Logical deductions and persuasion…deductions have no power of persuasion. The heart is commonly reached, not through the reason, but through the imagination, by means of direct impressions, by the testimony of facts and events, by history, by description. Persons influence us, voices melt us, looks subdue us, deeds inflame us. Many a man will live and die upon a dogma: no man will be a martyr for a conclusion.
John Henry Newman
The Tamworth Reading Room
Jul. 7, 2012, at 10:22pm
In previous posts and comments, I have given many examples of heroic charity and forgiveness. I frankly look on these in awe. One can never know for sure (because God gives extra graces in these situations), but I can hardly imagine myself living up to this kind of ideal. I have to admit it’s possible (because it’s been done), and I see—theoretically—how and why the saints were motivated, but I don’t find those same levels present in my heart and will. So ultimately I think it becomes a question of grace and whether I would accept or reject God’s supernatural attempt to carry me over these mountains.
Be that as it may, I think we should further elaborate on and give examples of false, …continue reading
Jul. 7, 2012, at 9:04am
Setting aside my standing objections to the ubiquitous "wired" metaphor, Sr. Helena Burns, "media nun," does Catholics proud with this great takedown of a current example of the mainstreaming of pornography: a movie about male strippers called Magic Mike. Really, her review is a summary presentation of the Theology of the Body.
(Pay no attention to the cheesy, Jehovah's Witness style religious art.)
The Sexual Revolution told women that they can now “have sex like a man.” Because, you see, the male paradigm is the only good paradigm! Feminists, in wanting to be just like men, “have what men have,” unwittingly labeled women’s ways as inferior, and set about obliterating the feminine. But …
Jul. 5, 2012, at 4:00pm
In light of revelation, we can certainly conclude that we attain to our deepest understanding of the human situation, and of who we are, as we stand before Christ. This is our real situation; thus, if we are to approach other human beings in truth, we must "arc" through Christ to get to them. We never only stand before another in a direct one-on-one way; Christ always stands with us, before us, in us, and between us.
And how do we stand with Christ? We eat with Him (and of Him) as his friends at the Last Supper (with the hope of the heavenly banquet/wedding feast) and then we stand before Him (dying on the Cross) as His betrayers, mocking and torturing Him. And he forgives us. This is …continue reading
Jul. 4, 2012, at 7:05pm
Concepts like “Golden Oldies,” “Classic Rock,” even “Early Rock’n’Roll” certainly are nebulous and imprecise nowadays. If you look up such titles on radio and TV stations, you often find song collections from the 70’s, 80’s, or 90’s—for cryin’ out loud! But I, who came of age in the days of real classic rock (Elvis and the Beatles), and who lost all track of pop music after 1972 (when I graduated from college) know that genuine “early rock,” real “golden oldies,” means the late 50’s and early 60’s. I reject any other definition as an abuse of the English language.
Now, having settled the historical question (admittedly by subjective “Fiat”), let us go on to see what we can learn from …continue reading
Jul. 2, 2012, at 11:18am
My kids were shocked one day to find me listening to National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered.” (My father, who has a penchant for accuracy, calls it “Some Things Considered from a Certain Point of View.”) The children realize that I’m prone to fits of boredom brought on by onion-chopping and cheese-sauce stirring, but they’re used to seeing me cook supper while soaking in the wisdom of Kresta in the Afternoon
or at least getting my info-tainment from someone who’s generally on the pro-life side of the political divide.
They never thought I’d sink so low.
I explained to them that it’s important to keep tabs on what the bad guys are up to.
And that’s true, but it’s …continue reading
Jun. 29, 2012, at 9:41pm
I conceive of the role of the teacher as a helper to the student so that the latter can see some real truth(s) on his own. The classical root of this conception, of course, is Socrates describing himself as a midwife, helping the other to bring to birth in his own mind a genuine understanding of reality. This involves a process of discovery requiring a broad openness to questions, challenges, readiness to make modifications, etc. It requires humility, i.e., an attitude fundamentally acknowledging that reality is transcendent to the mind and that, as Augustine says, the mind is below truth, not above it.
Nevertheless, it is sometimes the case that anyone who claims to know …continue reading
Jun. 27, 2012, at 7:58pm
An article in Crisis magazine, “What’s Behind the Mandate?” by Gerard Bradley unmasks the Obama Administration’s fundamental empiricism on two fronts—the ontological and the existential.
Ontologically Bradley notes that Obama’s asserts that those who want to place limitations on the availability of contraception, abortion and same sex marriage, base their opinion on religious convictions which, as such, are subjective and cannot be validated by objective measures and so consequently are not to be protected by law.
Existentially the Administration asserts that the value of such institutions as Catholic Charities and Hospitals solely in terms of the material benefits they afford for the …continue reading
Jun. 27, 2012, at 12:24pm
An ongoing topic of background meditation for me is the problem of forgiveness, and the way it is badly misunderstood, mis-preached, and mis-applied in Christian circles. So, I perked up over an item in the Corner today, making a point I have often tried to make myself, though less successfully. John O'Sullivan quotes a column by Kevin Myers in the Irish Independent, speaking of the bloody "Troubles" in Northern Ireland.
Now contrary to what those creepy moral apologists for the IRA insist, Christian teaching does not demand that one forgives one’s uncontrite assailant as one forgives the repentant ones. The entire sacrament of absolution depends on unconditional repentance and a “firm …
Jun. 27, 2012, at 9:09am
The United States bishops have asked for our participation in a "Fortnight for Freedom." Here's the announcement at the USCCB:
The fourteen days from June 21—the vigil of the Feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More—to July 4, Independence Day, are dedicated to this “fortnight for freedom”—a great hymn of prayer for our country. Our liturgical calendar celebrates a series of great martyrs who remained faithful in the face of persecution by political power—St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More, St. John the Baptist, SS. Peter and Paul, and the First Martyrs of the Church of Rome. Culminating on Independence Day, this special period of prayer, study, catechesis, and public action will …
Jun. 24, 2012, at 9:51am
My teaching style is somewhat old school. I lecture. I do this on the theory that I know more than my students and they come to me in order to learn. (Indeed, that’s what they pay for.) And by learn, I do not just mean about “process” and "how" to communicate. I mean learning about reality, about what to communicate: content, substance. I believe that I was exceedingly fortunate (blessed) as both an undergraduate and a graduate student to have a number of wonderful and wise professors who introduced me to the great tradition (Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, Bonaventure, Pascal, etc.) as well as to certain modern thinkers—and critics of modernity—who showed how that great …continue reading
Jun. 23, 2012, at 4:59pm
David Blankenhorn has been among our nation's staunchest and most prominent marriage boosters for years. Now, just days after a major new study is released confirming that tradtional marriage is better for children, he's changed his mind. His reasoning reinforces my growing impression that defenders of marriage will have to shift gears if we hope to succeed in persuading a majority to oppose the legalization of SSM. It won't be enough to prove that traditional marriage is better for kids. If it were, then Blankenhorn would still be on our side. He articulates the gist of that argument as well as anyone.
Marriage is the planet’s only institution whose core purpose is to unite the …
Jun. 20, 2012, at 2:29pm
Dr. Josef Seifert (himself an Austrian) once told us this joke:
In the heat of battle, an Austrian and a German are reporting back to their respective generals.
“Sir,” the German says, “The situation is serious, but not hopeless.”
“Sir,” the Austrian says, “The situation is hopeless, but not serious.”
I thought of that at Planned Parenthood the other day, where (being something of a second-rate prayer warrior, just subbing for a friend) I found myself without a single sign to wave or leaflet to hand out.
Well, no problem: the idea was to be a prayerful presence, not a one-woman demonstration. But during my weekly Forty Days for Life Hour, I’d been kept supplied, and kept company, by more …continue reading
Jun. 19, 2012, at 4:58pm
Again, as indicated in the previous post Population Problems (even in the Islamic World), sometimes I come away from reading “the news” with the vague impression that the western world is overwhelmed with problems relating to drugs, sex, a pleasure-centered lifestyle, and a loss of religious faith while the Islamic world is filled with individuals ready to sacrifice their lives for the cause of Allah and to rid the world of these profligate western excesses. However, as in the previous discussion, such impressions do not tell the underlying story.
David Goldman, in his recent book How Civilizations Die (and Why Islam is Dying Too), offers disturbing evidence that “[t]he underside of …continue reading
Jun. 18, 2012, at 11:20am
A former atheist describes her conversion.
It happened through a conversation with a friend; through a recognition that the moral truths she acknowledged had the attriutes of a Person, and then, through the Liturgy.
(Hat tip Barbara Nicolosi.)
I believed that the Moral Law wasn’t just a Platonic truth, abstract and distant. It turns out I actually believed it was some kind of Person, as well as Truth. And there was one religion that seemed like the most promising way to reach back to that living Truth. I asked my friend what he suggest we do now, and we prayed the night office of the Liturgy of the Hours together (I’ve kept up with that since).
Jun. 17, 2012, at 11:50pm
I often read of population problems in the western world of formerly Christian democracies (not to mention Japan, China’s one-child policy, sex-selection abortions in India, etc.). I don’t quite as often read of fundamental and growing problems in this regard in the Islamic world. Sometimes therefore I have a vague impression of western Europe on the decline in any number of ways and of the Islamic world growing in influence, money, people, religious fervor, and power. It was with interest then that I recently read a book by David Goldman entitled How Civilizations Die (and Why Islam is Dying Too).
His basic premise is that civilizations die when they lose the will to live—and this …continue reading
Jun. 16, 2012, at 9:06pm
Earlier today a member texted to ask whether I knew of answers to Walter Kaufmann's The Faith of the Heretic. He said it had caused him to reexamine his own faith. I had never heard of Kaufmann, so I googled, and read a few paragraphs. Then I put it down, comme d'habitude, as they say in France.
Later, thinking of something else entirely, I was recalling a moment years back. We were living in Steubenville. It was some anniversary of Newman's. We invited John Crosby to come over and speak to a small circle about his life and legacy. Someone asked him to describe Newman's essential greatness in brief. John said that the more he read and "walked with" Newman, the more he was …continue reading
Jun. 14, 2012, at 3:49pm
Last week, I reflected on the startling lack of satisfaction the vast array of affordable material goods seems to produce in the American consumer. What, I wondered, could possibly illustrate Kierkegaard’s “possibility unchecked by necessity” better than your local Walmart Supercenter?
But then I thought of something.
There you have it: endless possibility, held in check only by the finite stamina of the mouse-clicking finger.
Now, I’m really not a luddite.
Or I try not to be. I aspire to be a Pauline kind of person--and mother-- one who “tests all things and holds fast to what is good” rather than preemptively forbidding all things in case they turn out to be not so …continue reading
Jun. 12, 2012, at 4:24pm
Amor y Autoestima, the book that inspired this post on how to reconcile rightly ordered self-love with Reality-respecting humility, will soon be available in English. I'll be translating it from the Spanish this summer, and it will be available from Scepter sometime thereafter.
As I was flipping through it before my first reading, I couldn't help noticing the footnotes. Listen to this: C.S. Lewis, Edith Stein, Dietrich von Hildebrand, Leo Tolstoy, Bl. John Paul II, Gabriel Marcel, St. Josemaria Escriva, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Paul Vitz, Sigrid Undset, John of the Cross, and Victor Frankl.
I hope that whets your personalist appetite as much as it did mine!
Jun. 12, 2012, at 10:01am
From a 1961 journal entry.
Hoffer had been musing on the man he had worked with that day on the docks:
As I said, the man looked extremely delicate—almost ethereal. He was late for work because he got the order wrong. I am working with him tomorrow and shall try to find out something about him.
And then this:
During the day it occurred to me that if it were true that all my life I have had but a single train of thought then it must be the problem of the uniqueness of man.
Jun. 8, 2012, at 11:21am
My internet habit seems to have decimated my ability (never very marked) to finish books. I begin them; put them down; pick them up; read a few pages; put them down...
Among the many lying half-read around the house is Tom Bethell's biography of Eric Hoffer, The Longshoreman Philosopher. Hoffer is a mysterious character who emerged from complete obscurity to become a major intellectual influence in Cold War America, beginning with his 1951 best-selling book on the nature of mass movements, The True Believer.
I picked it up again (I mean the biography) this morning while I drank my coffee. These lines so arrested my attention that I put the book down again—to think, and write a post …continue reading