Charity towards egoistsTo accuse of egoism certain people who seem to think only of themselves is to be lacking in charity. Perhaps they are merely faithful to a duty towards themselves which is for them the first form of their duty towards their neighbor. Perhaps they have an imperious need to seek and express themselves. Perhaps they forget themselves better like this, escape better from their egotistic selves, than in active tasks, seemingly more disinterested. Perhaps the have a mission to bring to light some dark element, which, in the depths of themselves, demands to be born, and which is to become the good of everyone. Without a number of these seeming egoists, how poverty-stricken humanity would be!
Henri de Lubac
Paradoxes of Faith
Dec. 20, 2012, at 2:26pm
A Ricochet member linked today a thought-provoking essay in the UK Guardian on the medicalization of evil. It's written by a medical historian observing the public commentary on the massacre of innocents in Connecticut last week.
Anyone who has been watching the news over the past few days will have heard the gunman, Adam Lanza, described as "sick," "disturbed" and "defective". The perpetrator may indeed have suffered from mental conditions that led to his homicidal attack, but even before anything was known about Lanza (including his name), many people in the media assumed a crime of this magnitude could only be committed by a mentally unstable individual. Very little discussion – if …
Dec. 19, 2012, at 2:36pm
For many months now, I have been steeping my psyche in the wisdom of Whittaker Chambers, as I fall asleep nightly listening to the audio version of Witness.
When awake, I mostly read other things, including, at the moment, Norman Podhoretz' highly engaging, Ex Friends. I would write a daily post about it, too, if time permitted.
What most compels my attention and admiration about Chambers' thought is his deep conviction that the battle of our time is not, finally, between two political philosophies, but between two faiths: a faith in God, who made us in his image, and the faith that opposes this faith, i.e., the denial of God and God's image in man.
(It's worth saying here …continue reading
Dec. 17, 2012, at 2:07pm
The introductory note to the Psalm for today in Magnificat is arresting.
The coastlands see, and fear, the ends of the earth tremble: these things are near, they come to pass. (Is 41:5)
The time grows short, the messenger's cry urgent: the Lord is very near! Those who hope to delay his coming until "later, when I have time to get ready" find this late Advent cry diconcerting. Those who look for him not only in hte past but in the present and the future rejoice at the news: God's promises are kept within the boundaries of time.
It's a phrase I think I've not heard before. "God's promises are kept within the bounds of time." There will come a day when this order of things passes away …continue reading
Dec. 16, 2012, at 10:12pm
Sometimes a piece of writing seems all set to go. You’ve wrestled it into shape: you’re not altogether satisfied, but it’s probably good enough, and anyway, the deadline is here.
But you keep sensing the very inconvenient need to file it away, start again from scratch, and address something else altogether.
That happened when our friend, Peter, died—I realized how pointless it was to try to write anything but a tribute to him. Something similar happened today.
Here it is, Gaudete Sunday. That means we’re commanded to rejoice. Not just encouraged, but commanded (gaudete: plural imperative).
That seems surprising, because sometimes the Good News is presented in a deformed state, and …continue reading
Dec. 12, 2012, at 9:11pm
I basically learned the faith from Sr. David Mary, a member of the Sisters of Loretto. I had her as my teacher in elementary school for nearly three years—I had to move away in the middle of my third year—and she drilled us in the Baltimore Catechism #2. She also taught us our prayers and we went through them daily at school. We opened the schoolday as a class with the Morning Offering, paused for a decade of the rosary at mid-morning (covering the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be, but also including the Hail Holy Queen), said grace before and after meals at lunch, said the Confiteor aloud together before we began the afternoon classes, and ended the day with the Act of Contrition.…continue reading
Dec. 11, 2012, at 4:51pm
Pop music in general often deals with superficial things, e.g., Jan and Dean’s hit song “Honolulu Lulu” about the courage of a curvy surfer girl to go out and face the big waves. (In its defense, it does have the one great line revealing the level of religious awareness in the surfing culture: “When the beach is quiet and you know you’re out of luck, we pray for surf while makin’ out in the truck.”)
Other songs, on a bit higher level, deal with intense emotions, though these powerful feelings are not always particularly well-ordered or understood. In Neil Diamond’s repertoire, such songs would include “Cracklin’ Rosie,” “Cherry, Cherry,” “Kentucky Woman,” “Thank the Lord for the Night …continue reading
Dec. 10, 2012, at 10:20pm
Today it was warm outside. April warm. But it was also overcast and drizzly, so that even at midday, we had to have lamps on all over the house. Ten more days of lengthening darkness.
It is so, so good to be able to light the Advent candles and read the hope-imparting, heart-exalting readings assigned to these weeks of the Liturgical year!
Otherwise, I fear I'd succumb to gloom.
What inscrutable mixtures of body, psyche and spirit we persons are! And how kind and merciful of God to answer all our wants as He constantly does!
Dec. 7, 2012, at 5:13pm
This morning I came across this story about an announcement by Bishop Cordileone of Oakland.
The bishops are calling on Catholics to do five specific things to advance this campaign for liberty, life and marriage. These include saying the rosary daily, attending a special Holy Hour on the last Sunday of each month, participating in a Fortnight of Freedom in the summer of 2013, including in every Mass prayers of the faithful for the causes of life, marriage and liberty, and fasting and abstaining from meat on Fridays.
I had the following reactions:
First: Wonderful! That’s what we need: bishops who will stand up for the truth!
Second: Oh…wait a minute…today’s Friday. That would mean…continue reading
Dec. 6, 2012, at 11:09pm
Earlier this month my wife Maria pointed out to me a very beautiful paragraph on forgiveness by Romano Guardini included in one of the daily readings (Meditation for Nov. 12) in the November issue of Magnificat. Remembering that I had the book (The Lord) in the basement, I searched it out to read further—from Chapter XIII.
After reviewing the relevant line of the text of the Our Father and some commentary on it in Matt. 6:14-15 (But if you do not forgive men, neither will your father forgive you your offenses), Matt. 18: 21-2 (Forgive 70 times 7 times) and Matt 18: 35 (the story of the king settling accounts with the heartless servant who was forgiven but would not forgive a lesser …continue reading
Dec. 4, 2012, at 10:26am
A friend linked a beautiful John Paul II quotation:
For a stalk to grow or a flower to open there must be time that cannot be forced; nine months must go by for the birth of a human child; to write a book or compose music often years must be dedicated to patient research ...To find the mystery there must be patience, interior purification, silence, waiting....
It reminds me of one of the pearls of wisdom Alice von Hildebrand gave me about courtship. "If you break open a bud in your impatience to see the flower, you ruin it." Love takes time to grow between persons. Don't force it.
It's striking how simple and true this is, and yet, how difficult to realize in our lives! Our culture …continue reading
Dec. 2, 2012, at 2:07pm
Ideally, Christians are always ready to give an answer for their hope and faith to anyone who asks. In practice, however, we usually don't have a convincing answer until someone asks for it. That's when we first begin to reflect on our own views.
This explains the situation many of us find ourselves in today, concerning our views on marriage. We firmly believe that it is a life-long commitment between a man and a woman. But when challenged, we can't think of any persuasive arguments, and our view appears to be no more than a blind, unjust prejudice.
For those, who, like me, want to better understand their own views on this all-important subject, and be able to give a reason for it, I …continue reading
Dec. 1, 2012, at 10:02pm
As I’ve mentioned, I used to have a peculiar understanding of spontaneity.
It was a Good Thing. Period.
I did allow that even someone as charmingly whimsical as myself needed to be predictable and systematic sometimes. Teeth had to be brushed. Sunday Mass couldn’t be neglected. I didn’t want to end up toothless or damned,
so I was willing to attend to a few select things on schedule whether the mood struck me or no.
But if I was sloppy and incompetent about the other 99% of life, well, that was a lot more appealing than becoming one of those intimidating people who march through life in a haze of grim perfectionism. (I thought of an acquaintance who was raising a well-mannered …continue reading
Dec. 1, 2012, at 4:49pm
Over my nearly 62 years on this earth, I’ve been able to read through the Bible several times, and the New Testament a couple of times more. Alleluia! What a gift! One of the things which has always struck me is the overwhelming, superabundant joy that flows through those who knew and walked with Christ—the Apostles and Evangelists, Peter, Paul, James, John, etc. I have been especially impressed with the joy and longing at the end of the entire revelation, in the Apocalypse (despite all the frightful dimensions of the book), as well as the superabounding joy that seems to break forth at the very beginning of the epistles of Paul, Peter, James, and John.
It occurred to me that this joy …continue reading
Nov. 30, 2012, at 1:07pm
"This is really neat!" wrote Michael Wallacavage, as he sent around a link to this fascinating clip of Eric Whitacre's virtual choirs. Watch it, and I think you'll agree.
The singing starts at 6:27 and then again at 12:12 on the timeline. But don't skip what comes before! Whitacre's introduction is very interesting and engaging. He not only talks about the project itself, how it came about and so on, but also explains how he got interested in classical music. As a youth, his dream was to be a pop star. (He wanted to be the fifth member of Depeche Mode. Remember them?). But when he got to college he joined a choir instead. Not for love of music, mind you, but because it included a free trip …continue reading
Nov. 28, 2012, at 11:47pm
In Love and Responsibility, John Paul II makes some interesting distinctions about human needs and the different levels on which they operate. He especially makes a point to distinguish between mere desire (based in need alone, i.e. in me) and love as desire (based in a value-responding affirmation of the other, in light of which I recognize my desire or need as centered in this specific person because of their irreplaceable beauty and value). He says the following in his section on “Love as Desire” under his treatment of “Metaphysical Analysis of Love:”
On the natural level, man and woman need one another to complete their own being. The sexual urge or sexual desire is an indication …
Nov. 26, 2012, at 12:49pm
Hospice voluteers in our area have inaugurated a book club, as a way of sharing our experiences and interests and getting to know each other better. The first book we're reading together is The End of Your Life Book Club. It's written by Will Schwalbe, who chronicles his mother's dying of pancreatic cancer. Both great readers, one of the ways they cope with the tedium of her chemo treatments is by reading and discussing books together. Mary Anne Schwalbe comes across as an extraordinary woman, who lived a life of dedication to good causes, especially the cause of refugees. She was a believing Christian and a life-long activist, convinced that the way not to be overwhelmed by the problems …continue reading
Nov. 24, 2012, at 10:41pm
In a sobering article over at Crisis, Fr. Rutler reminds us of Alexander Solzhenitzyn's prophetic address to the Harvard class of 1978:
...we have lost the concept of a Supreme Complete Entity which used to restrain our passions and our irresponsibility. We have placed too much hope in political and social reforms, only to find out that we were being deprived of our most precious possession: our spiritual life.
How can we expect to retain our right to religious liberty if we've rejected the notion of being "under God"?
Nov. 24, 2012, at 3:22pm
(Yes, it's Saturday. I lose track of time when long-lost adult children come to visit. But I wanted to get in on Jen Fulweiler's weekly blogger tradition. You can, too, if you like: see Jen's instructions at the very end of this post.)
* * * * *
As my philosophy professor, the late lamented Dr. William Marra, used to say,
“Money is happiness in the abstract.”
He was right: if we dedicate Black Friday to commerce,
it’s not so much because we want this particular HDTV or that particular vegan leather handbag: it’s because money seems to bestow the power to be happy in whatever way we might turn out to desire. It …continue reading
Nov. 18, 2012, at 5:38pm
“We are here to serve others,” the apocryphal mother explains.
“Well, then,” responds the little apocryphal boy, “What are the others here for?”
* * * *
No wonder he’s confused. Which are we supposed to be, self-centered or other-centered?
Well, you might say--both.
When you read the Bible, you keep running into principles like
“With what measure you measure, it will be measured to you”
and, of course,
There’s a common thread here: they keep on drawing you not simply towards others, but back and forth from your own desires, obligations and actions to everybody else’s. They keep reminding you to acknowledge the personhood, the interiority, the subjectivity, of both the …continue reading
Nov. 15, 2012, at 11:15am
Over at Public Discourse, Michael Hannon has a clarifying article on the debate over "same sex marriage". (Hat tip facebook friend Patrick Langrell.)
Hannon shows convincingly that the common case for SSM rests on some basic confusions—or obfuscations (my word, not his)—about the nature of marriage.
Olson and Boies [the super-lawyers making an apparently sincere case in favor of the legalization of SSM]—and the movement in general—claim that preserving marriage as a union of man and woman is unjust discrimination. For no good reason, they assert, the “right to marry” is being denied to same-sex couples, who are just as capable of loving and committing to each other as opposite-sex …