Monthly Archives: May 2010

Liberty Matters – And So Does Virtue

In recent months I have been walking a fine line between libertarianism and communitarianism. Now that Phillip Blond has made his American debut, everyone is weighing on the conflict between these ways of looking at the world. I already covered David Brook’s assessment in the NY Times a while back. A brilliant Catholic philosopher by the name of Edward Feser has also given much attention to the viability of the libertarian/conservative “fusion”, which shares many similarities with the libertarian/communitarian debate. And now a Patrick J. Deenen weighs in on Blond, for communitarianism and against libertarianism. And a Mike Gibson fires back on his blog.

Since I’ve had a lot to say about these issues in the past, I’m going to say a bit about the latest round of conflict between libertarians and communitarians, and explain why I don’t think there needs to be any conflict at all. For one thing is missing from almost all of these analyses and exchanges – mention of, let alone fidelity to, the US Constitution. Not only that, but I am convinced that “subsidiarity” needs to appear in any discussion or debate between these ideological camps, as it really does bridge the gap between them. I would venture to say that the US Constitution is fairly good embodiment of the principle of subsidiarity.

Read the rest here.

Pope Benedict on Pentecost

Homily given by Pope Benedict on Pentecost Sunday on May 15, 2005:

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Ordinandi,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The First Reading and the Gospel of Pentecost Sunday offer us two great images of the mission of the Holy Spirit. The reading from the Acts of the Apostles speaks of how, on the day of Pentecost, under the signs of a strong wind and fire, the Holy Spirit sweeps into the community of the disciples of Jesus who are in prayer, thus bringing the Church into being.

For Israel, Pentecost – celebration of the harvest – had become the celebration marking the conclusion of the Covenant on Mt Sinai. In wind and fire, God made his presence known to the people and then gave them the gift of his Law, the Ten Commandments. In this singular way was the work of liberation, begun with the Exodus from Egypt, brought to fulfilment: human freedom is always a shared freedom, a “togetherness” of liberty. Common freedom lasts only in an ordered harmony of freedom that reveals to each person his or her limits.

In this way the gift of the Law on Mt Sinai was not a restriction nor an abolition of freedom, but the foundation of true liberty. And since a correct human ordering finds stability only if it comes from God and if it unites men and women in the perspective of God, the Commandments that God himself gives us cannot be lacking in a correct ordering of human freedom.

In this way, Israel fully became a people, through the Covenant with God on Mt Sinai. Israel’s encounter with God on Sinai could be considered to be the foundation and the guarantee of its existence as a people. The wind and fire, which enveloped the community of Christ’s disciples gathered in the Upper Room, becomes a further development of the event of Mt Sinai and gives it new fullness.

They were gathered in Jerusalem on that day, according to what is written in the Acts of the Apostles: “devout Jews of every nation under heaven” (Acts 2: 5). Here is made manifest the characteristic gift of the Holy Spirit: all understood the words of the Apostles: “each one heard these men speaking his own language” (Acts 2: 6). The Holy Spirit gives understanding.

Overcoming the “breach” begun in Babel – the confusion of hearts, putting us one against the other – the Spirit opens borders.

The People of God who found its first configuration on Mt Sinai, now becomes enlarged to the point of recognizing no limitations. The new People of God, the Church, is a people that derives from all peoples. The Church is catholic from her beginning and this is her deepest essence.

St Paul explains and underlines this in the Second Reading when he says: “It was in one Spirit that all of us, whether Jew or Greek, slave or free, were baptized into one body. All of us have been given to drink of the one Spirit” (I Cor 12: 13).

The Church must always become anew what she already is; she must open the borders between peoples and break down the barriers between class and race. In her, there cannot be those who are forgotten or looked down upon. In the Church there are only free brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ. The wind and fire of the Holy Spirit must continually break down those barriers that we men and women continue to build between us; we must continually pass from Babel – being closed in on ourselves – to Pentecost.

Thus, we must continually pray that the Holy Spirit opens us and gives us the grace of understanding, so that we become the People of God deriving from all peoples. St Paul tells us more along these lines: in Christ, who as the one Bread feeds all of us in the Eucharist and draws us to him in his Body wracked on the Cross, we must become only one body and one spirit.

The second image of the sending of the Spirit that we find in the Gospel is much more hidden. Exactly in this way, however, all of the greatness of the Pentecost event is perceived. The Risen Lord passes through the closed doors and enters the place where the disciples are, and greets them twice with the words: “Peace be with you”.

We continually close our doors; we continually want to feel secure and do not want to be disturbed by others and by God. And so, we can continually implore the Lord just for this, that he come to us, overcoming our closure, to bring us his greeting: “Peace be with you”.

This greeting of the Lord is a bridge that he builds between heaven and earth. He descends to this bridge, reaching us, and we can climb up on this bridge of peace to reach him. On this bridge, always together with him, we too must reach our neighbour, reach the one who needs us. It is in lowering ourselves, together with Christ, that we rise up to him and up to God. God is Love, and so the descent, the lowering that love demands of us, is at the same time the true ascent. Exactly in this way, lowering ourselves, coming out of ourselves, we reach the dignity of Jesus Christ, the human being’s true dignity.

The Lord’s greeting of peace is followed by two gestures that are decisive for Pentecost: the Lord wants the disciples to continue his mission: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (Jn 20: 21).

After this, he breathes on them and says: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive men’s sins, they are forgiven them; if you hold them bound, they are held bound” (Jn 20: 23). The Lord breathes on the disciples, giving them the Holy Spirit, his own Spirit. The breath of Jesus is the Holy Spirit.

We recognize here, in the first place, an allusion made to the story of creation in the Book of Genesis, where it is written: “The Lord God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life” (Gn 2: 7). Man is this mysterious creature who comes entirely from the earth, but in whom has been placed the breath of God. Jesus breathes on the Apostles and gives them the breath of God in a new and greater way.

In people, notwithstanding all of their limitations, there is now something absolutely new: the breath of God. The life of God lives in us. The breath of his love, of his truth and of his goodness. In this way we can see here too an allusion to Baptism and Confirmation, this new belonging to God that the Lord gives to us. The Gospel Reading invites us to this: to live always within the breath of Jesus Christ, receiving life from him, so that he may inspire in us authentic life, the life that no death may ever take away.

To his breath, to the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Lord joins the power of forgiveness. We heard earlier that the Holy Spirit unites, breaks down barriers, leads us one to the other. The strength that opens up and overcomes Babel is the strength of forgiveness.

Jesus can grant forgiveness and the power to forgive because he himself suffered the consequences of sin and dispelled them in the flame of his love. Forgiveness comes from the Cross; he transforms the world with the love that is offered. His heart opened on the Cross is the door through which the grace of forgiveness enters into the world. And this grace alone is able to transform the world and build peace.

If we compare the two events of Pentecost – the strong wind of the 50th day and the gentle breath of Jesus on the evening of Easter – we might think about this contrast between the two episodes that took place on Mt Sinai, spoken of in the Old Testament. Continue reading

When You Believe

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Something for the weekend.  When You Believe  from the Prince of Egypt.  Whenever I see this video I always recall my favorite poem by William Blake:

Mock On, Mock On, Voltaire, Rousseau 

 
 
Mock on, mock on, Voltaire, Rousseau;
Mock on, mock on; ’tis all in vain!
You throw the sand against the wind,
And the wind blows it back again.
And every sand becomes a gem
Reflected in the beams divine;
Blown back they blind the mocking eye,
But still in Israel’s paths they shine.

The Atoms of Democritus
And Newton’s Particles of Light
Are sands upon the Red Sea shore,
Where Israel’s tents do shine so bright. 
 

Romance for Your Weekend

This weekend, I have for you some amazingly sensual and imaginative pieces to lose yourselves in for a little while. Some solo piano, orchestra, and then a piano concerto to tie it all together. Enjoy!

1. Frederic Chopin: Andante Spianato

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2. Peter Tchaikovsky: Symphony 4, 2nd movement

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3. Sergei Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto no.2, 2nd movement.

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Booming Traditional Religious Orders!

What has been an open secret is now backed by empirical evidence:

The most successful institutes in terms of attracting and retaining new members at this time are those that follow a more traditional style of religious life in which members live together in community and participate in daily Eucharist, pray the Divine Office, and engage in devotional practices together. They also wear a religious habit, work together in common apostolates, and are explicit about their fidelity to the Church and the teachings of the Magisterium. All of these characteristics are especially attractive to the young people who are entering religious life today.*

As I have been reading through the website of the National Religious Vocation Conference (NRVC) I came across this nugget of information [Emphases Mine]:

Myth #4:  Women entering religious life want to wear habits.Fact:  Both men and women seem to be drawn to habited communities. About two thirds of the newer members say they belong to a religious institute that wears a habit. Among those that responded affirmatively, a little more than half indicate that the habit is required in all or most circumstances.

Interestingly, almost half of the men who belong to an institute that does not wear a habit say they would wear it if it were an option [and those that don't wear habits are obviously being disobedient and committing a mortal sin], compared to nearly a quarter of the women respondents.

Ann Carey of The Catholic World Report wrote that the study found several “best practices”:

  1. Involving membership and leadership in concerted vocation promotion efforts.
  2. Having a full-time vocation director.
  3. Using new media like the Internet.
  4. Offering discernment or “come-and-see” opportunities for potential members.
  5. Exposing young people to the idea of religious life from grade school through young adulthood.

What stuck out and confirmed what I’ve always thought in attracting people to religious vocations, as well as bringing in converts to the Catholic faith is:

“the example of members and the characteristics of the institute…have the most influence on the decision to enter a particular institute.”

Sister Elsa Garcia Practicing a Pagan Ritual

When you see a habitless nun walking around in her pants or muumuu’s you wonder what the attraction is when you could lead the same life without living in poverty.

As Saint John said in his epistle:

Love not the world, nor the things which are in the world. If any man love the world, the charity of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world, is the concupiscence of the flesh, and the concupiscence of the eyes, and the pride of life, which is not of the Father, but is of the world.  And the world passeth away, and the concupiscence thereof: but he that doth the will of God, abideth for ever. (1 Jn 2:15-17)

The rest of this posting will be an excerpt of Ann Carey‘s article on The Catholic World Report where she sights some examples of booming traditional religious orders:

Continue reading

Venerable Pierre Toussaint

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Born a slave in Haiti on a sugar plantation owned by Jean Berard on June 27, 1766, the few who marked Pierre Toussaint’s entry into this world could not  have guessed the destiny that awaited him.  Taught to read and write by his grandmother, Toussaint’s master early recognized his intelligence and opened his fine library to the boy.  In 1787 his master emigrated to New York City and took Toussaint and Toussaint’s sister Rosalie with him.

Berard apprenticed Toussaint to a hairdresser, and Toussaint quickly proved himself a master at that trade.  Berard went back to Haiti in 1791 after the Haitian revolution to check on his plantation that now lay in ruins.  Berard died in Haiti.  His young widow Marie was now left in New York  with slender resources.

With incredible charity, Toussaint  decided to care for the widow of the master who had been kind to him.  He quickly became the most sought after hairdresser in New York, earning enough to buy his sister’s freedom and to pay the expenses of the household.  He did not buy his own freedom for fear that Marie would not then allow him to support her.  In 1807 on her death, Marie Berard freed Toussaint.

By this time Toussaint was not only a hairdresser to the rich but also a counselor to many of the rich, who referred to him, no doubt to his distress, as “our Saint Pierre”.  He was noted for his extreme charity, giving away most of his earnings to the poor of the city.  Each morning he would also attend the early mass at Saint Peter’s on Barclay Street. Continue reading

A Treatise on Anger, Jesus, and Mr. Spock

Some people like what I have to say. Some people don’t. One complaint I sometimes hear from the people who don’t is that I’m “angry.” So I want to publicly explore this dimension of my writing, on the blogs, in the comment boxes, and other venues. I want to answer the questions: am I really that angry? Is my anger, to the extent that it is really anger and not someone’s misinterpretation of my words, justifiable? Is it rational? Or is it entirely detached from reason and logic?

These questions themselves might leave you perplexed. Aren’t emotions and logic mutually exclusive? I think most people understand on some level that they aren’t, but we aren’t used to hearing why. Instead, typical debate rhetoric implies that if one is displaying an emotion, one has given up on logic. As is often the case with rhetoric, this claim is an absolute fallacy, it is the product of either unclear thinking or deliberate manipulation – a cheap lawyer tactic.

How many times, for instance, do you see in the television courtroom dramas the lawyer try to rattle the person on the witness stand to get them to display an emotion, and then use that emotion to discredit the facts the witness presents or the logic of the opposing counsel?

I co-blog with a lot of lawyers. For the most part, I like them, and I hope I don’t offend them when I say this. (Really guys!)

Read the rest here.

Comments may be left on my blog.

A Meek Response to Pro-Choice Rage

Thaddeus M. Baklinski of LifeSiteNews.com reported on a verbally violent encounter in Vancouver, Canada of  presumably a pro-choice/pro-abortion proponent yelling derisive invectives towards pro-life protesters.

The pro-life protesters did not respond to the taunts and intimidation.

They humbly took the abuse until the violent abuser left the scene.

What these protesters did by responding the way they did is a fine example of being meek.

Blessed are the meek: for they shall possess the land.

– Holy Gospel of Saint Matthew 5:4

The following is from the Catholic Encyclopedia of 1907 explaining this Second Beatitude:

Inasmuch as poverty is a state of humble subjection, the “poor in spirit“, come near to the “meek”, the subject of the second blessing. The anawim, they who humbly and meekly bend themselves down before God and man, shall “inherit the land” and possess their inheritance in peace. This is a phrase taken from Psalm 36:11, where it refers to the Promised Land of Israel, but here in the words of Christ, it is of course but a symbol of the Kingdom of Heaven, the spiritual realm of the Messiah. Not a few interpreters, however, understand “the earth”. But they overlook the original meaning of Psalm 36:11, and unless, by a far-fetched expedient, they take the earth also to be a symbol of the Messianic kingdom, it will be hard to explain the possession of the earth in a satisfactory way.

[Warning:  The YouTube video below this fold is full of profanity and other disturbing language.]

Continue reading

A Brief Thought on Immigration

Conservatives are fairly comfortable with the point that if you ban or severely restrict guns, than only the criminals will be armed.

Let’s then ask ourselves: If we ban or severely restrict immigration (most especially from a right-next-door country with a much poorer economy, such as Mexico) aren’t we assuring that only criminals immigrate?

If it’s cross-border crime which is such a problem, would anti-immigration advocates be willing to support a massively increased legal immigration quota for Mexico (say 250,000 immigrants a year, rather than the current legal quota of ~25,000) in return for permission and cooperation from the Mexican government for US law enforcement and military units to hunt down cross border cartels?

Can You Trust Your Phone?

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From the only reliable source of news on the net, the Onion.  The sad thing about this video is I do not find it very far fetched at all.  We live in a constant fog of commercials and having them whispered in our ears seems like an all too likely next step.

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