Friday, October 31, 2014

Final Cause

It is so fun to see someone catch fire intellectually: to find abstract expression for something known before only inexpressibly in the gut. There is joy in this. It is the acquisition of something good, and that produces joy. This process is far different from what happens so often in formal learning. The acquisition of knowledge is too often pursued for its usefulness rather than for its truth. This is utilitarian. We learn something for a purpose, and so it is more like work than joy.

Anyhow, there is a young man of my acquaintance who is finding such joy right now in philosophy. He is delighted in particular with the concepts of causality, especially that of final cause. This is the idea that the goodness of something can be determined by the degree to which it achieves its end or purpose. The concept of final cause gives objectivity to morality among other things. It really isn't just how I feel about something that makes it good or bad. It is good or bad because it achieves its ends or it doesn't. Indeed, this is a liberating concept. Thank you, Aristotle.

OK so this young man was talking very enthusiastically about how understanding final cause liberates in the area of sex. Why would one have sex if one were not in a position to welcome a baby into the world because that is a natural end of sex? Well, yes, it is pretty obvious. And it completely explains all the controversial things that the Church teaches about sex. It's that obvious, except that it isn't. Our culture has rejected the liberation of philosophy in favor of the bondage of sentimentality. We don't care if things are true but only if they make us feel good. That won't do.

To be continued...

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Word Became Flesh

Call me a hypocrite for writing such thoughts in a blog, but I think that social media for the most part keeps its users on a superficial level. Facebook can be a way to stay in touch about events. I guess Twitter is nice for inspirational shots in the arm. Youtube can be good for an occasional laugh or to get something of true beauty out there that would never have another outlet. Some blogs ask deep questions or offer pithy insights and inspire respectful commentary. But these modestly helpful uses of social media are vastly outweighed by all the posturing, bad manners, propaganda, and worse that flourish on the interwebs under the guise of staying connected. Better to disconnect, in my book.

Let's especially be wary of evangelization via social media. I think it is virtually impossible. Sharing the Gospel has to be about sharing Jesus Christ through one's life and one's self. It has to be real, and that is exactly what social media is not. I am not an absolutist about this. The Gospel needs some sort of presence in cyberspace, but mainly just as a portal back into reality. I am not sure that I want people to listen to podcasts of my homilies (fortunately there aren't many), except as a cure for insomnia. Or anybody else's. Listen to homilies in church. Live life -- live, not remotely.

The Gospel takes time, generally speaking. It is not instant. And social media is about being instantaneous. Computers are instantaneous, but human beings are not. The Lord Jesus knows us in our humanity because he shares it. The Incarnation came about in the fullness of time. So I will now close my computer and get back to real life!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Yes on 1

This recording is what is actually happening to women in Tennessee.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

My Hometown

I gave a talk at the Awakening retreat last night. It made me feel old and from another world, rather that from just a few miles down the road. And then there was this condescending article about my hometown in the newspaper this morning.

I have spent eight years as chaplain of an "elite" university in an ''it" city, and two of those as pastor of a very old parish in "hip" downtown. Before that I spent nine years as pastor in two rural Middle Tennessee counties. The difference is so stark.

There is very little sympathy or even understanding of the situation of rural areas. They are dying. And a way of life is dying with them -- a way of life that is far from perfect but that is rooted in realities that trendy and urban America has no notion of.

I am grateful for growing up in a small town and for being pastor of other small towns. There is a danger of being small minded in small towns in some ways. But not the danger of the forgetfulness of everything but the present moment that is typical of trendy urban life.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Rome of the West

I am in St. Louis on a fall break mission/vocation trip. The idea for a trip like this springs from the mind of Caroline Duffy, and it's brilliant!

We have been staying at the seminary in St. Louis (boys and girls, with the kindest hospitality), working with the Little Sisters of the Poor for two days, and having dinner in the homes of students from St. Louis. Today, the boys and girls split up in the morning to visit religious communities and then get back together for fun in the city. Tomorrow is Mass at the magnificent Cathedral and then back to Nashville. I am coming home today, for obvious reasons.

Anyhow, it has worked well. The Little Sisters are so awesome! Their home in St. Louis is in a rough and depopulated part of the city. As they say, just where they ought to be. And it is so neat to be in a city with its own seminary. There is a certain feel of being at home and taking care of home when there is a seminary in your own town.

St. Louis has the "infrastructure" that the Church imagines for a diocese. There is a lot of excitement in a local church like Nashville, but we are having to make up so much as we go along. Here it is solidly in place, hence the nickname: Rome of the West.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

In the beginning it was not so...

It is hard to tell what is actually going on in the Synod, but it seems that the emphasis has been on pathologies of marriage and family life rather than on the way of perfection that is marriage and family life. For example, what to do about divorce, cohabitation, etc.

I hope that the Synod will not fall into this trap -- the trap of letting the world rather than God set the agenda. This trap was set for Jesus when he was asked about divorce, but rather than getting drawn into a consideration of divorce, which is a human invention, the Lord redirected to a consideration of what God's original plan for marriage was: the two shall be one.

Let's talk about how to get couples into marriage with good preparation and formation. Let's talk about how to support family life and the education of children. Let's talk about how to accomplish reconciliation in marriages and families. This is the Gospel agenda.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Beginning again?

As you have noticed, I have not been blogging much at all. I got tired of hearing me so I figured you all must be too! I am tempted to start again but this time not so much about specific things as the bigger picture.

OK, here goes: The Synod on the Family in Rome. Tuned-in Catholics are buzzing about this one. There was some document released yesterday about pastoral approaches needing to rely more on such human qualities as finding and encouraging the good in irregular situations. Of course, that's a good idea, but I doubt that it will work. Leaving theology aside, my hesitation about this approach is its reliance on human efforts to "solve" difficult pastoral situations. That requires superhuman effort and expertise on the part of ordinary pastors. Even then, it's iffy. We, the pastors of the Church, are not superMEN. We do have super powers, but they are supernatural ones, not natural ones. I might (or might not) be good at listening, even counselling, but every priest IS an expert in killing sins in the confessional or baptizing babies or witnesses marriage vows. Get people to the sacraments, and let God work. He promises. So if you have a humanly talented priest, good. Let him listen and counsel. But the emphasis on the Church ought to be on the supernatural means that she alone has to offer and that alone heal and reconcile without fail.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Zombie controversy: it won't die

See yours truly in The Chronicle of Higher Education. My quotation is quite a ways into the article.

I wish it were in The Chronicles of Narnia! As a little boy, I had a wardrobe in my bedroom. I would climb into it and stay for what seemed hours trying to get into Narnia. Never worked.

UCat Dominicans -- not the one in the middle!

Newly named Br. Cyprian and newly professed Br. Pachomius, O.P. at St. Gertrude's, Cincinnati, Ohio, August 15, 2017

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