In 1994, the Holy See signed an agreement with the State of Israel, establishing diplomatic relations. Ever since, a debate has been raging about the position of the Catholic Church regarding a state that defines itself as Jewish and sees itself in continuity with ancient Israel in the biblical scriptures, which the Church also regards as sacred.
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In a recent book, Living Between Worlds, James Hollis offers a piece of wit that carries more depth than is first evident. A therapist says to a client, I cannot solve your problem, but I can give you a more compelling story for your misery. That’s more than a wisecrack. Whether we feel good or bad about ourselves is often predicated on what kind of story we understand ourselves as living within.
To tell someone, with fullness of heart, ‘I love you,’ is virtually the same as saying, ‘You shall never die. Twentieth century philosopher Gabriel Marcel wrote those words and they echo words written five hundred years earlier by Blessed Magdalen Panattieri, a Dominican Tertiary, who wrote to a friend, I could not be happy in heaven if you were not there too.
No man is an island. John Donne wrote those words four centuries ago and they are as true now as they were then, except we don’t believe them anymore. Today more and more of us are beginning to define our nuclear families and our carefully chosen circle of friends precisely as a self-sufficient island and are becoming increasing selective as to who is allowed on our island, into our circle of friends, and into the circle of those we deem worthy of respect.
In a book, When the Bartender Dims the Lights, Ron Evans writes: “There’s a line I came upon in the musings of a preacher: On a Sunday morning many of the people sitting before you are the walking wounded, and you need to give them permission to be sad. In a world obsessed with happiness, where being great is all that matters, let the preacher say, you have permission to be sad..."
The Dictionary of Politics, edited by Bobbio, Matteucci and Pasquino, published in 1976, did not contain an entry on “citizenship.” At the time it was a consequence of the existence of the state. It was only in the 1990s that scholars began to elaborate on the idea. In the interim, what had changed?
In the summer of 1854, U.S. President Franklin Pierce sent Isaac Stevens to be governor of Washington Territory, a tract of land controlled by the federal government. Governor Stevens called for a meeting of Native chiefs to discuss the tension between the U.S. government and the Natives. One of the tribes, the Yakima, was stubbornly rebelling, led by their chief, Kamiakin.
As a child, I was taught that I had a guardian angel, a real angel given me by God to accompany me everywhere and protect me from danger. I remember a pious holy card given to me by my mother, showing a young boy playing dangerously close to the edge of a cliff and an angel protecting him there.
In Walker Percy’s 1971 novel, Love Among the Ruins, his central character is a psychiatrist named Tom More. More is a Roman Catholic who is no longer practicing his faith, albeit he still believes. This is how he describes his situation: “I believe in God and the whole business but I love women best, music and science next, whiskey next, God fourth, and my fellowman hardly at all. … Nevertheless, I still believe.”
We need to pray even when that seems the most lifeless thing to do. That’s a counsel from Michael J. Buckley with which we need to challenge ourselves daily. In the face of real life, prayer can often seem like the most lifeless thing to do. What difference does prayer make?
In today’s imagination prudence is mainly associated with careful, considered behavior (for example, driving a car slowly) or with a tendency to be indecisive so as to avoid risks, or worse, with a form of cowardice that prevents someone from taking a stand. These views are largely associated with modern thought.
Recently at a workshop, a woman shared her anxiety about the death of her brother. Her older brother had died from the Covid virus before there were vaccines for it, and had died because he had dangerously exposed himself to catching the virus. However, he had exposed himself to that danger for a worthy reason.
Nothing so much approximates the language of God as does silence. Meister Eckhart said that. Among other things, he is affirming that there is some deep inner work that can only be done in silence, alone, in private. He’s right of course, but there’s another side to this.
In a recent issue of Comment Magazine, Timothy Keller, theologian and pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, wrote an insightful essay entitled, The Fading of Forgiveness, within which he highlights how, more and more, forgiveness is being seen as a weakness and a naivete.
One of the effects of the current pandemic has been the calling into question of a general silence on the “ultimate questions.” The nihilistic vision of life, which was made famous by Nietzsche’s philosophy and has frequently returned in updated versions, considers such questions definitively outdated and meaningless. According to this philosophical approach, the truth cannot be attained, because there are no stable values.
Reading the Letters of Dorothy Day recently, I ran into this line, “doubtless we need a Savonarola as well as a St. Francis.” She was speaking about what spirituality needs in order to be healthy and balanced. That triggered something inside me, something I have never been able to sort out. I have always been comfortable, perhaps too much so, in both circles of piety and circles of iconoclasm.
The Olympic Games are a celebration of health. Whatever else might surround or lie underneath these games (commercialism, ambition, illegal drugs, whatever) our first reaction to them may only be one of blessing: “Wow! Beautiful! This says something wonderful about life and about God.”
I wrote my doctoral thesis on the value of various philosophical arguments that try to prove the existence of God. Can there be such a proof? Brilliant philosophers, from Anselm, through Aquinas, through Descartes, through contemporary intellectuals like Charles Hartshorne, submit that the existence of God can be proven through rational argument. Except, except, a lot depends upon what exactly we mean by the word “prove”. How do we prove something?
The term reconciliation offers a splendid insight into our relational character as humans. Reconciliation always presupposes a preceding relational rupture. It is well known that contemporary philosophical reflection, thanks above all to personalism, has widely re-evaluated the notion of relationship, putting it in connection with that of identity...
Perhaps few experienced the restless 19th century as intensely as Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky (1821-81). His was a very strong experience of an era, his life full of personal misfortune. The artistic expression of what he lived through affected others as deeply as himself.