Charlie Hebdo and the Inner Soul of Humor

16246547072_48798fd8a5_m (1)My friend Justin Smith recently wrote a piece for Harper’s Magazine. Justin is a brilliant guy, a philosopher and historian of ideas who also happens to write well and think clearly. Those things do not come together all that often. He’s been teaching for the last couple of years in Paris, at Université Paris Diderot-Paris VII.

This put him at Ground Zero, more or less, on January seventh of this year when the Kouachi brothers entered the offices of the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo and opened fire. [Read more...]

Contemplative Questions: An Interview on Spirituality and Prayer with Fr. Raymond Shore, OP, Part 2

Continued from yesterday.

9009737695_41e216db24_mJan Vallone: You say that joy is the knowledge of the possession of the Holy Spirit, but that it doesn’t mean that you are happy. If joy doesn’t feel like happiness, what does it feel like?

Fr. Raymond Shore: It’s a confidence, a sense of fulfillment of God’s promise that he’s always with us. If you read about Saint Maximilian Maria Kolbe—he was a Polish Franciscan friar sent to Auschwitz during World War II—you don’t get the sense that he despaired. [Read more...]

Contemplative Questions: An Interview on Spirituality and Prayer with Fr. Raymond Shore, OP, Part 1

Spurred by both confusion and curiosity, I recently took a graduate course on contemporary spirituality and prayer that required us students to interview an “expert” on the meaning of those terms. As a result, I spoke at length with a Roman Catholic priest of the Dominican Order—The Order of Preachers—whose nom de plume is Fr. Raymond Shore. His perspective fascinated me.

5870093557_ae224540e3_mJan Vallone: Some people would say that spirituality is an awareness of human experiences that go beyond the material, like love, compassion, feeling at peace. They’d say that spiritual practices consist of any activities that facilitate these experiences. For them, walking in the woods, practicing yoga, meditating, and even having a manicure might be spiritual practices.

I take a yoga class, for example, and although it begins with rigorous exercise, it ends with savasana, corpse pose, when we lie facing upwards on our mats, close our eyes, relax our muscles, and quiet our minds. The sequence produces sensations of inner peace, and when we come out of the pose, we are prompted to take that peace out into the world by being kind and compassionate. After yoga, I find it much easier to be kind and compassionate. Is this a spiritual practice?

Fr. Raymond Shore: Not as you describe it. Spirituality is our approach to God. It’s how we draw close to him. It’s a process that produces a combination of thoughts, feelings, and actions, different for each of us, depending on our personality, but all directed toward the same end: union with God. [Read more...]

Jesus and Legos in the Deep, Part 2

Continued from yesterday

2432400623_9081e8433d_m“Judas the transgressor,” we Eastern Orthodox sing during Holy Friday Matins,“was unwilling to understand.” If the story of God’s salvation is light shining in darkness, then man’s tragic journey is a turning away from that light toward lesser lights, imagining the flickerings within himself to be something more than dim reflection, and hence capable of illuminating all creation, with rational man at its pinnacle. But whereas Descartes reasoned: “I think, therefore I am,” we sing: “Come, therefore, let us also go with him, purified in mind. Let us be crucified with him, and die through him.”

Regarding that mind, Paul exhorted the Christians in Rome to be transformed by the renewing of it, but unlike it is to us modern Westerners, the mind was to earlier Christians, much more than Descartes’s construal. It was (and is, and ever shall be) the nous, the eye of the soul. [Read more...]

Jesus and Legos in the Deep, Part 1

1494590209_bdc1f95585_mI read about a shipping container holding five million Lego pieces that fell into the sea off Cornwall, England. An oceanographer requested samples of what was in the container, and tossed them into his bathtub. Based on his impromptu test and the ship’s manifest, he estimates about three million of the lost pieces can float. Only about 100,000, however, have washed ashore.

Other people have taken interest; there’s even a Facebook page devoted to beachcombers’ Lego finds. Nearly every piece traceable to this container has been recovered on Cornwall’s beaches, perhaps because the Lego search has become a pastime there. The relatively small quantity recovered leads the oceanographer to conclude that the container remains sealed, but for a hole through which small batches sometimes escape. The others are still down there somewhere, he says, “waiting for the doors to open.” [Read more...]


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