Friday, October 28, 2005

"Five" Books for the College Student

Over at OneTrueGodBlog, Hugh has asked the panel to choose five books for the Christian college student.

Please recommend the five books you would have a Christian college student read who was interested in deepening his or her faith but who also had all the time constraints and background education of most college kids today. (In other words, no Summa Theologica or Institutes.)
Here are my suggestions:

1. Orthodoxy by G. K. Chesterton

2. Leisure: The Basis of Culture by Josef Pieper (and everything else by him)

3. The Religious Sense by Msgr. Luigi Giussani

4. The Shadow of His Wings by by Fr. Gereon Goldmann

5. Happiness Is a Serious Problem and Think a Second Time by Dennis Prager (they really complement each other well)

And for the more serious college student (and anyone else interested in the more intellecutal aspects of life): The Intellectual Life: Its Spirit, Conditions, Methods by A. G. Sertillanges, O.P.

Honorable Mention: Father Elijah and Sophia House by Michael O'Brien (they should be read one after the other)

It is hard not to have Fr. James V. Schall on the list. His writings are a must.

For others, visit OneTrueGodBlog answers, One Clear Call, and Mere Orthodoxy.

Quote of the Week: Protected by a Strong Military

Here is a great and sadly true perspective on the state of the American will:

1st Lt. Bruce Bishop, 31, a Salt Lake County firefighter, said he'll stay [in the military] "because as I look around at the state of this nation and see all of the weak little pampered candy-asses that are whining about this or protesting that, I'd be afraid to leave the fate of this nation entirely up to them."

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Monks, Moms, and Happiness: Aristotle was right

It seems behavioral scientists are now (unconsciously perhaps) coming to the same conclusion as Aristotle (and Aquinas too) when he said that happiness is found, culminates in, the life of contemplation.

Katherine Ellison comments on a recent report:

Brain-scanning studies led by University of Wisconsin neuroscientist Richard J. Davidson find that mothers gazing at pictures of their babies and Tibetan monks contemplating compassion both show marked activity in the left prefrontal cortex, an area apparently tied to happiness.

Davidson's research on meditating monks (more extensive than his work on moms) suggests their brains also produce very strong gamma waves, which have been linked to concentration and memory.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Cosby in Compton

Billy Cosby continues his social commentary and reflections on Black communities throughout America, calling on them to show the good that is or from part of their lives.

The city, he said, needs to honor Venus and Serena Williams — the tennis superstars who rose from the public courts of Compton to the top of the world rankings.

"How difficult is it for Compton to have a parade so that parents can bring the children and hold them up and say: 'They're from here'?" he asked the hundreds of residents who came to talk about turning things around in their violence-plagued city.

"And then one of the sisters was shot and murdered," he said, referring to the 2003 killing of the Williamses' half-sister Yetunde Price. Cosby paused for the audience to complete his sentence.

"In Compton," they replied.

"And the verdict was mistrial — in Compton," Cosby said. "Still no parade.

"Come on, Compton. You understand?" Cosby said to murmurs from the crowd.


By coming to Compton, Cosby journeyed to one of the birthplaces of the hip-hop slang and gangsta dress and lifestyle he has criticized. He caused controversy last year when he called some in the black community "knuckleheads" for what he sees as their disrespect of the legacy of the civil rights movement by embracing sloppy grammar and diction.


He and other speakers traced many of the problems back to the home — calling on parents to take a firm hand, to participate each day in their child's education, to demand excellence, and to be role models for self-sufficiency. Acknowledging that many young black children are being raised by single mothers, several people called on black men to take on a fatherly role not only to their own children but to other children in the community.


"People who say, 'I'm not going to flip some burgers. I'm going to sell some drugs, and if I get killed I get killed,' that's mind-boggling," Cosby said, "because we didn't come from giving up. We came from surviving."

Let's hope enough heed the call.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Hibbs on To Kill a Mockingbird

Thomas Hibbs has a good commentary on the Legacy Series two-disk set of the 1962 film To Kill a Mockingbird. One of my favorite books, this story is a must-read and -see for all:

The film's central lesson, to which the title points, concerns a bedrock principle of natural and human law: the defense of the innocent. When Jem takes an interest in guns, Atticus gives Jem the advice his father gave him. He can shoot inanimate objects but, if he must shoot birds, he must remember that it is a sin to shoot a mockingbird, which causes no harm and only provides pleasure by its singing. That law should be about the protection of the innocent is obvious. Yet in application even a principle as fundamental as this can be, as Aquinas puts it, eroded from the human heart, because of “depraved customs and corrupt habits,” in this case by blinding

The makers of Mockingbird achieved remarkable success with their fundamental task: showing children awaken to the complexity of adult virtue and vice. If the film is itself suffused with wistful nostalgia for childhood, then the extras, which constitute a sort of extended testimony to Gregory Peck's career and character, are likely to induce nostalgia of a different sort, for the passing of old Hollywood, which for all its corruption was also a world that welcomed and at its best fostered the grace, charm, and wit of actors like Gregory Peck.

Eucharistic Thoughts from Rome

Communion and Liberation's Fr. Carron has offered some thoughts on the Eucharist at the Synod of Bishops in Rome.
The situation of contemporary man is riddled with difficulties, but none of these can take away his heart’s expectation. The very nature of man’s heart moves him to hope. At the same time, it is difficult to find an answer and this leads him to doubt that a positive destiny is possible.


Only the unique Presence of the Lord can move the person to the very depth of his heart’s expectation. This is why, in the face of the challenge of our times, the sacrament of the Eucharist becomes indispensable in all the effectiveness of its fruits of true communion and of new humanity. We see this effectiveness revealed in the favelas of Brasil, in the Universities of Kazachstan, among the victims of Aids in Uganda, and in the great metropolises of the United States. Today, we all need the presence of witnesses who truly live in this communion that the Lord gives us sacramentally, the communion of those “chosen, according to God’s Providence, to carry on, in their turn, the succession of his witnesses”(Newman). Thus, by meeting them, we will acknowledge, with astonishment and gratitude, that the presence of Christ is in them and we will glorify God for the person of his Son (Gal 1:24) and for the gift of the Eucharist. We ourselves, in this sacramental dynamics, will be transformed according to the glorious image that attracts our gaze (2Cor 3:18). So we shall be able to reflect Christ’s light through the whole of our lives, so that men and women of our time find reasons for believing and hoping for the fulfilment of the promises inscribed in the depths of our hearts, revealed and realized fully in Christ’s Eucharistic self-giving.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Supposed Conclave Leak in Electing Pope Benedict XVI

This is interesting and telling at the same time: "The Vatican Codes: This Is How I Rewrite My Conclave." In an article by Sandro Magister, he discusses

New “revelations” on the conclave that elected Benedict XVI. All aimed against him. The strange legends built upon cardinals Martini and Bergoglio.

Further down in the article,

According to the diary published in “Limes,” Ratzinger obtained 47 votes in the first scrutiny, 65 in the second, 72 in the third, and 84 in the fourth, out of a total of 115 votes.

But instead of focusing on the dazzling rapidity of this election, the author stresses the forces that are supposed to have opposed him, personified by cardinals Carlo Maria Martini and Jorge Mario Bergoglio.

Friday, October 14, 2005

The Problem of Mystery and Christian Love

Here you can find some thoughts on "The Problem of Mystery," discussing the distinction between things that are a problem and things that are a mystery.


I was listening to Dennis Prager this morning and he had a Christian call up and express confusion over loving a sinner, even loving a very evil person. What is a Christian to do, in light of the command to love your enemy? More to the point, what is this love the Bible speaks of?

Is it to have warm feelings for someone? Is it to make them feel better? Is it the same love a parent has for a child? Or is it something else? Like wanting what is good for them? Which would mean justice since justice is a good and therefore would allow someone to love another and still seek just punishment for a crime they have committed.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Michael Jordan, Christ, and Being Young Again

In a recent issue of Touchstone, Ryan J. Jack McDermott compares the phenomenon of the Michael Jordan "discipleship" from not too long ago with that of the ever-present deification in Christ:

I woke to an epiphany in the middle of the night. I had been dreaming of Michael Jordan on the Wheaties box, coupled with the slogan, "Be like Mike." When I came out of the dream, I saw, as in a vision, that part of the Gatorade commercial where Jordan tilts his head back to slug a bottle as his body turns into a silhouette, and the yellow and orange electrolytes swim down to his toes, and I thought: Gregory of Nyssa!

The "Be like Mike" campaign is proof that the patristic doctrine of deification--of deep and intimate union with Christ--was never forgotten, just culturally transposed. The Gatorade commercial could just as easily have illustrated Gregory of Nyssa's explanation of how the body actually metabolizes the Eucharist to make the flesh incorruptible as it participates in Christ's divinity. While many Christians may need retraining to think in terms of union with Christ, of bodily sanctification, of physical imitatio Christi and Eucharistic reconstitution of the body, analogous cultural apotheoses obsess secular culture.

Touchstone publishes some articles on their website, but this one was not one of them. The magazine is worth the subscription for anyone interested in

a Christian journal, conservative in doctrine and eclectic in content, with editors and readers from each of the three great divisions of Christendom — Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox. The mission of the journal and its publisher, the Fellowship of St. James, is to provide a place where Christians of various backgrounds can speak with one another on the basis of shared belief in the fundamental doctrines of the faith as revealed in Holy Scripture and summarized in the ancient creeds of the Church.

Prager, Jews, and Anti-Semitism

Cognitive dissonance is also what American Jewry is experiencing, according to Dennis Prager, a cognitive dissonance "the likes of which it has never known." In his latest column for the LA Times Sunday opinion section Currents, Prager analyzes the role that universities are playing in increased anti-Semitism, even amongst Jewish students: "When young Jews major in anti-Semitism."

After stating four reasons why "Jews revere the university," he counters that with the reality of what universities are actually doing:

Yet universities have become society's primary breeding ground for hatred of Israel. This hatred is often so intense that the college campus has become a haven for people who use anti-Zionism to mask their anti-Semitism. Moreover, anti-Zionism itself is a form of anti-Semitism, even if some Jews share it. Why? Because anti-Zionism is not simply criticism of Israel, which is as legitimate as criticism of any country. Anti-Zionism means that Israel as a Jewish state has no right to exist. And when a person argues that only one country in the world is unworthy of existence — and that happens to be the one Jewish country in the world — one is engaged in anti-Semitism, whether personally anti-Semitic or not.

Not long ago, on my radio show, I invited a UCLA student who, on the occasion of Israel's birthday, had written a hate-filled article about the Jewish state in the Bruin, the school newspaper. I asked her if she had always been anti-Israel. She said that as a Jewish girl growing up in Britain, she was actually a Zionist who had visited Israel a number of times on Jewish student trips there.

"What changed you?" I asked.

"The university," she responded.

That sort of transformation may be what inspired Harvard University's president, Lawrence Summers, to deliver a speech in which he identified the university as replacing the far right as a center of anti-Semitism. "Where anti-Semitism and views that are profoundly anti-Israeli have traditionally been the primary preserve of poorly educated right-wing populists," he warned, "profoundly anti-Israel views are increasingly finding support in progressive intellectual communities. Serious and thoughtful people are advocating and taking actions that are anti-Semitic in their effect if not their intent."


To make matters worse for many Jews' psyches, not only has the institution they most revere turned out to be a moral wasteland and the most congenial place for enemies of the Jewish people — and of the United States (but that is another story) — at the same time, the people whom many Jews have most feared, conservative Christians, have turned out to be the Jews' most loyal friends. That the secular university is bad for Jews, and conservative Christians are good for Jews, is more than enough cognitive dissonance for a Jew to experience in a lifetime.


Jews for whom liberalism has become a surrogate religion — and who therefore do not wish to acknowledge a god that failed — will not acknowledge the moral failure of the university, and they will find every reason to dismiss support from conservative Christians as somehow illegitimate.


As more Jews rethink their commitment to secularism, the left and their embodiment in the university — without abandoning their commitment to the less fortunate — Jewish and American life will change dramatically. For the better.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Oklahoma and 9/11?

In case you have not heard the latest with regard to the Oklahoma City Bombing some years ago, this is getting strange:

This is a very strange case. He was a Muslim, he wasn't a Muslim. He went to the mosque, he didn't go to the mosque.

And from the WorldNetDaily article:

As WorldNetDaily reported, investigators say they also found "Islamic jihad" material in Hinrichs' apartment when they searched it. Hinrichs, it turns out, attended a mosque near his university-owned apartment – the same one attended by Zacharias Moussaoui, the only person charged in connection with the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

On Miers: Against, For, and Left Somewhat Wondering

With regard to President Bush's nomination of Harriet Miers to SCOTUS:
Ouch, ouch, and ouch again. There are many more, but I will leave it at this for now.

For a different take on her nomination, see here, here, here, and here (and all the links therein).

And for a libertarian take, with some hoped for conspiratorial elements, see "A Skeptical Take on the Miers Nomination" by Tom Bell:
Even if you think Bush an idiot (which I do not), how can you explain Rove letting Miers pass? I wax incredulous.