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The Scriptural Roots of St. Augustine's Spirituality | Stephen N. Filippo | IgnatiusInsight.com
Perhaps of all the Church Fathers, none shone so brightly as St. Augustine (351-430). Augustine's spirituality has deeply pervaded the Church right up to this very day. Two great Orders in the Church (just to cite a few), the Benedictines and the Franciscans took their spirituality directly from St. Augustine. St. Augustine's spirituality came into the Benedictine Order primarily through St. Anselm (1033-1109) and into the Franciscans primarily through St. Bonaventure (1221-1274). Both these men were in themselves, also great lights in the Church.
Of course, no discussion of Church giants can be complete without mentioning St. Thomas Aquinas, who is best described as 'following St. Augustine in Theology and Aristotle in Philosophy.' In sum, the Church gets her Dogmatic Theology primarily through St. Augustine. Since Spiritual Theology is based upon the correct Dogmatic Theology, it only makes sense that one of the Church's greatest Theologians, St. Augustine, is also responsible for a great deal of her Spiritual Theology.
And for St. Augustine, as it should be for all Catholics, this means a deep concentration and constant reflection on Sacred Scripture. The scriptural roots of St. Augustine's spirituality can be clearly seen by examining one of his greatest, yet lesser known works, De doctrina Christiana, literally "On Christian Doctrine," but actually "On how to read and interpret Sacred Scripture."
In De doctrina Christiana (henceforth "DDC"), St. Augustine lays the groundwork for a good, spiritual exegesis by elucidating on the virtue of charity, and all that means. Then, in order to begin the climb to spiritual perfection, he explains a scripturally based seven-step ladder. Lastly, he gives seven rules that are helpful in reading and understanding Sacred Scripture correctly.
Charity Towards God, Neighbor And Self
St. Augustine teaches that there are four possible objects of human love: 1. The things above us, 2. Ourselves, 3. Things equal to us, and 4. Things below us. Since all men by nature love themselves, there was no need to give the human race precepts about self-love. And, since it is obvious to most men that they should not love that which is below them, namely lesser objects, but merely use them, fewer precepts are given in the Bible concerning these. But about the love of things above us, namely God and His Angels, and things equal to us, namely other men, Sacred Scripture has everything to say. Our Lord Himself tells us the two greatest commandments are: "You shall love the Lord your God, with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Upon these the whole law and the prophets depend" (Mt. 22: 37-40).
Then, Augustine makes the distinction between enjoyment and use: "Some things are to be enjoyed, others to be used, and there are others which are to be used and enjoyed. Those things which are to be enjoyed make us blessed. Those things which are to be used help and, as it were, sustain us as we move toward blessedness in order that we may gain and cling to those things which make us blessed . . . To enjoy something is to cling to it with love, for its own sake. To use something, however, is to employ it in obtaining that which you love, provided it is worthy of love." (DDC I, iii, 3. iv, 4.) And, for St. Augustine, as it should be for us, the only thing worthy of his love, the only "thing" to be "enjoyed for its own sake" is the Holy, Blessed Trinity, the One True God.
Concerning love of our neighbors, St. Augustine reminds us that "all other men are to be loved equally; but since you cannot be of assistance to everyone, those are especially to be cared for who are most closely bound to you by place, time or opportunity, as if by chance. Just as if you had an abundance of something special that you could only give enough of to one other person, yet two came asking, neither of whom deserved it more or less. You could do no more than choose by lot. Thus, among all men, not all of whom you can care for, you must consider those in your life as if chosen by lot, who, in reality, are chosen by God." (DDC I, xxviii, 29). Therefore, the second great pre-requisite of St. Augustine's for interpreting Sacred Scripture is charity to every person in your life.
Sister Aman Miriam places her hands in the hands of her Prioress, Sister Maria Hanna (right), as she makes Perpetual Profession of Vows, in this undated photo from the website of the Adrian Dominican Sisters (www.adriandominicans.org)
Prioress of Dominican Sisters in Iraq chronicles ISIS takeover, expresses fears and frustrations | Carl E. Olson | CWR Blog
Sister Maria Hanna: "The disaster is overwhelming, and we are unable to comprehend it all."
Sister Maria Hanna, Prioress of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena in Iraq, has been posting about the harrowing situation there over the past several weeks. In an August 5th post, she describes the upheavel and exodus taking place in Mosul and Karakosh (Qaraqosh):
So far, 510 families have been displaced from Mosul. Some were fortunate to leave before the deadline ISIS set as they were able to take their belongings with them. However, 160 families of them left Mosul with only their clothes on; everything they had was taken away from them.
These families are in so much need of help and support. People in Christian towns that received these refugees opened their homes to provide shelters and food for them, as much as they could. People are strongly willing to help, but the fact that they did not have their salaries for two months (June- July) makes it extremely difficult for them to offer more. As the salaries of government employees in areas under ISIS control are being suspended. Additionally, because of the present situation in Mosul and the whole province (of Nineveh) the economy of the state is suffering, which naturally affects everyone. Since the tension started in Mosul, many people lost their jobs as 99% of jobs stopped, which means there is hardly any money to be used let alone loaning to those who are in need. This is not only in the province of Nineveh, but also in Erbil. Moreover, all Christians in the plain of Nineveh have not received their food supplement, which the government used to provide via the smart ration card. This is causing a crisis not only for the refugees, but also for the residents in the area. ...
As you perhaps know, concerning the situation in Mosul, the Islamic State has a policy in governing the city. After displacing the Christians, they started their policy concerning the holy places that angered people. So far, the churches are under their control; crosses have been taken off. But we are not sure about the extent of the damaged done in them. In addition to that, few mosques have been affected, too. The ISIS destroyed two mosques with their shrines last week: the mosque of Prophet Sheeth (Seth) and the mosque of the Prophet Younis, or Jonah, said to be the burial place of Jonah. The militants claim that such mosques have become places for apostasy, not prayer. This was really too painful for all people as Jonah’s shrine was considered as a monument. Also, it was a historical place as it was built on an old church. Destroying such places is a destruction of our heritage and legacy.
She then penned this poignant plea: "We are surprised that some countries of the world are silent about what is happening. We hoped that there would be stronger international approach toward Iraq, and Christians in Iraq in general. As for us as community, our sisters in Batnaya and Telkaif had to leave the town with 99% of people who left because of violence outside the town."
Just three days later, Sister Maria wrote again: "You might be surprised that we are writing this letter so soon since you received the last one. But events are happening so quickly here shocking everybody because of its brutality and cruelty." She described the escalation of violence and attacks, and then wrote that the Sisters would have to leave Karakosh, Iraq's largest Christian city:
On the seventh of August we gradually started to understand that the Peshmerga, who were supposed to protect Karakosh, were pulling out, leaving the town unprotected. Everybody was shocked because Kurdish government promised to defend Karakosh, and the other Christian towns. At the same time, ISIS started to get closer to Karakosh and the residents stared to leave the town. As a community, in no time we were to prepare to leave; we took the least with us unaware of what to take and unable to comprehend what was really happening. There were thirty sisters left Karakosh in three cars, and two families accompanied us, as they had no place to go. Three Franciscan sisters came with us, too. When we left the convent, we were surprised to see a big number of people leaving the town on foot. Moreover, it was strange to see only very few guards at the checkpoint when we were leaving the town. We were not alone on this, other towns shared the same horror. Christians from fifteen villages among them Karamles, Bartela, Bashiqa, Telkaif, Baqofa, Batnaya, Telusquf were forced to leave their homes because ISIS was advancing. Our sisters also left their convents in these towns. In Telkaif, while a young man (Lugin) with a young priest were trying to help a lady who was not able to leave on her own, he was shot and killed by the ISIS.
Our exodus started at 11:30 pm, and before that we decided to pray and have the Holy Communion so that if the ISIS entered the house, it will not be defiled. But on the last minute, we decided to leave one piece in the tabernacle praying it will protect the house and the town. ...
We cannot what will happen or until when people will stay like this nor what the ISIS will do to our towns, nor if we will ever be able to get back home. Everything is so unclear. The situation is extremely difficult. For the time being people have some money to support themselves, but no one knows how long they will endure with the little they have.
As for the safety, Erbil is a Kurdish city and most refugees are staying in Ankawa that is a Christian suburb and protected by Peshmerga. It is hard for people to believe that even this city is safe that’s why they are thinking more and more to leave the whole country.
You may ask what the world can do for us. We would say, stop the blood, stop the oppression, and stop violence. We are human beings here; stop making us target for your weapon. The world needs to stand as one to protect minority against the evil and injustice. People want to live normal life in peace and dignity.
Sacred Tradition: The Forgotten Doctrine | Stephen J. Morrissey | Homiletic & Pastoral Review
The miracle and mystery of divine guidance has been the primary constituent element of Church teaching over the centuries, and this guidance is what makes Tradition “sacred,” but rarely is it linked with the teaching of any other doctrine.
In my preparations for teaching an RCIA class recently, I noticed that, in the manuals and catechisms which I perused, there was sparse attention paid to what is the most foundational Catholic doctrine of all—Sacred Tradition. Its explanation is typically relegated to a page, if not a paragraph, in these texts, may be scattered here and there (in one case near the end of the book), and treated as just another doctrine to be held by Catholics. Usually there is an explanation of the “basics”: the etymological Latin derivation of the word “tradition,” reference to apostolic succession and the apostolic deposit, the action of the Holy Spirit in guiding the transmission of faith, and Tradition’s role in a complementary pairing with Scripture to form Revelation.
The miracle and mystery of divine guidance has been the primary constituent element of Church teaching over the centuries, and this guidance is what makes Tradition “sacred,” but rarely is it linked with the teaching of any other doctrine. Yet, it is the sine qua non of all doctrines, the font, the key, the source—and if Catholics don’t understand and remember it as the basis for all other Church teaching on faith and morals, then they cannot logically understand and accept other doctrines. Perhaps, this partially explains why we have so many “cafeteria” Catholics, and so many Catholics in open dissent from Church teaching. If the Holy Spirit is not guiding the Church in all of its teaching on faith and morals, then it may not be guiding the Church in any of its teachings. If the deposit of faith handed on through the centuries is only a nice idea when convenient, and not a constant reality, then Catholic faith is meaningless. But if the Holy Spirit is, indeed, guiding and animating the Church, then the subject of Sacred Tradition should be front and center in every one of our faith presentations, and linked directly to other doctrines as the ultimate certitude of that doctrine’s truth. The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, for example, is credible only if referenced to Sacred Tradition. Presently, from my examination of a representative sample of Catholic catechetical texts, I would say that the importance of Tradition is, in fact, understated in the hundreds of pages of various books, and lost in the catechesis of the myriad of other Catholic teachings. For many Catholics and prospective Catholics, then, the importance of this essential doctrine may fade away, and, for all practical purposes, be forgotten. The insufficiency of catechetical attention to Tradition was recognized by Pope John Paul II in his General Directory for Catechesis in 1997: “It is necessary, however, to examine with particular attention some problems so as to identify their solutions—with regard to the fundamental direction of catechesis, catechetical activity is still usually impregnated with the idea of Revelation, however, the conciliar concept of Tradition is much less influential as inspiration for catechesis. In much catechesis, indeed, reference to Sacred Scripture is virtually exclusive, and unaccompanied by sufficient reference to the Church’s long experience and reflection, acquired in the course of her two-thousand-year history. The ecclesial nature of catechesis, in this case, appears less clearly; the interrelation of Sacred Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium, each according to “its proper mode,” does not yet harmoniously enrich a catechetical transmission of the faith. 1
Sacred Tradition is important because it is the first, or source, doctrine insofar as we can say that it “began” on Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles, and they began preaching from the deposit of faith. The Church, from its first days, claimed guidance by the Holy Spirit, as promised by Christ, who would teach it everything, and be with it for all time.
Tradition is also important because it is all encompassing.
Detail from "The School of Athens" (1510-1511) by Raphael (www.wikiart.org)
Classical Education, Freedom, and the Ordered Soul | Fr. James V. Schall, S.J. | CWR
Understanding is a spiritual thing, though rooted in really existing things, even ultimately in divine things
Editor's note: This essay was originally given in a slightly different form as an address, “On Not 'Keeping Quiet About a Study'”, at Kolbe Academy & Trinity Prep, in Napa, California, on August 8, 2014.
“Athenian: ‘We generally say that so far as the supreme deity and the universe are concerned, we ought not to bother our heads hunting up explanations, because that is an act of impiety. In fact, precisely the opposite seems to be true.’
“Clinias: ‘What’s your point?’
“Athenian: ‘My words will surprise you, and you may well think them out of place on the lips of an old man. But it’s quite impossible to keep quiet about a study, if one believes it is noble and true, a blessing to society, and pleasing in the sight of God.”
— Plato, The Laws, #821a.
A recent essay in the New Republic was entitled “Don’t Send Your Kids to Ivy League Schools” (July 21, 2014). Its thesis was that such schools merely prepare snobs who belong to a wealthy elite mostly out of touch with real people. We can be almost certain that this admonition not to send our kids to Ivy League schools will increase the number of their applicants. Snobs like to be with snobs. An elite likes to meet other elite.
The solution to this presumed problem, offered by the author, himself an Ivy League grad, was to send most everyone to state schools at state expense. This solution would assure equality and more diversity. I call this proposal “the totalitarian solution to the elitist problem.” It is the natural offspring of never having read with care Plato or Aristotle.
Allan Bloom, in his Closing of the American Mind, had already said that the unhappiest people in our society today are those students who go to the twenty most expensive universities. He also said, as if this fact might just be the source of the problem, that any professor, on entering a classroom, can assume that every student is, or thinks he is, a relativist. That is, he is someone who does not think that any truth is possible. Pope Benedict often spoke of the same issue at the cultural level.
The current annual tuition at Loyola/Marymount in Los Angeles, someone told me recently, is $53.000. The tuition per semester at Santa Clara when I was a student there in the 1940’s was $250. Loyola seems to have no difficulty in attracting students. Whether that is enough to make it an elite school is doubtful. Really elite universities generally waive tuition costs for students who cannot afford it if they can qualify to pass entrance requirements. An “elite” school today is one that can give free rides to the students it desires, such as football players. Just where the best education is given is not easily answered in terms of prestige, money, or state power. In fact, as I have often observed, the best education may well be mostly outside any academic institution.
Pope Francis often speaks of jobs and unemployment. He cites the number of unemployed youth in Europe, some 75 million. He talks about the frustration of youth who have no employment future even with education; he thinks a job is almost basic to human dignity. On the other hand, many economists tell us that there is no need for so many jobs in the future. Technology is rapidly replacing most all jobs but the menial ones. And immigrants are taking these latter jobs. There is some employment but we have to be highly educated in technology. We saw animals replaced by machines. Now we see that machines replace stores, robots replace factory workers, money is replaced by cards and automatic tellers, stores and shops are replaced by Costco, and Costco is replaced by Amazon.com. Newspapers and journals are on-line. Books are on Kindle,.
Writers like Wendell Berry think that this process is a disaster for the culture. The culture of family tradition, work, and social cohesion is broken when the young begin to go off to college. They seldom return to their places of origin. This view is the American take on the developmental brain drain in which the educated class left their countries for education and never returned. There is a small back-to-the-land, distributist movement. But this appears to be more like a hobby, however healthy it may be for the few who can still live on the land. E.F. Schumacher’s Small Is Beautiful was also an attempt to gear machinery to a human size and not to make man a stranger among monstrous machines. Technology responded by making the tiny machines everyone carries in his pockets so they can talk to anyone, any time, any place in the world.
Looked at from another angle, however, the world has made great strides in reducing and eliminating poverty.
Ignatius Press delivers one stop for resources into hotly debated topics at Vatican meeting
SAN FRANCISCO, August 26, 2014 – Communion for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics, the indissolubility of marriage, cohabitation and contraception are just a few of the many controversial topics to be discussed when Catholic bishops from across the globe meet with Pope Francis at the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops Oct. 5-19 at the Vatican. Ignatius Press, one of the largest religious publishers in the world, is publishing four books in the fall that will address issues of the upcoming synod. The Catholic publisher will also have a number of authors available to comment on the topics before and during the Synod.
THE HOPE OF THE FAMILY: A Dialogue With Cardinal Gerhard Muller, written by Gerhardt Ludwig Muller, addresses some of the main problems with the family in the Church today — the large number of Catholics who live together before marriage, who marry civilly, or who do not even bother with marriage, as if these choices were sound options for Catholic living.
In this engaging conversation, Cardinal Müller, one of Pope Francis' top advisers in the Vatican, discusses the challenges facing marriage and family life today. The loss of faith in many traditionally Christian societies has led to a crisis. In turn, cohabitation, civil marriage, and divorce and civil remarriage, further undermine faith because they harm the family as the “domestic Church” and the place of initial evangelization. The solution, according to Cardinal Muller, is that the Church must undertake a robust new evangelization of the family — sharing the fullness of truth about marriage and family in Christ, encouraging families to worship and pray together, and helping them witness by their lives to the joy of the gospel.
Cardinal Müller stresses mercy and compassion in pastoral ministry with struggling Catholics, without contradicting the teaching of Jesus about divorce and remarriage and minimizing the power of grace to transform lives. He proclaims hope for the family rooted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The authors appreciate certain elements of Kasper’s proposal while criticizing some of its doctrinale, pastoral, and pastorals elements. The book is a positive contribution providing an alternative merciful pastoral approach inspired by the Magisterium and by the testimony of Saint John Paul II, whom Pope Francis has held up to the whole Church as “the Pope of the Family.”
REMAINING IN THE TRUTH OF CHRIST: Marriage and Communion in the Catholic Church, written by Robert Dorado, O.S.A, is an in-depth response by five well-known Cardinals — Walter Brandmüller, Raymond Leo Burke, Carlo Caffarra, Velasio De Paolis, C.S., and Gerhard Ludwig Müller — and four other scholars — Dodaro, Paul Mankowski, S.J., John M. Rist and Archbishop Cyril Vasil, S.J. — to Cardinal Kasper’s proposal regarding marriage, civil re-marriage and reception of the Eucharist.
The book draws on both biblical texts and early Christian writings on marriage, and shows how the Church’s longstanding fidelity to the truth of marriage is the irrevocable foundation of its mercy in its pastoral practice with civilly remarried, divorced people.
ON HUMAN LIFE: Humane Vitae, written by Pope Paul VI and rereleased featuring a new foreword from Mary Eberstadt and a new afterword from James Hitchcock, is Pope Paul VI’s explanation of why the Catholic Church rejects contraception.
Paul VI referred to two aspects, or “meanings,” of human sexuality — the unitive and procreative aspects. Paul VI also warned of the consequences if contraception became widely practiced — greater infidelity in marriage, confusion regarding the nature of human sexuality and its role in society, the objectification of women for sexual pleasure, compulsive “family planning” and contraceptive policies by government, and the reduction of the human body as an instrument of human manipulation, all of which have come to pass. Other dangers such as genetic engineering and human cloning are on the horizon.
St. John Paul II’s popular “theology of the body” drew deeply on the insights of Paul VI. Pope Benedict and now Pope Francis have upheld the long-standing teaching. Indeed, a new generation of Catholics is embracing ON HUMAN LIFE: Humane Vitae. For more information, to request a review copy or to schedule an interview with any of the key experts, please contact Kevin Wandra (404-788-1276 or KWandra@CarmelCommunications.com) of Carmel Communications.
Detail from "The Triumph of St. Thomas Aquinas" (1468-1484) by Benozzo Gozzoli (WikiArt.org)
Metaphysics and the Case Against Scientism | Christopher S. Morrissey | CWR
Edward Feser’s new book, Scholastic Metaphysics, makes a strong case for the contemporary relevance of St. Thomas Aquinas’s philosophical reflections on Aristotle
The fundamental structures of reality go beyond what even physics is capable of studying. Modern science has forgotten that humanity actually does possess a tradition of rigorous intellectual inquiry that has been able to probe, painstakingly and fruitfully, beyond physics. The name of this venerable intellectual tradition is “metaphysics,” and the Catholic Church in her universities and seminaries has long recognized its key role in the life of the mind.
In his new book, Scholastic Metaphysics: A Contemporary Introduction (Editions Scholasticae, 2014), Edward Feser (website) shows how the Aristotelian-Thomistic metaphysics developed by thinkers who take key ideas from Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas is still relevant today. When Aquinas himself engaged in the most heated academic controversies of his own time, he formulated highly influential interpretations of Aristotle. They have become a precious inheritance because of their permanent achievement with regard to clarifying how to fundamentally understand nature.
The great strength of Feser’s book is how well it exposes the shortcomings of the speculations of contemporary analytic philosophy about the fundamental structures of reality. The most recent efforts of such modern philosophical research, shows Feser, are remarkably inadequate for explaining many metaphysical puzzles raised by modern science. In order to properly understand the meaning of humanity’s latest and greatest discoveries, such as quantum field theory in modern physics, an adequate metaphysics is urgently required, now more than ever.
Feser devotes a great deal of space to showing how contemporary analytic philosophy tries to account for the most basic features of reality. However, when he proceeds to contrast its own various theories with those of Scholastic metaphysical research, especially those of the Aristotelian-Thomistic variety, it becomes clear how many advantages the ancient and medieval tradition possesses when it comes to making sense of the universe. Surprisingly, that metaphysical tradition still offers wisdom that bears directly upon many of the most heated philosophical controversies in philosophy today.
Readers interested in stepping beyond physics and exploring what the human mind is capable of doing with the disciplined application of logic and organized thought will enjoy Feser’s book very much. It has four main chapters devoted to four key topics mapping the fundamental structures of reality: potency and act (Chapter 1); causation (Chapter 2); substance and matter (Chapter 3); and essence and existence (Chapter 4).
Feser has a notable flair for being both witty and engaging and for using entertaining and vivid examples. The book demands much from the reader’s intellectual abilities, but like reading St. Thomas Aquinas himself it is always rewarding and exhilarating. Page after page, insight after insight piles up—so many that if you have any philosophical curiosity at all, you simply cannot stop reading. ...
An Interview with Roger B. Thomas, author of The Accidental Marriage | IPNovels.com
Roger Thomas is a lifelong Michigan resident, has been married to his wife Ellen since 1981. They have six grown children and eight grandchildren. He is a self-employed computer consultant. He loves reading, and his favorite authors include C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Rudyard Kipling, and P.G. Wodehouse. He has had two collections of short stories published by Ignatius Press, including The Last Ugly Person which was recently featured in a list of 5 More Short Stories That Every Catholic Should Read. Ignatius Press Novels interviewed Roger via email regarding his new novel The Accidental Marriage.
Where did the idea for this book come from?
Thomas: Oddly, it was a chance line in an online article. It was written by a woman who considers herself a lesbian, and discussed the costs and challenges of getting pregnant. She made an offhand comment that one last resort option is always to just call up a guy friend for an informal “contribution” to facilitate the pregnancy. I pondered that comment, and that it reflected a very shallow understanding of the intricacy and intimacy of what happens when two people join to bring a child into being. I began imagining what kind of complexities might follow such an interaction, and before long the characters of Scott and Megan were coming to life.
Recently, Archbishop Cordileone of San Francisco made this appeal to people critical of the Church’s position on same-sex marriage: “Please do not make judgments based on stereotypes, media images and comments taken out of context. Rather, get to know us first as fellow human beings… It is the personal encounter that changes the vision of the other and softens the heart.” During the course of the book, Scott and Megan find that their stereotypes and expectations about others are challenged, both in positive and negative ways. Do you hope your book can help draw out that “encounter” between people with divergent opinions?
Thomas: I certainly hope so. Archbishop Cordileone’s statements cut two ways, as he and other church leaders have made clear. We, especially as Catholics, must not judge on stereotypes and media images, but get to know one another personally.
A drawback of our current cultural dialog, fraught as it is with friction and antagonism, is that was start defining ourselves by our differences. I’m male, she’s female; I’m white, he’s black; I’m a veteran, she’s never served, and so on. This has an isolating effect which you can see expressed in statements like, “You couldn’t possibly understand, because you’re not X”, whatever X might be. Pressed to the extreme, this increasingly isolates us from one another, because nobody is ever going to completely share another’s personal conditions and life experience.
As St. John Paul the Great frequently reminded us, one of the roles of the arts is to reach across those walls and reconnect us with each other in our common humanity. When we read a story or hear a song or see a film and find ourselves saying, “Yes! That’s exactly how it is!”, then we’re connecting with one another. And even as Scott and Megan find their categories getting broadened by their life experiences, I hope the readers of The Accidental Marriage come to see the main protagonists for what they are: simply humans, fellow humans searching for love. Easy as it would be to pigeonhole them as a couple of Bay Area gays living out their mistaken world views, I hope the story brings out their essential humanity in a way that resonates with every reader.
It often seems that the business world of tech startups—the way that there is constant agitation for change and growth without much regard for how that change and growth affects the real people involved—is reflective of a view of relationships that values novelty and change over permanence and depth. Was the setting of the book intentional in this regard?
Thomas: Actually, that was unintentional, but it’s interesting to look back on the story and see that correspondence. There is a disturbing similarity between the interchangeable-persons outlook of the modern corporate world and the similar view of “relationships” – of any type – that is common in our culture. Both reflect a short-term, immediate-return outlook. If this employee (or investment, or partner) isn’t “performing”, then it’s time to change it out.
Love is normally portrayed in romantic fiction as a form of self-fulfillment. Do you think our culture’s emphasis on “romance” helps or hinders love?
Detail from "Sistine Chapel Ceiling: Creation of the Sun and Moon" (1508) by Michelangelo (www.wikiart.org)
Why I Love My Invisible Friend | Very Rev. Robert Barron | CWR blog
One of the most fundamental mistakes made by atheists is to suppose that God is a supreme being, an impressive item within or alongside the universe
One of the favorite taunts of the New Atheists is that religious people believe in an “invisible friend.”
They are implying, of course, that religion is little more than a pathetic exercise in wishful thinking, a reversion to childish patterns of projection and self-protection. It is well past time, they say, for believers to grow up, leave their cherished fantasies behind, and face the real world. In offering this characterization, the New Atheists are showing themselves to be disciples of the old atheists such as Feuerbach, Marx, Comte, and Freud, all of whom made more or less similar observations.
Well, I'm writing here to let atheists know that I think they’re right, at least about God being an invisible friend. Where they’re wrong is in supposing that surrendering to this unseen reality is de-humanizing or infantilizing.
First, a word about invisibility. It is an extraordinary prejudice of post-Enlightenment Western thought that visible things, empirically verifiable objects and states of affairs, are the most obviously “real” things around. For centuries prior to the Enlightenment, some of the very brightest people that have ever lived thought precisely the opposite. Most famously, Plato felt that the empirical world is evanescent and contingent in the extreme, made up of unstable objects that pass in and out of existence; whereas the invisible world of forms and mathematical truths is permanent, reliable, and supremely beautiful. You can certainly see two apples combining with two oranges to make four things, but when you grasp the principle that two plus two equals four, you have moved out of the empirical realm and into a properly invisible order, which is more pure and absolute than anything that the senses could take in.
Mind you, I’m not denigrating the material world, as Plato and his followers were too often wont to do; I’m simply trying to show that it is by no means obvious that the invisible can simply be equated with the fantastic or the unreal.
Tolkien and Beowulf | Jerry Salyer | Catholic World Report
Tolkien’s newly published translation of the Old English epic beautifully demonstrates that there is more reality in folklore than in the perverse fantasies by which many live today.
At morn King Hrothgar on his throne for his lieges slain there mourned alone but Grendel gnawed the flesh and bone of the thirty thanes of Denmark. A ship there sailed like a wingéd swan, and the foam was white on the waters wan, and one there stood with bright helm on that fate had brought to Denmark.
— “Beowulf and the Monsters,” J.R.R. Tolkien
Heathen or no, Beowulf does the Lord’s work, and knows full well that there is a higher power to Whom all must answer. So believed the anonymous eighth-century Christian poet who saw fit to set down Beowulf’s adventures; so too believed the late scholar and novelist J.R.R. Tolkien, whose long-awaited translation of the greatest of Old English epics has finally been released.
If Professor Tolkien and the ancient Anglo-Saxon storyteller are right, then Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014) should interest not only philologists and Tolkien fans but the inquisitive Catholic layman, too. Perhaps northern European folklore is more relevant to the Faith than we might think? Perhaps modern Christians can derive wisdom and inspiration from what Tolkien called “point[s] of contact between Scripture and Germanic legend”?
In Tolkien’s view, the first noteworthy “point of contact” is manifested through the Beowulf monsters—particularly the ogre Grendel. By terrorizing the realm of the good King Hrothgar and devouring Hrothgar’s subjects at night, Grendel stands as a representative of Cain, that first killer from whom, in the Beowulf mythos, “all evil broods were born, ogres and goblins and haunting shapes of hell, and the giants too, that long time warred with God.”
What attracts Grendel’s hostility is the music coming from Heorot, as the sound of Hrothgar’s minstrel singing joyfully of Creation rings hatefully in the creature’s ears. This loathing for Christian civilization is extremely important for understanding the poem, for as Tolkien observes in his commentary on the Old English text Grendel is the ultimate féond(enemy), in a permanent state of enmity—fæhÞ—with mankind:
The entrance portal of St. Peter's Parish Church in Radovljica. (Photo: Donald Judge from England/Wikimedia Commons)
A Scriptural Reflection on the Readings for Sunday, August 24, 2014 | Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time | Carl E. Olson
Readings: • Isa 22:19-23 • Psa 138:1-2, 2-3, 6, 8 • Rom 11:33-36 • Matt 16:13-20
“The doctrine of the primacy of Peter is just one more of the many errors that the Church of Rome has added to the Christian religion.”
So wrote the Presbyterian theologian Loraine Boettner in his 1962 book, Roman Catholicism, a popular work of anti-Catholic polemics. Although the religious landscape has changed significantly since the early 1960s, there are still many non-Catholic Christians today who agree wholeheartedly with Boettner’s assertions. The Papacy is unbiblical! It has no basis in Scripture! Peter was never singled out as a leader of the apostles!
Growing up in a Fundamentalist home, I believed such statements. But I now agree instead with the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “The Lord made Simon alone, whom he named Peter, the ‘rock’ of his Church. He gave him the keys of his Church and instituted him shepherd of the whole flock” (par 881; cf. 551-53). Some of the reasons for the change in my beliefs are found in today’s readings, which provide some Old Testament context for the papacy and also describe a profound exchange between Jesus and Peter.
First, the Old Testament background. King Solomon and his successors had twelve deputies or ministers who helped the king govern and rule (cf., 1 Kings 4:1ff). The master of the palace, or prime minister, had a unique position over those twelve, as described in today’s reading from the prophet Isaiah. The prime minister wore a robe and sash befitting his office, and was entrusted by the king to wield the king’s authority. The symbol for that authority were “the keys of the House of David,” which enabled the minister to regulate the affairs of the king’s household—that is, of the kingdom. In addition, this prime minister is described by Isaiah as a “father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah.”
Fast forward to about the year A.D. 30. Jesus and his disciples are in the region of Caesarea Philippi, a pagan area about 25 miles north of the Sea of Galilee. They likely were standing at the base of Mount Hermon in front of a well-known cliff filled with niches holding statues of pagan deities; at the top of the cliff stood a temple in honor of Caesar. Jesus first asked the disciples who other people thought he was. The variety of answers given revealed the confusion surrounding the identity of Jesus, quite similar to the confusion and controversies about Jesus in our own time.
Jesus asked who they thought he was. It was Peter—brash but correct—who responded with the great acclamation, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”, confessing both the divinity and kingship of Jesus. Peter was then addressed singularly by Jesus, who renamed him Petros, or “Rock”. That name was unique among the Jews, reserved in the Old Testament for God alone. Jesus further declared he would build his Church upon the newly named Rock, and he gave Peter “the keys to the kingdom of heaven.”
This dramatic moment makes little or no sense without the context provided by Isaiah 22 and other Old Testament passages. Jesus, heir of David and King of kings, was appointing Peter to be his prime minister, the head of the Twelve. “The ‘power of the keys’,” explains the Catechism, “designates authority to govern the house of God, which is the Church” (par 553). The binding and loosing refers to prohibiting and permitting; it also includes the function of rendering authoritative teaching and making official pronouncements.
Does this mean that Peter and his successors are sinless or even somehow divine? No, of course not. They are men in need of salvation, just like you and I. But God has chosen to work through such men in order to proclaim the Gospel, to lead the Church, and to teach the faithful. They are fathers (“pope” means “papa”) who hold a unique office for one reason: they were called by Christ to hold the keys of the household of God.
(This "Opening the Word" column originally appeared in the August 24, 2008, edition of Our Sunday Visitor newspaper.)
Silhouette of St. Peter's Basilica at sundown (Photo: Dnalor 01/Wikipedia Commons)
The Church's Essential and Ultimate Mission | Carl E. Olson | Catholic World Report editorial
Is the paramount duty of the Church and its faithful to aid those in need?
What is the purpose, the goal, and the essential mission of the Church?
That is the first question I put to a group of catechists earlier this month as we embarked on a week-long course in ecclesiology, part of the Archdiocese of Portland's ministry formation program. It was the central question of the entire course, which was based on the structure and theo-logic of Lumen Gentium, the Second Vatican Council's Dogmatic Constitution on the Church.
I also asked my students, “What do most non-Catholics think is the Church's purpose, goal, and essential mission?” They agreed the Church is often perceived and presented as a merely human institution that is either a sort of social club or a political entity. As such, the Church is then praised when it emphasizes messages and concerns aligning with the trending beliefs and inclinations of the dominant culture, or criticized when it fails to be “on the right side of history” and proclaims doctrine deemed “backward” and “out of touch” with expressive individualism—to borrow an apt phrase from philosopher Charles Taylor—and secular ideals.
So, the Church is criticized for being bigoted and intolerant for what she teaches about marriage, homosexuality, family life, and related matters. But she is praised for her concern for the poor and the needy. This combination results in many commentators insisting, in various ways and forms, that the Church really needs to jettison the former and focus solely on the latter. After all, some further state, caring for the poor is thepurpose, goal, and essential mission of the Catholic Church. In fact, this is not so much argued as simply asserted, as if it is a truism known by all except those glowering, gloomy conservative Catholics who obsess over moral behavior and worry about what sins are being committed in bedrooms across the nation.
For example, a recent essay in Fortune magazine, “This pope means business” (Aug. 14, 2014), which praised the managerial skills of Pope Francis, took care to point out that “The church has often promoted issues that tended to divide Catholics more than unite them. And the backlash made Rome look defensive, as many bishops and cardinals viewed their role as defending Catholic doctrines against a hostile culture of secularism.”
Secularism, Spirituality, and Witness in a Haunted Age | Carl E. Olson | Catholic World Report
The author of How (Not) to Be Secular, explains why secularism is misunderstood and exclusive humanism is not winning
Dr. James K. A. Smith (website) is professor of philosophy at Calvin College, where he also holds the Byker Chair in Applied Reformed Theology and Worldview. He has written several books, including works on postmodernism (Who's Afraid of Postmodernism?), worship and liturgy (Imagining the Kingdom: How Worship Works), and hermeneutics (The Fall of Interpretation: Philosophical Foundations for a Creational Hermeneutic). He has also written articles for magazines such as the Christian Century, Christianity Today, First Things, Harvard Divinity Bulletin, and others.
His most recent book is How (Not) to Be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor (Eerdmans, 2014). Dr. Smith recently corresponded with Carl E. Olson, editor of Catholic World Report, about the thought of Charles Taylor, what “secularism” is and isn't, the challenge of witnessing in a secular culture, how we live in a haunted age, and why exclusive humanism is not winning.
CWR: How is it that a professor of philosophy at Calvin College ends up writing a short (and fascinating) “field guide”—a commentary, really—about a long (and rather daunting) book by a Catholic philosopher—A Secular Age(The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2007) by Charles Taylor?
Dr. James K. A. Smith: Well, of course, while Taylor’s work is informed by Catholic intuitions, it’s not parochial. He has garnered wide interest from people of faith and those with none. Furthermore, I would encourage folks to remember that there are Protestants who see themselves as Catholic—not “Roman,” of course, but very much tied to, and indebted to, the Catholic tradition. I’ve described the Protestant Reformation as an “Augustinian renewal movement within the church catholic,” and so see lots of overlapping concern.
I’ve been interested in Taylor precisely because he is a philosopher who has made the transition from narrow disciplinary conversations to a wider, interdisciplinary project. He has also long intrigued me as a Christian scholar who has functioned wisely and winsomely as a public intellectual. So he’s really been an exemplar for me in a lot of ways.
But the more immediate catalyst for turning this into a book was a wonderful teaching experience. A couple of years ago I taught a seminar on A Secular Age, which was an opportunity to walk through this massive tome with 12 serious, curious undergraduates in philosophy. I saw that Taylor’s analysis was really helping them make sense of their own experience—it was existentially illuminating for them. I sensed that a lot of people could benefit from this, but might not be able to wade through a difficult, 900-page book on their own, so I thought I’d write something of a little “companion” volume.
CWR: You state that you are an “unabashed and unapologetic advocate for the importance and originality of Taylor’s project.” In what ways is his book and larger project important and original? What do you hope your book accomplishes, first, as a “stand alone” book and, secondly, as a commentary on Taylor’s monumental volume?
Smith: In both Sources of the Self (1989) and A Secular Age, Taylor undertakes a unique sort of “philosophically inflected history” that helps us understand our present. In doing so, he calls attention to—and is critical of—the often unstated assumptions of “secularist” (i.e., naturalistic) accounts of secularization. So, perhaps paradoxically, Taylor offers an account of secularization that is informed by his religious commitments. But he doesn’t think that makes his analysis parochial or sectarian, because he thinks all accounts are informed by some sort of faith commitments, some “social imaginary.” So he first shows that there are no neutral accounts, and then tries to show why a religious account actually does a better job making sense of the “data” of our contemporary experience.
For example, standard secularization theory has trouble accounting for the continued role of faith in late modern life. It should be gone by now, they expect. But Taylor suggests: maybe religious faith endures because reality includes a transcendence that continues to call and haunt us. If that’s the case, then a “secular” account of secularization has already decided to shut itself off from part of the reality it’s supposed to explain.
I do think How (Not) To Be Secular can be read as a stand-alone book, especially since many won’t have the time or inclination to read a 900-page volume. But I also hope my book can function as a portal of sorts to the more detailed account.
CWR: The first questions you pose, in the Preface, include, “So what do it look like to bear witness in a secular age? What does it look like to be faithful?” Do Christians, by and large, simply assume that they know what “a secular age” and “secularism” are? And if so, are they are usually right or wrong in their definitions and explanations?
Bishop Edward J. Slattery of Tulsa, Okla., celebrates a solemn high Mass in the extraordinary form at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington April 24, 2010. It was the first time in 50 years that a Mass was held at the shrine according to the 1962 missal. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)
Finding What Should Never Have Been Lost: Priests and the Extraordinary Form | Jim Graves | CWR
Four post-Vatican II priests discuss how they came to know and love celebrating Mass in the Extraordinary Form.
After Pope Paul VI introduced the Novus Ordo Mass in 1969, the older form of the Roman rite—sometimes known as the Tridentine Mass, the Old Mass, the Traditional Latin Mass, and, more recently, the Extraordinary Form—virtually disappeared from many dioceses. Its celebration was severely restricted, if not banned outright, and became a source of controversy.
A yearning among some for the older form of the Mass, coupled with decisions by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, led to its wider use and to a de-stigmatizing of its celebration over the years. The most significant of these decisions was Pope Benedict’s 2007 motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, which declared that any priest may celebrate the older form of the Mass on his own without special permission from a bishop. Today, attendees of Extraordinary Form Masses are often younger Catholics, as the number of older Catholics who remained devoted to the pre-1969 Mass dwindles.
Catholic World Report spoke to four priests who regularly celebrate the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, each of whom has spent most of his life attending, and most of his priesthood celebrating, the Novus Ordo.
“Both forms can coexist”
Father Mark Mazza served for many years as pastor of Star of the Sea Church, near the Golden Gate Bridge in the Archdiocese of San Francisco, and as chaplain for the Traditional Latin Mass Society of San Francisco. He recently began a six-month medical leave.
Ordained a priest in 1980, Father Mazza had celebrated the Novus Ordo for more than 30 years when San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone asked him to begin a regular Extraordinary Form Mass at the parish in 2012. He agreed, and spent several months learning its precise rubrics.
From an early age, Father Mazza lamented the end of the celebration of the older form of the Mass in many dioceses after the Second Vatican Council.
Homosexuality and Vocational Discernment and Choice | Fr. Paul Anthony McGavin | HPR
A Call for Evidence-Based, Astute Priestly Discernment in a Framework of Overall Moral Character Development
At the request of the Conference of Catholic Bishops in the USA, the John Jay College of Criminal Justice at the City University of New York prepared a Report, “Causes and Contexts of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, 1950-2010.” 1 The findings of this study impinge upon the way that bishops, and those involved in priestly formation, interpret and act upon Church documents that address the issue of homosexuality in the context of decisions about the entry of individuals into seminary formation, their progress in seminary formation, and their continued progress to ordination.
The phenomenon of sexual abuse of minors engages both heterosexual and homosexual acts, but has predominantly involved homosexual acts, and these mainly with pubescent youths. The John Jay Report distinguishes homosexual “identity” (associated with homosexual “inclination”) 2 and “behavior” involving homosexual acts. The quantitative and qualitative results of the John Jay study find “identity” to be a weak explanator for sexual abuse of minors. 3 In brief, evidence from the study indicates that the issue of sexual abuse of minors by clergy does not simply focus on the question of sexual inclination—of homosexual inclination.
I am in the fortunate position of being a member of a diocesan presbyterate that has had no cases of civil prosecution during the decades that the issue of clergy sexual abuse has captured so much media attention in Australia, as it has in the USA and elsewhere. Although my observations have not been numerous and not close-at-hand, the generalizations found in the John Jay Report are consistent with such cases as I have noted, and the conclusions that I have drawn. Among the complexity of causes in the sexual abuse of minors, the leading explanation is “whole-life integrity”—or better put, a lack of “whole-life integrity.” In guiding and assessing candidates for the sacred ministry of the Church, it is the human formation in, and manifestation of, manly integrity that has to be at the forefront.
Does this perspective mean that church documents on the issue of homosexuality are sidestepped?
Dustin Kahia and Patrick Coffin, founders of Immaculata Pictures (www.immaculatapictures.com)
New indie company, Immaculata Pictures, works to resurrect forgotten storytelling | CWR Staff | Catholic World Report
Writer/radio host Patrick Coffin and writer Dustin Kahia are in the middle of a Kickstarter campaign to help finance their film, "Call of the Void"
Tired of the non-stop uncreative schlock Hollywood churns out each month? Hungry for movies you can get excited about the way you used to? Able to support a new Kickstarter campaign to make it happen? Read on.
Writer and radio host Patrick Coffin, who pens The Cinephile for Catholic World Report, and his writing partner Dustin Kahia are starting to see a dream come true. Immaculata Pictures was founded this year to reintroduce and recombine classic storytelling with the latest techniques and equipment. CWR sat down recently with the two San Diego-based filmmakers to talk about their company, dream, and the plan to actualize it.
CWR: Patrick, since your name is better known to CWR readers and because of your work in Catholic radio, let’s start with you. Where did the idea for Immaculata Pictures come from?
PC: The name and the legal status as a company really came from Dustin, who had been working for some time to set up a production platform from which to start making movies. I graduated from the well-known Act One: Writing for Hollywood and have worked on a number of writing projects that ended up in what the industry calls Development Hell – the dreaded limbo status of a script that isn’t rejected (and could even be sold) but is not yet filmed or distributed. I also worked at Paulist Productions for the late Father Ellwood Kieser, CSP, as a creative development executive, which gave me a real world sense of how projects go from zero to one. When I met Dustin, not only was the synergy and sympatico there, but so was the timing.
CWR: Dustin, what is your background in the film industry?
DK: I came into filmmaking the tried-and-true way: I interned, first at Morgan Freeman’s Revelations Entertainment and then at Village Roadshow Pictures in Los Angeles. Although no one knew it, I was commuting all the way from San Diego to LA each day. But the training and experience was well worth it. It was a crash course in the entertainment business.
Sister Carol Zinn, a Sister of St. Joseph, who is president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, receives a blessing before her Aug. 12 address at the annual LCWR assembly held in Nashville, Tenn., Aug. 12. (CNS photo/Andy Telli, Tennessee Register)
The LCWR Doubles Down on Dissent | Ann Carey | CWR
Sister Nancy Schreck’s keynote address to the LCWR 2014 annual assembly was equally confused and defiant.
“We have been so changed that we are no longer at home in the culture and church in which we find ourselves.”
This quotation from the keynote address (PDF) of Franciscan Sister Nancy Schreck to the August 12-15 annual assembly of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) is startling, considering that it comes from a vowed member of a religious order who is speaking for other sisters. While Catholics should not feel at home in this modern culture, not feeling at home in the Catholic Church is indeed another matter.
Yet that quotation and many of the other statements in Sister Schreck’s keynote do help explain why the LCWR has resisted the reform that was ordered two-and-a-half years ago by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) and reaffirmed in April 2013 by Pope Francis.
The 2014 LCWR assembly was particularly significant, because the group chose to bestow its annual Outstanding Leadership Award on Sister of St. Joseph Elizabeth Johnson, whose book, Quest for the Living God was cited for doctrinal errors by the US bishops in 2011. And when LCWR leaders made their annual visit to the Vatican this past April, CDF Prefect Cardinal Gerhard Müller told them the decision to honor Sister Johnson was “a rather open provocation against the Holy See and the ‘Doctrinal Assessment’” that “further alienates the LCWR from the [United States] bishops as well.”
Cardinal Müller reminded the LCWR leaders that the 2012 mandate included a requirement for the LCWR to clear speakers and honorees with the apostolic delegate charged with implementing the reform, Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle. The CDF prefect made clear that requirement must be followed subsequent to the August assembly. So LCWR members had some big decisions to make behind the closed doors of their executive sessions last week, and clues about what was discussed were found only in the public talks given at the assembly.
Rather than indicating any conciliation with the Holy See and the US bishops, the assembly keynote address by Sister Schreck, who was LCWR president in 1995, tried to explain why the LCWR was justified in taking the road it followed, implying that the Holy See had misjudged and misunderstood the LCWR.
Unfortunately, her reasoning was convoluted, confused, and unfounded in many respects...
Left: Heitor Villa-Lobos at the end of a concert in Tel Aviv, 1952; right: Villa-Lobos, circa 1922 (photos: Wikipedia.org)
Villa-Lobos: The Clown Turned Devout | R. J. Stove | CWR
One of 20th-century music’s most industrious enfants-terribles understood, in his sacred works, Dr. Johnson’s advice: “time to be in earnest.”
On the morning of August 25, 1954, New York Times readers found much of Page One devoted to the news that Brazil’s president Getúlio Vargas – who had dominated his nation’s politics for a quarter of a century even when in short-term eclipse – had killed himself. The man so cryptic that historian Richard Bourne called him “the Sphinx of the Pampas” had sprung one last surprise on his foes.
Nobody accused Vargas of undue charm-offensives. In fact, through his diminutive physique (a mere five feet two inches tall), through his bespectacled face, and through his temperament, he made Gerald Ford look like Justin Bieber. Having achieved absolute office in a 1930 coup, Vargas first used his unbridled strength to smash Brazil’s hitherto influential Communist Party; then, when national fascist elements thought they had a faithful patron in him, he shunted them to the sidelines. Having bestowed upon the Third Reich’s representatives enough honeyed words to suggest that he would join the Axis, he proceeded to hurl the considerable weight of Brazil’s army on the side of the Allies. Brazilian troops saw particularly severe fighting against Mussolini’s Salò Republic. Forced to resign six months after Nazi rule collapsed, Vargas vegetated within the federal senate before returning to the presidential palace in a 1951 election that even his enemies admitted to be fair. But that same army which he had sent to oppose the Führer and the Duce increasingly gave up on him, as inflation approached Weimar Republic levels. Rather than aggravating what had already become a low-level civil war in the streets of Rio (the capital would not move to Brasilia for another six years), Vargas entered one of the palace bedrooms and there committed suicide. The pyjamas which he wore while doing the deed, and the revolver with which he did it, have been on museum display ever since.
Vargas would not require more than a footnote to cultural history if he had not done the arts a turn so good as to compel our gratitude long after his economic and administrative policies – the policies in which he took the greatest pride – had ceased to interest anyone save specialists. That good turn consisted of supporting Heitor Villa-Lobos, by every possible and many an impossible measure the most musically talented man that South America has ever produced.
In 1930 Villa-Lobos, having turned 43, could not forever continue brandishing the flag of enfant-terribilisme. He had eagerly waved that flag for as long as he could, and perhaps longer than was prudent. For example, he rewrote his own résumé with a frantic imaginativeness that might have made Lawrence of Arabia blanch. Like Lawrence, he showed such flair at having blended spin-doctoring with equivocations, half-truths, and periodic outright lies that the resultant heady postmodernist brew frustrated genuine scholarship for decades ahead.
Detail from "The Canaanite Woman" (c. 1390-1415) by the Limbourg brothers (WikiArt.org)
A Scriptural Reflection on the Readings for Sunday, August 17, 2014 | Carl E. Olson
Readings: • Is 56:1, 6-7 • Psa 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8 • Rom 11:13-15, 29-32 • Mt 15:21-28
Those raised in privilege and wealth are said to have been “born with a silver spoon in their mouth.” Money and status can certainly be an advantage when it comes to one’s career, education, and relationships. But there are no spiritual silver spoons. Our social connections, incomes, and talents cannot put us in right relationship with God.
This fact should be obvious to us. But human nature, fallen and proud, is tempted to rely on temporal advantages when it comes to eternal realities.
One of the great challenges Jesus faced was the deeply rooted belief, held by many of his fellow Jews, that because they were Jewish, they had it made—that is, they were right with God, while Gentiles were not. Contact with Gentiles, or pagans—who did not worship the one true God—was kept to a minimum; too much contact could result in physical and spiritual impurity. “The Jews are extremely loyal toward one another,” observed the first-century Roman historian Tacitus (ca. 56-ca. 117), “and always ready to show compassion, but toward every other people they feel only hate and enmity” (The Histories, 5.5). The enmity was so strong that Gentiles were sometimes called “dogs.”
Jesus did not, of course, downplay the false beliefs and immoral actions of pagans. Rather, he pointed out that they also were invited to enter into a saving covenant with Yahweh, the God of all men. As today’s reading from the prophet Isaiah demonstrates, this was not a new idea: “for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” But it was not a popular idea due, in part, to the brutal mistreatment Jews sometimes endured at the hands of certain Gentiles. Yet it was also due to spiritual blindness and an unwillingness to accept the words of the prophets.
Matthew’s Gospel, written for a Jewish audience, described how and why Jesus, after meeting stiff resistance from his fellow Jews, began preaching to Gentiles. Today’s Gospel is a dramatic example of how Jesus bridged the great chasm between the two groups.
Having had yet another clash with the Pharisees, who he described as “blind guides” (Matt 15:14), Jesus left Galilee and went into pagan territory on the Phoenician coast, which is modern-day Lebanon. At the same time, a Canaanite woman came to meet him. We don’t know how she knew of Jesus, which makes her greeting all the more audacious and remarkable: “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David!”
In speaking so boldly to a Jewish man, she trampled upon the social norms of the day. But her boldness seemed, at first, to be counter-productive. Jesus ignored her. Or did he? Is it not true that God sometimes seems to be silent and to ignore us? Jesus’ lack of response was, it appears, meant to do two things: elicit her remarkable public statement of faith and show his disciples what is most important in the Kingdom of God.
“This woman,” wrote Epiphanus the Latin, a late fifth-century Christian commentator, “is the mother of the Gentiles, and she knew Christ through faith.” Confronted with divine silence, she did not waver, but pleaded a second time, “Lord, help me.” Then, having been rebuffed by the standard Jewish perspective of the time, she demonstrated profound humility and faith, readily accepting the label of a dog. “Faith accepts what work does not merit,” remarked Epiphanus, “and through faith the Gentiles were made children out of dogs.”
Jesus’ response was equally surprising, for his acclamation—“O woman, great is your faith!”—was filled with respect and affection. By saying, “Let it be done for you as you wish,” he acknowledged the purity of her faith and intentions, something he could not do for the Pharisees, despite their education, position, and power. As he stated later, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matt 23:13). The Canaanite woman, humble is spirit, had no need for silver spoons, being blessed beyond measure with divine love and communion with God.
(This "Opening the Word" column originally appeared in the August 17, 2008, edition of Our Sunday Visitor newspaper.)
The present, future, and quality of Catholic online education | CWR Staff | Catholic World Report
An interview with Patrick Carmack, President of the Ignatius-Angelicum Liberal Studies Program, about Catholic online education, technology, and Great Books
Patrick S. J. Carmack, J.D. is the President of the Ignatius-Angelicum Liberal Studies Program, and the founder of the Angelicum Academy Homeschool Program and of the Great Books Academy Homeschool Program (2000 AD). In addition to earning his Juris Doctorate, Patrick has completed additional courses in psychology and philosophy, as well as studies at the Institute of Spirituality at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome (the “Angelicum”). He is a former Judge at the Oklahoma State Corporation Commission, member of the U.S. Supreme Court Bar, former CEO of an independent petroleum exploration and production company, founder and former Chairman of the International Caspian Horse Society, and President of a non-profit educational foundation.
Patrick was a participant in Dr. Mortimer J. Adler’s last several Socratic discussion groups in Maryland and California in 1999 and 2000, and he moderated the first live-audio Socratic groups online and numerous online groups since. He has spoken on educational topics at various conferences in the U.S. and in Europe. He is the recipient of the International Etienne Society’s Pope John Paul the Great Thomist Humanist Award for his work in education.
CWR: Online education has had exponential growth in the last decade; has Catholic online education kept pace?
Patrick S. J. Carmack: No, but it is catching up. There is a conservative tendency in Catholic education with respect to the use of modern technology, which results in a reluctance to embrace it. This is probably partly due to a kind of nostalgia for the golden age of Catholic education in the scholasticism of the High Middle Ages and the later, very successful Jesuit pedagogy developed during the Counter-Reformation period. But there is another reason as well, one articulated by Marshall and Eric McLuhan, which recognizes that technology and media themselves change us, and hence society, regardless of the content. There are both advantages and disadvantages to this, but overall the changes are troubling, especially if one connects them to the increasing secularization of the West, where technological change is most rapid. In a word, there is a dehumanizing element to technology that disembodies us to some degree—a discarnation of a sort. That, of course, runs counter to the Catholic love of all reality, including the body and the incarnational aspect of the faith.
CWR: It is surprising to hear you criticize educational technology since you work so much with it. Are you opposed to the use of technology in education, to online classes for instance?