On the serious lifeA serious life means being fully aware of the alternatives, thinking about them with all the intensity one brings to bear on life-and-death questions, in full recognition that every choice is a great risk with necessary consequences that are hard to bear.
Closing of the American Mind
Jun. 6, 2013, at 11:40am
Now available from Scepter--a wonderful collection of Pope Francis' homilies, letters, and addresses from before he was Pope Francis. This is the one I was helping to edit and wrote about here and spoke about here. You can get it on Kindle, too.
Jun. 4, 2013, at 8:43am
Some months back, at the height of Presidential election season, I wrote a post castigating Mark Shea for sneering and caricaturing his opponents in debate. I find his habitual tone so off-putting that I practically never read his articles, even though they're often linked by mutual friends at facebook. I read a few lines of his critique of Lila Rose and then clicked away in annoyance. Impossible to engage someone simultaneously that obtuse and that self-satisfied.
Today, I have a very different impression of the man—one that endears him to me and makes me grateful that such as he lives and breaths in the Catholic blogosphere.continue reading
Jun. 1, 2013, at 6:53am
A facebook friend linked this engrossing hour-long interview with Hannah Arendt.
The whole thing is worth watching, but several moments in particular gave me a sense of spiritual and intellectual kinship with her.
1) Her response to the question about whether she sought influence when she pursued philosophical studies. This she said was "a masculine question." She was never interested in influence. It wasn't about making a career or cutting a figure in the academic world. She studied philosophy because she had an urgent interior need to understand things.
2) She wrote in order to articulate her ideas to herself. For her, thinking and writing were part of the same process of coming to …continue reading
Jun. 1, 2013, at 2:40am
Does Pope Francis make you nervous? Here are seven worries some people suffer from and why you shouldn't let them bother you:
He keeps using expressions like “culture of the encounter,” which make some people skeptical. Does it sound like the naïve chatter of someone who thinks all ideologies are morally equivalent? Isn’t the Holy Father mistaking this historical moment for a (possibly imaginary) earlier one when a guy could still find an honest liberal and hammer out some common ground with him?
Well, here’s some counter-evidence, straight from the mouth of Cardinal Bergoglio:
I am convinced that it is not our job to separate …
May. 26, 2013, at 2:22pm
A not-to-be-missed article by Mark Regnerus over at Public Discourse highlights how rapidly we are approaching the dystopian society envisioned by Alduous Huxley in A Brave New World.
Sex would be seen as something distasteful—messy, primitive, unwholesome. Better by far for children to be manufactured in clinics.
Yes, we are increasingly uncomfortable with where babies come from, no doubt about it.
The first effect of the widespread acceptance of contraception is that sex could be enjoyed without worrying about the natural consequence of pregnancy. Now we have reached the point where the creation of children is detached not just from marriage, but from sex.
May. 26, 2013, at 9:37am
I’m reading a new book by Fr. Michel Esparza (author of Self-Esteem without Selfishness). The title translates as “In Tune with Christ.”
(Unfortunately, it’s not in English yet, but once I’m done with my current editing projects maybe I can start scheming to translate Sintonia. In the meantime, keep an eye out for Encountering Christ
and Pope Francis: Keys to his Thought, both from Scepter.)
Fr. Michel has a way of zeroing in on the commonest misconceptions with the most far-reaching implications, and then clearing them up—or at least throwing brand-new light on the things we say we believe.
He did it with self-esteem and self-love, and he does it here with certain habits …continue reading
May. 23, 2013, at 6:36pm
I sometimes find myself in arguments with traditionalists or conservatives over feminism. They'll rail against the damage it's done, and I will say, "I agree with you, but..."
I do agree. I fully feel the terrible spiritual losses incurred by the excesses of feminism and the sexual revolution. Sometimes the thought of it all tempts me to despair. How will we ever recover from such a depth and extent of self-inflicted misery? What kind of world am I sending my children into?
The "but," though, has to do with a sense that the valid complaints and aspirations of feminism are too easily dismissed or overlooked. I don't like it when fellow-Catholics talk or write as if feminism is essentially …continue reading
May. 21, 2013, at 8:38am
One of my favorite books is Fables, by the delightful Arnold Lobel. (If you have children, don’t miss his “Frog and Toad” series.) One chapter is called “The Crocodile in the Bedroom.”
It goes like this (bear with me--the personalist angle will become evident shortly):
A Crocodile became increasingly fond of the wallpaper in his bedroom. He stared at it for hours and hours.
"Just look at all those neat and tidy rows of flowers and leaves, " said the Crocodile. "They are like soldiers. There is not a single one that is out of place."
"My dear," said the Crocodile's wife, "you are spending too much time in bed. Come out into my garden where the air is fresh and the sun is bright and …
May. 20, 2013, at 3:14am
Over the last two months, eight friends and acquaintances of my family have died. Some deaths were expected, but many took us by surprise: two road-accidents, a sudden heart-attack occurring during sleep, a few cancer-deaths that suddenly took a turn for the worse etc. Some of the dead had been pious, some had distanced themselves from the Church, some hadn’t cared about religion at all. For the bystanders and mourners, death has a way of pulling them out of the hustle and bustle of the everyday; everything comes to a standstill, and what really matters is able to come to the forefront. The ultimate seriousness of it, the finality, the last judgment that everybody must expect shakes one …continue reading
May. 18, 2013, at 10:45am
Lately I've been reading about co-dependency. I'm impressed by how "naturally personalistic" so much of the literature around addiction and recovery is. It's put in plain terms, of course, but its practical wisdom very much embodies many of the deep philosophical principles formally worked out by great thinkers like John Paul II.
Here's one line (among dozens I might have chosen) from The New Co-Dependency, by Melody Beattie. "Suffering is how we feel about how we feel." In other words, it involves the kind of reflection and response that is only possible in a free and responsible subject, a self. Physical pain considered alone doesn't quite qualify.
This is why suffering is so deep …continue reading
May. 12, 2013, at 6:41pm
Once in a while, my weekly deadline finds me floundering around, vainly trying to wrestle some complex metaphysical truth down to 800 words or so. This time it was a centuries-old misunderstanding about the hypostatic union. I was having about as much success as you might expect.
Well, the hypostatic union will have to wait. Having remembered Mother’s Day, and what a personalist mother I have, I’ve decided to write about her instead (here she is in the green shirt, with my father and their eight children).
On the one hand, my mother is the kind of traditional, hardworking, devoted housewife who just about everybody agrees is good for children. Even many who theoretically disapprove …continue reading
May. 9, 2013, at 12:04pm
Today's Magnificat includes a beautiful and highly personalist quotation from Pope Emeritus Benedict on the Ascension and its promise for humanity.
The meaning of Christ's Ascension," writes Pope Benedict XVI, "expresses our belief that in Christ the humanity that we all share has entered into the inner life of God in a new and hitherto unheard of way. It means that man has found an everlasting place in God." It would be a mistake to interpret the Ascension as "the temporary absence of Christ from the world." Rather, "we go to heaven to the extent that we go to Jesus Christ and enter into him." Heaven is a person. "Jesus himself is what we call 'heaven'."
May. 8, 2013, at 8:52pm
I was just reminded by an advertisement (a bookseller), that Søren Kierkegaard turned 200 last Sunday. That is something I don't want to let pass unnoticed. But I have only a few minutes at my disposal. So I will just leave you with soem passages from one of Kierkegaard's early journals. In these he expresses his longing, indeed, his need, "to find a truth which is truth for me, to find the idea for which I am willing to live and die."
The whole passage could be seen as an explanation of our motto, tua res agitur (the thing concerns you}.
Of what use would it be to me to discover a so-called objective truth, to work through the philosophical systems so that I could, if asked, make …
May. 7, 2013, at 3:11pm
The word tenderness seems to be in the air lately. It's clearly a favorite of our new Pope's. He used it in some of his earliest remarks as Pope. "Do not be afraid of tenderness." He mentioned it again several times today, in reflections on the First Letter of St. John and the sacrament of confession.
"The Lord is tender towards those who fear, to those who come to Him "and with tenderness," He always understands us”. He wants to gift us the peace that only He gives. " "This is what happens in the Sacrament of Reconciliation" even though "many times we think that going to confession is like going to the dry cleaner" to clean the dirt from our clothes...
It came up, too, in the last two …continue reading
May. 4, 2013, at 11:13am
We have said that in a certain sense the right to life is the most fundamental and basic natural human right. Now we have to clarify in which sense this is true and which are other points of view perceived from which it is not the most fundamental one, and whether these other points of view to determine the most basic human right are more foundational or fundamental ones. We will here omit the purely historical point of view, which basic human right was the first one to be included in a modern human rights catalogue because we do not deem this question to be relevant for our analysis. (From this point of view, at least if one prescinds from all ancient and early medieval human rights …continue reading
May. 4, 2013, at 10:22am
The Right to Life is, in a sense, the most Fundamental and Basic Absolute Natural Right (Urgrundrecht)
The right to life is not only a natural and an “absolute right,” as also the right to the freedom of religion or the right to choose one’s wife freely upon her consent, but it is also an, or even in a certain sense the, absolutely foundational concrete human right (Urgrundrecht). This does not exclude that other fundamental human rights, rooted in the dignity of the awakened actual conscious life, have another kind of priority and more specifically “personal character” precisely because they exist only on the level and dignity of the rational conscious life of the human person.
That …continue reading
May. 4, 2013, at 9:59am
1. Personhood and Human Dignity as Foundation of Ethical Obligations and Fundamental Human Rights
Most of ethics rests on the insight into the sublime dignity of persons. Every human person, regardless of age, sex, race or other differences between different members of the species man, possesses a unique value, called "dignity," which lifts him or her up above all impersonal creatures. This human dignity is the source of a strict moral obligation to respect it during all phases of human life.
The ethical question of respecting human dignity, or better said, to respect any human person in virtue of the dignity of the person, is not at all restricted to the aspect of fundamental human …continue reading
May. 3, 2013, at 4:05pm
Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.
--Robert Frost, "Death of the Hired Man"
Some people hear this as an insult to home and hearth (and I see what they mean), but I think it captures something.
There’s something about family—which is pretty much synonymous with “home” here—that inspires the invention of counterfeits. I heard an ad the other day for a “family of mutual funds”
and another for a “family of cleaning products.”
Just what is it they’re trying to piggyback on?
Is it mere biology that ensures the kind of unconditional love (or at least acceptance) we associate with families? No, there's no absolute guarantee. Is there anything …continue reading
May. 2, 2013, at 10:04pm
Since member Quinton mentioned recently on the Member Feed that he's been wondering what personalism would look like in practice, I've been wanting to launch a section profiling people who have done it.
I have in mind people like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Jean Vanier; Maria Montessori, and Suzuki—people who have used the insights of Christian personalism in a pioneering way, dramatically influencing culture and society.
I see that the NCR today has a profile on Dorothy Day, called, "Catholic Worker Celebrates 80 Years of Gentle Personalism." The phrase comes from her longtime intellectual and spiritual mentor, Peter Maurin, who spoke of "the gentle personalism of traditional …continue reading
May. 1, 2013, at 3:11am
We are more or less used to the inequality we have to deal with in everyday life: some of us are more intelligent, talented, wealthy, healthy and lucky than others, while others are badly off in all respects. We don’t need to see this as a sign of God’s favor or neglect; lack of health, of opportunities, of money, intelligence and talents can be explained as the consequences of original sin, of “sinful social structures” which John Paul II spoke about, different genetic pools or just as plain bad luck. The wealthy are not particularly good nor are the suffering particularly evil; good and evil cut across all classes and professions. God lets the sun shine on the good and the bad equally …continue reading