All posts tagged: johncavadini

The Faith of Ancient Philosophy’s Fathers

Truly one of the joys of reading Dariusz Karlowicz’s Socrates and Other Saints: Early Christian Understandings of Reason and Philosophy, is its lively, engaging style. It is irresistibly beguiling and beguilingly irresistible in so many places. Consider, for example, this opening characterization of the Church Fathers: Even though they looked to the heavens, they were firmly planted on the earth. They were not in danger of falling into a cistern like stargazing Thales. They lived in their own here and now. They knew what was en vogue. They not only knew the invaluable classics, but also the most fashionable trash . . . There is nothing of the classicist streak in them (xix). But the feature of the text to which I am drawing attention here is more than just style for style’s sake, but rather a way of asking questions better than the ways in which similar questions have been asked before. As the author notes, But do the philosophers and the prophets direct our gaze toward the same goal? Does philosophy at least …

The Patron Saint of Suspicion

Does this title actually mean anything? I have my suspicions, and perhaps you do too, but we will have to put them on hold for now, laying aside a hermeneutic of suspicion—which, after all, is never to be applied to the one making claim to it—and replace it with a hermeneutic of trust, until the appropriate time. I am actually going to discuss the meaning of life. Yes, I am actually going to reveal the meaning of life, in a simple, declaratory sentence, without any admission fee, tuition, or other compensation. Perhaps you are suspicious of that claim! Both the claim that I can reveal the meaning of life in one simple sentence, and also the claim that I am doing it for no compensation at all. Perhaps you are thinking, true, he is not charging admission or looking to be paid, but perhaps he is hoping we will praise him, clap for him, cheer and acclaim him for such an accomplishment. After all, just as it is not every lecture series that is an …

On Teaching Christianity

Did you ever wonder how the Apostle Paul might have been evangelized? He gives us a hint in a famous passage in 1 Corinthians 15: For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. (1 Cor 15:3–5) Paul here talks about what he “received”—you might say, the “information,” the basics of the Christian proclamation. As he says, he also “delivered” this or “handed it down” to the Corinthians in evangelizing or catechizing them in turn. This little catechetical formula is the basis for Paul’s long reflection and exhortation in 1 Corinthians 15 regarding the resurrection of the dead. Faith in Christ’s Resurrection implies hope for a resurrection of our own, for Christ is the “first fruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor 15:20). After reflecting with them on the hope implied …

Augustine’s Homiletic Meteorology

Augustine was a fantastic preacher. How do we know that? We get a glimpse of his popularity as a preacher from some of the asides that he addresses to his congregation. At the end of his “exposition” or sermon on Psalm 38, which runs twenty-five pages in English translation and would probably have taken about an hour to preach, Augustine tells his congregation, somewhat bluntly, “Well, brothers and sisters, if I have burdened and wearied you, put up with it, for this sermon has been hard work for me too.” Then he adds, “But in fact you have only yourselves to blame if you feel overworked, because if I felt you were getting bored with what was being said, I would stop immediately” (38.23, III/16, 193). We know that Augustine’s church often rocked with applause and cheers, and sometimes tears. Augustine’s hearers looked forward eagerly to his preaching. At the beginning of a twenty-seven page sermon, he remarks, “Indeed, I see that you are all agog, eager to understand the mysteries of this prophecy. Anything …

“Laudato Si'” and Environmental Works of Mercy

I am going to start at the section of Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ that I found most troubling and work up from there. I must say that since there are a lot of troubling sections, it was hard to choose, but that being said, here is my pick: People may well have a growing ecological sensitivity but it has not succeeded in changing their harmful habits of consumption which, rather than decreasing, appear to be growing all the more. A simple example is the increasing use and power of air conditioning. (§55) This is troubling to me because it corresponds to me exactly. I think it is fair to say that I have a “growing ecological sensitivity,” yes, even me, and yet I feel absolutely addicted to air conditioning and my addiction “appears to be growing all the more” as I get older. No passage impressed itself on my reluctance to change as much as this one. It made me feel the “summons to [the] profound interior conversion” that the “ecological crisis” represents (§217), …

Misguided Manliness: Reflections on the First Episode of “Mad Men”

The opening sequence shows a cartoon man in free fall. Where is he falling to? A past article from The Onion reveals the destination. The headline announces that for the first time since its original construction, Hell is being expanded with a brand new tenth circle, to be called “Corpus Adverticus. ” It is reserved, The Onion reports, for lobbyists, publicists, advertising executives, and “Total Bastards.” In Dante’s Inferno, the eighth and ninth circles are reserved for those guilty of fraud, and, as The Onion analyzes it, the new tenth circle is simply an addition to their original accommodations. And yet The Onion didn’t really have to bother, since the eighth circle of the Inferno already contains a “pouch” where the fraudulent—those who change Yes to No and No to Yes for money—are immersed in boiling pitch. The punishments in Dante are always an image of the sin being punished, so we see that once truth becomes a function of money, everything is submerged in a sticky, absolute darkness of nihilism. In the pilot episode of …

A School of Gratitude

Have you ever reached a milestone of achievement of some sort, any sort, and felt the thrill (and perhaps the relief!) at accomplishing something, but the next major challenge in your life has not yet begun? In such moments, it seems like the year seems to pause, and time seems briefly suspended, as though searching for an insight, as though laboring in vision, seeking some moment of revelation, “hieratic and profound” (Flannery O’Connor). Can we yet glimpse it? Before the season turns (or even the weekend) and we are back in the press of daily worries and pressures? What is it? What am I loving, when I love you? . . . when I love my God? I put my question to the earth, and it replied, “I am not he”; I questioned everything it held, and they confessed the same. I questioned the sea and the great deep, and the teeming live creatures that crawl, and they replied, “We are not God; seek higher.” I questioned the gusty winds, and every breeze with all …