Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Friday, June 20, 2008
Individualism and Manhood
In the world today, where individual desires and needs provide the most obvious motivations for the actions of humans, an ideal of greatness and sacrifice can only be found in old books or movies based upon them. In men, especially, the call to greatness has been stifled by individualism and a consciousness centered on self-realization. Such trends, somewhat mitigated by contrary admonition of priest and scripture, plague all too many Catholic men. Despite many a good intention, too many Catholic men merely live lives with virtue, with their family, or with God, but not for virtue, families, or God. Such a life requires sacrifice and a heroism beyond ordinary. Now, why is this the case, especially in modernity? Clearly, since the time of the Fall, men have easily been persuaded from their manhood.
The primeval anthropological error into which Adam and Eve fell was an individualist and relativist theory. They thought that the individual good trumped a corporate good, that the point of reference for judgment could be an individual. Since then any individualist or relativist tendencies in dominant social or ethical theory only tend to increase selfishness and self-centeredness in fallen human nature. Yet the very nature of manhood (and indeed of all humanity) requires an outward turn. This outward turn must involve every level of that man, from his intellection to his action. Today, however, we grapple with the dominant intellectual strains from the past four-hundred years, directed man to look within himself for knowledge. From Descartes to current times, thinkers have relied on their own experiences of reality, their own perception of it. The far-fetched theories of Spinoza or Leibniz, the brutal realism of Bentham or Nietzsche; these come from a practical solipsism on the part of the knower. More recently, this became an explicit intellectual trend with existentialism.
In some ways, history since the turn to secular humanism during the renaissance has been a downward spiral of selfishness. Men thought up ways to justify the individualist turn, first in religion, then in knowledge, lastly in action. Thus, the selfishness in thought becomes selfishness in action; from justification for it, man derives it as a necessity, as becomes clear in the existentialist trap.
In the Catholic world, we can see an ongoing struggle with this throughout the latter half of the second millennium. The weapons the Church used were the sacraments, a strong tie to tradition, and a tighter communal identity. However, this battle, as St. Augustine presented it in The City of God, was destined to failure. The “long defeat,” which Tolkien mentions through Galadriel, truly parallels the war against the Evil one that the Church still wages. Despite the probable failure of our efforts, Catholics have no choice but to continue to fight the good fight. Thought he end be all too clear at times, Catholic men must step forward sacrificing their lives for their Lord who sacrificed His. The triumph of selfishness may never have seemed so close as during the middle of the last century, when the majority of Catholics abandoned much of the tried weaponry of the past. Instead, they embraced the individualism and secularism of the world around them. Much can be said of the subsequent fall-out of that choice, but manhood certainly suffered from this. The exaggerated personalism and phenomenology promoted by too many in the Church have led to the downfall of real manliness.
When one stops to think about Catholic men, there seems to be an underlying uneasiness with their position. This may not be voiced or understood, but exists nonetheless. How many Catholic men that we know are heroic? So many are “good men,” but not great men. We need great Catholic men, not just in stature or confidence, but in deeds, in virtue. We need men who are leaders, who do great things, even on a small scale. We need Catholic men as politicians, teachers, doctors, in great roles, who live their faith and their manhood every day. Such men must arise in the face of the challenges of today. Much if the Church has been defeated or wounded, we have lost contact with our basis for defense. The picture appears bleak, but hope lives on, albeit a small quiet voice, crying: “Awake! To arms!” These arms, the weapons of the past, those tools which God has seen fit to prosper in our hands: we must recover these. But they are worthless unless men of stature and worth are there to wield them. Men of value, men of courage and skill; the Church requires these to survive. Only when the Church can defend itself can She return to her Divine mission to sanctify the world, rebuilding what secular humanism and selfishness so easily destroyed.
Friday, June 13, 2008
Zenit had a great story about the monastery of Our Lady of the Annunciation at Clear Creek, Oklahoma. For such a specialized and difficult mission, the monks there have been blessed with success. And to think that it all arose through the Integrated Humanities program of John Senior. To me, this wonderful labor serves as a great reminder of true humanism and its goals. When studied for the end of wisdom and true excellence, the great thoughts of western civilization lead us to God and to human flourishing as it can only be under His care.
Many thanks to the Ironic Catholic, who excels at pointing out the idiosyncrasies and incoherence of modern man. While done in a humorous fashion, Ironic Catholic's critique called to mind the obsession modern man has with earthly perfection. I suppose when that's all you believe in, you keep finding new excuses to returning to your failures.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
I recently had a conversation with a Catholic who had not really considered that demons could be active in the world. I am sure this person would admit their existence, but the ongoing struggle did not seem pressing to them. Yet this struggle goes on every day, in every place. The devil wants to be unknown, to be a nasty surprise for all of us. Too many even study witchcraft or black magic just for the fun of it, not realizing its deadly consequences. For further study, read Fr. Gabriel Amorth's An Exorcist Tells His Story.
Monday, June 9, 2008
Saturday, June 7, 2008