Christ on the moral eye

As I prepared for my PEAK classes earlier this month, I was struck by how rich a fare the Sermon on the Mount offers in comparison with the homilies I have heard about it.  One good example is the saying about the speck in a brother’s eye (Matt 7:3-5):

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

Every homily I have ever heard on this saying reduces it to one simple point:  we tend to notice others’ faults and not our own, so we should pay attention to our own faults instead of the faults of others.

True to the point of truism.  But the Lord’s words are denser than that.  I can spot at least three amazing truths tucked away in this short saying that go beyond the standard homily. Continue reading “Christ on the moral eye”

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The structure of the Our Father

This past week I had the pleasure of teaching high schoolers in Wyoming Catholic College’s PEAK program.  As usual, I used my PEAK stint as an opportunity to learn something new, asking questions to which I had no clear answers, studying issues I had never clarified before.  And as usual, the students taught me.

Photo credit: Wyoming Catholic College
Photo credit: Wyoming Catholic College

For example, one day I wrote the “Our Father” on the whiteboard and asked the students how it is organized.  One pointed out that it falls into couplets: Continue reading “The structure of the Our Father”

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The first-ever translation of this text by Aquinas

One of my projects this summer was editing a translation of part of Book IV of Aquinas’s commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard.  Since “Commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard” is a pretty big mouthful, most people just call it the Scriptum.

Beth Mortensen of The Aquinas Institute has done a magnificent job translating this hitherto untranslated text by the Angelic Doctor.  I was tapped to read the whole thing and catch mistakes, but for the most part that just meant reading.

Some of problems I did fix related to an exciting development for the Aquinas Institute.  The Leonine Commission, the group officially tasked by the Church with working critical editions of all of Aquinas’s works, gave us access to their provisional critical edition of the Scriptum.  So in many places we were able to correct our translation by looking at a better Latin text than anything currently in print!

The Aquinas Institute is all about making Aquinas’s works widely available, so in addition to selling the new translation as a physical book they have also made the entire text available online for free.  It’s satisfying to see it go up!

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Why do apples fall?

My last post explored Dr. Baxter’s ingenious quiz, “How Much of a Modernist Are You?”  I would like to delve deeper into the questions raised by Dr. Baxter (and ultimately Charles Taylor) by attempting my own answer of Question 4:

Why does an apple fall to the ground when it detaches from the stem?

  1. The laws of physics teach us that all objects fall to the ground according to gravity.
  2. Gravity, of course, but behind the working of nature we can perceive the “hand” of God, which I mean metaphorically.
  3. The apple longs to return its native place, because the whole universe is infused with desire. Ultimately, the world longs to imitate, to the extent it can, Eternity.

Continue reading “Why do apples fall?”

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Are you a modernist? Take the quiz.

My colleague and friend Dr. Jason Baxter has published a delightful quiz at The Imaginative Conservative to show us how thoroughgoingly modern we all are.  He takes his cue from Dr. Charles Taylor, whose gigantic book on the modern age argues that we live in a “disenchanted” world—all us inhabitants of the North Atlantic region, inevitably, without any choice in the matter.  While our medieval forbears lived in a sacred and magical cosmos, we live in an autonomous, scientific universe. Continue reading “Are you a modernist? Take the quiz.”

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The Life of Moses

This past week, I took part in the continual feast that was the Wyoming School of Catholic Thought.  All us profs were asked to bring a side, so my contribution was a lecture on “The Life of Moses.”

Moses_Lecture
Photo credit: Wyoming Catholic College

In just under an hour, I recounted the story of Moses in a way that not only pulls his “biography” together but also provides a key to the story of the Exodus.  You can download the lecture here, or listen using this audio player (you can’t see the audio player while viewing this post in your e-mail):

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What is emotional “processing”?

I have been thinking about the notion of “emotional processing,” as in when someone says that he needs to “process what happened.” Does this phrase have a clear meaning, or is it a fuzzy phrase used to escape clear thinking? I think it does have a clear meaning, and what follows is my attempt to unfold it. I am not a psychiatrist, and I don’t intend this blog post as a contribution to the psychiatric profession. This is just an exploration of a word.

To “process” something means to take something that is not immediately usable and change it into something more immediately usable. This is how we “process” meat or vegetables, for example. So to “process” an experience would mean to take the raw experience and turn it into something that is more useful in life. Experiences need to be processed both intellectually and emotionally: intellectually, we need to get practical wisdom from our experiences, while emotionally we need to calibrate our desires and fears. Continue reading “What is emotional “processing”?”

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The Structural Demands of Subsidiarity

One of the pleasures of teaching in a comprehensive theology program is that I often have to teach outside of my zones of specialization.  This spring I taught a senior-level course with lots of Catholic Social Teaching, a topic that somehow never came up in all my years of theological training.  It was only my second time to teach the course, so in many ways I was learning along with my students.

This time around, I saw more clearly the many implications of the famous “principle of subsidiarity,” classically defined in Pius XI’s encyclical Quadragesimo Anno:

Just as it is gravely wrong to take from individuals what they can accomplish by their own initiative and industry and give it to the community, so also it is an injustice and at the same time a grave evil and disturbance of right order to assign to a greater and higher association what lesser and subordinate organizations can do. For every social activity ought of its very nature to furnish help to the members of the body social, and never destroy and absorb them.

Continue reading “The Structural Demands of Subsidiarity”

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God in the Tomb

For most Catholics, Holy Saturday is a kind of blank.  Since there is no liturgy for Saturday itself, we don’t hear homilies explaining it.  Good Friday drives home the passion, and Easter booms with the resurrection, but Holy Saturday has no one to preach it.

And yet the Catechism says startling things about Holy Saturday.  In this post I’ll focus on just one aspect:  Christ’s stay in the tomb.  Here’s what the Catechism says (paragraph 626), echoing an ancient and consistent tradition:

Since the “Author of life” who was killed is the same “living one [who has] risen”, the divine person of the Son of God necessarily continued to possess his human soul and body, separated from each other by death:

By the fact that at Christ’s death his soul was separated from his flesh, his one person is not itself divided into two persons; for the human body and soul of Christ have existed in the same way from the beginning of his earthly existence, in the divine person of the Word; and in death, although separated from each other, both remained with one and the same person of the Word.

To put that in plain English, we all know that when we walk by Grandpa’s casket, the corpse in the casket is not Grandpa anymore—not really.  But when Joseph of Arimathea laid Jesus’ corpse in the tomb, that corpse was not a man but it was still Jesus—really and truly. Continue reading “God in the Tomb”

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Triduum Screensaver

Last year, I came across St. Alphonsus Liguori’s “Passion Clock,” a set of meditations for each hour beginning Holy Thursday and ending Easter morning.  It’s a way of entering into the events of the Gospel.

Handily, Sharyn over on this blog collected public domain artwork to go with each of the meditations.  So my son David and I collaborated to create a Windows screensaver that would display the appropriate artwork and meditation for each hour of the Triduum.  It was pretty neat to wander by at a random point on Good Friday and see a picture of what was happening, Gospel-wise, at that hour.

This year, David updated and improved the screen saver, and with Sharyn’s permission we have decided to make it available to everyone.  Go here to see the artwork and text that will appear.  If you are so inclined, you can get view the source code for the screensaver here.  Or you can just download the screensaver here.  Right-click on the downloaded file and choose “install.”

Sorry, it’s just for Windows.  The system may squawk at you because we didn’t pay the buckos and go through the process to get an official certification, but we’ve run it on our own computers just fine.  Windows 10 will give you a dire warning with no apparent option to install, but if you click on “more information” or whatever then the option appears.

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