Thursday 19 July 2018

One approach to Great Books

St. John's College at Annapolis and Santa Fe list the curriculum of books read in their course of study for a degree - a grounding curriculum in the liberal arts, and the intellectual cornerstones of Western Civilization, which span all the major branches of knowledge and art:

Academic Program

The Reading List

The reading list that serves as the core of the St. John's College curriculum had its beginnings at Columbia College, at the University of Chicago, and at the University of Virginia. Since 1937, the list of books has been under continued review at St. John's College. The distribution of the books over the four years is significant. Something over 2,000 years of intellectual history form the background of the first two years; about 300 years of history form the background for almost twice as many authors in the last two years.

The first year is devoted to Greek authors and their pioneering understanding of the liberal arts; the second year contains books from the Roman, medieval, and Renaissance periods; the third year has books of the 17th and 18th centuries, most of which were written in modern languages; the fourth year brings the reading into the 19th and 20th centuries.

The chronological order in which the books are read is primarily a matter of convenience and intelligibility; it does not imply a historical approach to the subject matter. The St. John's curriculum seeks to convey to students an understanding of the fundamental problems that human beings have to face today and at all times. It invites them to reflect both on their continuities and their discontinuities.


HOMER: Iliad, Odyssey
AESCHYLUS: Agamemnon, Libation Bearers, Eumenides, Prometheus Bound
SOPHOCLES: Oedipus Rex, Oedipus at Colonus, Antigone, Philoctetes, Ajax
THUCYDIDES: Peloponnesian War
EURIPIDES: Hippolytus, Bacchae
HERODOTUS: Histories
PLATO: Meno, Gorgias, Republic, Apology, Crito, Phaedo, Symposium, Parmenides, Theatetus, Sophist, Timaeus, Phaedrus
ARISTOTLE: Poetics, Physics, Metaphysics, Nicomachean Ethics, On Generation and Corruption, Politics, Parts of Animals, Generation of Animals
EUCLID: Elements
LUCRETIUS: On the Nature of Things
PLUTARCH: Lycurgus, Solon
NICOMACHUS: Arithmetic
LAVOISIER: Elements of Chemistry
HARVEY: Motion of the Heart and Blood
Essays by: Archimedes, Fahrenheit, Avogadro, Dalton, Cannizzaro, Virchow, Mariotte, Driesch, Gay-Lussac, Spemann, Stears, J.J. Thompson, Mendeleyev, Berthollet, J.L. Proust


THE BIBLE: New Testament
ARISTOTLE: De Anima, On Interpretation, Prior Analytics, Categories
VIRGIL: Aeneid
PLUTARCH: "Caesar," "Cato the Younger," "Antony," "Brutus"
EPICTETUS: Discourses, Manual
PTOLEMY: Almagest
PLOTINUS: The Enneads
AUGUSTINE: Confessions
MAIMONIDES: Guide for the Perplexed
ST. ANSELM: Proslogium
AQUINAS: Summa Theologica
DANTE: Divine Comedy
CHAUCER: Canterbury Tales
MACHIAVELLI: The Prince, Discourses
KEPLER: Epitome IV
RABELAIS: Gargantua and Pantagruel
PALESTRINA: Missa Papae Marcelli
VIETE: Introduction to the Analytical Art
BACON: Novum Organum
SHAKESPEARE: Richard II, Henry IV, The Tempest, As You Like It, Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth, King Lear, and Sonnets
POEMS BY: Marvell, Donne, and other 16th- and 17th-century poets
DESCARTES: Geometry, Discourse on Method
PASCAL: Generation of Conic Sections
BACH: St. Matthew Passion, Inventions
HAYDN: Quartets
MOZART: Operas
BEETHOVEN: Third Symphony
STRAVINSKY: Symphony of Psalms


CERVANTES: Don Quixote
GALILEO: Two New Sciences
HOBBES: Leviathan
DESCARTES: Meditations, Rules for the Direction of the Mind
MILTON: Paradise Lost
PASCAL: Pensees
HUYGENS: Treatise on Light, On the Movement of Bodies by Impact
ELIOT: Middlemarch
SPINOZA: Theological-Political Treatise
LOCKE: Second Treatise of Government
RACINE: Phaedre
NEWTON: Principia Mathematica
KEPLER: Epitome IV
LEIBNIZ: Monadology, Discourse on Metaphysics, Essay On Dynamics, Philosophical Essays, Principles of Nature and Grace
SWIFT: Gulliver's Travels
HUME: Treatise of Human Nature
ROUSSEAU: Social Contract, The Origin of Inequality
MOLIERE: Le Misanthrope
ADAM SMITH: Wealth of Nations
KANT: Critique of Pure Reason, Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals
MOZART: Don Giovanni
JANE AUSTEN: Pride and Prejudice
DEDEKIND: "Essay on the Theory of Numbers"
"Articles of Confederation," "Declaration of Independence," "Constitution of the United States of America"
TWAIN: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
WORDSWORTH: The Two Part Prelude of 1799
Essays by: Young, Taylor, Euler, D. Bernoulli, Orsted, Ampere, Faraday, Maxwell 


Supreme Court opinions
DARWIN: Origin of Species
HEGEL: Phenomenology of Mind, "Logic" (from the Encyclopedia)
LOBACHEVSKY: Theory of Parallels
TOCQUEVILLE: Democracy in America
LINCOLN: Selected Speeches
KIERKEGAARD: Philosophical Fragments, Fear and Trembling
WAGNER: Tristan and Isolde
MARX: Capital, Political and Economic Manuscripts of 1844, The German Ideology
DOSTOEVSKI: Brothers Karamazov
TOLSTOY: War and Peace
MELVILLE: Benito Cereno
O'CONNOR: Selected Stories
WILLIAM JAMES; Psychology, Briefer Course
NIETZSCHE: Beyond Good and Evil
FREUD: Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis
BOOKER T. WASHINGTON: Selected Writings
DUBOIS: The Souls of Black Folk
HUSSERL: Crisis of the European Sciences
HEIDEGGER: Basic Writings
EINSTEIN: Selected papers
CONRAD: Heart of Darkness
FAULKNER: Go Down Moses
FLAUBERT: Un Coeur Simple
WOOLF: Mrs. Dalloway
Poems by: Yeats, T.S. Eliot, Wallace Stevens, Valery, Rimbaud
Essays by: Faraday, J.J. Thomson, Millikan, Minkowski, Rutherford, Davisson, Schrodinger, Bohr, Maxwell, de Broglie, Heisenberg, Mendel, Boveri, Sutton, Morgan, Beadle & Tatum, Sussman, Watson & Crick, Jacob & Monod, Hardy

Tuesday 17 July 2018

The demographics of church participation are shifting. | Fr. Z's Blog

The demographics of church participation are shifting. | Fr. Z's Blog

The demographics of church participation are shifting.

The demographics of church participation are shifting.

In these USA…

The numbers of active priests will drop, impacting the number of parishes open.  The number of millennials going to church will drop, thus impacting parish income.  The number of conservative and traditional priests will rise, percentage wise, in presbyterates, thus impacting liturgy, preaching, and identity.  The number of children being born to practicing Catholics will outstrip those being born to liberals.   The number of conservative or traditional bishops being appointed will probably drop, thus creating a slowly growing identity rift between faithful and their local chief pastors.

Meanwhile, I saw this tweet:

New seminarians of the Institute of Christ the King. Vocations booming. Bishops, this is where young men are going. News flash: Catholic identity matters.

— Cream City Catholic (@CCityCatholic)

Daily Prayer for Priests

ACTION ITEM! Urgent prayer request for a priest | Fr. Z's Blog

Daily Prayer for Priests

O Almighty, Eternal God, look upon the Face of Your Son and for love of Him, who is the Eternal High Priest, have pity on Your priests. Remember, O most compassionate God, that they are but weak and frail human beings. Stir up in them the grace of their vocation which is in them by the imposition of the bishop's hands. Keep them close to You, lest the enemy prevail against them, so that they may never do anything in the slightest degree unworthy of their sublime vocation. O Jesus, I pray for Your faithful and fervent priests; for Your unfaithful and tepid priests; for Your priests laboring at home or abroad in distant mission fields; for Your tempted priests; for the lonely and desolate priests; for Your young priests; for Your dying priests; for the souls of Your priests in purgatory. But above all, I commend to you N. and all the priests dearest to me, the priest who baptized me,  the priests who have absolved me from my sins, the priests at whose Masses I have assisted and who have offered me Your Body and Blood in Holy Communion,  the priests who have taught and instructed me or helped and encouraged me,  and the priests to whom I am indebted in any other way. O Jesus, keep them all close to Your Heart, and bless them abundantly in time and in eternity. Amen.

Monday 16 July 2018

Books we should have read | Fr. Z's Blog

Books we should have read | Fr. Z's Blog

Books we should have read

What books do you think absolutely must be read, preferably before graduating from High School, or at least college… or before death?

Maybe I can eventually turn this into a POLL. 

I will start with some books as they occur to me. 

Some authors obviously could have more than one book.  After all, what are you going to say about Charles Dickens or Jane Austen?  I sometimes just pick a representative book.  You can argue for a different one, of course.  I sometimes list more than one work of an an author, especially if they are not really books.

Here goes…

The Bible
William Shakespeare – Just Read Everything
Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales
Plato, The Republic
Homer, The Odyssey & Iliad
Charles Dickens, Great Expectations
Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
USA – Founding Documents
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings
Fyodor Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment
Cervantes, Don Quixote
Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
St. Augustine, Confessions
George Orwell, 1984
Aldous Huxley, Brave New World
Thucydides, The Peloponesian War
Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan
St. Teresa of Avila, The Interior Castle
Herodotus, History
Victor Hugo, Les Misérables
Virgil, Aeneid
Aeschylus, The Oresteia
Friedrich von Hayek, The Constitution of Liberty
Russell Kirk, The Conservative Mind
The Cloud of Unknowing
Euripides, Medea; Trojan Women, Bacchae
Sophocles: Oedipus trilogy
Robert Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
Joseph Heller, Catch-22
St. Benedict, Rule
Pope John Paul II, Salvifici doloris; Veritatis splendor, Centessimus Annus, Evangelium vitae
G.B. Shaw, Pygmalion
Dante Alighieri, La Divina Commedia
William Bennett, America: The Last Best Hope I & II
Descartes, Discourse on Method
George Eliot, Middlemarch
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago
St. Therese, Story of a Soul
Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil
James Joyce, Ulysses
J.D. Salinger, Catcher in the Rye
Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness
Ernest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls
Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged
Franz Kafka, Metamorphosis
T.S. Eliot, Complete Poems and Plays
Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman
Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot
John Stuart Mill, On Liberty
Nicolo Machiavelli, The Prince
Geoge Bernanos, Diary of a Country Priest
Aristotle, Categories; Nicomachean Ethics
William Golding, Lord of the Flies
Gabriel Garcia Marquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude
Herman Melville, Moby Dick
Blaise Pascal, Pensees

You may have your own suggestions.

I am not talking about books you like.  I really like Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin series, but I don't think they are at the level of books which everyone should have read.

I mean books you should read… essential books you should know.


Giuseppe Maria Tomasi di Lampedusa, The Leopard
A. Manzoni, I Promessi Sposi
W. Whitman, Leaves of Grass
V. Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning
Ovid, Metamorphoses
Marx, Das Capital and the Communist Manifesto
Freud, On the Interpretation of Dreams.
Darwin, On the Evolution of Specie
John Donne
John Keats
E.M. Remarque, All's Quiet On the Western Front
E. Waugh, Brideshead Revisited
E. Bronte, Wuthering Heights
G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy
Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations

Books for boys. Suggested titles and an additional point. | Fr. Z's Blog

Books for boys. Suggested titles and an additional point. | Fr. Z's Blog

Books for boys. Suggested titles and an additional point.

At Crisis there is a good post about

10 Books That Every Boy Should Hazard

I warmly approve his use of "hazard". Thank you.   He signals the spirit of this list in a word.

The writer, Sean Fitzpatrick, explains:

Thanks to the adulterators of children's literature, the natural anticipations when approaching forgotten classics have been skewed. Everyone expects that everything will be picturesque, nice, and most importantly, safe. For reality is far too dangerous, far too harsh a thing, and children must be protected from it at all costs. Real stories for real boys, however, refuse to deliver saccharine platitudes. These books are composed of the uncanny, unforeseeable, and unimaginable. They present a reality that is often harsh, terrible, and so far from the idyllic it is free to become adventure. The books every boy should hazard are constantly on the brink of disaster, but still bear the distant but firm promise of final resolution; deftly navigating the fine line between realism and romance—requiring caution.

The books he recommended.

I. Midshipman Easy by Frederick Marryat


Recommended Age: 14-16

Perhaps the mighty Aubrey/Maturin series when they are a bit older.

II. Wild Animals I Have Known by Ernest Thompson Seton


Recommended Age: 10-14

III. Otto of the Silver Hand by Howard Pyle


Recommended Age: 13-15

IV. The Chimes by Charles Dickens


Recommended Age: 15-17

V. The White Company by Arthur Conan Doyle


Recommended Age: 15-17

VI. The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan


Recommended Age: 14-16

VII. The Other Wise Man by Henry van Dyke


Recommended Age: 12-14

VIII. The Black Arrow: A Tale of the Two Roses by Robert Louis Stevenson


Recommended Age: 14-16

IX. The Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope


Recommended Age: 14-16

X. The Persian Expedition by Xenophon


This one surprised me.  However, I can see why he included it.  As he described: It's a manual for leadership.

Recommended Age: 15-17

So, those are the books that are recommended in the Crisis piece. You can see more about them over there.

I would add a question and a proposal.

So…. Kindle or a book?   Perhaps a combination of both.   There's nothing like a real book. But the Kindle makes it easy to read on the fly, and the books don't gather dust.

In addition to finding books for boys of that age, might I suggest also some effort to read aloud?

The return of “Iota Unum” by Romano Amerio | Fr. Z's Blog

The return of "Iota Unum" by Romano Amerio | Fr. Z's Blog

The return of "Iota Unum" by Romano Amerio

The find gentleman Sandro Magister has a very good piece today on his site about the return to view of two volumes by Italian-Swiss author Romano Amerio, namely Iota Unum and Stat Veritas.

These are very good books.  It is very interesting that these volumes seem to be coming back into view.

Iota Unum is available in English and it is an important read, especially now that we have been as a Church refocused through a hermeneutic of reform and continuity, rather than of rupture.

Here is the first part of Magister's piece.  Go to his place for the rest.

You can purchase Iota Unum with this link.  I don't have it in English, but I have read it in Italian.  You will get involved.

My emphases and comments.

Grand Returns. "Iota unum" and "Stat veritas" by Romano Amerio

Two outstanding works of Catholic culture are returning to the bookstores. And the taboo on one of the greatest Christian intellectuals of the twentieth century is crumbling definitively. The question he highlights is also at the center of Benedict XVI's pontificate: how much can the Church change, and in what way?

by Sandro Magister

ROME, July 15, 2009 – As of tomorrow, two volumes that have taken their place among the classics of Catholic culture will return to Italian bookstores, published by Lindau. Their content is in striking harmony with the title and foundation of Benedict XVI's third encyclical: "Caritas in Veritate." [I must go back and reread, I think.]

The author of the two volumes is Romano Amerio, the Swiss scholar, philosopher, and theologian who passed away in 1997 at the age of 92. One of his great admirers, the theologian and mystic Don Divo Barsotti, summed up their contents as follows:

"Amerio essentially says that the gravest evils present today in Western thought, including Catholic thought, are mainly due to a general mental disorder according to which 'caritas' is put before 'veritas', without considering that this disorder also overturns the proper conception that we should have of the Most Holy Trinity."  ["caritas" out of harmony with "veritas"…]

In effect, Amerio saw precisely in this overturning of the primacy of Logos over love [and who knows what some people think "love" is these days] – or in a charity separated from truth – the root of many of the "variations of the Catholic Church in the 20th century": the variations that he described and subjected to criticism in the first and more commanding of the two volumes cited: "Iota unum," written between 1935 and 1985; the variations that led him to question whether with them, the Church had not become something other than itself[Folks, in the English speaking world it might be hard to imagine what sort of reaction there was to Iota Unum in the Italian speaking environment of Rome.]

Many of the variations analyzed in "Iota unum" – although just one of them would suffice, one "iota," according to Matthew 5:18, from which the book's title is taken – would lead the reader to think that there has been an essential mutation in the Church. But Amerio analyzes, he does not judge. Or better, as the fully formed Christian that he is, he leaves the judgment of God. And he recalls that "portae inferi non praevalebunt," meaning that for the faith, it is impossible to think that the Church could lose its way. There will always be continuity with Tradition, even if it is amid turbulence that obscures it and leads one to think the contrary[Timely.]

There is a close connection between the questions posed in "Iota unum" and Benedict XVI's address to the Roman curia on December 22, 2005, a fundamental address in terms of the interpretation of Vatican Council II and its relationship with Tradition[And talks with the SSPX?]

This does not change the fact that the state of the Church as described by Amerio is anything but peaceful.

In the address on December 22, 2005, Benedict XVI compared the babel of the contemporary Church with the upheaval in the fourth century after the Council of Nicaea, described at the time by Saint Basil as "a naval battle in the darkness of a storm."

In the afterword that Enrico Maria Radaelli, a loyal disciple of Amerio, publishes at the end of this revised edition of "Iota unum," the current situation is instead compared to the Western Schism, meaning the forty years between the 14th and 15th centuries before the Council of Constance, with Christianity leaderless and without a sure "rule of the faith," divided between two or even three popes at one time.

In any case, republished now years later, "Iota unum" reasserts itself as a book that is not only extraordinarily relevant, but "constructively Catholic," in harmony with the Church's magisterium. In the afterword, Radaelli demonstrates this in an irrefutable way. The conclusion of the afterword is presented further below[You will want to check that out.]

As for the second book, "Stat veritas," published by Amerio in 1985, it is in linear continuity with the previous one. It compares the doctrine of Catholic Tradition with the "variations" that the author identifies in two texts of the magisterium of John Paul II: the apostolic letter "Tertio Millennio Adveniente," November 10, 1994, and the address at the Collegium Leoninum in Paderborn on June 24, 1996.

The return to the bookstores of "Iota unum" and "Stat veritas" brings justice both to their author and to the de facto censorship that for long years bore down on both of these consummate books of his. In Italy, the first edition of "Iota unum" was reprinted three times for a total of seven thousand copies, despite the fact that it ran to almost seven hundred pages of demanding reading. It was then translated into French, English, Spanish, Portuguese, German, and Dutch. It reached tens of thousands of readers all over the world. But for official Catholic bodies and Church authorities it was taboo, as of course it was for its adversaries. [It sure was.] More of a singular case than a rare one, the book was an underground "long seller." Requests for it continued  when the bookstores ran out of copies.

The breaking of the taboo is recent. Conferences, commentaries, reviews. "La Civiltà Cattolica" and "L'Osservatore Romano" have also woken up. At the beginning of 2009, a first reprinting of "Iota unum" appeared in Italy, published by "Fede & Cultura." But this new edition of the book produced by Lindau, together with that of "Stat veritas," has the added value of the editorial work of Amerio's greatest student and intellectual heir, Radaelli. His two extensive afterwords are genuine essays, indispensable for understanding not only the profound meaning of the two books, but also their enduring relevance. Lindau intends to publish Amerio's "opera omnia" in the next few years, with Radaelli as editor.

The following is a tiny sample of the afterword to "Iota unum": the final considerations. …

The guide

Fr John Hardon’s Catholic Lifetime Reading Plan | The Blog of a Country Priest

Fr John Hardon's Catholic Lifetime Reading Plan | The Blog of a Country Priest

Fr John Hardon's Catholic Lifetime Reading Plan

Fr John Hardon's Catholic Lifetime Reading Plan

Father John Hardon SJ, Servant of God, 1914-2000, was a great man. With parents like his, it's no wonder.

When he was still an infant, his father, who was a construction worker, was killed in a workplace accident. He apparently sacrificed his own life to save the lives of his colleagues.

To honour her husband's memory, and the heroism of his death, Mrs Hardon resolved she would never remarry. So she scrimped and saved and struggled to support herself and her young son. As often happens, material poverty and solid faith produced spiritual riches.

Fr Hardon's earliest memory is accompanying his mother on all-night vigils before the Blessed Sacrament. He would be tucked up, asleep on a pew, and wake occasionally to find his mother always in the same position — kneeling next to him, head bowed in adoration, deep in prayer.

Some Lutheran schoolgirls boarded with the Hardons, which provided some income. When he was still young, John demanded to know why they got to eat meat on Friday, and he did not. Mrs Hardon discreetly raised the issue with the girls and their parents. The girls would have to adopt the Catholic practice, or find somewhere else to live. The girls wished to stay, and their parents agreed. The girls were like sisters to John, whom he loved and admired. He attributed his early positive exposure to the Lutheran faith to a lifelong interest in ecumenism, long before it was mainstream.

After his ordination, he was sent to Rome to study theology, and he became an expert in Protestantism and in the oriental religions. Fr Hardon was a hard worker, a clear thinker, and a brilliant one at that. From what I've read, it could be fair to say that he is the English-speaking world's answer to Joseph Ratzinger. By that I mean: Pope Benedict is the greatest theologian alive today, and the outstanding Catholic thinker of his generation. What can be said of Ratzinger at a universal level, may be said of Fr Hardon in the smaller pond of the Anglosphere.

Fr John Hardon, Servant of God

Fr John Hardon SJ, Servant of God

Unfortunately, Fr Hardon was a casualty of the culture wars which raged throughout the post-conciliar Church. He was deemed to be too conservative and divisive by his superiors, banned from teaching, and effectively exiled. (That happened to many Jesuits in the 80s and 90s. Pope Francis suffered a similar fate in the decade following his term as Argentine superior general. It was only his episcopal appointment which lifted him from obscurity.) Nonetheless, Fr Hardon's marginalisation in America didn't inhibit fruitful collaboration with three popes.

With Pope Paul VI, Fr Hardon produced The Catholic Catechism (1975), which was the normative English-language catechetical text until the Holy See produced a definitive Catechism of the Catholic Church in 1992. (Fr Hardon contributed to that project too.) When Pope John Paul II asked Mother Teresa to expand her ministry to the poor to include catechesis and evangelisation, he referred her to Cardinal Ratzinger. Ratzinger, in turn, referred Mother Teresa to Fr Hardon, who worked closely with the Missionaries of Charity for many years, developing catechetical means which are still in use.

Apart from his scholarly virtues, Fr Hardon was by all accounts a holy priest. He had a deep devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, which isn't surprising in view of his mother's example. He was widely sought to lead retreats, hear confessions, and minister spiritual direction. His cause for canonisation was opened in 2005.

Fr Hardon's scholarship, his catechetical expertise, and his interior life conspire to recommend, I think, his Catholic Lifetime Reading Plan (Amazon listing). This book-length plan was published in 1989, and it's not so much a list of books as it is a list of 104 authors he recommends Catholics read.

I ordered this book several weeks ago, but I'm still waiting. I'm looking forward to learning why Fr Hardon recommends the authors he lists. He profiles each author in two or three pages, and includes their most recommended writing. Apparently the book also includes an exhaustive bibliography, with the details of all the significant works of each author. In the meantime, I've made do with the bare bones: names of the authors and the books Fr Hardon especially recommends.

You can download the document, or read it online:

There is More Than One Way to Skin Your Professor’s Cat | V E R I T A T I S | P R A E C O

There is More Than One Way to Skin Your Professor's Cat | V E R I T A T I S | P R A E C O

There is More Than One Way to Skin Your Professor's Cat

It is a common, and righteous, complaint of many college students with a conservative mentality that their professors insist upon their adherence to a radically progressive set of doctrines.  The solution to which many such young conservatives tend is to try to yell their opinions more loudly, or to stand up strong and firm in the face of the oppressor.

This smacks of old-school nobility, but is ultimately ineffective.

I once heard Remi Brague respond to a question from the audience after a lecture he gave.  The question was, "What do we, as conservatives, as Catholics, do to change the academy?"  His answer was simple and sharp: "We must be twice better."  Problems with his English aside, the point is one which sticks.  We cannot simply be dragged into a war of ideologies, of Left vs. Right, Progressive vs. Conservative, of dominance of opinion.  That is a sure road to mob rule, to the rule by the sway of popular opinion.  Even if we "won" that war, we would have no more legitimacy in the victory than the current prevalence of progressive doctrine.

Instead, we must be better, indeed, twice better: we need to have better arguments, clearer arguments, stronger arguments—which means that we must not only state the truth, but show why it is the truth.  We cannot appeal to emotion, nor can we simply appeal to tradition, for those in opposition cannot know whether or not our emotions are justified, nor can they see the value of tradition, blinded as they are by their own habits.

We cannot hold the opposition in contempt, for they have grown up in a culture which systematically diverts their attention from the true; they have been habituated, likely from before the age of reason, to live unreasonably.  We should not hate them, but pity them.  We should not attack them, but enlighten them.

To do so, we have to recognize that they do not want truth shoved down their throats, however much that might be more immediately satisfying to us.  We have to show them that truth patiently.

It is true that we are engaged in a battle for Western culture, Western civilization; but the enemy is not the opposed person, it is the error to which they adhere, and which adheres to them like a parasite.  Trying simply to rip the parasite off is typically many times worse for the host, causes the host pain, and may even incite a violent reaction from the host.  Maybe they're comfortable with their parasites.

I once took a general psychology class with a fairly liberal professor.  A term paper of 5-7 pages was assigned, directed to deal with one of the major movements or theories in psychology.  I chose behaviorism, with which the professor did not fully agree, but towards which she had some sympathies.  I proceeded to show why behaviorism is a logically inconsistent notion, and why it has a kind of philosophical prescriptivism despite lacking any philosophical principles (trust me to write a philosophy paper in a psych class).

I had the highest paper grade in the class; why?  Because what I did was "twice better."

In short, dealing with the difficulties posed by progressive, liberal professors is not, in most cases, well-accomplished by being obstinately opposed to their doctrines: what we need is clear logical demonstration of why their positions are false.

Recommended Reading | V E R I T A T I S | P R A E C O

Recommended Reading | V E R I T A T I S | P R A E C O

Recommended Reading

Oftentimes, at the end of Veritatis Praeco articles, there are a few books, encyclicals, or articles recommended for further reading.  Here you will find a list of the absolute essentials, the best of the best, the books that not only every Catholic, but every individual ought to read.  Where possible, links will be provided to more information or to a place from which you may purchase these books.  Some of these books are for the more intense, some for the casual reader; but, as our dear friend Mortimer J. Adler posthumously reminds us, no one should ever read without the intention of making himself better and smarter by the endeavor; no book ought to be read without the intent to expand the mind, which is not a painless process by any means.  The following divisions are based, more or less, upon a core cirriculum of the Catholic Liberal Arts.  Consequently, in addition to whatever is listed, the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Holy Bible are essential throughout.  For the latter, the Douay-Rheims translation is recommended, particularly the Catholic Treasures edition with the Reverend George Leo Haydock's notes; these are a quick reference to much of the sapient commentary of Church Fathers and other Biblical scholars.  The literature sections are divided according to genre, the philosophy according to complexity of thought (although recursive and frequently recovering topics in a sort of hermenuetic structure), the history more or less chronologically (if anyone has suggestions for good works of history, please contribute), and the last section is miscellaneous Catholic thought with a general overarching coherence.

Works of the Western Intellectual Tradition, Part 1:

Homer – The Iliad, The Odyssey
Virgil – The Aeneid
Anonymous – Beowulf
Dante Alighieri – The Divine Comedy
John Milton – Paradise Lost

Plato – The Republic, Apology
Aristotle – Nicomachean Ethics
St. Augustine – Confessions
Fr. Norris Clarke, S.J. – Person and Being
St. Thomas Aquinas – Treatise on the Divine Nature
Reverend Msgr. Robert Sokolowksi – The God of Faith and Reason

Herodotus – The Histories
Thucydides – The Peloponnesian War
Tacitus – Annals
H.W. Crocker III – Triumph

Pope St. Pius X – Editae Saepe
G.K. Chesterton – Orthodoxy, Heretics
Very Rev. George J. Moorman – The Latin Mass Explained

Works of the Western Intellectual Tradition, Part 2:

Aeschylus – The Oresteia (Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers, Eumenides)
Aristophanes – The Clouds
Sophocles – Ajax, Oedipus Rex, Antigone, Oedpius at Colonus
Christopher Marlowe – Doctor Faustus
William Shakespeare – As You Like It, The Henriad (Richard II, Henry IV Part 1, Henry IV Part 2, Henry V),  Othello, Macbeth, Hamlet, The Tempest

Aristotle – The Poetics
St. Thomas Aquinas – Summa Contra Gentiles, Disputed Question on Evil (On Human Choice, q.6), Disputed Question on Truth (The Meanings of Truth, q.1), On Being and Essence
Scott Sullivan – An Introduction to Traditional Logic:  Classical Reasoning for Contemporary Minds

Plutarch – Lives (Themistocles, Pericles, Aristides, Alcibiades)
Tacitus – The History
Christopher Dawson – The Formation of Christendom, Medieval Essays
Hilaire Belloc – The Crusades
Henry Kamen – The Spanish Inquisition: A Historical Revision

Pope Leo XII – Rerum Novarum
Pope St. Pius X – Pascendi Dominici Gregis
G.K. Chesterton – The Everlasting Man, The Outline of Sanity, What's Wrong with the World
Rev. Dom Prosper Gueranger – The Holy Mass
Joseph Pieper – In Defense of Philosophy
Pope Benedict XVI – Without Roots, Christianity and the Crisis of Cultures,  Values in a Time of Upheaval

Works of the Western Intellectual Tradition, Part 3:

Lyric Poetry, pre-Modern:
Anonymous – Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
Sir Philip Sydney – Desire
William Shakespeare – Sonnets
John Donne – A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning, The Sun Rising, the Canonization, Holy Sonnet XIV
John Dryden –  A Song for St. Cecilia's Day
Alexander Pope  – The Rape of the Lock
Thomas Gray – Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard
William Wordsworth –  Composed Upon Westminster Bridge, A Beauteous Evening, Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood
Samuel Taylor Coleridge – The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
John Keats – On First Looking into Chapman's Homer, Ode on a Grecian Urn, To One Who Has Been long in City Pent
Alfred Lord Tennyson – The Lady of Shallot, Ulysses, The Lotos-Eaters, The Palace of Art, Locksley Hall, Maud, In Memoriam
Robert Browning – Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister, My Last Duchess, Porphyria's Lover, Karshish, Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came, Cleon
Matthew Arnold – Dover Beach, The Buried Life, Stanzas from the Grand Chartreuse
Thomas Hardy – Hap, The Darkling Thrush
Gerard Manley Hopkins –  The Wreck of the Deutschland, God's Grandeur, Carrion Comfort

Aristotle – Nicomachean Ethics (Books V., VIII., & IX.), The Politics
St. Augustine – The City of God
St. Thomas Aquinas – Treatise on the Virtues, Treatise on Happiness, Disputed Question on Truth (On the Teacher, q.11)
Jacques Maritain – Man and the State, Person and the Common Good
Yves Simon – The Great Dialogue of Nature and Space
Rev. William Wallace – The Modeling of Nature
Pope John Paul II – Love and Responsibility

Hilaire Belloc – How the Reformation Happened
Christopher Dawson – Dynamics of World History
Paul Johnston – A History of the American People

Pope St.Pius X – Editae Saepe
Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman – The Idea of a University
Rev.  Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange – Christian Perfection and Contemplation

Works of the Western Intellectual Tradition, Part 4:

Novels and short-stories:
Miguel de Cervantes –  Don Quixote
Leo Tolstoy – War and Peace, Anna Karenina, The Death of Ivan Ilyich
Fyodor Dostoevsky – The Brothers Karamazov, Crime and Punishment, The Idiot, The Possessed
Evelyn Waugh – Brideshead Revisited
Graham Greene – The Power and the Glory
Oscar Wilde – The Picture of Dorian Gray
Flannery O'Connor – A Good Man is Hard to Find, Parker's Back, Good Country People, Wise Blood, The Violent Bear It Away
Joseph Conrad – Heart of Darkness, Lord Jim
Aldous Huxley – Brave New World
George Orwell – 1984
Victor Hugo – Les Miserables
Charles Dickens – A Tale of Two Cities, David Copperfield, Bleak House
Mary Shelley – Frankenstein
Theodore Dreiser – An American Tragedy

Immanuel Kant – Critique of Pure Reason
St. Thomas Aquinas – Summa Theologiae, Q. 84-86
Jacques Maritain – The Degrees of Knowledge
Louis Marie Regis – Epistemology
Msgr. Robert Sokolowski  – Phenomenology of the Human Person

More to be added…

This page is a continual work in progress.  It will be updated continually.  Please check back for more books and more links.  If you have any suggestions, e-mail  Also, please understand that the categories sometimes overlap, and to avoid redundancy, works will be placed in only one category.

Why We Drink | V E R I T A T I S | P R A E C O

Why We Drink | V E R I T A T I S | P R A E C O

Why We Drink

Some readers may have noticed that references to alcohol are not infrequent on this site.  To some, that may produce a concern.  To others, it may bring joy.  It is the intent of this page to convert any of the former to the latter: as John A. Oesterle says in his introduction to St. Thomas Aquinas' Treatise on the Virtues, "The meaning of virtue in modern time has lost some of the original force it once had. Thanks in part to an extremely rigid moral tradition, stretching perhaps back at least to Puritan times, virtuous living has been linked with joyless living, and the very notion of virtue has been narrowed to signify principally some form of temperate conduct.  And just as temperance, in turn, has been primarily restricting to restraining the appetite for alcoholic drink (in which respect, temperance has sometimes been confused with abstinence) so virtue, though actually much broader in meaning than temperance, has been largely confined, in the minds of many, to another area of temperance…"

If you would like to read the rest, and I suggest you do, purchase a copy of the book.  Or bombard the VP inbox with emails until we give in.  Either way, the following was printed in the April 2009 Print Edition of Veritatis Praeco.

"Hinc bibere usque ad hilaritatem per se `quidem non est illcitum, hence to drink even to the point of hilarity is certainly not illicit per se" – Dominic Prummer, O.P. (thank you to "Joshua" for the correction)

Somehow, some when, throughout the United States, something awful and mysterious happened.  All over the great nation – perhaps it was in the 1940's, with the war consuming all thought, or in the 1960's with the rise of the so-called "Spirit of Vatican II" – Catholics stopped drinking.  Not altogether, of course, but they stopped drinking in a way which could explicitly be called "Catholic"; in other words, they stopped drinking well, they stopped drinking with any appreciation of the artistry that is the art of brewing and distillery, of the highly refined skills that go into making beer and wine and spirits.  This appreciation is itself an art, not to be performed recklessly, but to be practiced and improved like any other critical activity (see Sean P. Dailey's article on, "The Lost Art of Catholic Drinking").  Yet somehow, it came to be seen, perhaps through ecumenically Protestant-shaded glasses, as something sinful.  Teetotalism began to find its way into the Catholic world, notably into Catholic universities, to which the typical reaction is either unthinking acceptance or unrestrained rebellion.  Such prohibitionist restriction justifies itself by claiming to protect man and particularly the youth from the evil of alcoholism: but the uncomplicated fact is that alcoholism is an evil that arises not from alcohol, but from a lack of moderation; and keeping men away from the external means of an internal sin does not ameliorate their malady.

Traditionally, Catholicism, as the religion of reason and virtue, has sought to foster a healthy and moderate attitude towards both consuming and enjoying alcohol: in the words of G.K. Chesterton, "We should thank God for beer and burgundy by not drinking too much of them."  Indeed, drinking, if done rightly, can and ought to be an indirect act of praising the Almighty; so too, for that matter, should be brushing teeth or cleaning one's sock drawer.  But whereas the latter are not pleasurable things, moderate drinking of good drink is eminently enjoyable, as is its creation: a neatly-ordered drawer of socks may let one's mind rest easy, but the crafting of fine beverages which bring other men great joy is an ennobling action.  Perhaps that is one of the reasons that much of the brewing techniques in modern times, as well as many contemporary styles of beer, were invented by the monks, as a service of love and joy.

The Brazen Head - Oldest Pub in Ireland

The Brazen Head - Oldest Pub in Ireland

The delectation of imbibing alcohol is derived not solely from inebriation – which ought to be kept "imperfect" or not "destroying the use of reason" in the words of St. Thomas Aquinas – but also from the goodness of taste and the nourishment of community and camaraderie, which are in many ways inseparable.  It is unfortunate that many people have never had a good beer; or, being inundated with the mass-produced results of centralization and unchecked capitalism, have never developed a taste for the finer things.  As is commonly the case with quantity-focused production, large breweries cheapened the quality of their products, lowered standards, but kept the alcohol.  Beer devolved into a means to drunkenness.  The micro-brew revolution which began in England some decades ago, and which has taken off in the United States, thankfully revived the art of crafting beer (see Joseph Pearce's book, Small is Still Beautiful, published by ISI), and with it the art of appreciating beer has returned; styles once hard to find are becoming increasingly common; rejoice!

Truly, there is no better time for good drink to bring lightheartedness (what Prummer, via Thomistic moral inquiry, calls "hilarity") than that of a celebration.  Be the occasion during winter, summer, or anywhere between, be it a wedding, baptism, or just a get-together of good friends, there is always a drink to match: a round of porters or perhaps a good whiskey on a cold winter's night to oversee a discussion among friends, a refreshing gin and tonic on a sunny Saturday afternoon with family all around, a bottle of Medoc Bordeaux to celebrate the perpetual union, in the spirit of Christ at the wedding feast of Cana, of two loving souls.  Likewise should there be brought levity to the minds and hearts of those in mourning and sadness; for one's grief is often best abated by shifting focus to goodness.  St. Brigid, who legendarily changed dirty bathwater into beer, would regularly give it to the lepers to lighten their suffering; and in the words of St. Columbanus, "It is my design to die in the brew-house; let ale be placed to my mouth when I am expiring so that when the choir of angels come they may say: 'Be God propitious to this drinker.'"

Sean P. Dailey: The Lost Art of Catholic Drinking

Sean P. Dailey: The Lost Art of Catholic Drinking

The Lost Art of Catholic Drinking

by Sean P. Dailey - October 10, 2007

Reprinted with permission.

There is Protestant drinking and there is Catholic drinking, and the difference is more than mere quantity. I have no scientific data to back up my claims, nor have I completed any formal studies. But I have done a good bit of, shall we say, informal study, which for a hypothesis like this is probably the best kind.

To begin with, what is Catholic drinking? It's hard to pin down, but here's a historical example. St. Arnold (580-640), also known as St. Arnulf of Metz, was a seventh-century bishop of Metz, in what later became France. Much beloved by the people, St. Arnold is said to have preached against drinking water, which in those days could be extremely dangerous owing to unsanitary sewage systems – or no sewage system at all. At the same time, he frequently touted the benefits of beer and is credited with having once said, "From man's sweat and God's love, beer came into the world."

Wise words, and St. Arnold's flock took them to heart. After his death, the good bishop was buried at a monastery near Remiremont, France, where he had retired. However, his flock missed him and wanted him back, so in 641, having gotten approval to exhume St. Arnold's remains, they carried him in procession back to Metz for reburial in the Basilica of the Holy Apostles. Along the way, it being a hot day, they got thirsty and stopped at an inn for some beer. Unfortunately, the inn had just enough left for a single mug; the processionals would have to share. As the tale goes, the mug did not run dry until all the people had drunk their fill.

Now, I'm not saying that Catholic drinking involves miracles, or that a miracle should occur every time people get together to imbibe. But good beer – or good wine for that matter – is a small miracle in itself, being a gift from God to His creatures, whom He loves. And as G. K. Chesterton wrote in Orthodoxy, "We should thank God for beer and burgundy by not drinking too much of them." In other words, we show our gratitude to God for wine and beer by enjoying these things, in good cheer and warm company, but not enjoying them to excess.

Just what constitutes excess is for each person to judge for himself, I suppose. However, we now approach the main difference between Catholic drinking and Protestant drinking. Protestant drinking occurs at one extreme or another: either way too much or none at all, with each being a reaction to the other. Some people, rightly fed up with the smug self-righteousness of teetotalers, drink to excess. And teetotalers, rightly appalled at the habits of habitual drunkards, practice strict abstinence. It seems to occur to neither side that their reaction is just that: a reaction, and not a solution. If they considered it a bit, they might see a third way that involves neither drunkenness nor abstinence, yet is consistent with healthy, honest, humane Christian living.

Here we encounter Catholic drinking. Catholic drinking is that third way, the way to engage in an ancient activity enjoyed by everyone from peasants to emperors to Jesus Himself. And again, it is not just about quantity. In fact, I think the chief element is conviviality. When friends get together for a drink, it may be to celebrate, or it may be to mourn. But it should always be to enjoy one another's company. (Yes, there is a time and place for a solitary beer, but that is the exception.)

For example: The lectures at the annual Chesterton conference are themselves no more important than the attendees later discussing those same lectures over beer and wine (we tend to adhere to Hilaire Belloc's rule of thumb, which is to avoid alcoholic beverages developed after the Reformation). These gatherings occur between talks, during talks – indeed, long into the night – and we typically fall into bed pleasantly stewed. I cannot imagine a Chesterton conference without this. And yet I also know how detrimental it would be if we all stumbled back to our rooms roaring drunk.

Avoid each extreme – that's how you drink like a Catholic. This is the art of Catholic drinking. There are plenty of our brethren who consider drinking somehow immoral, and there are plenty of others who think drinking must end with great intoxication. But the balanced approach – the Catholic approach – means having a good time, a good laugh, sometime a good cry, but always with joy and gratitude for God's generosity in giving us such wonders as beer and burgundy. Remember that, and the lost art of Catholic drinking may not remain lost.

Sean P. Dailey is editor-in-chief of Gilbert Magazine and blogmeister of The Blue Boar.

Sunday 15 July 2018

Fra Andrew Bertie

Fra Andrew Bertie | | Our Lady of Damascus

Fra Andrew Bertie

The Servant of God Fra' Andrew Willoughby Ninian Bertie was the 78th Prince and Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. He occupied that position from 1988 till his death in 2008. Fra' Bertie was the first Englishman to be elected Grand Master of the Order of Malta since 1258. During his long years of residence in Malta, he and his late mother regularly attended Holy Liturgy on Sundays at Our Lady of Damascus. Moreover, the Servant of God Fra' Bertie actively participated in our Church's celebrations during Holy Lent and Easter.

Andrew Baertie (2)

Library | Search Results | V E R I T A T I S | P R A E C O

Library | Search Results | V E R I T A T I S | P R A E C O

V E R I T A T I S | P R A E C O

sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper, et in saecula saeculorum

Search Results for: Library

On Having a Good Library

It was once remarked that a good benchmark of success for an undergraduate student, at the end of his four years, is to look at his library and to see how it has grown: not merely in size, but in quality.  Part of what the ardent student will find, looking through his library, is a large number of authors of whom he did not know before going to college, but now finds as familiar as old friends.  His shelves should not be laden with popular fiction and Lost and Philosophy (which might be a good title if not for the television show), but with good books and better books: classics like The Republic, Plutarch's Lives, The Divine Comedy, The City of God, The Nicomachean Ethics, The Annals of Tacitus, Chesterton's Orthodoxy, Eliot's The Waste Land, and so many, many more.  It is also important, and fruitful, to amass a collection of the obscure books – not for the sake of obscurity, but for the sake of fullness.  St. Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologiae is a masterpiece amongst masterpieces; but one's collection of his oeuvre, and thus his sapient contribution to the human conversation, is incomplete without his lesser known works, such as On the Unity of the Intellect Against the Averroists or The Division and Method of the Sciences.  Nor is the reader given so full an appreciation of Shakespeare's Troilus and Criseyde without having also experienced Chaucer's.

Of course, it is one thing to have a cornucopia of good books, and quite another to have read them all.  There is perhaps no greater affront to books than to use them as mere decorations; even burning them gives more credence, for a burned book is one of two things: one, read and held in either great contempt or great fear, so much so that someone (mistakenly) thinks the only way to deal with it is fire, or two, not read and prejudicially subjected to the same treatment.  Regardless, there is more respect paid to the book by its immolation, in recognizing it as something that inherently attempts entrance into the intersubjective realm of thought and discourse, than by it being turned into an idle and vain piece of decoration.  Nevertheless there is nothing inherently wrong with an outwardly attractive book (so long as the content is equally meritorious to the covering).  On the contrary, Catholic Treasures' Douay-Rheims translation of the Holy Bible, complete with the Reverend Haydock's notes, is a most fittingly beautiful volume; the Harvard Classics series of books, though often of inferior translation, are eye-catching and largely worth reading.  Even the cloth-bound Loeb Library, which has the original Latin or Greek of great works on one side and a passable English translation on the other, is a pleasant site for the eyes, and a magnificent tool for those aspiring to the classical languages.  There is nothing wrong at all with deriving pleasure from both the inside and the outside of your books; but be wary of confusing the primacy of merit!

Thus, one's library should never grow too quickly.  It is terribly hard to read a good book in a short span of time; at least, to read it as it ought to be read, with care and diligence.  Mortimer J. Adler, a 20th century man of genius, editor-in-chief of The Great Books of the Western World a publication of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, and co-author with Charles Van Doren of How to Read a Book (among many others), once said that he never reads a great book faster than 20 pages an hour, and never without paper and pencil to hand.  It is a difficult thing in theory and in mental preparation, to restrict oneself to reading so slowly, for there are so many great, important works that an intellectually alacritous mind desires to read.  Yet once having discerned the fruits to such a slow and careful endeavor, once the distinction is drawn between reading a book casually and reading a book intelligently, critically, one can only feel somewhat sickly if he tries to read a great book without due diligence. 

To summarize, one's library should grow much at the same pace as one's body; and as the latter slows down its growth, so should the former begin to increase as the mind – which, unlike the body, knows no limits – becomes ready for the knowledge that a good library may impart.  Read good books, and read them slowly; and while you will inevitably, from time to time, read books that are not so good, with which there is nothing wrong so long as it is a diversion to allow the mind to rest, be sure to reflect on whatever you read, to weigh it against all the works of the Western tradition, and to put it in its proper place.  In other words, Stephen King is poor company for Dante Alighieri on your shelf.

Suggested Viewing:

Provincial Suffocation

Chesterton once wrote that "the man who lives in a small community lives in a much larger world" (Heretics, c.14: 1905). The converse is, of course, that the man who lives in a large community lives in a much smaller world; the reason being that the large community allows a man to choose his own companions, whereas the small community leaves him no alternative. Given the choice of companions, he may elect only those with whom he finds himself comfortable, with whom he already agrees. Without the choice, he must either ignore and perhaps berate or ridicule his neighbors, or he must learn to accept that their perceived failure to fit neatly into his own ideas is actually failure of his perception. His failure is not necessarily that they are right and he is wrong about whatever it is that they are doing or not doing; it is that he should expect them, who are not he, to be as he is—in knowledge, in experience, in moral rectitude. Every human is the same in nature; every man is the same in essential properties, and every woman is too (in which, nature and essential properties, are grounded certain foundational orientations, deviation from which is never justified). But because men are not just their natures, but their persons, they accrue differentiations. Allowing for these differentiations, it is true, allows for Caligulas, Robespierres, Hitlers, and Adam Lanzas; but it also allows for Sts. Ignatius of Antioch, Augustine, Francis of Assisi, Thomas Aquinas, Thomas More, and (soon-to-be-sainted) John Paul II. To demand uniformity of personhood is to demand its diminishment. When the individual is allowed to choose his own companions, and the companions he chooses are those who are most like him, he does not give himself very many opportunities to expand the boundaries of his person. (As an aside, let it be said that anyone who would accuse religious of this error has clearly not spent enough time with religious communities.)

It does not need to be explained why the "community" of today is many times larger than any were in the time of Chesterton. The technology of cultural globalization and increased urbanization has succeeded in allowing almost everyone to connect to nearly anyone else. It is not hyperbole to say that this cafeteria connectedness, in effect though not in principle, is corroding the foundation of civilization, specifically Western civilization: namely, participation in the great dialogue. When every practical daily need and strong desire—friendship, romance, nourishment, commerce, education—can reasonably be met by those of similar (or at least not opposed) perspectives, the opportunity for genuine dialogue* evaporates. Heads bob up and down in agreement to hundreds of different monologues, contrary to one another but inaudible to each other's audience.

It is this tendency to social insularity that Allen Tate named the "New Provincialism" (in Essays of Four Decades, 535-546: 1945). While there have been many benefits to the world becoming "smaller" in the past hundred years—especially the unprecedented accessibility of resources, cultural, intellectual, and corporeal alike—"What it never occurred to anybody to ask was this simple question: What happens if you make the entire world into one vast region? …the real end is not physical communication, or parochial neighborliness on a world scale. The real end, as I see it, is what you are communicating after you get the physical means of communication." The mere ability to speak the same language to one another does not mean that men will understand each other; it does not mean that they are actually communicating, inasmuch as communication means entering into something common: "It is possible for men to face one another and not have anything to say. In that case it may occur to them, since they cannot establish a common understanding, to try to take something away from one another" (537). While surrounding oneself with like-minded people, indulging in affirmation of one's own beliefs, and unequivocally rejecting the possibility of dialogue with others is a disposition common to liberals and conservatives, progressives and traditionalists, atheists and Christians, the former of each pairing—which, taken as a whole, we will denominate "secular liberalism"—are generally contracted to a smaller world. For conservatives, traditionalists, and Christians are, insofar as they are true to the label, dependent upon a continuity of thought developed over millennia. All too often they are, as a reaction, content to see the tradition of any given continuity of thought as perfected and complete, needing no further extension; sometimes, even seeing no need for further intension, either.

No period is more victimized by this provincialism than that which the insulated mind of secular liberalism finds most foreign and some radical traditionalists find most glorious: the Latin age of Christendom—that is, broadly speaking, the period between 950-1600 AD, and more specifically, between 1050-1350, in which three centuries Christendom was at its peak. To define Christendom would require pages ill-suited here; but succinctly, it may be described as a cohesive effort, effected by many parts, to cultivate for the whole an order whereby men could be brought to God. It was not always a successful effort; but it was a unique one. The Roman Empire may have united more of the world, more tightly, and for longer—but Rome was Rome's own end. The conquests of Rome were motivated by a desire for peace and stability. The infrastructure built by the Roman Empire was for the sake of Rome's glory. Rome centered about Rome. Christendom, contrariwise, while it fostered cultural centers, such as Paris, Naples, Chartres, and Oxford, was essentially de-centralized as a secular force. The great cathedrals which still stand all over Europe today were not built to glorify Rome, the Vatican, or the Pope; Notre Dame was not built as a monument to Alexander III, Bl. Innocent V, Benedict XII, or any of the other popes who reigned during its nigh-200-year-long construction. Likewise, while the Crusades began as a defense of Christendom, they persisted for the glory of no particular kingdom but for the preservation and veneration of the Holy Land.

It is typical of the secular liberal to see the undeniable achievements of Christendom as aberrations from the spirit of the age, produced in spite of barbaric authoritarianism. The protagonist of Umberto Eco's Name of the Rose, William of Baskerville, exemplifies this attitude: he is portrayed as both a compassionate humanist, as a member of the Franciscan order, and an intellectual, in love with the writings of Aristotle and Aquinas. Meanwhile, Bernard Gui is portrayed as an authoritarian monster who extracts confessions by vicious torture for reasons never sufficiently explained; Jorge of Burgos is portrayed as a proto-Puritan, for whom reason often contradicts faith and must therefore be quelled. Many of the other monks are shown as Scriptural listeralists pre-eminently concerned with avoiding heresy. The books of the library are locked away in a labyrinthine tower. The tone of the novel suggests that this is characteristic of the age.

Contrariwise, historians such as Henri Daniel-Rops look at Christendom as a glorious period of order and reason which ideally (though impossible) ought to be restored.

Neither Eco nor Daniel-Rops is entirely wrong, nor is either entirely correct; but of the two, Daniel-Rops makes a more compelling historical study, albeit one shaded with the provincialism of closed-traditionalism. Eco is certainly not a man ignorant of the facts, but his interpretation of them seems distorted by a secular liberalist provincialism. The ideologies respectively represented by Eco and Daniel-Rops accuse each other of being closed-minded; in that, both are correct.

In principle, the transgression of any sort of intellectual insularity is, like most profound errors, a metaphysical transgression. It is to take some limited existence as true and good, but as the whole truth and the summum bonum, and consequently to take some other limited existence as false and evil, because it is not entirely true and not completely good. The smaller the world of the individual, through the largeness of his "community," the more provincial his perspective, the more monological his provincial discourse, the more limited the existence of what he accepts as true and good. And more the fool is he: the glory of Christendom, for instance, was not produced by a united culture affecting a uniformity of persons, but by a genuine diversity of human persons affecting a united culture: the differentiations which marked the person of St. Francis of Assisi were quite different from the differentiations which marked the person of St. Thomas Aquinas, and yet their contributions to the world were within, and are not fully intelligible apart from, one and the same order of a Christian society. But moreover, Christendom was not the pinnacle of everything that ever has been and ever shall be made good by man; the philosophy of Scholasticism, a prime example, is not only not contrary to the insights of phenomenology (or even, dare it be said, semiotics), but complemented by them, and it is complementary to them—indeed, it might even be said that philosophy as a whole does not discrminate in favor of any one against the other, so long as any may bring to light something true (even analytic philosophy)!

This universal approbration of what is true, however, does not mean that we cannot or should not condemn things as false. It is the perennial task of philosophy to disentangle what is true from the associated and intertwined errors of previous generations. To do so requires distinction of true and false—which requires that a man forsake the self-affirming security of his chosen world.

*While interesting, it is somewhat pedantic to consider the etymology of the word "dialogue," coming from the Greek dia– meaning "across" and legein, meaning (more proximately) "to speak" and (more remotely, if we can believe Heidegger) "to gather." The latter translation includes some notion of resolution—not in Hegel's sense—where some further truth is educed from other truths held by multitude.

The Right Idea of a University

This article was written as a response to a previous article, "The Wrong Idea of a University," about the closing of Southern Catholic College, my alma mater.  As I thought about how to write this article, it became evident to me that words would, ultimately, fail what I desire to express; the experience of four years, translated into a universal truth, is hard to put back into the particulars of words.  I, one more time, turned to the prayer which I believe carried me through those four years, the Memorare.  In English, the prayer's final line is rendered "Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy, hear and answer me."  On the other hand, in Latin it reads "Noli, Mater Verbi, verba mea despicere, sed audi propitia et exaudi."  The English translation, though poetic, loses the connection between Mary as the Mother of the Word (Mater Verbi) and the words of the petitioner (verba mea).  So it is that I pray, through the intercession of Mary, Seat of Wisdom, the writing of this, the words put down here, may reflect the will of the Word.

What more can be said on the subject of education, and of the University education in particular?  In a sense, it seems almost impossible to contribute, to presume to build upon the works from antiquity.  But the depth and the richness of the Western intellectual tradition has been formed not merely through the great names and great works, but also through the nameless adherents and students of better men; if this essay may be a line in a letter, the dot above an "i," in a word in a sentence in the tomes of the great tradition, it would be more than its author presumes.  A particular debt is owed to the work of the Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman and the 20th century Thomist philosopher, Josef Pieper.

If there is one physical feature of Christendom College that is particularly striking, aside from the poignant centrality of the chapel, it is the school's library.  Though somewhat marred by a sea of computers in the center of the main floor (or so it was in 2005), the building is nonetheless characterized by a calm and yet elevating beauty; it induces the peace of contemplation.  One immediately feels that he is in a place of learning, of wisdom.  Likewise, amidst a half dozen so aesthetically well-composed buildings, including a new chapel that ranks among the most beautiful of North American churches built in the last 40 years, the library at Thomas Aquinas College in California envelopes the visitor with a profound sense of the intellectual atmosphere.  It is tempting and easy to look around at such settings and say without qualification that "Yes, here is a University."  To do so would, however, be a grave mistake; for while Christendom and Thomas Aquinas are certainly Universities, it is dubious whether other places of even greater academic atmosphere and history are still deserving of the name.

Nice buildings, large holdings of books, idyllic landscapes, accommodating classrooms, the trappings of academia—all of these are certainly conducive to a University education; but they no more (and in fact, far less) guarantee or even indicate a true center of learning than a beautiful church guarantees local orthodoxy.  The most heterodox of priests may preach to fellow heretics in front of the most glorifying of tabernacles (perhaps grudgingly); and the most brilliant of professors may teach eager students in run-down trailers or sloppily converted hotel rooms (though not without some resentment).  What the heretics lack—what divides them from the Church—is that very same thing for which the professors and students strive, and in so doing, for the University.  It is the Word—the Logos.

It is in this regard that Southern Catholic College, however it ostensibly failed in the eyes of the world, managed to excel.  Classes were taught in a run-down trailer and in sloppily converted hotel rooms; and yet between the professors and the students there existed a continual conversation, a continual exchange of ideas through words, a consistent attempt at expression and comprehension of the Word itself.  In an interview done to promote the school, Dr. Cicero Bruce, professor of English Literature at Southern Catholic, gave a description of the literature program which rather accurate described the whole of the humanities program at the school: "Here I believe we proceed from the supposition that there is something true and good; you might describe the literature program here as logocentric.  In other words, it is centered around words—words on the page, metaphors—but around, ultimately, the Word of God; yes, the Word of God.  In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  And it's that Word of God, that Logos, that we believe inspires the literature in the first place.  And the words on the page, the metaphors of the poet become portals into that Logos, into that fount of Wisdom."  (The video may be seen here).

It is this pursuit of the Logos, through words on the page and in conversation, through the unceasing dialog, that the University is grounded, and through which it grows.  Such an endeavor, the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake—not to be put to any use, not to be subordinated to some practical end—the world, engaged as it is with "total work," to steal a phrase of Josef Pieper's, does not understand.  The world, instead, occupies itself with man's daily needs and his daily wants; his food and his television, his electricity and, yes, his toilet paper.  It is the duty of the University to push man beyond these needs and base desires; for while in and of themselves they pose no harm, they allow man to divert himself from his true purpose, from the pursuit of perfection through knowledge of and engagement with the true and the good.  Such is what Newman advocated in his Idea of a University; an effort which, not easy, not simple, and not without struggle, is nonetheless in itself rewarding; the "knowledge of a gentleman," the artes liberales, the form and foundation of society (wed, of course, to the spiritual heritage of the Catholic faith; something which seems unnecessary to argue for this audience).

It is sad that so many schools today, where perhaps this environment could be fostered, are instead suffocated beneath the bureaucracy of mere administrators—by which is mean those who, without experience in the education of the gentleman, of the liberal arts, are brought into the institution with some misconception that they may nonetheless facilitate such an education.  This atrocious state of affairs is not merely a situation of the blind leading the blind; it is of the utterly sense-deprived obscuring the vision of the newborn, stunting development, constraining would-be growth.  The liberal arts teach integration of all the world; and yet the liberal arts college all too often, as happened at Southern Catholic, is a fragmentary structure in which neither faith nor education, nor the inseparability of each from all aspects of life are properly understood.

In conclusion, this is not the place to conjecture about the particular configuration of the Catholic University.  It is merely a statement of principles: employ good professors, recruit good students, and put them together; for the University to grow and to be sustained, it must first exist.

P.S., it ought to be noted that Fr. Shawn Aaron, most recent president of Southern Catholic, did participate in the classroom and frequently engaged students in academic discussions; if only he had been four years earlier.

Sweeney at the Ambo

It is part of human nature for men to want to be heard; and while not all men enact this innate possibility of being, many do, and many have longed to, but not had the means.  Thus, with the advent of modern democracy came the right to free speech, which has often been celebrated and in many cases sapiently exercised.  Yet freedom is in all cases a double-edged sword, for it is easy mutilated into the enemy of liberty, license: a man is just as free to pursue the bad, being whatever he wants for himself, as he is the good, whatever is best for himself.  In the case of free speech, undoubtedly more good would come of it were the majority of the populace rightly educated not merely in how to speak, but in how to think; as it is, free speech can only be as good as that which goes into those who speak, and the average person is, sadly, educated very poorly.  And yet, despite such poor education, the capability of the average individual to publish his opinions freely, in a way that is available to everyone, has never been as easy as it is today: enter the age of the internet.  Again, this freedom can be good—indeed, Veritatis Praeco humbly attempts usage of the medium—but it can also be quite bad.  On the internet, anyone can be a painter, a rock star, a minor celebrity; everyone has the chance to pretend that he is an artist.  But what happens when someone attempts to be an artist without having any artistic talent?  Quite simply, he produces a piece of bad art.

Thus, when someone tries to make a name for himself through the internet as a critic, without having a keen critical eye, he is apt to producing bad criticism.  Such is the case with Dan Schneider, proprietor of the website Cosmoetica, which offers essays, literary and film criticism, and poetry written by the proprietor and his associates.  Who Mr. Schneider is, how he was educated, and what compliment Roger Ebert once gave him is irrelevant to the focus of this essay: namely, showing how Mr. Schneider's criticism is undermined by the arrogance with which he approaches his subject.  One of the features on Cosmoetica is a section, "This Old Poem," in which Schneider "re-writes" and thereby "improves" certain poems—many by talented and highly reputed poets—that he considers overrated.  Whether or not such can still be considered to be the same poems at all, for the sound-structure of a poem's words and the particular signification achieved by the specific ordering of words is the construct through which the poem itself exists, is an interesting debate which will, however, not be taken up here; for regardless of whether or not the poem may continue to exist in a different, revised version or format, Mr. Schneider falls far short of producing such replication—to do so would require something he is lacking.  The revisions Schneider offers are based upon his critical interpretations of the poems.  However, a valid interpretation of any poem requires an accurate perception of the poem itself and a comprehension of what is being said, a task at which Schneider habitually fails.  This is blatant in Schneider's take on T.S. Eliot's subtle work, "Mr. Eliot's Sunday Morning Service."

A poem composed of eight stanzas typographically divided into two halves, containing sixteen lines each, Schneider reduces the tightly-woven work to a mere twelve lines in three stanzas, and effective eviscerates its meaning in the processes (the entirety of the "This Old Poem" entry can be seen here).  Looking at Schneider's analysis piece by piece would be tedious and fruitless; he attempts to look at the poem line by line and construct some sort of meaning from an aggregation of the pieces.  The first stanza he claims is representing the delivery of a sermon to a distracted crowd, where the preacher is attempting to corral the wandering interests of the people.  He proceeds by stating that the second stanza postulates that the self-emasculated (literally) Origen was produced by "a lot of ecclesiastical nonsense."  No analysis, but only a description of what is stated (the religious work of a painter), is offered for the third and fourth stanzas; similarly nothing more than a translation is given for the fifth and sixth stanzas.  The seventh stanza, which describes the hermaphroditic activity of bees, is taken as referencing the "layety."  Another translation is offered of the eighth stanza, concerning the discomfort of Sweeney, Eliot's "everyman" character, with the intellectual aloofness of the clergy.  The conclusion at which Schneider arrives is that the poem is claiming that "the Church is filled with effete foagies."

Not only is this interpretation methodologically unsound (see "Hermeneutics and Continuity" in the forth-coming print issue of Veritatis Praeco, to be online in February 2010), but it, lacking any insight to the poem's essence, fails to adequately discern even the particulars, and consequently fails to note the construction whereby the whole is achieved.  Criticism of such a poem, in which assertions concerning its meaning are made, can only be valid if first the poem itself is understood.  Contrary to Schneider's flaccid interpretation of "Mr. Eliot's Sunday Morning Service" as a critique of the clergy, the following interpretation will show that the poem is, in fact, better comprehended as an observation of the disconnect, the chasm of non-communication, between the metaphysical mind of the cleric and the sensuous mind of the common man.

T. S. Eliot

To deal with the first things first, let the initial four lines be examined.  Taking a hint from the poem's title, the first half of the poem appears to be the content of a preacher's sermon: the first quatrain his introduction.  Two questions should be asked by the inquiring critic: first, who could be considered the wise suppliers of prolific offspring of the Lord? and second, what is to be found on the windows of the place in which a sermon, namely a church, would be delivered?  The answer to both questions is the same: saints, so long as "polyphilogenitive" is taken in a spiritual, and not a physical sense.  The significance of the opening words of John's Gospel, "In the beginning was the Word," is not without ambiguity; in Greek, they read "En arche en o Logos;" in Latin, "In principium erat Verbum."  Interestingly enough, in both ancient languages, the word translated into English as "beginning" (arche and principium) also means principle, as in that which makes other things to be as they are.  Eliot was well versed in both and, regardless of whether or not it was his intent, the linguistic roots of the Scripture reinforce the notion that the saints, whose spiritual fecundity the preacher is praising, have their roots, their inception, in Christ.

Moving on to the second stanza, one encounters again, the line "In the beginning was the Word," (the beginning of a stanza, the end of a stanza; the alpha and the omega), followed by three lines which describe the mystery of the Incarnation and the Hypostatic Union—those things that are beyond even the deftest minds to fully comprehend, those things that sapped Origen, who willfully castrated himself, of his connectivity to this world and the things temporal.  Read literally, and by itself, it would seem that this stanza could be interpreted as indicating that Origen was driven crazy by the subtleties and nuances of the doctrines of faith and the questions of their reasonableness.  However, taken in the context of the poem as a whole, this seems out of place, and the interpretation proffered earlier in this paragraph is more fitting.

The third and fourth stanzas offer a description of a painter's portrayal of the Baptism of Christ (of the Umbrian school—likely Raphael or Perugino); the work, the poet says, shows the wilderness surrounding the river as "cracked and browned," doubly meaning that the painting itself is worn, fading.  In contrast, "through the water pale and thin / Still shine the unoffending feet."  Christ, despite the ephemerality of this world and the failure of its attempts to create something permanent, continues unblemished, unending.  Christ, in the world is not of the world, a message corroborated by the painter setting above the other two persons of the Trinity.

The next three stanzas of the poem, which come after a typographical division, are abstract, and difficult. Superficially, the first two seem a mockery of the sacrament of penance, the third an attack against the heterosexuality of the supposedly emasculated, effeminate clergy.  This seventh stanza of the poem, however, is actually the key to understanding the whole; for what is the "blest office of the epicene"?  One may interpret the epicene to be referencing a total emasculation or a hermaphroditic quality; in describing the activity of bees, which receive pollen from the male organs (stamens) of flowers and deliver them to the female organs (pistils), it would logically reference the hermaphroditic.  But what would the clergy be transporting?  What hermaphrodism is had by the clergy?  What do they bring to the Divine, but the sinner's penance, his "piaculative pence"?  What else do they bring to the penitent but the mercy of God?  Is not the hermaphrodism of the cleric a dual functionality in this world and in the sphere of the transcendent?

Of course, the final stanza, in which Sweeney, who is T.S. Eliot's everyman, his undereducated proletarian, shifts "from ham to ham," can now be seen rather ironically.  Sweeney does not understand the sermon of Mr. Eliot at his Sunday morning service.  The masters are masters of subtle schools; they are controversial, they are widely learned and erudite in that which they know; Sweeney is not.  He is merely sitting in the pew, uncomfortable, bored, the sermon sailing over his head—much like Eliot's poem eluded the interpretative capabilities of Mr. Dan Schneider.

Perhaps this interpretation is flawed, faulty, and colored by religious, spiritual bias; perhaps it is realized only in the consciousness of those who desire poetry to have meaning and who respect poets of true linguistic comprehension.  Yet re-reading each poem, in light of the final analysis, it seems only more reasonable: the preacher speaks of the "sutlers of the Lord," who consider and attempt to represent the transcendent, the divine, who lose some of their vitality in this passing world by contemplating the mysteries of the immutable world; he speaks of the "blest office of the epicene," the hermaphroditic preacher who stands both partly in this world and partly in the next, passing between one world and the next, delivering man's penitential prayers to God and God's mercy to man.  All this, Sweeney cannot comprehend; and yet, in Schneider, who is merely a representative of a pseudo-intelligentsia, can be seen not merely Sweeney, but Prufrock and a Hollow Man as well; uncomprehending, full of "high sentence, but a bit obtuse," and—though he thinks himself shouting theatrically from a secular ambo set upon the world's new stage—he is hidden behind the curtain, merely whispering "quiet and meaningless;" his is a voice that will not resonate in the eternal.

Southern Catholic Announces New President

I am not really sure anymore how to talk about the way that news spreads at Southern Catholic College.  I want to say that the college announced its new president yesterday… but there was no announcement, only an invitation to meet him over coffee.

The few students who were still in the Atlanta area received emails a few days ago inviting them to meet with some of the school's new leaders so that they (the students) might offer their suggestions and insights into the way in which the school's mode of leadership could be improved.  This genuinely sounded like an excellent opportunity for the students to voice some of their concerns about the damage done to the school over the past four years, and promised to offer an opportunity for the new Legionary leaders to learn from the school's past mistakes as they have been observed from the students' perspective.  When all of the students arrived on Tuesday morning for the meeting, they were given the news that a surprise guest would be arriving shortly; and that guest would be none other than the school's new president, Fr. Shawn Aaron.  This was the first that any of those gathered had heard of the new president, and seems to be the only way in which the announcement has been made so far: to a clump of students in a Starbucks.1

Father Shawn Aaron

Father Shawn Aaron

The meeting was uneventful and little was said.  A few students made suggestions about the ways in which the school could improve and then the topic quickly turned to the practical elements of advertising.  For the remainder of the meeting, students were asked for their reactions to a handful of promotional materials and slogans, and then Fr. Aaron closed with a prayer.

Although this intense focus on the business aspect of Southern Catholic's new advertising department did cost the students their opportunity to express all of their worries over the negative turns that the school has taken over the course of its four years, it also afforded those present a unique glimpse into the character of the college's new leadership.  Particularly, it became clear that they want to be very careful not to step on any toes.  As one example of this attitude, Integer members responsible for Southern Catholic's advertising repeatedly made the point that they don't want to be too strong in their use of Catholic themes in advertising media for the fear of scaring off people who might not be attracted by strong Catholicism.  For instance, the phrase "Live Catholic" seems to be replacing the school's old tagline "Prepare For An Extraordinary Life," which actually seems to constitute an improvement as far as portraying ourselves as a Catholic school is concerned, but is still a bit vague.

Not much can be said for the particular way in which Fr. Aaron will lead the school, simply for the fact that he said very little in the meeting and there is virtually no information available about him on the internet (except for this biographical video). His willingness to meet with students and hear their concerns, however, seems to suggest that he is open to learning from the school's many past mistakes.  Hopefully, this willingness will continue.

Fr. Aaron is scheduled to become a permanent fixture around campus on the 12th of August, and will be assuming his office very soon thereafter.

1 The announcement was also made a few hours later before many members of the faculty and staff; still, the degree of informality remains the same.