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.