Active Contemplation—Wait, What?

Dripping Shower Head

I've sometimes thought that Dominican contemplation is very active contemplation, because Dominicans are active contemplatives.Religious orders are often described as being "active," working in the world, or "contemplative", praying behind walls. Dominicans, by contrast, are said to be "active contemplatives", embracing the activity of preaching, where preaching flows from contemplation. Somewhere (I cannot find it at the moment) I read that St. Thomas Aquinas looked at the merits of the … [Read more...]

Why Marriage is Controversial

Thoughts about Marriage

I first posted this on my old blog, a couple of years ago. I'm reviving it for this week's Summer Symposium on the Family, in preparation for the Bishop's Synod on the Family this October.The following chart shows why discussing marriage with others who do not share your presuppositions is fraught with peril.I suspect that most people’s notions of marriage form a subset of the items on the chart. Trouble is, for two different people the overlap can exclude what one or the other f … [Read more...]

I’d Fall On My Face and Worship

Contemplating the Blessed Sacrament

The other day I saw a blog post (I don't remember where) in which a Muslim friend accompanied the blogger to mass, and said, "If I really thought God was in that gold box, I'd fall on my face in worship. I'd be afraid to stand up." I've seen similar sentiments ascribed to Gandhi, and the challenge is clear: if we Catholics truly believe that the bread and wine truly become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, why don't we act like it? Why don't we fall down on our faces and worship?The … [Read more...]

Sacrificing Your Idols

Golden calf

Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry wrote a while back about the role of sacrifice in the worship of God, and says that sacrifice is all about gratitude, certainly in the New Testament, and probably in the Old Testament as well. He's clearly on to something; the central sacrifice of the Christian faith is Christ's sacrifice on the cross, which we participate in through the Blessed Sacrament, the Holy Eucharist; and the word "Eucharist" means "Thanksgiving".However, I've also read (I'm sorry, I cannot … [Read more...]

A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats—Or Does It?

Lifeguard Boat

Recently the US Conference of Catholic Bishops has been calling for an increase in the minimum wage. I don't like to argue with the bishops, and I'm not going to do so now; but I worry about efforts to use the Big Hammer: to try to fix social problems by fixing the "system", rather than by helping individuals.It's true that our society has systemic problems. It is clear that we have problems in the area of poverty and access to healthcare that, strictly speaking, we don't need to have. … [Read more...]

The Long and the Short of Infinite Regressions

Father and Son *

One of my favorite philosophy bloggers is James Chastek at Just Thomism. I find his posts more challenging than Ed Feser's (one of my other favorites); Feser's usually going out of his to explain Thomism (and Scholastic philosophy in general) to those outside the tradition, while Chastek's posts are more usually reflections or even meditations on something he's been pondering. As such they take longer to read and appreciate, and far too often I don't make the attempt. I've long thought that I … [Read more...]

Saints on Both Sides of the Stupid

Catherine of Siena

Every so often I remind myself that in St. Catherine of Siena's day there were future saints on both sides of the Western Schism. For almost seven decades the popes had resided in Avignon, well under the thumb of the King of France—a state of affairs that was bad for the Church and probably wasn't all that good for France either. The Avignon Papacy ended in 1376 AD when Catherine persuaded Pope Gregory XI to bring the papacy back to Rome. Gregory died not long after the move, and his i … [Read more...]

The Peril of First Principles

Rodin's Thinker

It was in college that I first learned the peril of reasoning from first principles.Rene Descartes, frustrated with the decadent tradition of scholastic philosophy (which admittedly was in serious straits in his day) decided to reboot philosophy altogether. Spurning that which went before, he started over; and he decided to proceed by trying to identify that first principle or principles about which he could not help but be absolutely certain. About every proposition he said, in effect, … [Read more...]

Taste and See

world of warcraft

For the past several weeks I've been talking about Christian belief: how I came to belief, and the general basis for belief in Christ. In particular, I maintained the following points:God is the creator of the cosmos. He is transcendent, i.e., not part of the cosmos, but also immanent, i.e., He works actively within every part of the cosmos. We can prove through natural theology that this kind of God must exist. Natural theology doesn't tell us very much about Him. Because … [Read more...]


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