IMPORTANT INFORMATION: Opinions expressed on the Insight Scoop weblog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Ignatius Press. Links on this weblog to articles do not necessarily imply agreement by the author or by Ignatius Press with the contents of the articles. Links are provided to foster discussion of important issues. Readers should make their own evaluations of the contents of such articles.
U.S. Cardinal Raymond L. Burke, patron of the Knights and Dames of Malta, and Auxiliary Bishop Athanasius Schneider of Astana, Kazakhstan, walk in the 6th annual March for Life in Rome May 8, 2016. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
by Carl E. Olson | Catholic World Report
Speaking to reporters from Rome about his new book, the American prelate goes on record about Christians and Muslims (they don't worship the same God) and Cardinal Sarah (“I agree with him completely...").
In a wide-ranging international teleconference call on Monday with media members, Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke spoke in detail about many timely topics, including the priority of standing up for life in addressing poverty and other social ills, the witness and message of Mother Teresa, essential differences between Christianity and Islam, and the recent controversy over remarks by Cardinal Robert Sarah about liturgical orientation. The occasion of the call was Cardinal Burke's recent book Hope For the World: To Unite All Things in Christ (Ignatius Press), an interview given to French author Guillaume d'Alançon in 2015, and translated by Michael J. Miller for Ignatius Press.
Since being named a bishop by Pope John Paul II in 1994, Cardinal Burke has become one of more well-known prelates in the English-speaking world, known for his willingness to address controversial topics forthrightly, despite often being criticized. Noted as a canon lawyer, Cardinal Burke was made a cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010, and then called to Rome to become Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura. During the two recent Synods on the Family, Cardinal Burke spoke out often about his concerns, telling CWR during the October 2014 gathering that he thought the Synod's mid-term report "lacks a solid foundation in the Sacred Scriptures and the Magisterium", a remark made a month after he was removed from his position as Prefect and named chaplain to the Order of Malta by Pope Francis.
Cardinal Burke, conversing from Rome, told reporters that his new book was motivated by a desire to reflect on his upbringing and how he discerned his vocation as priest, and also "to reflect as a pastor, as a bishop, on certain on certain critical issues of the day". As such, he noted, the book is a "kind of testimony of faith on my part", and the hope is that the book, in keeping with its title, will "give hope" to readers.
Asked about an apparent shifting of priorities among American bishops since the beginning of Francis' pontificate, Cardinal Burke pointed out that while the issues of abortion, poverty, immigration, and global warming all have "moral importance", the Church's tradition and philosophical reason both indicate that "the fundamental question has to be the question of human life itself, the respect for the inviolable dignity of human life and of its Creator, of its Source, and the union of a man and a woman in marriage, which according to God's plan is the place where new human life is welcomed and nurtured."
He expressed concern that the matter of human life and the issues of abortion, artificial insemination, contraception, and euthanasia be placed somehow on the same level as "questions regarding immigration and poverty." The first priority, he emphasized, must be given to proper respect for human life and for the family in order to have "the right orientations in addressing all of the other questions" and challenges faced by people in daily life. It makes no sense, he pointed out, to be concerned with immigration or poverty "if human life itself is not protected in society ... The first justice accorded to any human being is to respect life itself, which is received from God..." Cardinal Burke observed there are some who advocate an elimination of certain parts of the population in order to fight poverty, or who adhere to a "contraceptive mentality" in order to pursue a sort of "social engineering" harmful to society and to individuals.
The former Archbishop of St. Louis emphasized that bishops have a responsibility to proclaim the truth of Christ in love within the Church, following the example of Christ himself, knowing that the love that will "best serve society is the truth, a truth that respects God's plan for us from the moment of creation..." When he travels, the cardinal said, he finds that people want to hear "the truth of the faith" from priests, bishops, and cardinals—"they aren't interested in my personal opinions about things, which won't save their souls, and I am as aware of that as they are; they look to me to reflect very deeply on the truths of the Faith and their application on society today, and to speak to that truth with love and care for society." The fundamental mission of Catholics in the world is to be united to Christ and to "give witness to the truth", a witness that is "very much needed in our time".
Asked how it was that he, as a young seminarian in the Sixties, avoided falling into the "craziness" of that era, Cardinal Burke credited his parents and his upbringing. He acknowledged he was not unaffected by the "tumultuous" times, especially after going to Catholic University of America in Washington, DC, in 1968 to study philosophy. He credits the "stable and good" discipline, prayer life, and formation he experienced in minor seminary, which he entered at the age of fourteen. He lamented that so many seminarians, seminary professors, and priests at CUA abandoned their vocations and ministry during that time. But he "simply couldn't be convinced that this so-called 'new way', this 'new Church'" was a good and right path, as if what he had been taught growing up was now "wrong and needed to be abandoned". He expressed, however, "great sympathy" for many of those who lost their way, saying that it was a "very tumultuous time and we were young".
Reflecting on the upcoming canonization of Mother Teresa by Pope Francis on Sunday, September 4th, Cardinal Burke expressed his happiness that the famous nun will be named a saint, saying "she has been an inspiration to me from my years in the seminary when I first came to know her".
A powerful, beautifully written historic novel of loss, finding and being found, set in a very traumatic period in Europe. The turbulent sixteenth century saw the disintegration of medieval Christendom as it was split into sovereign states. This was particularly destructive in Tudor England where rapid switches in government policy and religious persecution shattered the lives of many.
Especially affected were the monks and nuns who were persecuted by the wholesale dissolution of the monasteries carried out under Henry VIII. One of these monks, Robert Fletcher, a Carthusian of the dismantled priory of Mount Grace in Yorkshire, is the hero of this novel.
The story of this strong, vulnerable man is told in counterpoint with the story of one of the most interesting men in all of English history, Reginald Pole, a nobleman, scholar and theologian who was exiled to Italy for twenty years. He was a Cardinal of the Church, papal legate at the Council of Trent, and as Archbishop of Canterbury, with his cousin Queen Mary Tudor, they tried, in too short a time, to renew Catholic England. This man, in the tragic last months of his life, becomes in the novel the friend of Robert Fletcher, condemned as a heretic.
Readers will learn much from this novel of the anguished period which gave birth to Tridentine Catholicism as well as to the Anglican and other Protestant churches, and which martyred Carthusian monks as well as Thomas More, John Fisher, Thomas Cranmer and many others. The profound issues raised in this novel, which contains no altered historical facts but more human truth than facts alone can deliver, have not gone away. With the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation in 2017, there will be wide interest in these issues.
Lucy Beckett lives in Yorkshire and was educated at Cambridge University. For many years she was a professor of literature at Ampleforth Abbey. Her books include In the Light of Christ, a comprehensive study of the Western literary tradition; The Time before You Die, a novel about the English Reformation; and A Postcard from the Volcano. These have been warmly praised on both sides of the Atlantic. She is married and has four children.
Praise for The Time Before You Die:
“This great novel places us in the turbulent time of the English Reformation where we experience the common trauma of the day, and then, as in all excellent historical fiction, we ask ourselves, ‘Where does my choice lie?’ Seldom has this challenge been given so well. Beckett is a very gifted writer." —Michael D. O’Brien, Author, Father Elijah: An Apocalypse
“Lucy Beckett combines scholarship with imagination to tell the story of an evicted Carthusian monk and of a great ecclesiastical statesman who tragically failed to save England for the Catholic Church. An enlightening, moving, historical novel that is a pleasure to read.” —Piers Paul Read, Author, Alive: The Andes Survivors
by Nick Olszyk at The Dispatch at Catholic World Report
Along with recent films ParaNorman and Boxtrolls, the Laika studio has a notable track record of promoting New Age progressive spiritual values—and Kubo reaches a new low point.
MPAA Rating: PG USCCB Rating:A-II Reel Rating: (1 out of 5 reels)
In The Usual Suspects, Roger Kint stated that “the greatest trick the Devil ever played was convincing the world he didn’t exist.” That may have been true in the 20th century, when fascism and communism terrorized the world, but now the Devil has shifted his strategy. In the 21st century, his trick is getting people to believe that Jesus Christ promotes his agenda. Kubo and the Two Strings, the new and widely praised film from the Laika animation studio, is such a trap. Keep kids far, far away.
Snatching a trope from Disney, the story starts as the baby Kubo (Art Parkinson) is rescued by his goddess Mother (Charlize Theron), but not before his grandfather, the Moon King, kills his human father and rips out his left eye. They spend the next twelve years in a cave hiding, with Kubo earning money on the streets of rural Japan by telling stories with his shamisen. “Never go out after sunset,” Mother tells him, “or my sisters will find you and take your other eye.” Kubo is not only a great storyteller but also the possessor of special powers because of divine blood. As he plays the shamisen, origami figures come to life and dramatize his stories. While he has the admiration of the townspeople, his life is still a mystery. Injured in the rescue, his mother suffers from an unknown mental disorder, and it’s hard to discern whether her tales are true. As he learns more about his past the tables are upset again and again, culminating in a hero’s quest to find his father’s armor and confront his grandfather.
The spirituality starts out simple as well but becomes more complex before revealing its sinister nature in the third act.
Surprised by the Beauty of 20th-Century Music | Paul Senz | CWR
While avant-garde art dominated the past century, notes Robert R. Reilly, glorious and melodic music was being written all along, even if often suppressed or neglected.
Robert R. Reilly has written about classical music for more than 35 years, including for Crisis magazine, where he was music critic for 16 years. He has also written about music for High Fidelity, Musical America, Schwann/Opus, and the American Record Guide. He is the director of The Westminster Institute, which was established in 2009 to "promote individual dignity and freedom for people throughout the world by sponsoring high-quality research, with a particular focus on the threats from extremism and radical ideologies." During a quarter century of government service, Reilly worked in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, in the White House under President Ronald Reagan, and in the U. S. Information Agency; he was also the director of Voice of America. In addition to his writings about music, he has written widely on foreign policy, "war of ideas" issues, Islam, and culture.
CWR: You have been in the military, served in the White House under President Reagan, and were director of Voice of America. How did you become a music critic? And how, in particular, did you become interested in modern classical music? How did you end up writing music reviews for Crisis magazine?
Robert R. Reilly: Well, I was thunderstruck by music when I heard, quite by accident, Jan Sibelius’s Fifth Symphony. By the time the recording was over, I was a changed person. I was 19 years old at the time; my music quest began. I plunged in in search of the experience and for an explanation as to why I had had it. What was it about? French poet René Char wrote that the “grace of the stars resides in their compelling us to speak.” This music compelled me to speak. So, some 15 years later, after I gained the right vocabulary and enough experience, I began writing about it and the other treasures I had discovered. As you pointed out, this was not my day job. My day job was fighting the Evil Empire.
So, as an avocation, I wrote for a number of musical journals like High Fidelity and Musical America. Then Deal Hudson, whom I did not know at the time, moved to Washington, DC, to take over Crisis magazine. He came to my house and, out of the blue, asked me to contribute a monthly article about classical music. He is one of those rare conservatives who are culturally literate in every sphere, including classical music, about which he is equally enthused. I did that for 16 years.
It was Deal who suggested that we publish a book of my essays. It turned out that most of what I had written was about 20th century music. That had not occurred by any design of mine or his. That book, the first edition of Surprised by Beauty, came out in 2002, with Deal as the publisher.
Lo and behold, some 14 years later, now the second edition of the book is out—this time from Ignatius Press. It is more than twice as long as the original and completely revised. There is so much more good news about the recovery of modern music in this listening guide. I hope readers will be enticed to explore some of the many CD recommendations in it. I emphasize that this is not a book with technical jargon written for music specialists. It is for the general reader who has an open mind, an open heart, and who opens his ears.
CWR: The terms "modern music" and "modern classical music" are usually not met positively by those who hold to more traditional beliefs about the arts, culture, and religion. Is it the case, however, that stereotypes and assumptions have obscured necessary distinctions between various composers, movements, and schools of music?
Reilly: Modern art strove hard to earn its bad reputation. It succeeded. People fled the concert halls because they did not want to hear what sounded like a catastrophe in a boiler factory. Likewise, many people shunned modern painting when canvases looked like someone had spilled a plate of spaghetti. Modern architecture seemed to be a contest as to who could design a building that best disguised the fact that human beings would be in it.
Unfortunately, the avant-garde gained control over the levers of the art world—by which I mean the commissions, the prizes, the positions in academe, the cultural press, etc. Unless you played ball with the avant-garde, your artistic goose was cooked. This was not true for some of the giants who continued to write in the traditional tonal manner, but it was decidedly true for the up-and-coming younger composers from the mid-20th century until about 20 years ago. They suffered a lot.
The whole point of my book is to announce that it is safe to come out of the bomb shelters now. Not only is beautiful music being written again but, it turns out, beautiful music was written all along, throughout the 20th century. It simply went underground. Some of it was suppressed (literally the case in some Communist regimes), some of it was simply neglected, but it is surfacing once again. And it is glorious. These are the composers I write about in this book, along with the recommended recordings of their works. They are the other 20th century about which most people have never heard – though there are a number of composers, like Samuel Barber, Benjamin Britten, and Ralph Vaughan Williams, whom they probably have heard of, who are in the book. Of course, I also include contemporary composers. The tremendously good news is that we are living at the time of a major musical renaissance.
CWR: In the Introduction, "Is Music Sacred?", you explain how destructive musical revolution of the 1920s, directed by Schoenberg and others, rejected tonality and melody. What were some of the deeper reasons for this revolution? In what way that revolution relate to the cultural upheavals in Western societies?
Reilly: Yes, there were deeper reasons that were ultimately metaphysical and spiritual. Music, art and architecture reflected a wholesale rejection of form, which is another way of saying Nature. I recall one artist saying, “If I don’t do anything else in my artistic life, I want to smash form” – which expresses, shall we say, a certain resentment of reality.
Going back to Pythagoras, the traditional understanding of music held that it was somehow an approximation of “the music of the spheres.” In fact, Pythagoras thought that music was the ordering principle of the world. The whole point of approximating the heavenly harmony was to instill inner harmony in the soul. Following Pythagoras, Plato taught that “rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward places of the soul, on which they mightily fasten, imparting grace, and making the soul of him who is rightly educated graceful”. This idea of “the music of the spheres” runs through the history of Western civilization with an extraordinary consistency, even up to the 20th century. At first, it was meant literally; later, poetically.
San Francisco, August 23, 2016 – Portrait photographer Michael Collopy has worked with many famous people, but when he recalls his work photographing Mother Teresa, he says, “I have never met anyone who could compare to the spiritual depth of character and selfless love that Mother displayed over the course of my 15 years of knowing her.”
A painting of one of Michael Collopy’s photographs in his book Works of Love Are Works of Peace has been chosen to be the official Sainthood image of Mother Teresa. The image will be revealed at the canonization and then it will be in the homes of the Missionaries of Charity worldwide.
Another one of Collopy’s photographs from Works of Love Are Works of Peace is being used for both the official Vatican Saint Teresa stamp, as well as for the recent cover of Time magazine.
Michael Collopy is available for interviews about his experiences photographing Mother Teresa, both now and during his upcoming trip to Rome for the canonization on September 4.
Works of Love Are Works of Peace, now available in paperback, was more than four years in the making and published with the cooperation of Mother Teresa. This large format 224 page book offers the most comprehensive photographic documentation of the apostolic work and prayer life of the Missionaries of Charity published. Destined to serve as an important historical record, this “illustrated prayer book” vividly portrays the peace and joy that can come when “small things” are done with great love.
The more than 180 fine art quality tri-tone The stamp to mark the canonisation of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta photographs, along with spiritual counsel from Mother Teresa, will provide a lifetime of rich material for prayer and meditation. Also included with Mother Teresa’s special permission, is the contents of the Missionaries of Charity daily prayer book as well as a most personal and profound letter on the interior life written by Mother Teresa to her entire order. Though meant originally as an instruction to those in her order, this “I Thirst” letter has become a source of spiritual light and encouragement, drawing innumerable hearts and souls closer to God.
USA Today says, “This is a book infused with grace.”
“This exceptionally well-produced photo-documentary chronicles the work of Mother Teresa and the order she founded. Avoiding sentimentality, the photographs show the love of Christ in action,” says Christianity Today.
Works of Love are Works of Peace is “quietly eloquent,” says the San Francisco Examiner.
In the introduction to this beautiful photobook, Mother Teresa writes, “Let us pray that this book will draw people to Jesus, help them realize how much God loves them, and help them to want to pray. Let it be for the glory of God and the good of His people.”
About the Author: Michael Collopy is one of the preeminent portrait photographers of our time, well known for his commissioned portraits of a variety of world figures ranging from Mikhail Gorbachev and Margaret Thatcher to Frank Sinatra and Placido Domingo. A student of such luminaries as Ansel Adams and Richard Avedon, Collopy’s work has been published in books, magazines, newspapers, and on record and CD covers worldwide.
Michael Collopy is available for interviews about this book. To request a review copy or an interview with Michael Collopy, please contact: Rose Trabbic, Publicist, Ignatius Press at (239) 867-4180 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Product Facts: Title: WORKS OF LOVE ARE WORKS OF PEACE Mother Teresa of Calcutta and the Missionaries of Charity Release Date: July 2016 Length: 224 Pages • 9 x 11 Sewn Softcover Photobook Price: $19.95 ISBN: 978-1-62164-129-2 Order: 1-800-651-1531 • www.ignatius.com
Pope Francis passes a sign in Spanish referencing his name, mercy and Argentina as he greets the crowd during his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican June 1. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Poverty, Politics, and the Church in Pope Francis’s Argentina | Samuel Gregg | Catholic World Report
Argentina is trying to break with 70 years of populism, corruption, and general economic decline. But in the age of the Argentine pope, what role will the Church play in this process?
Before Jorge Bergoglio’s election as the first Latin American pope in 2013, Argentina was famous for many things: tango, its magnificent pampas, the beautiful late-nineteenth century architecture that marks much of Buenos Aires, to name just a few. Unfortunately, other things also come to mind: rampant and persistent corruption, extreme political instability, and, above all, the fact that Argentina is the twentieth century’s textbook-case of largely self-inflicted economic decline. Consider that as late as 1940, Argentina was the economic equal of Australia and Canada. Since then it’s been generally downhill.
During a recent trip to Argentina, however, I was immediately struck by the optimism that marked Argentines themselves. This contrasted with the widespread gloom visibly characterizing the country that I’d noticed on previous visits. One reason for the difference is that Argentina elected a non-Perónist to the presidency in November 2015, thus terminating 13 years of rule by the late Néstor Kirchner and his wife Cristina. They belonged to the wave of Latin American leftist-populists who came to power from the late-1990s onwards and who brought political and economic disarray in their wake.
Since assuming office, Argentina’s new President, Mauricio Macri, has sought to take the country in very different directions. He ended Argentina’s backing of the Chávista regime that has all but destroyed Venezuela. Macri is also exposing deep-seated corruption, the most notorious case thus far being a former Kirchner government official caught hiding several million US dollars in a convent. This has been accompanied by an effort to detoxify public discourse of the demagogic rhetoric that’s long plagued Argentine politics. Economically, Macri has started, albeit cautiously, moving Argentina away from its closed, highly-statist economic arrangements. This has included abolishing currency and capital controls as well as eliminating some price-controls, particular export taxes, and specific subsidies.
Thus far, opinion polls suggest that a slim but wavering majority of Argentines support Macri’s reforms. As one Jesuit remarked to me, many Argentines view Macri as the nation’s last chance to reverse the trend towards permanent decline. Judging, however, from the anti-Macri posters and demonstrations throughout Buenos Aires, plenty of Argentines oppose the reforms. Perónist politicians, long accustomed to using public office to dispense favors to supporters, aren’t going quietly. Likewise, Argentina’s powerful trade unions have said they’ll resist changes to the country’s heavily-regulated labor markets which, like all such markets, effectively discourage businesses from hiring people.
Another question occupying many Argentines’ minds is the stance of another important institution in the country’s life. Is the Catholic Church going to help smooth the path away from populism? Or will it, in the name of defending the poor, encourage resistance to reform? In all such discussions, Pope Francis’s words and actions feature prominently.
Saint Teresa of Jesus and the Search for the Sacred | Fr. Erik Varden, OCSO | Catholic World Report
Does the Church’s liturgy enable, now, the expression and communication of sacred realities? Is the ‘sacred’ still a meaningful category?
Among the signal events to mark the Church’s life in 2015 was the 500th birthday of St Teresa of Jesus. The year’s peak event, her feast on 15 October, was overshadowed by headlines from the Synod; yet this year has been nonetheless a Teresian year, calling to mind the Castilian Doctor’s formidable legacy. I found myself gently haunted by Teresa while reading Fr Uwe Michael Lang’s Signs of The Holy One.
I should like, with her help, to reflect on questions raised by the book. For this is a volume that interrogates. It formulates problems not susceptible of easy resolution. There is material here for an examen of consciousness. I invoke the term ‘consciousness’ advisedly. Although Fr Lang mainly addresses issues of liturgical praxis, he knows better than just to bemoan the transgression of rubrics. He points towards a breakdown of sense in liturgy. He shows how this breakdown ominously points to senselessness likewise in life and belief. It is tempting to imagine his subtitle ending with a question mark: ‘Liturgy, Ritual, and Expression of the Sacred?’ Does the Church’s liturgy enable, now, the expression and communication of sacred realities? Is the ‘sacred’ still a meaningful category?
The book’s first part expounds the sense-content of ‘sacredness’ as defined by modern anthropology and theology. The sheer variety of approaches bewilders. This is brought out in the second part, which indicates wrong turns taken in sacred architecture, music, and art over the past half-century. They happened because the signifier ‘sacred’ was often put, as it were, on its head. Hijacked by human criteria, it could no longer effectively point upward and out to the transcendent. The crisis of sacred liturgy and art is thus a crisis of purpose, of finality. By way of illustration, Fr Lang cites examples apt to make the reader smile. Really, though, there is cause for sadness. When the proclamatory impact of Christian devotion is compromised; when the aesthetic response to faith becomes purely subjective, cut off from a sharable paradigm; when ritual seems little more than fortuitously repeated action: then woe is us, for the Gospel is not preached with the force it requires and deserves. What can we do? How can we respond? We might turn for counsel to the half-millenarian, plain-speaking Doctor of Ávila.
Teresa’s Autobiography, completed in her fiftieth year, chronicles the irruption of the divine into an ordinary life. Seeing Teresa at a distance, we may object to the adjective ‘ordinary’. She seems anything but! Teresa, however, argued this point with passion. She was conscious of singular favour shown her; but she insisted that nothing in her nature marked her out from the common run of men and women. She presents her life in its extraordinariness as a typical life, an exemplar each of us might emulate, had we but faith and courage to surrender to God’s work in us. The trajectory she traces reaches from the outset right to the loftiest end of spiritual life. She counsels souls who wobble ‘like hens, with feet tied together’ but also those who soar like eagles (xxxix.12).1 Nor does she forget the perplexing darkness of the long intermediate stage when the soul, like a timid dove, is dazzled by rare glimpses of God’s Sun while, ‘when looking at itself, its eyes are blinded by clay. The little dove is blind’ (xx.29). Everything she writes, she tells us, is born of experience. For long years she herself ‘had neither any joy in God nor pleasure in the world’ (viii.2). She lived in an in-between state, a no-woman’s land. What changed it? No summary can do justice to her subtle account of the transformative miracle wrought in her by God. We can, though, get some sense of its impact. Teresa testifies how, at a decisive juncture, ‘todos los que me conocían veían claro estar otra mi alma’: her soul had become other; it was no longer what it used to be (xxviii.13). She had seen something that changed her way of seeing. It caused others to see her differently. It was not, she says, a matter of ‘a radiance that dazzles’, rather of ‘a soft whiteness’, ‘an infused radiance’ that, for being gentle, was so unlike any earthly light that in comparison with it ‘the brightness of our sun seems dim’. Measured against Uncreated Light all light of this world seems ‘artificial’. Had we a choice, she assures us, we should never again ‘want to open our eyes for the purpose of seeing it’ (xxviii.5). To entertain such grace is not just sweetness and joy. It brings on a new kind of homelessness, a numbing sense of being out of place, and that for good. At the end of her book Teresa remarks that life in this world seems to her now ‘a kind of sleep’ (xl.22). She yearns to awaken to eternity. She is weary of being torn apart by existential - or better, essential - tension, for ‘natural weakness’ cannot sustain such spiritual vehemence (xl.7). Anyone who makes even moderate progress in prayer is reminded, like her, of how little Spirit our natural human frame can bear. ‘¡Válgame Dios!’, he or she might exclaim with Teresa: ‘God help me!’
Teresa is a witness to the beautiful dimension of faith. When she speaks of it, she is categorical: ‘The fact of seeing Christ left an impression of his exceeding beauty etched on my soul to this day: once was enough’ (xxxvii.4). This beauty is disturbing, even dangerous.
Ben-Hur is the classic, best-selling book behind the many famous film versions. The author, Lew Wallace, created a literary biblical epic in this exciting and inspirational story of friendship betrayed, revenge, and, ultimately forgiveness and redemption.
Subtitled "A Tale of the Christ", Ben-Hur is the story of the fictional main character's life encounter Jesus of Nazareth. Wrongly condemned for attempted assasination and sedition, the Jewish prince Judah Ben-Hur is betrayed by his erstwhile childhood Roman friend, Messala, and is sentenced to the galleys while his family is cruely imprisoned.
A providential turn of events brings Ben-Hur to a fierce chariot race with Messala and, ultimately, back to Jerusalem, during the ministry of Jesus. Ben-Hur's faith in Jesus as the Messiah is challenged by his crucifixion at the hands of both the Romans and Jewish authorities. But neither Ben-Hur's story nor Jesus' story ends there.
From left to right: Jack Huston, Toby Kebbell, Roma Downey, Rodrigo Santoro, and Morgan Freeman attend the Mexico premiere of Paramount Pictures' "Ben-Hur" at the Metropolitan Theater on August 9, 2016 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Image via facebook.com/BenHurFilm)
The actors and production crew behind Ben-Hur talk about their fresh take on a classic tale of betrayal and mercy | Jim Graves
Paramount Pictures and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures will release its remake of Ben-Hur on Friday, August 19. The movie is a retelling of the 1880 novel by retired Civil War Union General Lew Wallace, and it follows Jewish prince Judah Ben-Hur (played by Jack Huston) as he is betrayed into slavery by his friend, Roman officer Messala (Toby Kebbell). The film is set in and around Jerusalem 2,000 years ago, and Judah encounters Christ at key moments in his life.
The best-known presentation of Ben-Hur is the 1959 version starring Charlton Heston, which received 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture. The 2016 version follows the same general story line, with some significant differences. The modern version has a distinctly more Christian message, and unlike the 1959 version, Christ has a larger, speaking role.
That this version is more clearly religious is no doubt due to the influence of executive producers and husband-wife team Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, known for their productions The Bible, A.D.: The Bible Continues, and Son of God. They describe themselves as “the noisiest Christians in Hollywood,” and admit that the new Ben-Hurengages in stealth evangelism, presenting Christ’s message of “love and forgiveness” to viewers who ordinarily would never darken the door of a church.
A classic story retold
The story opens depicting the close, adoptive-brother relationship between Judah Ben-Hur and Messala. In the opening scene the pair are racing horses for sport in the countryside, and Judah is thrown from his horse and injured. Messala leaps from his horse to care for his fallen friend, and ends up carrying him back to the city. During Judah’s recovery we learn that the house of Ben-Hur is a royal Jewish home, while Messala worships pagan gods.
Seeking adventure, Messala leaves Jerusalem to join the Roman army. He distinguishes himself as a soldier as he battles the Empire’s foes. He returns to Jerusalem three years later, and is happily welcomed home by Judah and his friend’s mother and sister. Messala is in love with Judah’s sister, which contributes to the animosity between Messala and Judah when their relationship sours.
Judah, meanwhile, enjoys the good life as a prince. In the new version of Ben-Hur, Judah’s wife Esther (portrayed by Iranian-born actress Nazanin Boniadi) has a larger role than in the 1959 film. Early on in the movie the pair first meet Christ while shopping in the marketplace. Judah is a pacifist, wanting nothing to do with the Jewish Zealots trying to overthrow Roman rule, but is clearly no fan of Roman brutality. Christ, while engaging in carpentry in the public square, introduces a novel concept to the pair: “Love your enemies.” It is an idea that Judah initially finds absurd.
Christ is portrayed by Brazilian actor Rodrigo Santoro. He was chosen to play Christ, Downey said, because “he’s got strength, kindness, and depth.”
Santoro said, “Billions of people all over the world have a very personal and intimate relationship with this man, with his image, with what he represents. It’s a tremendous responsibility, but it’s also a unique opportunity to have a chance to explore and to have a deeper understanding of what he went through, and try to practice his teachings.”
The most challenging scene for Santoro was near the end of the film, during Christ’s crucifixion. Filming took place on a “bitterly cold” day in the historic town of Matera, Italy. “When I was up there on that cross it was so cold it was almost unbearable,” Santoro said. “I was on the top of a cliff looking over all those people and Matera in the background, just waiting.”
“When they took me down from the cross, my body was involuntarily shaking; I couldn’t stop,” he continued. “It was probably the most emotionally charged experience I’ve ever had.”
Live-action excitement in the age of CGI
When Messala returns to Jerusalem after three years of warfare, he is a respected Roman officer. He tells Judah that Pontius Pilate, the new Roman governor, will be coming into the city and requests his help in identifying and arresting the Zealots among the people. Judah, who secretly—albeit reluctantly—helped an injured Zealot named Dismas, refuses. Dismas—the “Good Thief” on the cross alongside Christ—attempts to murder Pilate as he enters the city. Judah and his family are arrested, and the relationship between Judah and Messala is severed. Judah is sent to be a galley slave, chained to his seat and manning an oar, and his mother and sister are imprisoned.
The second part of the film includes its two great action sequences.
A cave Jeremias found there, in which he set down tabernacle and ark and incense-altar, and stopped up the entrance behind him. There were some that followed; no time they lost in coming up to mark the spot, but find it they could not.—2 Machabees 2:5-6.
After this, God's heavenly temple was thrown open, and the ark of the covenant was plain to view, standing in his temple.—Apocalypse 11:19.
The Son of God came to earth to turn our hearts away from earth, Godwards. The material world in which we live was, by his way of it, something immaterial; it didn't matter. We were not to be always worrying about our clothes being shabby, or wondering where our next meal was to come from; the God who fed the sparrows and clothed the lilies would see to all that. We were not to resent the injuries done to us by our neighbours; the aggressor was welcome to have a slap at the other cheek, and when he took away our greatcoat he was to find that we had left our coat inside it. Life itself, the life we know, was a thing of little value; it was a cheap bargain, if we lost life here to attaIn the life hereafter. There was a supernatural world, interpenetrating, at a higher level, the world of our experience; it has its own laws, the only rule we were to live by, its own prizes, which alone were worth the winning. All that he tried to teach us; and we, intent on our own petty squabbles, our sordid struggle for existence, cold-shouldered him at first, and then silenced his protest with a cross.
His answer was to rise from the dead; and then, for forty days in the world's history, that supernatural life which he had preached to us flourished and functioned under the conditions of earth. A privileged few saw, with mortal eyes, the comings and goings of immortality, touched with their hands the impalpable. For forty days; then, as if earth were too frail a vessel to contain the mystery, the tension was suddenly relaxed. He vanished behind a cloud; the door of the supernatural shut behind him, and we were left to the contemplation of this material world, drab and barren as ever.
What was the first thing the apostles saw when they returned from the mount of the Ascension to the upper room? "Together with Mary"—is it only an accident that the Mother of God is mentioned just here, by name, and nowhere else outside the gospels? The Incarnate Word had left us, as silently as he came to us, leaving no trace behind him of his passage through time. No trace? At least, in the person of his blessed Mother, he had bequeathed to us a keepsake, a memory. She was bone of his bone, flesh of his flesh, the new Eve of the new Adam. That body of hers, still part of the material order of things, had housed and suckled God. As long as she lived, there would still be a link, a golden link, between this lower earth and Paradise. As long as she lived; and even if it was God's will that she, Eve's daughter, should undergo the death that was Eve's penalty, the penalty she had never incurred, her mortal remains would still be left with us, an echo from the past, an influence on our lives. We men, since we are body and soul, do honour even to the lifeless bodies which have housed the dead; Napoleon rests in the Invalides, Lenin at Moscow. The day would come when there would be pilgrimages from all over the world to the shrines of Peter and Paul at Rome, of James at Compostela. Was it not reasonable to hope that somewhere, at Jerusalem, perhaps, or at Ephesus, we should be privileged to venerate the mortal remains of her through whom salvation came to us? Or perhaps at Bethlehem, Bethlehem-Ephrata, this new Ark of God would rest, as the ark rested of old; "And now, at Ephrata, we have heard tidings of what we looked for"  —the old tag from the Psalms should still ring true.
God disposed otherwise. Jewish tradition recorded that when Jerusalem was destroyed by the armies of Babylon, the prophet Jeremias took the ark of God away from the city, and buried it in some secret cleft of the rock; it was never seen again. Never again, except by St John, in his vision on the isle of Patmos; he saw the ark of God, but in heaven. And so it was with this new Ark of God, the virgin body that had been his resting-place. When and where she passed away from this earth, or in what manner, nobody can tell us for certain. But we know where she is. When Elias was carried up into heaven, the sons of the prophets at Jericho asked Eliseus if they might go out in search of him; "it may be", they said, "the spirit of the Lord has carried him off and left him on some hill-top or in some cleft of the valleys." He consented grudgingly, and when they returned from their fruitless errand, greeted them with the words; "Did I not tell you not to send?"  So it is with the body of the blessed Virgin: nowhere in Christendom will you hear the rumour of it. So many churches, all over the world, eagerly claiming to possess the relics of this or that saint; who shall tell us whether John the Baptist sleeps at Amiens, or at Rome? But never of our Lady; and if any of us still hoped to find that inestimable treasure, the Holy Father has called off the search, only the other day. We know where her body is; it is in heaven.
Of course, we knew it all along. For myself, I have never doubted the doctrine of the Assumption since I heard it preached forty-four years ago, in an Anglican church over at Plymouth. You see, we get it all wrong about body and soul, simply because our minds are dominated by matter. We think it the most natural thing in the world that soul and body should be separated after death; that the body should remain on earth and the soul go to heaven, once it is purged and assoiled. But it isn't a natural thing at all; soul and body were made for one another, and the temporary divorce between them is something out of the way, something extraordinary, occasioned by the Fall. In our blessed Lady, not born under the star of that defeat, human nature was perfectly integrated; body and soul belonged to one another, as one day, please God, yours and mine will.
Long ago, in those fields of Bethlehem, Ruth had gleaned in the footsteps of her beloved; and he, secretly, had given charge to the reapers to drop handfuls of corn on purpose, so that she might fill her bosom the sooner. So he, whose reapers are the angels, would leave for his blessed Mother a special portion of those graces that were to enrich mankind. The child-bearing which brought, to us others, redemption from the fault of our first parents should bring, to her, exemption; the empty tomb, which assures us that our bodies will rise at the judgment, was for her the earnest of an immediate resurrection; Christ the first-fruits, and who should glean them, but she? For that, heaven is the richer, earth the poorer. We can go to Lourdes, and offer adoration in the place where her feet stood; we cannot press with our lips some precious reliquary containing the hand that swaddled Christ. In a world so dominated by matter, in which matter itself seems to carry the seeds of its own destruction, there is no material object left that can link our destinies with hers.
And yet, is the loss all loss? When the dogma of the Assumption was defined a friend of mine, a very intelligent Mohammedan, congratulated me on the gesture which the Holy Father had made; a gesture (said he) against materialism. And I think he was right. When our Lord took his blessed Mother, soul and body, into heaven, he did honour to the poor clay of which our human bodies are fashioned. It was the first step towards reconciling all things in heaven and earth to his eternal Father, towards making all things new. "The whole of nature", St Paul tells us, "groans in a common travail all the while. And not only do we see that, but we ourselves do the same; we ourselves although we have already begun to reap our spiritual harvest, groan in our hearts, waiting for that adoption which is the ransoming of our bodies from their slavery."  That transformation of our material bodies to which we look forward one day has been accomplished—we know it now for certain-in her.
When the Son of God came to earth, he came to turn our hearts away from earth, Godwards. And as the traveller, shading his eyes while he contemplates some long vista of scenery, searches about for a human figure that will give him the scale of those distant surroundings, so we, with dazzled eyes looking Godwards, identify and welcome one purely human figure close to his throne. One ship has rounded the headland, one destiny is achieved, one human perfection exists. And as we watch it, we see God clearer, see God greater, through this masterpiece of his dealings with mankind.
(A sermon broadcast from Buckfast Abbey, Devon, on the Feast of Our Lady Assumption, 15 August 1954.)
Monsignor Ronald Knox (1888-1957) was the son of the Anglican Bishop of Manchester and it appeared that he, being both spiritually perceptive and intellectually gifted, would also have a successful life as an Anglican prelate. But while in school in the early 1900s Knox began a long struggle between his love for the Church of England and his growing attraction to the Catholic Church. He converted to Catholicism at the age of twenty-nine, became a priest, and wrote numerous books on spiritual and literary topics, including The Belief of Catholics, Captive Flames: On Selected Saints and Christian Heroes, The Hidden Stream: The Mysteries of the Christian Faith, Pastoral and Occasional Sermons, and many more. Visit Knox's IgnatiusInsight.com author page for more information about his life and work.
Detail of "The Sacred Heart of Jesus" by Salvador Dali (1962).
The Purifying Fire of Dividing, Divine Love | Carl E. Olson
The Readings for Sunday, August 14th show that Jesus causes division and brings unity for one and the same reason: He is both the scandal that divides and the Savior who unites.
Readings: • Jer 38:4-6, 8-10 • Ps 40:2, 3, 4, 18 • Heb 12:1-4 • Lk 12:49-53
In the summer of 2007, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith released a document containing “responses to some questions regarding certain aspects of the doctrine of the Church.” It carefully re-articulated some important Catholic teachings about the nature of the Church, meant to help Catholics avoid various “erroneous interpretations which in turn give rise to confusion and doubt.”
Predictably, many media outlets sensationalized the contents of the document and ran headlines such as “Vatican hits ‘wounded’ Christian churches,” as though the teaching “that the Church of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church” is somehow new to the Vatican, the pope, or Catholicism. Of course, it isn’t. Yet that didn’t keep some Catholics from expressing their outrage at the supposed “intolerance” coming from a backwards and “polarizing” Pope Benedict XVI.
One Catholic, in a letter to the editor of the Detroit Free Press, lamented what he described as the “believe-what-we-say-or-leave’” mentality of the Catholic Church. “I hope all of us will start acting more like Jesus…”, he wrote, “simply passing along love, peace and goodness to others.”
That letter writer would do well to read both the document he wrongly criticizedand today’s Gospel reading, which describes Jesus explaining that He has “come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!” This is a reference back to the third chapter of Luke’s Gospel and John the Baptist’s explanation that the Messiah “will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” and that He will burn the chaff “with unquenchable fire” (Lk 3:16-17). Like the prophet Elijah, who called down fire from heaven to consume his enemies (2 Kgs 1:10-14), the presence of Jesus often caused violence and disturbance—not because He opposed love and peace, but because the destruction of evil and sin demanded a violent, active love. Only through bloodshed and sacrifice will peace be fully established, and then only at the end of time.
Many theologians and authors have tried in recent decades to warp the Gospels and remake Jesus into a sort of mild-mannered self-help guru who never uttered a disturbing word or made a shocking comment. Yet Jesus stated that He would bring division, even among families, setting parents against children. This is painful to consider, but it has often been the case: sometimes the one who enters the family of God must turn his back on father, mother, and siblings.
To take up modern terminology, Jesus came to apply shock therapy to the ailing hearts and souls of those lost in sin. The fire that He gave—and continues to give through His Church and the sacraments—is the burning life and the transforming energy of the Holy Spirit, which consumes what is weak and wanting while purifying and enlightening the minds of those who follow Him. “As fire transforms into itself everything it touches,” remarks the Catechism, “so the Holy Spirit transforms into the divine life whatever is subjected to his power” (CCC 1127; cf. 696).
That transformation is ultimately an all-or-nothing reality; there is, in fact, a “believe-what-we-say-or-leave” aspect to Catholicism, although it is far better expressed as “believe-what-He-says-or-leave”. Jesus causes division and brings unity for one and the same reason: He is both the scandal that divides and the Savior who unites. The bloody Cross is the scarlet line that separates and a steady tie that binds.
As the Letter to the Hebrews states today, the Cross is shameful to many. But for those who have their eyes fixed on Jesus, the Cross is the ladder to joy and life. The theologian Fr. Hans Urs von Balthasar, in reflecting on martyrdom and the cost of discipleship, once wrote that the “only valid response” to the death of Christ on the Cross “is to be prepared to die for him, and even more, to be dead in him.” Through that death comes real peace; in that death we experience true and abiding love. Yes, indeed, let us start acting more like Jesus!
(This "Opening the Word" originally appeared in a slightly different form in the August 19, 2007, issue of Our Sunday Visitor newspaper.)
Pope Francis sits next Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki, president of the Polish bishops conference, during a meeting with Poland's bishops at the cathedral in Krakow, Poland, July 27. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Pope Francis vs. Gender Ideology | Robert R. Reilly | Catholic World Report
In the end, reality always wins. An old saying has it that: God always forgives; man sometimes; Nature never.
In Krakow with the Polish bishops two weeks ago, Pope Francis declared that, “We are experiencing a moment of the annihilation of man as the image of God.” He specifically included within this defacement “[the ideology of] ‘gender’”. He was clearly outraged that, “Today children – children! – are taught in school that everyone can choose his or her sex…And this terrible!”
Then he quoted Benedict XVI, who had said to him recently: “Holiness, this is the age of sin against God the Creator.” Francis’ response was that, “He is very perceptive. God created man and woman; God created the world in a certain way… and we are doing the exact opposite.”
Pope Francis is right to use the word “ideology” to define this “exact opposite.” The whole point of ideology is the transformation of reality. It seeks not to understand things, but to change them. A second or false reality is set up parallel to reality, which it then attempts to extinguish. At a certain stage, the destruction becomes literal, as was seen in the Gnostic Nazi and Communist enterprises of the 20thcentury. Scores of millions were killed in order to institute the faux realities of a race-based theory of history or a class-based theory of history.
The entire LGBT movement is similarly ideological as a gender-based theory of history, if evidently less destructive—though its denial of reality has cost the lives of scores of thousands of homosexuals and others due to HIV-AIDS and other physical ailments attendant to homosexual behavior. Aside from disease and death, how does the “gay” movement express the unreality of the “exact opposite”?
Consider what happens in an actively sexual homosexual relationship, in which sodomy is generally typical. In it, one man behaves toward another man as if that other man were a woman. The other man willingly pretends that he is a woman.
A pilgrim prays during the opening Mass for World Youth Day July 26 at Blonia Park in Krakow, Poland. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)
by Carl E. Olson | The Dispatch at CWR
I've never been to a World Youth Day event, but have followed the last few as closely as possible via news accounts, blogs, and conversations with friends who have attended. This August 7th blog post by Fr. David Friel, a young priest (ordained in 20110 from Philadelphia, highlights something I'd not seen in other coverage of the recent events in Kraków (granted, I read only a slim portion of the countless articles and posts out there):
There was one truly remarkable part of the WYD celebrations that did not receive as much attention as these other details, yet it was revolutionary. I am speaking about the music used at the major English-speaking catechesis sessions.
This year, the main English-speaking catechesis was held at Tauron Arena, renamed “Mercy Centre” for the week. Each day, roughly 15,000 pilgrims packed the arena to hear keynote talks by Cardinal Seán O’Malley, Cardinal Tagle, and Cardinal Dolan. At the conclusion of the morning session, Mass was celebrated in the arena.
Nothing is new about the general structure of the catechesis I have just described. The revolutionary part was the music used at the Masses in Tauron Arena. Typically, these Masses feature pop concert-style praise & worship led by an on-stage band. This year, however, the preparations for these large-scale liturgies were entrusted to the Dominican Liturgical Centre in Kraków. Fr. Lukasz Misko, OP was invited to serve as Director of Music for the English-language liturgies, and he, in turn, invited fellow-blogger Christopher Mueller to serve as conductor for all of these liturgies (as he announced here). The result was an experience very different from the norm.
Notably, not a single hymn was sung during Mass. Praise & worship songs were used throughout the day at the arena, before and after Mass, but no garden variety metrical hymns or songs were sung during Mass, from the Sign of the Cross to the Final Blessing. This, in itself, is revolutionary.
Fr. Friel provides some details about the music and then notes: "This sea change is not insignificant. It means that the project of advocating truly sacred music within the present liturgical movement is bearing practical fruit. Even three years ago, at WYD 2013 in Rio de Janeiro, no one would have expected what transpired at the Mercy Centre in Kraków." He also provides the text of a letter that was included in the program for music, written by Fr. Lukasz Misko, OP, who was Director of Music for English-language liturgies, WYD 2016. Fr. Misko states, in part:
These English-language liturgies are the fruit of a long and ongoing collaboration between Dominican Friars in Poland and their Dominican brethren in the United States. And one of the first impressions you may have is, a lot of this music is unfamiliar. What we hope you’ll take away from these Masses, though—alongside the presence of Christ in the Eucharist and the camaraderie of thousands of new Catholic friends from around the globe—is a sense of how beautiful the music of the Mass can be.
Dominicans especially cherish Gregorian chant, and yet they believe that the beauty of sacred music does not belong to one particular genre. It flows from a basic requirement found in different musical styles, which might be summed up as, “it’s all about God, and He’s a Mystery.” Inexpressible and ineffable, the Mystery of God is always ahead of us, approached but never comprehended, and therefore our liturgical music—filled with awe and love for Him—should reflect that fundamental humility. This week we are drawing from a wide variety of the Church’s music, including Gregorian chant, sacred polyphony, traditional hymnody, and contemporary praise and worship. ...
And it’s all about God, and He’s a Mystery. The unfamiliarity of this beautiful choral music gives us a chance to experience God anew at each liturgy. We can’t apply our usual “traditional music = conservative” or “contemporary music = liberal” thinking. We must become open to the vastness of God, and beauty offers us a powerful means of doing that; true beauty calls us out of ourselves, orients us to something greater, and stirs up a longing for the transcendent. Sacred music, the expression of the deepest human yearning for the most profound Mystery of Love, creates in us a special dimension whereby we can be permeated and transformed by the Eternal beauty of God, Himself.
Author tells how the Catholic Church’s liturgical calendar provided a spiritual renewal
SAN FRANCISCO, August 9, 2016 – Chene Heady was a devout Catholic whose daily concerns were shaped primarily by forces other than his faith: career demands as a college professor, financial decisions, scheduling conflicts, etc. He worked long hours, and had limited regular interaction with his wife, also a busy professional, and young daughter. He was the typical overextended and anonymous modern Catholic man — until he tried a fascinating experiment that drastically rearranged his life, which he chronicles in his encouragingly honest memoir, NUMBERING MY DAYS: How the Liturgical Calendar Rearranged My Life.
After reading about the importance of the Catholic Church’s liturgical year, Heady decided to take on the challenge of living as though the Church’s calendar, not the secular one, stood as the center of his life. He observed the Church’s seasons and feasts, and meditated on its daily readings, every day for a year. It was an immensely rewarding decision, as Heady found that his life, and his relationships, including with his wife and daughter, became more meaningful and fruitful.
One of the myriad ailments afflicting the modern world is the loss of the sense of the sacredness of time, a deafness to the rhythms that accentuate a truly Catholic life. Heady provides the antidote in NUMBERING MY DAYS, and describes how the liturgy is our universal story and alters our imperfect existence, even when we believe we’re stretched thin and feel as though our lives are devoid of meaning.
“Through engaging personal stories, Chene Heady shows just how much it will change your life to center your days on the liturgical calendar,” says Jennifer Fulwiler, author of Something Other Than God. “Highly recommended!”
For more information, to request a review copy or to schedule an interview with Chene Heady, please contact Kevin Wandra (404-788-1276 or KWandra@CarmelCommunications.com) of Carmel Communications.
We live and move and have our being today in what we might call the aftermath of the natural law. We have become once again culture-bound, and our culture denies the pervasive evidence for the natural law in favor of philosophies which serve particular passions, mostly having to do with a flight from God, the pursuit of power and wealth, and the unquenchable desire for utopia, by which we mean a world made in our own image.
How has this come about? How was such a great synthesis, forged over nearly two thousand years of brilliant thought and insight, torn apart over the next seven hundred years, leaving us with essentially nothing? The question is pertinent, for the “nothing” that we have now inherited looks surprisingly like the nothings that were being proposed in ancient Greece before the great Western philosophical tradition began to develop.
Talk about going back to the future! If we go back far enough we arrive at where we are today, imagining the twin deceptions of “no matter and never mind”. Either everything is materialistically determined (never mind) or everything is whatever we project it to be based on our desires (no matter). Given the intellectual achievements of our past history, it is astonishing that in the twenty-first century we have no greater grip on reality than had the Greeks before Socrates! (And no greater than the pagans before Christ.) Perhaps it is time to freshly examine how Western civilization escaped despair and futility in the first place, and to reconsider what went wrong.
Fortunately, we now have a clear and readable book which does exactly this, exploring the rise and decline of the quintessentially Western understanding of reality beginning in the sixth century before Christ. In some 275 luminous pages, John Lawrence Hill of the Indiana University School of Law connects all the dots with such clarity of thought and expression that the subject matter, which readers might otherwise find confusing, is always deeply engaging. The book was published this year by Ignatius Press. Its title is After the Natural Law: How the Classical Worldview Supports Our Modern Moral and Political Values.
Hill gives us not only Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas and the other great contributors to the Western synthesis, but also William of Ockham, Descartes, Locke, Hobbes, Mill, Kant and others who largely dismantled it, without solving the problems it had so successfully addressed. The story is riveting because it explores the fundamentals of human existence—the very fundamentals we are so desperate to grasp today. Can we know reality? If so, is there such a thing as truth? Do we have a purpose? If so, are we capable of choosing our ends and means in any meaningful way? Are we free merely for nothingness? Or are we free at all?
But no matter how many factors one identifies, the progress of civilization remains a mystery. A full understanding of the ebb and flow of the human grasp of truth, including religious faith, remains hidden in the workings of Divine Providence. This makes it even more helpful to focus on the path followed by the ideas characteristic of the Western synthesis, the better to grasp how we should start thinking about things now. Again, it is precisely this story of rise and fall—of construction and deconstruction—that Hill tells with such admirable clarity.
Even better, what we see in this account is that hope is not lost. Quite the contrary. Not only does Hill enlighten in a wholly positive and encouraging way, but he also knows that those who have pronounced the Natural Law dead have made a premature diagnosis. In fact, quite a number of scholars have been quietly at work on a significant reconstruction for the past fifty years. It is true that the loss of meaning that characterizes Western intellectual life today is still pervasive, but there is rapidly growing energy on the other side—even as those who have abandoned meaning drift slowly into irrelevance.
I do not know the future, but I think it can be glimpsed in this welcome and even remarkable book. After the Natural Law is a brilliant lesson in intellectual history, but it is also much more. It is a vision of meaning, and a marking of the path that leads to it.
This volume in the popular Bible study series leads readers through a penetrating study of the Books of 1 & 2 Samuel using the biblical text itself and the Church's own guidelines for understanding the Bible.
Ample notes accompany each page, providing fresh insights by renowned Bible teachers Scott Hahn and Curtis Mitch, as well as time-tested interpretations from the Fathers of the Church. They provide rich historical, cultural, geographical or theological information pertinent to the Old Testament book - information that bridges the distance between the biblical world and our own.
It also includes Topical Essays, Word Studies and Charts. The Topical Essays explore the major themes of 1 & 2 Samuel, often relating them to the teachings of the Church. The Word Studies explain the background to important Bible terms, while the Charts summarize crucial biblical information "at a glance".
Curtis Mitch, a former student of Scott Hahn, is the General Editor of the complete Ignatius Study Bible series.
Scott Hahn, Ph.D., well- known as the author of several best-selling books including Rome Sweet Home and The Lamb's Supper, is a professor of scripture at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, and a very popular scripture scholar and speaker.
"With copious historical and theological notes, incisive commentary and tools for study, the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible is outstanding for private devotion, personal study and Bible study groups. It is excellent for evangelization and apologetics as well!" — Stephen Ray, Host ,The Footprints of God series
"The Ignatius Study Bible is a triumph of both piety and scholarship, in the best Catholic tradition: simply the most useful succinct commentary that any Christian or other interested person could hope for." — Erasmo Leiva, Author, Fire of Mercy, Heart of the Word
Russell Shaw is one of the best Catholic writers and historians in the Catholic world.
In his new book, Catholics in America, he offers the reader the opportunity to go from the very beginnings of Catholicism in the United States up to our own times, through a series of 15 portraits of important American Catholics.
He describes these major Catholic players, the influence that they had, their understanding of the congeniality or uncongeniality of the American project to Catholicism, and the difference they made — for better or worse — in the Church in the United States today. He then takes a look at how the situation of the Church in America may look in the future.
This book will greatly aid those who are history-challenged in general and Catholic students in particular.
It could also help in evangelizing relatives and friends interested in venturing deeper into the truth of Catholicism and its impact in this country. My own doctorate is in history, and I recommend this book strongly.
This is a collection of short, popularly written profiles of some of the leading figures in American Catholic history. The group includes Archbishop John Carroll, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Orestes Brownson, Isaac Hecker, Cardinal James Gibbons, Al Smith, Dorothy Day, Cardinal Francis Spellman, John F. Kennedy, and others. Collectively, their story is the story of the building and shaping of the largest religious body in the United States.
But it is also something more. Catholics in America reflects the ongoing, often controversial, effort to work out the Catholic identity for American Catholics in the context of sometimes hostile, sometimes all-too-inviting American secular society.
The book poses a fundamental challenge to the conventional wisdom of Catholic Americanist historiography which takes cultural assimilation for granted. The oldest question in the history of the Catholic Church in the United States may be this: "Is it possible to be a good Catholic and a good American?" Catholics in America documents the variety of answers that have been given to date, and why the question is more timely now than it has ever been before.
History, human interest, and the drama of faith lived out in action come together in these portraits to tell an exciting story that stretches back two hundred years and continues today.
Russell Shaw is a widely published author and journalist who has written over twenty books, including American Church and Nothing to Hide: Secrecy, Communication, and Communion in the Catholic Church. For 18 years, Shaw directed media relations for the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and the United States Catholic Conference. From 1987 to 1997 he oversaw media relations for the Knights of Columbus.
"Intelligence, zeal, fidelity and a sharp critical eye: Russell Shaw excels in each of these qualities. All of his skills combine here. His portraits of 15 key Catholics from our nation's history make for a compelling experience of the tensions that exist between our Christian identity and the powerful appeal of American secular culture. This is a small book with big content. It's offers wonderful help, vividly readable and wise, in understanding the dilemmas and paradoxes of the Catholic Church in the United States." — Most Reverend Charles J. Chaput, Archbishop of Philadelphia
"Russell Shaw's fifteen great Americans brings into poignant relief the changes in the American society into which it was once thought possible and desirable for Catholics to join as fully pledged citizens. We have here a sober book that allows us, belatedly, to examine our political souls in the light of more eternal things." — James V. Schall, S. J., Professor Emeritus, Georgetown University
Detail from "Christ Leading the Apostles to Mount Tabor" by Lorenzo Lotto (1512).
A Scriptural Reflection by Carl E. Olson on the Readings for Sunday, August 7, 2016
Readings: • Wis 18:6-9 • Ps 33:1, 12, 18-19, 20-22 • Heb 11:1-2, 8-19 • Lk 12:32-48
“What is the mark of a Christian?” asked St. Basil in his work, Moralia, which is a guide living a morally upright life in the world. How might we answer this question? To be kind. To be charitable. To give to the poor. These are all good answers, but St. Basil’s answer emphasized something else: “It is to watch daily and hourly and to stand prepared in that state of total responsiveness pleasing to God, knowing that the Lord will come at an hour that he does not expect.” A true Christian is vigilant, meaning he is ready to hear God’s word and to respond accordingly.
Today’s readings are about vigilance, especially as they relate to the virtues of faith and hope. In fact, vigilance is really impossible with faith and hope, for the disciple of Christ stands prepared because he believes in faith that the Lord has come and will come, and because he believes in hope that Christ will fulfill the promises granted through the new covenant, the Church, and the sacraments.
The Book of Wisdom was written by a well-educated, anonymous Jewish author living around Alexandria, Egypt, between 180 and 50 B.C. The “night of the Passover” was, of course, a definitive moment for the Israelites. “It was a night of watching by the LORD, to bring them out of the land of Egypt” (Ex. 12:42). The vigilance kept on the night of Passover was based on the promise and the “knowledge of the oaths in which they put their faith,” which had been given to them by God through Moses.
This vigilance was not just a matter of waiting and watching, however, for it also involved the sacrifice of an unblemished lamb. The blood of the lamb was to be put on the doorposts as a sign of their faith, and then the lamb was to be eaten (Ex. 12:3-14). This led, then, to two essential acts: the liberation of the people and the destruction of their enemies.
Hebrews 11 is a powerful, even poetic, celebration of vigilant, active faith. It opens by stating that faith “is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things no seen.” Faith is rooted in God’s actions and words in the past and looks with hope toward the future and “a better homeland, a heavenly one” (Heb. 11:16). Abraham, filled with faith, obeyed when he was called to go to the promised land. Vigilant, he responded, even though he was not certain of where God was leading him, but believing that God had a prepared a city for him.
That city is heaven, the new Jerusalem, the dwelling place of God. There is but one holy land, and it was inaugurated by Jesus Christ, who is the new Moses, “the pioneer and perfecter of our faith” (Heb. 12:2). He inaugurated the kingdom through preaching and teaching, and by establishing the Church, the “little flock” referred to in today’s Gospel. “The Word of the Lord,” states Lumen Gentium, “is compared to a seed which is sown in a field; those who hear the Word with faith and become part of the little flock of Christ, have received the Kingdom itself” (par. 5).
Again, vigilance and obedience are essential; those who listen with anticipation and respond in faith will receive the Kingdom. Jesus’ exhortation to alert faith is meant for all Christians, but he explained to Peter that his words held a special gravity for the apostles and their successors. The master, Jesus, has given his servants, the apostles, unique authority in the household of God. The slothful or ignorant servant will suffer severely. “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.”
Our prayer should echo that uttered by Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity, that we will be “completely vigilant in my faith, entirely adoring, and wholly given over to your creative action” (CCC 260).
(This "Opening the Word" column originally appeared in the August 8, 2010, issue of Our Sunday Visitor newspaper.)