These Valentine's Day Cuts are belated. Much like my Valentine's
Day card for my ex-girlfriend. Who I've been married to for almost
G. K. Chesterton, the master of paradox, on
Valentine's Day: "St. Valentine was a priest and denied himself the love
of women; but his feast has been turned into a day for love-making."
From Alarms and Discursions (1911).
What is love? And why do we love? And what is the basis of love? I
tackled those questions, in however lacking manner, in an essay, "Love and the Skeptic", published in This Rock several years ago. An excerpt:
what is willed by loving? When we say to another: "It is good that you
exist, that you are!"what do we mean? The question is not nearly as
abstract or obtuse as it might sound, for it does serious damage to the
flippant claim that man is able to "make a meaning," for love is not
about making something ex nihilo, but the recognition and affirmation of
what already is. Or, put another way, in seeing the good of another, we
choose to embrace and treasure that good.
So Pieper makes an
essential distinction: "For what the lover gazing upon his beloved says
and means is not: How good that you are so (so clever, useful, capable,
skillful), but: It’s good that you are; how wonderful that you exist!" (On Love
II). This seemingly simple point has profound ramifications, for it is
an affirmation of what is. It involves the recognition that something
outside of myself is objectively good and worthy of my love. Because
reality is knowable and has objective meaningnot shifting, subjective
"meaning"love is possible and can be known. This, of course, raises the
question: Where does the objective meaning of love ultimately originate
from if not from myself? It is a question routinely ignored by
skeptics, but worth asking of both those who deny God’s existence and
those who reject the existence of objective truth: "If your love for
your spouse or family is subjective and of a ‘here today, gone tomorrow’
sort, what meaningful, lasting value does it really have?"
true lover, Pieper argues, intuitively understands, even if not with
precise logic, that an affirmation of the beloved’s goodness "would be
pointless, were not some other force akin to creation involvedand,
moreover, a force not merely preceding his own love but one that is
still at work and that he himself, the loving person, participates in
and helps along by loving" (On Love II).
Human love, therefore,
is an imitation, a reflection, of the divine love that created all that
is, including each of us. In the words of Pope Benedict XVI, in Deus Caritas Est,
"there is a certain relationship between love and the Divine: love
promises infinity, eternitya reality far greater and totally other than
our everyday existence" (5). Even Sartre, who is not known for being
happy about much of anything, remarked in Being and Nothingness, "This
is the basis for the joy of love . . .; we feel that our existence is
Hardly the final word, but perhaps of interest. Even to skeptics.
Did Pope Francis say this, that, or the other thing? There's a good chance that he didn't.
Speaking of Pope Francis and what he actually said or wrote, do read, "The Liberationist Pope", by Dr. Michel Therrien, penned for Homiletic & Pastoral Review. It is a very thoughtful and insightful analysis of the pontiff's comments about economics.
College football player and NFL hopeful Michael Sam recently came out of the closet and announced that he is "gay":
didn't realize how many people actually knew, and I was afraid that
someone would tell or leak something out about me," he said. "I want to
own my truth. ... No one else should tell my story but me."
for every sentence that Sam has expressed about his "truth" and story,
the talking heads at ESPN and similar networks have uttered lengthy
speeches, most of them extolling the young man's "courage". President
Obama tweeted, "Congratulations on leading the way ...That's real
sportsmanship." And so forth. Of most interest to me is Sam's statement:
"I want to own my truth." That, in sum, is the slogan for our age,
isn't it? First, it's about me; secondly, it's about me owning and
controlling something; third, it's about conforming truth to myself and
Far better to say, "I want to be owned by truth." Of course, it's also far more difficult.
"It seems preposterous now, but Amazon began as a bookstore." Twenty years ago this year, in fact. But has Amazon.com been good for books and book lovers?
Here is some news from France that is getting little attention, especially compared to the Olympics and gay football players:
100,000 conservative French marched through Paris and Lyon on Sunday
accusing the government of "family-phobia" for legalizing gay marriage
and other planned policies they say will harm traditional families.
marchers, expressing growing frustration with the unpopular left-wing
government, denounced new sex equality lessons in schools and urged the
government not to legalize medical procedures to help same-sex couples
demonstrators were middle-class families, some pushing little children
in prams, posing no apparent risk of violent confrontation with the
police that Interior Minister Manuel Valls had said would be dealt with
government of President Francois Hollande, suffering poll ratings near
record lows, has delayed further social reforms until after next month's
municipal elections following massive protests against legalizing
same-sex marriage last year.
Paris protester, Severine Chevrier, said: "Mr Hollande doesn't listen
to us or want to talk to us (and) Mr Valls ... will do everything to
shut us up."
Thanks goodness we don't have to deal with such
things in the United States! Ahem. Anyhow, it's worth pointing out that
Mr. Hollande, who is 59 years old, has apparently never been married. He
had four children with Ségolène Royal, his partner of 30 years, then
was soon partnered (is that the correct term?) with journalist Valérie
Trierweiler. Late last month, Mr. Hollande announced his separation from
Trierweilerwho had been acting as First Lady (although she was not, in
fact, the first or the last) after a tabloid magazine exposed his
affair with an actress, Julie Gayet.
Early last month, Fr. James Schall, SJ, wrote a CWR article, "Pope Francis, Economics, and Poverty," that garnered much attention. The Acton Institute recently posted a lengthy interview with Fr. Schall titled, "Poverty and Ultimate Riches", that carries on the conversation.
There is a lot of discussion about what Pope Francis has said or did
not say. There is also some discussion about what he will say,
specifically in his next encyclical, which is reportedly about ecology
and poverty and related matters. William Patenaude, a regular
contributor to CWR, has written a helpful post, "Seven things to know about Francis's planned eco-encyclical", on his "Catholic Ecology" blog.
Pop culture cut: thirty years ago, the band Foreigner had a massive hit with the song, "I Want to Know What Love Is". It included these lyrics:
In my life there's been heartache and pain
I don't know if I can face it again
I can't stop now, I've traveled so far
To change this lonely life
I wanna know what love is
I want you to show me
I wanna feel what love is
I know you can show me
(and song co-writer) Lou Gramm, considered one of the finer voices in
rock music, nearly died of brain tumor about 15 years ago, and made a
life-changing decision during that time:
had played a sold out concert at Madison Square Garden and there was
the record company party afterwards that lasted until four or five in
the morning. Everybody was in that condition and I ended up back in my
hotel room, of course I wasn’t able to sleep. I just started doing a
little self assessment and thinking about what I had become and was very
upset about it and worried about my children seeing me like this. I
finally fell to my knees and asked God to take this plague away from me.
couple of hours later I called my attorney and asked him to book me
into Halzeden and I wasn’t going home. I spent the best thirty days of
my life there. I’m a devout born-again Christian. God plays a role in
everything I do. I know he gave me life and saved my life. I serve him.
On a Chesterton kick!
is often said by the critics of Christian origins that certain ritual
feasts, processions or dances are really of pagan origin. They might as
well say that our legs are of pagan origin. Nobody ever disputed that
humanity was human before it was Christian; and no Church manufactured
the legs with which men walked or danced, either in a pilgrimage or a
ballet. What can really be maintained, so as to carry not a little
conviction, is this: that where such a Church has existed it has
preserved not only the processions but the dances; not only the
cathedral but the carnival. One of the chief claims of Christian
civilisation is to have preserved things of pagan origin. In short, in
the old religious countries men continue to dance; while in the new
scientific cities they are often content to drudge.
Francis Cardinal George on marriage and other relationships:
many of the conflicts in public life and even in the church in our day
lies a difference in the understanding of who we are as human beings.
This is an issue deeper than the particular battle lines over sexual
morality, the nature of marriage, the history of the sacrament of Holy
Orders and the exercise of authority in both the home and the church.
always saying so explicitly, even to themselves, some people believe
that we truly are only the result of our individual free choices. If
relationships get in the way of who we choose to be, then they are
oppressive. Relationships given before we come to consciousness of
ourselves, relationships to God, to nature, to family, to the church,
must be sacrificed so that we can be truly who we choose to be.
in our culture realize that we are related before we begin to make
choices and that choices that destroy basic relationships leave us
isolated and without the connections that are part of human life. We are
related naturally to God as creator and supernaturally to him as
Father. We are related naturally to our mother and our father, along
with brothers and sisters and other “blood relations.” We are related to
nature itself as members of the human race, created “male and female.”
We are related to the church in which we have been reborn in baptism,
permanently marked to the roots of our very existence with the sign of
Christ our Savior.
Read his entire column on the Catholic New World website.
I always enjoy Jonah Goldberg's columns, even when I sometimes disagree with him. His most recent column, "From Russia with Euphemisms", is exceptional:
to say of the gormless press-agent twaddle conjured up to describe the
Soviet Union? In its opening video for the Olympic Games, NBC’s
producers drained the thesaurus of flattering terms devoid of moral
content: “The empire that ascended to affirm a colossal footprint; the
revolution that birthed one of modern history’s pivotal experiments. But
if politics has long shaped our sense of who they are, it’s passion
To parse this infomercial treacle is to miss the
point, for the whole idea is to luge by the truth on the frictionless
skids of euphemism.
In America, we constantly, almost
obsessively, wrestle with the “legacy of slavery.” That speaks well of
us. But what does it say that so few care that the Soviet Union was
built literally on the legacy of slavery? The founding fathers of
the Russian Revolution Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky started
“small,” merely throwing hundreds of thousands of people into
kontslagerya (concentration camps).
By the time Western
intellectuals and youthful folksingers like Pete Seeger were lavishing
praise on the Soviet Union as the greatest experiment in the world,
Joseph Stalin was corralling millions of his own people into slavery.
Not metaphorical slavery, but real slavery complete with systematized
torture, rape, and starvation. Watching the opening ceremonies of the
Olympics, you’d have no idea that from the Moscow metro system to,
literally, the roads to Sochi, the Soviet Union the supposed epitome
of modernity and “scientific socialism” was built on a mountain of
broken lives and unremembered corpses.
Read the entire piece.
For the record, I missed the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics.
Actually, I've not watched one minute of the Olympics. But that's
Chesterton, again: "The revolt against vows has
been carried in our day even to the extent of a revolt against the
typical vow of marriage. It is most amusing to listen to the opponents
of marriage on this subject. They appear to imagine that the ideal of
constancy was a joke mysteriously imposed on mankind by the devil,
instead of being as it is a yoke consistently imposed on all lovers by
themselves. They have invented a phrase, a phrase that is a black v.
white contradiction in two words -- 'free love' -- as if a lover ever
had been or ever could be free. It is the nature of love to bind itself,
and the institution of marriage merely paid the average man the
compliment of taking him at his word. Modern sages offer to the lover
with an ill-favoured grin the largest liberties and the fullest
irresponsibility; but they do not respect him as the old Church
respected him; they do not write his oath upon the heavens as the record
of his highest moment. They give him every liberty except the liberty
to sell his liberty, which is the only one that he wants."
Here are five things the mainstream media could do to improve its (often horrible) reporting about the Catholic sexual abuse scandals. With some additional thoughts from Phil Lawler.
And here's something I've long considered writing about but never have: "Why Writers Are the Worst Procrastinators". I'll try to comment more on it later. Someday. Down the road. When I have a chance. Never.
Samuel Tadros on the "The Future of Egypt’s Copts":
Copts leave Egypt, it is not only a loss to them and their church. A
country and region will lose a portion of its identity and history.
Devoutly religious, Copts point to the promises of the Lord in Isaiah
19:19 of the altar to the Lord in the heart of Egypt, and to the Coptic
Church’s history. Coptic history has been an endless story of decline
and despair, but it has also been a story of survival, endurance in the
face of persecution, and the courage and blood of martyrs becoming the
seeds of the church. Persecution has taken its toll on the church and on
Copts, but Coptic history has also been a story of triumph amidst
despair and of the Lord’s protection of his people. Under the Coptic
Cathedral in Cairo are the relics of two men: St. Mark, who brought the
message of Christ to the Egyptians and ultimately shed his blood on its
soil, and St. Athanasius, the defender of faith and the man who stood
against the whole world and kept the Orthodox faith alive. It is as if
the cathedral and the whole Coptic Church stands on those two pillars,
martyrdom and faith.
Tawadros II who rose to the throne of St. Mark on November 18, 2012,
faces enormous challenges. He has declared his intention to focus on
organizing the Coptic Church internally and has already undertaken some
very positive initiatives in that regard but, no matter what his
intentions are, he will inevitably find himself forced to deal with the
growing plight of his people.
Coptic exodus from Egypt will pose a colossal challenge to the Coptic
Church. Today the Coptic Church has more than 550 churches outside of
Egypt. At a moment in the not so distant future, the center of gravity
of the Coptic Church will no longer be inside Egypt’s borders. The
nature of this challenge is one the church has never faced before and is
currently ill-equipped to address: how to become a truly universal
church and open up the Coptic Church to the rest of Christendom while
maintaining its uniqueness; how to keep both the Christian faith of the
new immigrants who will move to Western countries and the specific
Coptic identity in face of an open market competition between Christian
denominations; what does being Coptic actually mean for those living
outside of Egypt’s borders; how to provide for the material needs of the
new immigrants who cling to the church not only seeking spiritual
guidance; and how to cater to the ones who remain and whose lives will
be increasingly difficult. These are all open questions that await
Lots of interesting pieces about marriage out there. Dr. Francis Beckwith has just written one about why privatizing marriage cannot work. Meanwhile, a federal judge has struck down Virginia’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.
But this really caught my attention:
self-promoting nature of the Sochi protests speaks to a broader truth
about today’s Culture Wars in the West: these conflicts over lifestyle
and identity are driven less by a serious attachment to universal values
or proper liberalism than by a desire to demonstrate one’s superiority
over Others, over communities whose traditions and ways of thinking one
judges to be lesser, backward, dangerous. Across America and
increasingly in Europe, too, the big divide within various nations is no
longer between left and right or between different economic classes,
but rather between lifestyle tribes and cultural groups. Our cultural
outlook, our beliefs on matters such as gay marriage, abortion, gun
ownership, immigration and so on, have been dramatically politicised in
recent years, to the extent that a person’s entire moral worth can now
be judged by whether he is pro- or anti-gay marriage, with no regard
whatsoever to his economic views, his broader ideological beliefs, or
his class attachments. Increasingly, people are judged, sorted into
boxes marked ‘Good’ or ‘Bad’, according to the position they take on
relatively isolated issues of culture and tradition. ...
issue has in recent years been absolutely central to the ramping up of
the Culture Wars, to the fashioning of a new divide between allegedly
enlightened elites and apparently bigoted mobs. In Western societies,
being gay-friendly has become absolutely the least controversial stance a
politician or corporation can take. Indeed, gayness has become a kind
of sacred symbol of moral authority, and celebrating it has become a
means of winning almost instant media and activist support. Supporting
gay issues has become the key mechanism through which modern Western
leaders do that thing they’re all so keen to do distance themselves
from traditionalism, from the past, from what are now viewed as outdated
ideas and institutions, such as old-style marriage, long-term
commitment, traditional family set-ups. The reason the gay-marriage
campaign has been feverishly embraced by everyone from President Barack
Obama to David Cameron to Goldman Sachs to Google and Coca-Cola (both of
which kicked off 2014 with adverts depicting gay marriage) is because
this most highly politicised of cultural issues is a shortcut to the
moral highground as defined by the media and political classes, and it
allows political parties to jettison their more traditionalist
supporters and constituencies in favour of garnering favour with
urbanites, younger voters, and the upwardly mobile.
And that from an atheist. Imagine. Or just read the entire essay on the sp!ked website.
Finally, some thoughts about love from one of the greatest theological minds of the past fifty years:
is somehow rooted in man's very nature; Adam is a seeker, who “abandons
his mother and father” in order to find woman; only together do the two
represent complete humanity and become “one flesh”. The second aspect
is equally important. From the standpoint of creation, eros
directs man towards marriage, to a bond which is unique and definitive;
thus, and only thus, does it fulfil its deepest purpose. Corresponding
to the image of a monotheistic God is monogamous marriage. Marriage
based on exclusive and definitive love becomes the icon of the
relationship between God and his people and vice versa. God's way of
loving becomes the measure of human love. This close connection between
eros and marriage in the Bible has practically no equivalent in
Thank you, Benedict XVI.