Katie van Schaijik

Continuing the TOB discussion

Nov. 9, 2009, at 10:16am

The discussion of CW’s defense of his work having overwhelmed the comment box below, I hereby open a new box, hoping we’ll be able to pick up the thread of that conversation here.

Katie van Schaijik • Nov 9, 2009 - 10:21 am

On Nov. 7, Steve posted this comment:
Hi Katie,

Do you know which book/writing of Dr. DvH and/or Dr. AvH was this term “holy bashfulness” used?

In Dr. DvH’s book “The Devastated Vineyard”, on pages 28-29 (in reference to what he wrote previously in his book “In Defense of Purity”) he uses the term “noble shame.”  Is this the same concept as “holy bashfulness”?

It seems to me that you and Dr. AvH are trying to turn this term into one which sounds more “positive”.  That, IMO, is a consistent trend in the Church since Vatican II (which IMO isn’t by any means essential to successfully promoting the faith), aimed primarily to be more receptive to modern culture.

Perhaps another way to term this would be “holy modesty”?  But, then that term today is far too often deemed as “negative” also, which typifies the sad state of affairs in our modern era….”

Here is my answer.

I believe it must be in In Defense of Purity.  But I think he uses it elsewhere too.  And I think you are right, yes, that “noble shame” and “holy bashfulness” are both means of expressing the same moral truth.
But we are certainly not trying to “turn a term” into something positive in the sense you seem to mean (though perhaps I misunderstand you.) 
DvH was a profound and sensitive thinker intent on elucidating reality as he found it.  And he found in the general phenomenon of “shame” a KIND of shame that was entirely positive, for which he preferred that a different term be used.  He wanted a different term to be used not because he wanted people to “think positively” (!), but because he thought the difference between what he meant by “shame” and what he meant by “holy bashfulness” was too great for them to be signified under the same term without confusion.
“Holy modesty” is somewhat different from “holy bashfulness”, which refers to an inward experience or spontaneous response to value.

Katie van Schaijik • Nov 9, 2009 - 10:40 am

To pick up more of the discussion on the previous thread, here is another post by Steve (which I hope he won’t mind my pasting here:


“unless TOB is COMPLEMENTED by a deepening grasp of JP II’s wider personalism, it will tend to go astray.”

BINGO!  You’re main point here is EXACTLY what I am after.

CW himself has said before - “more, there’s always more!” - and that applies SO much to what he is teaching.

What he has spoken about with TOB seems to me to fall SO far short of promoting human personhood than what is truly needed today.

I’ve just been trying to reiterate that he needs to recognize that the world needs SO much more than merely a TOB - that it desperately needs a Theology of the Person.  Isn’t THAT the ultimate goal of The Personalist Project???

If you disagree with me in my assertion that at least part of what CW intends is to “pack the crowds”, then why did he revert to using a completely unnecessary & titillating depiction of his Hawaiian tour guide in his talk to TPP last year?

To use depictions like that, and to make a concerted effort to do so, while completely ignoring to mention at all the utter need for personal prayer, to me it shows the glaring shortfalls in his TOB approach….

When you say “He’s addressing them in the area of their greatest need.” - you are absolutely right.  However, as I said before, he is addressing merely the SYMPTOM of their diseased understanding of Personhood, and is not getting to the core of the problem.  He’s immediately addressing the sickness and wounds of the “patients” who have been infected by the perversions of our culture - TOB is a spiritual “triage” I guess I would say.

But, with CW’s particular way of presenting TOB, he’s not necessarily giving his audience quite enough spiritual “food” to set them on the right course to a truly healthy spiritual lifestyle.

I am asserting that only by promoting personal prayer, and by delving more MUCH more into the more profound aspects of human personhood, can the needed “food” for the spiritual journey be conveyed as effectively as possible.

Sometime later today, I’ll post further comments to Lauretta below….

Take care, and God bless,

Steve B
Plano, TX

Katie van Schaijik • Nov 9, 2009 - 10:55 am

“What he has spoken about with TOB seems to me to fall SO far short of promoting human personhood than what is truly needed today.”

Well, of course.  I’m sure CW would agree with this too.  TOB is not the whole Church, not the whole of Truth.

But here is how your resistance to what CW is doing strikes me.  Imagine a shipful of sailors perishing of scurvy.  A doctor’s assistant, having learned that citrus fruits cure scurvy in an almost miraculous way, is running around offering lemons and limes to as many of them as he can reach.

Would we stand over his shoulder complaining that people need MUCH MORE than citrus fruit for a complete and balanced diet? 

And if we did, who could fault him if asked us to go ahead and give them everything they need later, when their teeth aren’t falling out anymore, but meanwhile, kindly get out of his way?

Katie van Schaijik • Nov 9, 2009 - 11:10 am

Steve asks:
“I’ve just been trying to reiterate that he needs to recognize that the world needs SO much more than merely a TOB - that it desperately needs a Theology of the Person.  Isn’t THAT the ultimate goal of The Personalist Project???”

The Personalist Project is a philosophical, not a theological enterprise.  We don’t aspire to give the world everything it needs.  Only God can do that.  We just want to do our part to fill one of the gaps.

Steve B • Nov 9, 2009 - 1:40 pm


As with most analogies, they usually aren’t as effective or as comprehensive as we’d like.

But, I’ll work with your analogy as-is, and here’s what I would say….

While the doctor’s assistant is standing there watching the sailors munch down their fruit (how about if we go with oranges instead?), and while he has a captive audience right in front of him, why wouldn’t he want explain to them in at least a cursory manner the “bigger picture” of the need for good nutrition for the health of the human body?  Not a medical treatise - just merely pointing out how it is needed for living a long, enjoyable, and healthy life, so as to prompt the sailors to embrace a much deeper change in their lifestyles.

Perhaps I’m presuming too much to think that you agree with me wrt the pathetic state of affairs today in adult catechesis of the Catholic faithful?  Ultimately, I think that is what I have really been railing against for the past couple of days, rather than CW and the TOB teaching in particular….

If you do agree with me, then why is it SO unreasonable for me to insist that, when CW has a captive audience during his talks, and when the Church typically does SO LITTLE to catechize adults anymore, that he make just a LITTLE more effort to more clearly convey the greater grandeur of human personhood - which we all agree goes amazingly further than the dignity, beauty, and mystery of just the human body?

CW’s emphasis upon presenting titillating depictions - w/o a fundamental and merely introductory emphasis upon personal prayer - just dumbfounds me. 

Yes.  Christopher West is doing AMAZING and necessary work in his promotion of the TOB.  GOD BLESS HIM for his life commitment in serving the Church in that manner!!!

However, when I see what clearly appears to me to be GLARING deficiencies in CW’s approach to promoting the TOB, and when after what I’m sure in many respects was punishing scrutiny that he endured after his ABC/Nightline interview, in his latest web site “response” he still seems to be choosing in-large-measure to ignore his detractors’ “advice”.

“TOB is not the whole Church, not the whole of Truth.”

I never said that it was.  I never said that I thought CW was conveying that message either, although I do think his effort is much too emphatically focused upon the human body itself. 

All I have been saying is that CW needs to make more of a concerted effort to direct his listeners to the fundamental tenets of growing in their personal relationship with God via personal prayer, and to broaden the perspective of his message to deepen even further the impact upon his listeners of the Church’s teachings on the dignity of the human person.

Catholics in particular have been battling for pretty much the last 40 years to “figure out for ourselves” what our faith is really all about - with widespread disastrous results, as typified by the recent “scandals” at Notre Dame, Georgetown, etc. 

I just think it is about time that those in “official” teaching positions of the Church stop assuming so much about the spiritual state of the faithful (e.g. that people and families already have good habits of personal prayer), and that they try more diligently and at a very fundamental level to help the Holy Spirit to “turn on the light bulbs” of faith that so many Catholics lack today.

Is all of that really so unreasonable???

God help us all, and me in particular!!!

Take care, and God bless,

Steve B
Plano, TX

Steve B • Nov 9, 2009 - 1:53 pm

Hi Katie,

Certainly, TPP can (and I think you already are) promoting its philosophical principals based upon underlying Christian theological principals.

But if, in how you “officially” promote Personalism, there is little if no overlap between its philosophical and the theological dimensions, how effective can TPP ultimately be in working for the “salvation of souls”?

OK.  I’ll shut up now.  I’ve probably annoyed you and Lauretta more than I intended over the past several days.  My apologies, if I did….

Take care, God bless, and have a GREAT day,

Steve B
Plano, TX

Lauretta • Nov 9, 2009 - 5:22 pm

Ah, a break for us women in the house-building project!  I now have a few moments to correspond possibly a little more lucidly than my last several hastily drafted comments.

I need to apologize, Steve, if I sounded harsh in any way in my responses to you.  I sometimes tend to be too direct and sound harsh when I don’t mean to.  And, the last ten days or so I have not had time to sit back and critique my writing as I was trying to respond in very small open windows of time.  I thoroughly enjoy discussing these subjects and appreciate challenges to learn how to express my thoughts more coherently about the beautiful subject of TOB.

I was talking with a friend who had just been to CW’s latest workshop in PA a few weeks ago, and in our conversation she mentioned a painting of the Blessed Mother that CW had displayed.  It renewed my interest in this subject so I did a quick Google search.  This is one site: that came up that I found particularly interesting.  I haven’t taken the time to look into what the focus of this website is because I was so excited to find the information and wanted to share it.  It, I think, shows how much TOB was understood in past generations as shown by these depictions in art but we have lost this understanding somehow in the modern area.  I would enjoy it very much if all of you had the time to read through this material and let me know what you think as it pertains to our discussion.

Lauretta • Nov 9, 2009 - 5:52 pm

Another interesting article:

Vatican plea to uncover Virgin Mary and show her breast-feeding baby Jesus

By Simon Caldwell
Last updated at 11:09 PM on 23rd June 2008

It might be enough to make Banksy drop his aerosol in the gutter in surprise or cause Lucien Freud to spill paint down his smock in shock.

But the Vatican yesterday said it wanted to see more paintings of a semi-nude Virgin Mary.

What Catholic leaders have in mind is more images of Mary breast-feeding baby Jesus.

The official newspaper of the Holy See has declared it is time to undo four centuries of church disapproval of traditional representations of Mary as an earthy, fleshy mother doting on her newborn son.
Virgin and Child, by Joovs van Cleve

Images like Virgin and Child, by Joovs van Cleve, painted in 1525, have fallen out of favour in recent centuries

The latest edition of L’Osservatore Romano ran two articles by respected art critics who said that for nearly 1,500 years the Madonna was portrayed partly clothed and shamelessly nursing the Christ child.

One of them blamed Protestant prudes for changing the trends in religious art that then led to the Virgin being covered up and left critics wondering if the infant Jesus was bottle-fed instead.

Such currents were so strong that even the nudes in Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel were covered up in fear of giving offence, and today the best places to see pictures of Mary nursing Jesus are not churches but major art galleries housing collections of Renaissance paintings.

But the hugely influential newspaper - which is often seen as having the support of the Pope - has now called for the “artistic and spiritual rehabilitation” of “loving and tender” images of Mary breast-feeding.

The intervention could inspire a revival in sacred art that would spell the end of 400 years of dressing up the Virgin to make her look “respectable”.

One article, written by Italian Church historian Lucetta Scaraffia, claimed a vast iconography of traditional Christian art had been “censored by the modern age” because images depicting Mary’s naked breast for her child were deemed too “unseemly”.

It said that artists later depicted the nursing Mary fully clothed because the Protestant reformers were generally critical of “the carnality and unbecoming nature of many sacred images”.

But Miss Scaraffia argued that later depictions had also diminished the Madonna’ s human side “that touches the hearts and faith of the devout”.

Miss Scaraffia said that when the early Christian artists represented the Virgin breast-feeding they had sought to reveal the reality of God’s incarnation.

A second piece, written by Father Enrico dal Covolo, a professor of classic and Christian literature in Rome, said: “The Virgin Mary who nurses her son Jesus is one of the most eloquent signs that the word of God truly and undoubtedly became flesh.”

Images of a semi-nude Mary breastfeeding can be traced back to early Christian times and were popular during the Renaissance period of the Middle Ages.

But they came to an abrupt end around the 16th or 17th century with the emergence of Calvinism and other dour Protestant faiths that viewed representations of ‘sexuality’ as essentially sinful.

Such ideas were resisted by Rome but they were accepted by Catholics particularly in France, Ireland and northern Europe.

The result is that very few, if any, Catholic churches or newspapers will dare to show such imagery even today.

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