Friday, May 18, 2012, 11:39 AM
From a letter from W. H. Auden chastising his pastor at St. Marks in the Bowery for changes to the liturgy:
Our Church has had the singular good-fortune of having its Prayer-Book composed and its Bible translated at exactly the right time, i.e., late enough for the language to be intelligible to any English-speaking person in this century (any child of six can be told what “the quick and the dead” means) and early enough, i.e., when people still had an instinctive feeling for the formal and the ceremonious which is essential in liturgical language. . .
I implore you by the bowels of Christ to stick to Cranmer and King James.
Though I walk by St. Mark’s regularly, I’ve never ventured in for liturgy; according to one recent visitor, “It’s like RENT meets church.” I wonder what Auden would say today.
Monday, March 19, 2012, 4:25 PM
was the title of a slim volume published by the Daily Princetonian in 1965. The guide provided phone numbers, campus rules and curfews, and directions to seventeen women’s colleges on the East Coast along with evaluations (some more charitable than others) of the young scholars at each of the schools: Bennett College, for example, “doesn’t offer much besides the woods.” The reaction was mixed. One reader described it as “an extremely accurate representation of the situation existing on this campus.” While another expressed her sincere wishes that the book’s contributors “will all be in Vietnam soon.”
Just a little trivia that keeps popping into my head when I hear supporters of the HHS mandate continue to ask, Where are the women who oppose the mandate? Helen Alvaré, of George Mason University, and Kim Daniels of the Thomas More Law Center have managed to find some 20,000 of them to sign an open letter to President Obama, Secretary Sebelius, and members of congress opposing the HHS mandate and making clear that the administration doesn’t represent the interests of all women:
Those currently invoking “women’s health” in an attempt to shout down anyone who disagrees with forcing religious institutions or individuals to violate deeply held beliefs are more than a little mistaken, and more than a little dishonest. Even setting aside their simplistic equation of “costless” birth control with “equality,” note that they have never responded to the large body of scholarly research indicating that many forms of contraception have serious side effects, or that some forms act at some times to destroy embryos, or that government contraceptive programs inevitably change the sex, dating and marriage markets in ways that lead to more empty sex, more non-marital births and more abortions. It is women who suffer disproportionately when these things happen.
No one speaks for all women on these issues. Those who purport to do so are simply attempting to deflect attention from the serious religious liberty issues currently at stake. Each of us, Catholic or not, is proud to stand with the Catholic Church and its rich, life-affirming teachings on sex, marriage and family life. We call on President Obama and our Representatives in Congress to allow religious institutions and individuals to continue to witness to their faiths in all their fullness.
You can read the rest of the letter here.
Tuesday, February 7, 2012, 11:00 AM
“To begin my life with the beginning of my life, I record that I was born (as I have been informed and believe) on a Friday, at twelve o’clock at night. It was remarked that the clock began to strike, and I began to cry, simultaneously.” Such was the auspicious beginning of David Copperfield and his author Charles Dickens whose bicentary we celebrate today.
Dickens’ anniversary will, I’m sure, be marked in a thousand ways, and his continued timeliness has probably been noted a thousand times already, but Theodore Dalrymple did a particularly good job of it in his essay for the American Conservative on the lessons of Hard Times:
Dickens is often reproached for his absence of firm and unequivocal moral, political, and philosophical outlook. He veers crazily between the ferociously reactionary and the mushily liberal. He lampoons the disinterested philanthropy of Mrs. Jellyby (in Bleak House) with the same gusto or ferocity as he excoriates the egotism of Mr. Veneering (in Our Mutual Friend). He suggests that businessmen are heartless swine (Bounderby in Hard Times) or disinterestedly charitable (the Cheeryble brothers in Nicholas Nickleby). He satirizes temperance (in The Pickwick Papers) as much as he derides drunkenness (in Martin Chuzzlewit). The evil Jew (in Oliver Twist) is matched by the saintly Jew (in Our Mutual Friend). As Stephen Blackpool, the working-class hero of Hard Times says, “it’s aw a muddle.”
George Orwell, in his famous essay on Dickens, saw in this philosophical and moral muddle not a weakness but a strength, a generosity of spirit, an openness to the irreducible complexity of mankind’s moral situation, an immunity to what he called “the smelly little orthodoxies that are now contending for our souls.” And indeed, the principal target of Hard Times is such an orthodoxy, namely a hard-nosed utilitarianism combined with an unbending liberalism. (Liberal in the economic, not cultural, sense.)
Dickens’ “openness to the irreducible complexity of mankind’s moral situation,” not to mention the irreducible complexity of his plots, may as Dalrymple hopes, discourage our “inherent tendency to seek the key to all questions,” but it discourages in such an encouraging way. The realization that the world is too complicated to be ruled by formulas is not cause for despair but delight and, more often than not, a good laugh.
This is why, I think, Dickens often makes me think of Augustine. (more…)
Wednesday, September 21, 2011, 5:14 PM
You might remember that in February we published an interview with Win Riley, the director of the forthcoming Walker Percy: A Documentary Film. Well, the forthcoming has finally come.
If you’re in New York City, you can catch a screening of the film this Saturday, presented by Crossroads Cultural Center and the Siena Forum for Faith and Culture or next Monday evening at the Church of St. Vincent Ferrer. For our readers in the Phoenix area, Catholic Phoenix will be hosting a screening on October 1. Win Riley will be in attendance to discuss the film and take questions from the audience.
Thursday, June 2, 2011, 10:48 AM
What went wrong with the ELCA? Russ Saltzman asks today in his On the Square column. Membership in the denomination that was supposed to unite two-thirds of American Lutheranism is “poised to dip below four million, and the number of congregations below nine thousand,” the denomination has an “essentially pro-choice abortion statement,” and a less than biblically inspired resolution of issues of human sexuality. The problem from the start, he concludes, was quotas:
Quotas were supposed to correct certain inequities in heretofore white-male-dominated institutions, like the Democratic Party and American Lutheranism. I don’t know how quotas were to help the Democrats, but they were supposed to make Lutheran churches holy. Neuhaus annoyingly kept saying the holiness of the church is located elsewhere than in quotas. It’s found in fidelity to the call of God to serve—regardless of external factors like sex or race.
Thursday, May 26, 2011, 9:15 AM
This morning On the Square, Russ Saltzman writes his abbreviated Confessions, recounting how he stumbled into faith without ever “getting” religion:
Far from being a “religious” person, I think of myself primarily as an ex-atheist. But just as there’s no such thing as an ex-alcoholic—only an always recovering alcoholic—so I am, as a rule a recovering atheist. . . . My faith didn’t begin in religion; it came out of left field.
Thursday, May 12, 2011, 10:44 AM
This morning On the Square Russ Saltzman reads his favorite Islamic magazine, Al-Jumuah and considers what the magazine reveals about its readership:
Al-Jumuah is written for Muslims trying their best to live in America and not become whatever equivalent of mainline Protestantism exists for Islam. It is not easy and sometimes the cultural ties to the old country seem to trump everything. . . . There is nothing at all in my reading suggestive of any appeal to radicalization, but the perspective clearly is live in the West, but do not be conformed to it.
Friday, April 29, 2011, 3:27 PM
I promise I have not spent my entire day slavishly following the royal wedding. But a friend sent along the text of the Bishop of London, Richard Chartres’ wedding sermon and I thought it worth sharing (at least in part):
A spiritual life grows as love finds its centre beyond ourselves. Faithful and committed relationships offer a door into the mystery of spiritual life in which we discover this; the more we give of self, the richer we become in soul; the more we go beyond ourselves in love, the more we become our true selves and our spiritual beauty is more fully revealed. In marriage we are seeking to bring one another into fuller life.
It is of course very hard to wean ourselves away from self-centredness. And people can dream of doing such a thing but the hope should be fulfilled it is necessary a solemn decision that, whatever the difficulties, we are committed to the way of generous love.
Chartres recognized as well though, that the gift of self is not enough, spouses also need to bring Christ to one another to bring them into fuller life:
As the reality of God has faded from so many lives in the West, there has been a corresponding inflation of expectations that personal relations alone will supply meaning and happiness in life. This is to load our partner with too great a burden. We are all incomplete: we all need the love which is secure, rather than oppressive, we need mutual forgiveness, to thrive.
As we move towards our partner in love, following the example of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit is quickened within us and can increasingly fill our lives with light.
Alright, that’s it. I’m done talking about the royal wedding. I did think her dress lovely though . . .
Thursday, April 28, 2011, 9:44 AM
This morning On the Square, Russ Saltzman ponders the intricacies of a Eucharistic faith:
Then there are questions bothering me yet about elements that are inadvertently added to the elements. I have reluctantly swallowed a fly (wasn’t much way to avoid it) from the chalice while prayerfully offering it up to the glory of God’s church.
Thursday, April 21, 2011, 11:53 AM
In our second On the Square essay today, Wesley J. Smith tells the story of Fr. George Calciu, a Romanian Orthodox priest imprisoned and tortured for his faith:
George Calciu was the youngest of eleven children, raised by devout parents as a faithful Orthodox Christian. Romania became communist in 1944, and the government soon began to crack down on the Church. Calciu was a medical student at the time, and his open faith made him suspect. He was imprisoned in 1948, where he was subjected to 1984-style mind control experiments—tortured until he denied Christ, and then forced to torture others toward the same end. “They wanted our souls,” he recalled, “not our bodies.”
Thursday, April 21, 2011, 9:52 AM
This morning On the Square Russ Saltzman teaches preachers how to preach the Resurrection:
Here is what I do need to hear. Before you preach Christ raised make sure you preach Jesus dead. This is a frequently neglected point in sermons on Resurrection Sunday. Oh, I know something will get said of crucifixion and dashed hopes, dead fields surging to life, nature’s tender green shoots promising whatever it is they promise. Maybe I will even hear how death has been vanquished, which is okay a little later on in your sermon but not yet.
Thursday, April 14, 2011, 11:43 AM
In our second On the Square piece today, Alma Acevedo asks: To whom is Richard Dawkins grateful when he expresses “an abstract gratitude that I am alive to appreciate these wonders, when I look down a microscope it’s the same feeling, I am grateful to be alive to appreciate these wonders”?
Unlike “being comfortable,” which requires the preposition with (as in “I feel comfortable with these shoes”), if any, “being grateful” calls for a to another person. Gratitude is not a self-enclosed or self-sufficient feeling but a human person’s response to another person or persons—whether human or divine—for benefits, gifts, or favors received from them, such as the gratitude due to caring parents, loving friends, and dedicated teachers or mentors. As Kant succinctly observes, “The duty of gratitude consists in honoring a person because of a benefit he has rendered us” (italics added). When gratitude is due to a country, an organization (e.g., a school, a hospital, a shelter), or some other collective, it is owed to them as communities of human persons, not as impersonal institutions.
Thursday, April 14, 2011, 10:54 AM
This morning On The Square Russ Saltzman plans ahead for the sermon he will have to give on January 29, 2012. The text will be Mark 1:21–28, the story of the unclean spirit whom Jesus commands to leave the man it has possessed:
With umpteen years of ordination behind me I should have said something about it on 10.333 occasions by my count. I dipped into my dead sermon file and no, I have never preached on it. When that passage arrived apparently I always opted for the second reading, something in First Corinthians about poor deluded fools worried over eating meat first sacrificed to idols, or the first reading from Deuteronomy promising a prophet like Moses. And I know why. I think these accounts of demons and unclean spirits are just too un-modern for contemporary Christians.
Who could listen with a straight face, or preach with one? I am bothered saying it, but my reaction, I know, is a hangover from my atheist rationalist period. But still even now as a believer, well, possession, really?
Thursday, April 7, 2011, 9:35 AM
In last weeks On the Square column Russelll Saltzman provoked the ire of many readers with his One Thousand Five-Hundred or So Uninformed Words on U.S. Immigration Policy. Today, he offers One Thousand Two Hundred Or So Winsomely Forceful New Words on Immigration to clarify and defend his immigration policy:
My immigration policy: Let ‘em all in. That didn’t win me many friends either. But there you go; I was trying out that winsomely forceful thing again. I did allow as how that likely makes for poor public policy. Would anyone think otherwise? At the same time, keep in mind we are a nation instinctively friendly to immigrants. Should anyone wish otherwise? As first instincts go, rubbing against realities that properly suggest something more prudent, it is not a bad one.
That is what first instincts are good for. This is what we aim at, what we try to achieve with public policies that are fair, equitable, and above all understandable. What function did my essay have other than to throw “distracting flack” into an important discussion? I had hoped it would put the real issues in relief, invoking stories of real people in real situations.
Friday, April 1, 2011, 9:25 PM
Natural Family Planning Outreach has announced its National Summer Institute to be held July 11-15 at Benedictine College in Atchison, KS. The topic for this years conference is “Catholic Healthcare Identity: Medical and Pastoral Strategies.” NFP Outreach has marshaled an impressive line up of speakers including Dr. Janet Smith, reporter of all things Catholic, John Allen, and First Things board member Robert George among others. You can find more information about NFP Outreach’s National Summer Institute here.
Thursday, March 31, 2011, 10:00 AM
This morning in his On the Square column Russell Saltzman shares his intuitions on immigration policy based on his years of research:
Now, that said, my immigration policy is simple.Let ‘em all in. That, I cheerfully admit, likely makes for poor public policy. Nonetheless, it is my instinct, based on my collection of immigrant stories. I’m pretty forward when I hear an accent. I want to know about it so I ask. The stories come easily. Almost everyone is eager to tell me how they got to America, and why. The why is simple: freedom, opportunity, a dream they wanted fulfilled. How they got here is always different. Stories do not make for good public policy either, but they are nice to hear.
Thursday, March 24, 2011, 9:46 AM
In this morning’s On the Square, Russell Saltzman recalls his time working on a friend’s political campaign, the pain of voter rejection—even when not a rejection of you personally—and concedes the possibility of a noble politician:
Did I learn anything? Yes, a few things. I had forgotten how thoroughly I once enjoyed good politics and the camaraderie of the campaign, the fierce sense of doing something good. I will remember a thousand faces and several friendships forged over those months. I even found a couple Wasinger supporters who remembered my name from my earlier days in Kansas politics. I learned, too, the battle for “likes” on Facebook campaign pages is not unimportant.
But mostly I remembered what I have always known. Some of the bravest people I know are people who put themselves out front for civic office.
Thursday, March 10, 2011, 10:12 AM
In his On the Square column this morning, Russel Saltzman recounts his experience as south ward alderman in a small town as he questions the role of clerics in public life:
But it might have pitted pastor against parishioners on an issue of some civic consequence, and that raises larger questions of a cleric’s role in public life. I am reminded of a time when the former presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Herbert Chilstrom, defended church lobbying and verdicts on political choices as the church’s “reverent best guess” on any given issue. These “best guesses,” reverent or not, always seemed to lean, and still do, toward a certain point on the political spectrum. Such a “guess” once included encouraging a boycott of a major oil company because it did some business with South Africa in the Apartheid years. I had parishioners who owned one of the stations being targeted. They read about it in the denominational magazine. They were not pleased.
Monday, March 7, 2011, 10:23 AM
This morning On the Square we have Pope Benedict XVI reflecting on the betrayal of Jesus, the Last Supper, and Jesus before Pilate. These excerpts are taken from Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week: From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection available March 10.
Thursday, March 3, 2011, 11:46 AM
In our second On the Square today, Samantha Ranieri reviews Abby Johnson’s Unplanned: The Dramatic True Story of a Former Planned Parenthood Leader’s Eye-Opening Journey across the Life Line. Comparing Johnson’s experience to her own experience as a crisis pregnancy counselor, she finds the book to be a much needed antidote to the rhetoric that so often clouds the abortion debate.
Thursday, March 3, 2011, 9:27 AM
In his On the Square column this morning, Russell Saltzman reflects on the myriad ways death drifts into our lives, imposed on us like ashes:
Death intrusively imposes itself upon us, sometimes in the oddest ways, with aged gerbils and sheep disappearing down the road and boats a man will never sail in again. “Remember,” I will say as I impose the ashes upon my people next Wednesday, “you are dust and to dust you shall return.” They do not need me to remind them. “Change and decay around is all I see,” intones the old hymn.
Thursday, February 24, 2011, 11:10 AM
In our second On the Square essay today, Dale Coulter of Regent University identifies the cluster of ideas that help to define Pentecostal spirituality and have made it “a religion made to travel, cosmopolitan both in its scope and outlook.”
Thursday, February 24, 2011, 9:54 AM
This morning On the Square Russell Saltzman reflects fondly on the time he spent at his first parish where he learned when it is and when it most certainly is not appropriate to where Bermuda shorts, the length of a country mile, and much more:
I think of my first call—Shangri-La Lutheran, Xanadu, Nebraska—a parish comprised of a small town congregation and one in open country, with deep fondness and with a memory of perfected pastoral ministry. I often wish I could replicate those years all over again. If, as C.S. Lewis once suggested, heaven is a place where we may in fact recreate our best memories that is what I want to do.
Monday, February 21, 2011, 11:33 AM
In honor of John Henry Newman’s 200th birthday today government offices are closed, many of us have the day off, and Fr. Juan Vélez reflects in our second On the Square essay on what Newman can teach “the average person striving to live a Christian life in a secular world.”
Friday, February 18, 2011, 10:35 AM
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This morning On the Square Micah Watson offers commentary on a debate carried out over the past few months on the pages of Public Discourse between Hadley Arkes and Matthew O’Brien. The discourse began with O’Brien’s review of Arkes’ recently published Constitutional Illusions and became a debate over how we reason morally. Watson suggests there may be a helpful synthesis of the two arguments:
Perhaps this last point about education is a hint that the disagreement between O’Brien and Arkes need not be understood as an either/or difference. One cannot make sense of morality without grasping its logical presuppositions, and one cannot fully grasp, and apply, those logical truths without a sound moral education. For part of Aristotle’s great insight into moral education is that those who know the proper excellence of a human being will instill that understanding into the young long before they have the rational capacity to understand it.