existence can be painful at times. The past is gone; the present is fleeting; the future is uncertain. Even when we are surrounded by people we love, others are always missing. Some are far away; some have died; some are estranged. We're conscious of imperfections, short-comings, needs and problems that we can't resolve on our own. We know we've sinned, and our guilt weighs on our consciences, …continue reading
Dec. 22, 2014, at 10:04am
The “winter holiday that dare not speak its name” is upon us. Quick, what are we allowed to say about it?
“Merry Christmas”? No, too exclusive; too religious. “Happy Hanukkah”? “Happy Kwanzaa”? These haven’t caught on as generic greetings, though they’re correct enough. “Happy Holidays”? Yes, that’s fine (though it’s not clear why, since it’s transparently derived from “holy days,” which ought to arouse almost as much suspicion as "Christ" + "Mass").
Last year I wrote about not getting so distracted fighting the War against the War against Christmas that you forget all about rejoicing in the birthday Boy. This year there’s a meme going around that serves …continue reading