All posts tagged: joy

Why Does Beauty Arouse Joy Even Among Suffering?

After rough treatment at the hands of its “cultured despisers” in the thick of the 20th century, beauty made a steady return to a place of prominence in academic discourse, especially in the field of theology, in the latter part of the 20th and the beginning of the current century.[1] Now a mainstay in theological conversation, the discussion of beauty tends to cluster around the series of issues surrounding beauty’s status as a transcendental and its consequent relation to God, on the one hand, and the beauty of creatures and creaturely making, or aesthetics, on the other. More neglected in this new frenzy of activity are the issues surrounding the individual’s experience of beauty. It is not difficult to see why this question would be neglected, as it stands under suspicion for its association with unsavory elements of a past intellectual hegemony. After all, ever since Kant we have been taught to ask about questions of beauty by looking internally, to the experiencing subject, and this had the result of reducing beauty to the eye …

It’s More Effective to Attract Than to Simply Chastise

My children recently watched a film with me on St. Philip Neri and they were practically spellbound. “He’s really funny,” one of them commented. “I like that guy,” said another. In a way that books about or even the sayings of Philip Neri can’t quite get, the film made an attempt at presenting the personality of the saint. Of course, watching him on screen is not at all the same as being in his presence, and I for one have come to wonder at what it would have been like to be near to him on the streets of Rome in the mid 16th century. From all accounts, Philip Neri’s personality was unrepeatable. There is something of the man himself that just seems to evade comprehension. Even a film as wonderful as the one we watched—Preferisco Il Paradiso (I Prefer Heaven)—relies on the history of Neri’s effects that only points to but does not fully deliver the personality of that singular man. That personality made crowds flock to him, young people entrust themselves to him, grown …

The Virgin Mary, Birth, and Philosophy

Everything begins with the question that Nicodemus asks Jesus: “how can a man enter anew into the womb of his mother and be born?” (John 3:4). It is an excellent question, if not the best question that could be asked. For Nicodemus is not one who fails to understand the “birth from above,” but rather he understands perfectly that one cannot understand the “birth from above” without relating it to the “birth from below.” It is in coming back and describing the significance of “being born from the womb of his mother” (by means of paths “from below”) that one will be able to decipher what it means “to be reborn by water and spirit” (by means of paths “from above”). It is not a question of thinking that Christ’s response is an opposition—“that which is born of flesh is flesh and that which is born of the spirit is spirit” (John 3:6)—but rather thinking of it as an analogy: just as that which is born of flesh is flesh, so that which is born …

“Laudato Si’,” Personal Conversion, and Missionary Joy

Faced with an increasingly dechristianized West in his own time, the famous German Jesuit theologian, Karl Rahner, frequently warned against a “missionary defeatism” in the Church.[1] Today, at least in the United States, political polarization has undermined any common arena of discourse that may have once existed. Loud rhetoric (not even eloquent sophistry!) has replaced reasoned argument. Washington remains gridlocked, if not perpetually, meaning that even common-sense, compromise legislation cannot be approved. Any new sense of global solidarity brought on by an age of social media is shadowed by a reminder of just how challenging a real, embodied solidarity actually is. At the same time, findings in the social sciences have bordered on determinism, showing more and more just how formative systems—like the one described—are for the human person, calling into question human responsibility and agency to actually transcend, let alone shape, these societies and cultures. The chorus of a 1971 hit by the English band Ten Years After captures the sentiment of many: “I’d love to change the world, but I don’t know what …