Saturday, July 11, 2009
I Samuel 1,1 - During the time young Samuel was minister to the LORD under Eli, a revelation of the LORD was uncommon and vision infrequent.
Humans yearn for, hunger for, cannot live without = transcendence. We will drive ourselves crazy without it. If we do not have it, we will try to create it.
If one wants true transcendence, true originality, one must turn to the Church - founded upon Saint Peter ("Rocky") long ago at Caesarea Philippi, but ever young. The Catholic Church, truly transcendent, truly original.
And times and triumphs mark,
Go gaily in the dark. . .
“I tell you naught for your comfort,
Yea, not for your desire,
Save that the sky grows darker yet
And the sea rises higher.
Night shall be thrice night over you,
And heaven an iron cope.
Do you have joy without a cause,
Yea, faith without a hope?
- G. K. Chesterton, Balad of the White Horse, Our Lady to Alfred
Please consider joining Corpus Christianum. God bless you.
Friday, July 10, 2009
Read all here.
Some very good things from the French mind are appearing among us. Daniel Mahoney brought Pierre Manent to our attention. He re-presents Raymond Aron, Charles de Gaulle, and the pertinent French background to Solzhenitsyn’s work. Jean-Luc Marion, Alain Besançon, and Rémi Brague have become “must-reads” if we want to escape modern ideology – unfortunately, not everyone does.
Last semester a French exchange student attended one of my classes. Her father, a medical doctor from Nice, visited one day. I mentioned a review of Sylvain Gouguenheim’s Aristote au Mont Saint-Michel: Les racines grecques de l’Europe Chrétienne (“Aristotle at Mont Saint-Michel: The Greek Roots of Christian Europe”). Weeks later, his daughter presented me with a copy from Nice. I have now read this remarkable, enormously learned book.
It examines the now often heard and widely popular assumption that civilization was stimulated to become “modern” because of “enlightened” Islamic philosophy that arrived in the stagnant West through Toledo and Sicily. The Christian Dark and Middle Ages are pictured as be-knighted, populated mostly by primitive folks just vegetating till the Enlightenment came from Islam to early modern Europe ...
This book is eye-opening. It is far more realistic than most things we read about the ease of multicultural “adaption” or endless dialogue. Gouguenheim’s approach is blunter than we usually encounter in the discussion of different religions: “Fundamentally, European civilization remains Greco-Roman, Judeo-Christian in inspiration. In its further course, European philosophy or science developed its own proper and original conceptions. Islam was, from the redaction of the Koran on, the bearer of another global system. From that point of view, Greek knowledge was able to be integrated only in a particular manner, limited to certain sectors or to certain thinkers.”
Islamic scholars, as Gueguenheim shows, go through contortions to demonstrate that the Koran preceded the Old and New Testament. Therefore, Jews and Christians must have deliberately rewritten the text so that the Muslim interpretation of its own revelation would still hold.Gueguenheim concludes that Western civilization does not owe its genius or energy to Islam. It has its own roots. In its dynamic form, Islam was not itself able to assimilate the Greek heritage. It proved too dangerous to the Koranic understanding of reality.
FORT WAYNE, Indiana, JULY 9, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI's encyclical "Caritas in Veritate" eloquently reiterates the coherence of Catholic social teaching, but it likewise makes manifest the essential links between truth and charity and the real world.Read all of Matthew Bunson's "Caritas in Veritate" Provides Synthesis of Old and New.
For the Holy Father, charity and truth are not abstract concepts, but must be seen for what they are, "the principal driving force behind the authentic development of every person and of all humanity" (No. 1). In this concern, the Holy Father offers a remarkably bold reminder that human life must be at the center of that development.
"Caritas in Veritate" is splendidly faithful to all of the Church's social teachings on the human person's inviolable dignity as well as the transcendent value of natural moral norms. By quoting from every social encyclical since Leo XIII's "Rerum Novarum" in 1891, the Pontiff refutes any misinterpretations of Catholic social teaching that there are two functional typologies, one pre-conciliar and one post-conciliar. Rather, he quotes Pope John Paul II when he states firmly, "there is a single teaching, consistent and at the same time ever new" ("Sollicitudo Rei Socialis," 3). Expressing that sense of newness, "Caritas in Veritate" also offers considerable innovation in its prescription for the present global financial crises by highlighting the right to life in relation to genuine progress.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Just as Benedict XVI releases his new Encyclical CARITAS IN VERITATE (and which Elizabeth Scalia, 'The Anchoress', juxtaposes neatly with Pixar's great little Partly Cloudy), I think it is important for Catholics to remind themselves of something.
Protestants do not connect all the dots that we do as Catholic Christians. We see the Holy Father bring forth an invaluable letter of instruction for the faithful in the world. We also see the inevitable plethora of commenting about it by this and that authority in the Catholic press constellation. Protestant Christians furrow their brows and wonder, "Why do they (Catholics) give so much importance to what that old guy in fancy white robes writes?" They may even add, "It just isn't faithful to Jesus our Lord to make old Pope Benedict so important."
Catholicism for Protestants is a massive hookwinking, bait-and-switch scheme. Remove the pure, New Testament faith that each and every generation has access to, and replace it with this vast conspiracy of hierarchy, power, and mumbo-jumbo.
And, the truth be told, often Catholics have been too gullible and, sorry to say, ignorant of Catholic truth. All it takes, for example, is one beautiful, young, sincere Evangelical coed who asks, "Where is the Pope mentioned in the Baa-bull?" and young Joe Catholic may even discard the patrimony of the Church for good (or in this case, bad).
Catholicism is a vital (that is, living) mixture of faith and reason - and I mean reason. It consists of a near-never ending string of therefores: a is true, and b is true; therefore c must also be true. And if c is true and d is true, it follows, therefore, that e is also true ...
So, it is with admiration that I lift up Lydia McGrew's excellent post at What's Wrong with the World regarding evidence for the historicity of the New Testament. I have heard a similar (and better) examination for the historicity of the New Testament documents given by the president of Christendom College, Timothy T. O'Donnell, STD, KGCHS. But this is one of those starting points that shows first things about which Protestants and Catholics must agree.
And, by the way, the beginning of the papacy is found in St. Matthew's Gospel, chapter 16, when Our Lord appoints St Peter the first Pope. Benedict XVI is our 266th.
UPDATE: Father Robert Barron's first impressions on Caritas in Veritate here.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
What Father Barron so needfully points out in referring to the seminal anthropological insights of René Girard is that scapegoating is how humans nearly always organize ourselves: we come to a "lowest common denominator" of agreeing who to blame, exclude and sometimes kill. As Girard says, "unanimity minus one."
In our Judeo-Christian past, we can see clear evidence of this use of violence. But it is the work of the Holy Spirit in history that has made it more and more difficult to use effectively, as our concern for the victim has increased. Our Lord, in St. John's Gospel, chapter 8, makes it unequivocally clear that only he who has no sin can "cast the first stone."
Compare this with the rise of Sharia law which "The Stoning of Soraya M." is based. Sharia law says God's will is with the ones stoning the certifiable law-breaker. The Christian faith says that God in Jesus Christ is one-with every victim of such "sacred" violence "since the foundation of the world - shown perfectly in His Crucifixion.
Politicians implicitly know the power of what Girard calls "the scapegoat mechanism," because they implicitly understand the power of the crowd (read: the voting public). But, as the Gospel works in history, the power of the scapegoat mechanism is undermined. Even the use of it undermines it all the more, because the very casting out of any new victim recreates the holy Event of the Passion of Our Lord that was its undoing.
Our Last Self-Help President is a master of the crowd. But he himself is still beholden to the power OF the crowd (Girard explains the prestige of the king/shaman in diverting the mob's murderousness onto another victim through the accusatory gesture).
Indeed, the United States in November's elections was heaving another attempt to revivify the scapegoating mechanism. Why? Because this is all we humans know.
The only way to thwart the scapegoating mechanism and all the kingdoms of the world is through the Gospel that Our Lord revealed to us in His Crucifixion and the vindication of His Resurrection.
We carry this faith, hope, and charity with us out into our world when we leave the Sacrifice of the Mass, the one and only place where we join with Our Lord in His grace and by His grace.
All other associations - no matter how noble, patriotic, nationalistic, or tied to a piece of land or history - are doomed to the way of the scapegoat mechanism. There is no "Best of --- " anything, except what Our Lord brings to us in His holy Catholic Church.
But by being good Catholic Christians, we can be fine patriots, citizens, countrymen/women, and friends. The reverse is never, ever the truth.
One needn't look with scorn or dismay at paintings executed with such realism as those exhibited at The Gentleman’s Journal.
After all, where would civilized food, drink, discussion, and culture be without such?
Read all of Defending Truth.
Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P. (1877–1964), was the twentieth-century Catholic theologian whose outlook and intellectual projects epitomized the confident intransigence of the pre-Vatican II Church. Professor of theology at the Angelicum in Rome for many decades, Garrigou-Lagrange taught Aristotle and St. Thomas to many generations of seminarians. As a consultant to the Holy Office, he played an important role in the intellectual politics of mid-century Catholicism. His reputation was clear: hardnosed about truth and in favor of the use of church authority in its defense ...
Neo-Thomism was trashed by progressives in the aftermath of Vatican II. “It fails to take history serious. The theology is remote from the real experience of modern men and women,” we were told. In the place of the Neo-Thomist synthesis, the Rahnerians promised a transcendental theology that would magically transform subjective categories into the language of faith. History, social context, personal experience—these human-centered phenomena would somehow extend the hand of friendship to the official teachings of the Church.
Garrigou fought against the new theologies that were advanced in the decades immediately prior to Vatican II. Indeed, his opposition was notorious. In the late 1940s, Henri de Lubac was bitter about “the kind of dictatorship that Father G-L is trying to exercise in the Church.” But Garrigou was prescient. Indeed, less than two decades after Vatican II, Henri de Lubac would end up ringing the theological alarms, reiterating the spirit if not the letter of Garrigou’s clear and rigorous Neo-Thomism.
I have never understood the animus against Neo-Thomism in the post-Vatican II Church. By my reading, the Second Vatican Council was a remarkable event, one that endorsed all sorts of changes and new directions in the Catholic Church. Historians rightly emphasize these changes. Yet, all the bishops who attended the Council, all the theological advisors who drafted the documents that were eventually adopted, all the major players were educated within the Neo-Thomist synthesis. Garrigou himself was the teacher of many important figures at the Council. Therefore, by any responsible historical judgment, the creative and lasting significance of the Council necessarily owes a great deal to the supposedly antiquated and discredited manual theology of Neo-Thomism.
We need not rely on generalizations. John Paul II was a young bishop at Vatican II. Throughout his long pontificate, he remained enthusiastic about the achievements and significance of the Council, especially the renewed emphasis on the Church’s engagement with the world. The Church contributes to world by speaking the truth about our humanity, a truth vouchsafed in Christ, a truth that must be spoken in season and out. And who directed Karol Wojtyla’s doctoral dissertation? Réginald Garrigou-Lagrange.
Neither Peddicord nor Nichols ask us to turn back the clock. We don’t need to, because time seems to be catching up with Garrigou. As Nichol’s observes, Garrigou consistently saw relativism as the “generative principle” of errors, and he saw “the need to re-establish the ‘exigence of truth’ for both culture and life.” Today, Pope Benedict XVI denounces the “dictatorship of relativism” and calls for the renewal of a culture of truth.
Monday, July 6, 2009
and walks outdoors, and keeps on walking,
because of a church that stands somewhere in the East.
And his children say blessings on him as if he were dead
And another man, who remains inside his own house,
dies there, inside the dishes and in the glasses,
so that his children have to go far out into the world
toward that same church, which he forgot.
- Rainer Maria Rilke
Discussion surrounds the origins of arguably the most original pieces of fiction of the twentieth century, Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia. Both involve the elements of Romance, chivalry, and the numinous that were clearly so absent from (so-called) Modern literature at the time of their inception. Both authors, Oxonian dons, were well schooled in the Classics and Greats. Both had first hand experience of the evils of warfare in the time of the industrial revolution, wounds won in battle, and personal loss.
I would suggest that Rilke's man who "who remains inside his own house, dies there, inside the dishes and in the glasses" is the careful man, the focus group statesman, the man for whom such concerns as Romance, chivalry, and the numinous are mumbo-jumbo of childish things.
Lewis and Tolkien knew better, and differently.
When the careful, gesture-making statesman meets with the Pontiff this week in Rome, I hope that he remembers that the children of this present age still have needs that far transcend the fluff of day-time television. And if he is not careful to factor in these needs, they may "go far out into the world toward that same church, which he forgot."
And that same Catholic Church is still here to set us on our Journeys of Romance, chivalry, and the numinosity of the Incarnation, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, and the Church Militant.
Sunday, July 5, 2009
He is keen on gestures and the nonverbal cues and signals.
The only world leader he has kowtowed to was the Saudi (you saw the picture of the non-bow). All else with disdain. The un-president never knew what it was to grow up in real American community, the grange down the way, the courthouse steps, the Gaffers as elders. These he resents with a vengeance.
But be assured, this meeting and scorn with the Holy Father will merely be a reenactment of the Crucifixion: the very ontological moment when the power that the un-president depends on was undone.